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My 9 month old pup's first lesson (2nd time on sheep)


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My dog had her first real lesson yesterday. It was her second time being exposed to sheep, the first just being what was called an instinct test. She comes from a questionable pedigree, with top notch cattle dogs on the sire's side and what I consider barbie collies on the dam's. I'm interested in finding out if she can overcome her less than glowing pedigree or if she's missing some necessary ingredients to becoming a good stock dog.

 

This clip is from the 2nd half of the lesson and shows her at her worst. I didn't think I was able to capture the action from how far away I was so I didn't bother filming most of the lesson.

 

You will see my dog at some point turn away and walk off to sniff something, basically quitting for a moment. She did that twice in that part of the lesson. She comes back when called by the instructor, but the training pressure the instructor was putting on her finally got to her. Most of the lesson she was keen and handled the pressure fine.

 

Here's the evaluation I got from the instructor after the lesson.

 

That my pup is keen and has a very high drive. Also on the 'harder' side and was able to handle more training pressure than most pups her age. My pup has a lot of push and has a looser eyed, more upright style. When asked about power, the instructor said the sheep felt her power and she was very confident. The real test will be when a sheep challenges her, but so far she has no problem going into corners and scooping them out.

 

I was told that my pup tends to lock on to a particular sheep and be oblivious to the instructor and wasn't much of a thinker at this point. She said that my dog finally started to submit to the pressure she was putting on her in the second half of the lesson and was doing better than the first part. I was surprised as I thought the first half was better. When asked about the point where my dog basically quit, she said that my dog was reacting to the pressure, but didn't shut down and came back when asked.

 

I don't have any experience in this area as it's my first border collie, so I have no idea if the instructor is being perfectly honest or trying to spare my feelings and get more lessons out of me. I forgot to ask about 'balance', but my judgement is that she didn't have a sense for that yet. I'm not sure if she ever downed herself the whole time. The first half of the lesson she ran around the sheep in big circles until she dropped from exhaustion.

 

Any thoughts? Is this what I should expect from a 9 month old pup seeing sheep for the 2nd time? Is it normal for a keen dog to quit like that from pressure?

 

Here's a youtube link of the part I filmed:

 

 

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Video now seems to working.

 

Your pup is still young and for much of the time she is excited (barking, tail up and chasing) by the sheep and the situation.

 

After she has had some minimal pressure exerted by the trainer, yes she sniffed the ground a bit and briefly backed off... But then she came back with a more 'stable' mindset as indicated by the tail down, calmer movements, not barking.

 

During this calmer period she was naturally flankng at a sensible distance from the stock...those short bits looked nice..

 

IMO she just needs to develop a more mature mental attitude so that the periods of time when her attitude is more responsive and more focused become longer..

 

This is something that should come good as she gets a bit older and as she gets more used to being around stock..

 

To my mind, your dog definitely has potential, she just needs to mature a bit before any 'serious' training begins. This is because she currently need some appropriately timed pressure exerted on her so that she understands what behaviour is acceptable around stock and what is not.

 

On occasions, the pressure required may make even a keen young dog want to leave the stock for a short period while she considers her actions and thinks about what is required. A good trainer will then invite the dog back (lower the pressure) and encourage her to continue to work her sheep as long as her attitude is appropriate. This is what your trainer did.

 

Oh and at this stage of her trainng I wouldn't mind if a young dog doesn't lie down.

 

 

JMO.

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Thanks for the critique, Maxi. The barking you hear wasn't from my dog. It was the other ones outside the pen. My pup is a pretty silent worker. And I'm not sure what qualifies as a strong correction or pressure since I don't have experience in sheepdog training, but this clip of video doesn't show all the constant corrections that happened in the first 2/3rds of the lesson. The trainer was using her wand to make a sharp whooshing noise over my dog's head and throwing bottles filled with rocks when that didn't work. She said she was putting much more pressure than she normally does for a dog her age, but that she was able to handle pressure very well. She said it wasn't until my dog finally submitted to the pressure that the progress began. To me it looked like the opposite. I had never seen her quit before..

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And something else that struck me as odd after she had her little episode. She would flank around the big metal gate that was in the pen. For most of the lesson, she ran pretty tight circles and didn't notice the stuff in the pen, but she started going all the way around that metal thing for some reason. In the video I panned to her and you see her standing still by the gate unsure what to do for a second.

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Well,it sounds like you are not really happy with this trainer but all I can only really comment on is what I see in the video..

 

IMO a lot of early training is much more than just balance and holding the sheep to the handler. A very important aspect is showing the dog what mindset and attitude he/she should have around stock. So when the dog is flying around with his tail in the air, he doesn't have the calm attitude that he really needs to work his stock safely in a stress-free manner (you have to always remember that the most important part of sheepdog work is stock welfare),

 

This is not a criticism about your dog. She is young and sheep are new and exciting for her. But she needs to work out in her own head what is allowable and what is not. Pressure - release techniques can help a dog learn this.

 

So using pressure to push her away from the sheep is the trainer saying 'Act like that and I!ll make it uncomfortable for you,'. But when your dog is acting appropriately, the trainer releases pressure and walks backwards to say 'yes now you are behaving correctly, you can work the stock'.

 

How much pressure is the right amount? Well every dog is different., I personally don't like to push a young dog right off her sheep, but then I don't know how resistant your dog was being prior to the video footage (the dogs barking around the pen would not have helped the situation)..and if a youngster is not listening, then the handler has little choice but to respond and apply more appropriately-timed pressure..

 

Your dog backing off during the session gave her a short 'breather' to clear her head, When she came back onto her stock, her actions were much more considered. Hesitation at this stage is a sign that she is thinking. She was also working her stock at a bit of distance from them. In the video footage provided, the sheep were still responding to her, so she was not so far off that she was 'out of contact' with them.

 

But your dog's behaviour is an example of why a young dog needs to be sufficiently mentally mature to take the pressure.. He/she also needs time to think and work out what is required.

 

I think that your dog just needs a bit more time to grow up...but to my eyes your dog has potential

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Thanks for the feedback, Maxi. You're incorrect about my feelings about the trainer. I actually liked her and will book lessons again in the future. I had so many questions for her, mostly questions I'd had in my mind for a long time, that I forgot to even ask what the point of the lesson was. I think you answered it, though. Her first impression after the first half of the lesson was that my dog was pretty hard and not sensitive to pressure. I think of my dog as having a somewhat sensitive nature and being on the softer side in general, but in certain circumstances find her to be absolutely hard headed and pretty much oblivious to corrections no matter how harsh. I think that's what the trainer was referencing.

 

Here's a link to her first introduction to sheep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjbSBoqQtKM. It's the last third of the lesson I filmed, but it pretty much ends the way it started - with my dog pretty much ignoring what the trainer wanted. She even bites at the rake the trainer used to push her back, thinking it was a game.

 

One lesson I learned from all this is to never take a lesson without knowing exactly what is supposed to be taught and how it's supposed to be learned.

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Hi Soho ~

I'd say she has potential, and even has some nice things going that could indicate a nice dog to come. :) But I definitely echo what Maxi said. This pup needs to go grow up for another month or two. Yes, she's keen, but she does feel pressure and I would not want to see a youngster needing a lot of rock bottles and rakes flung at it. That's not a sort of pressure I like and if that's what it takes to get a young dog's attention, then it needs to go grow some more and become more mature in its mind.

That's often the thing with keen young dogs: their instincts scream for them to do something, anything - but they aren't quite ready to accept the idea of partnership or correction. My advise is to let her mature more so that she may not require so much pressure to see results. It's too easy to sour a young dog if their keenness is stronger than their ability to accept a lesson or correction.

Take her home, let her be a puppy a while longer and try again at 10 or 11 months, would be my advice. :)

~ Gloria

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I can give her a little time to mature. The next time she goes in there I'd like her to treat it like work and not play. She doesn't take this as seriously as she does other things, and I'd like to see that change.

 

Considering I just showed my dog in what was the most unflattering light possible (quitting), what potential did you see in her? I don't have experience with working dogs so I can't make an informed opinion. I'm curious what qualities you see in her?

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I can give her a little time to mature. The next time she goes in there I'd like her to treat it like work and not play. She doesn't take this as seriously as she does other things, and I'd like to see that change.

 

Every dog is different. It's hard to predict how long your dog will take to mentally mature a bit more. As Gloria says, if you put too much pressure on some immature dogs when they cannot cope with the correction, then they can be soured.

 

So don't feel you need to rush to start training your dog. You have plenty of time. Once your dog is older, she will take to stocktraining better and probably progress faster anyway :)

 

In the meantime, you can help your dog in several ways. Remember shepherding/sheepdogging is about a partnership between handler and dog. I am guessing from your posts that you have not grown up with stock. If this is the case then you also have a steep learning curve to climb.

 

IMO it really helps to spend time learning about sheep. For example, learn where YOU need to stand, how much space you need to give to sheep in order to keep them calm. Watch the sheep's body language and learn the cues that she gives before she acts (for example a flick of an ear, the way she holds her head).

Learn how sheep behave on their own and when they are in a small flock. Watch how the dynamics in a flock can change depending on which sheep are making up the group (sheep are not all the same).

 

If you cannot get an opportunity to help out on a stockfarm, then ask your trainer if you can try moving sheep around the field or getting them into a pen by yourself without a dog. Doing things like this can be a real eye opener.

 

It also helps to consider how you interact with your dog during a training session because applying pressure effectively requires the handler to focus their energy appropriately. A dog will often be more willing to listen to a calm, assertive, authorative person who quietly, yet effectively says "Oi you, listen to me and think about your actions" than to someone who excitedly shouts and wildly waves a rake/stick around - This will be especially true if the dog considers these stick-waving gestures to be an invitation to play.

 

In addition, it is not just the amount of pressure but also about getting the timing right and understanding when you need to release pressure. This is one of the reasons why it helps to be able to read your dog and your stock. If you continue applying pressure when your dog is showing signs of uncertainty or when she is acting appropriately, then you will just confuse her (and this is one reason why she may decide to quit)

 

I fully appreicate that all these things are difficult for a novice to think about especially in a situation where the dog and the sheep are moving swiftly. So it may help if you attend one or more training clinics as a spectator (ie without your dog). Watch how the expert acts and compare this with the students' movements. Observe how the different dog respond to different handlers and garner what advice the expert gives in sorting out the different issues that each partnership has.

 

 

Considering I just showed my dog in what was the most unflattering light possible (quitting), what potential did you see in her? I don't have experience with working dogs so I can't make an informed opinion. I'm curious what qualities you see in her?

 

In the 1st video you posted in this thread watch your dog's actions from 48 secs onwards. This is where she wants to please her handler and is thinking about her actions (tail down, calm keeping a sensible distance and balancing naturally) . Compare this with the 1st 10 seconds of the film (where she is excited, playing and rushing into sheep).

.. there are other episodes than the times I mentioned when she is looking good and balanced as well as some points where she is starting to get excited (tail flicks). There is also the episode where is definitely uncertain and indicating that she does not want a confrontation (holding back and sniffing the ground)

 

Don't beat yourself up about her leaving her sheep for a short while. As both Gloria and I have said in earlier posts, she is young and the pressure of the situation briefly got too much for her... your dog has potential.

 

Hope these ideas are some help.

 

Others will no doubt have additional excellent suggestions.

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I can give her a little time to mature. The next time she goes in there I'd like her to treat it like work and not play. She doesn't take this as seriously as she does other things, and I'd like to see that change.

 

Considering I just showed my dog in what was the most unflattering light possible (quitting), what potential did you see in her? I don't have experience with working dogs so I can't make an informed opinion. I'm curious what qualities you see in her?

 

 

Give her all the time she needs. If she's not ready to really train until she's a year old or so, you're not late for anything and she'll benefit from the added time to let her brain catch up with her instincts. :)

 

In other words, time is the only way to have that change happen. You can't force or make or cause the change to seriousness, it has to come naturally. She'll get there! :)

 

As for good things, I see that when she's thinking calmly, she has nice shape around her sheep and keeps a nice interval away from them. Even though excitement then draws her in to take a dive at them, that ability is in there to build on, when she's ready.

 

Don't worry, all will come in due time.

 

~ Gloria

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Thanks. It's interesting that so much can be gleaned by, what appeared mostly to me, was a dog just running circles around sheep. What Maxi said is pretty much what the trainer told after the lesson. I'm not in a rush to put my dog through training, so some time off is okay with me. I'm only interested in pursuing it if my pup is. She doesn't have to be a herding dog if she doesn't want to. I'll post the next lesson after it happens. Thanks for the input.

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Going to back to the earlier debate that prompted me posting her training videos, is it obvious that my pup comes from a less than stellar pedigree? I was curious about whether a dog who has only one side of working dogs in her ancestry will be missing vital ingredients that make up a good sheep dog? Maybe drive, stock sense, natural outrun, power, trainability, bidability, eye, whatever. Can you already tell at this age that she's not from strong breeding? Would you expect different if you knew the parents were both open level trial dogs? Nothing will change how I feel about her, so feel free to be blunt. I am just interested in the science of heredity as it relates to the herding ability of these dogs.

 

If I were to post video of a border collie from strictly confirmation lines being introduced to sheep, would you be able to tell that it wasn't from working lines? Any giveaways you'd look for?

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I was curious about whether a dog who has only one side of working dogs in her ancestry will be missing vital ingredients that make up a good sheep dog?

 

That very much depends. I am thinking of a well-known, highly-regarded dog who was so prepotent that it almost didn't matter who he was bred to, the offspring took after him so strongly. One of his sons, who was also a really fine, much-admired dog, had much less capacity to produce offspring that reflected his abilities. This ability to transmit more of a dog's quality to its offspring -- which is called prepotence -- is something that cannot be predicted in advance. It can only be observed later.

 

 

Can you already tell at this age that she's not from strong breeding? Would you expect different if you knew the parents were both open level trial dogs?

 

IMO, you cannot tell this -- or very much at all -- from observing a dog's first few exposures to sheep. You certainly cannot tell it about your dog from these videos. You can only observe the good bits and the not-so-good bits (and pretty much all beginner pups have both). You can't predict how the dog will develop as it goes along. The best trainers I know don't even try.

 

Beyond that, I would absolutely urge you -- beg you, really :) -- not to focus so much on your dog's breeding. It is what it is. If you had no knowledge of her ancestry, or if you knew that her sire and dam were both top open dogs, you would still have to wait and see how she turns out. Good dogs have come from poor breeding, and poor dogs have come from good breeding. We try to breed conscientiously and insightfully because it increases our odds of producing good dogs, not to guarantee that we will produce only good dogs. Nothing we can do will guarantee that.

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I completely agree with Eileen's post. You cannot predict how well a specific dog will turn out based on its pedigree alone nor from how it behaves around stock when it is a youngster. In addition, very few dogs, if any, are completely perfect in every regard.

 

On top of that, it is not just about the dog, but about the partnership between handler and dog.- different dogs suit different handlers.

 

. If you want to learn to do sheep-work with her, then your dog is already showing enough potential and instinct for both of you to take that journey. Just wait till she has grown up a bit so that she can cope with the pressure of training.

 

As Eileen says, don't focus on her pedigree - Enjoy your dog for what she is

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I saw some good things. But mainly I saw a young pup that isn't ready for training pressure yet. I'd take her maybe once a month to see how she is maturing and you'll see a marked difference when she is mature enough to take training pressure plus she will be used to sheep a tiny bit.

Good luck and enjoy the journey

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Food for thought: My first trial dog was a little rescue of unknown pedigree. She never would have been an open trial dog, but it didn't matter. I didn't need an open level trial dog at that point. I needed to learn to work a dog on stock. I learned a great deal from her. We learned things together, we were partners, we had fun, we had successes and failures. I have since raised and trained other trial and work dogs. I have had plenty of success with those dogs, way more than I ever had with my first dog. But that first dog was my heart. We did it together. All of the wonderful, talented dogs who came after her are here *because* of her and the possibilities that she opened up to me. It didn't matter what she was pedigreewise; she was just what I needed then. As the first anniversary of her death approaches I am reminded of how she changed my life. That's enough from one dog. I miss her terribly, but what a legacy she has left me.

 

So learn and enjoy with your youngster. Don't worry about what she is or is not. She has a lot to teach you, no matter what.

 

J.

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it is possible and happens often with new folks to over think the whole thing. It was one day. One lesson. Just a few steps in a very long process of training both you and your dog. I liked what I saw from your dog. Young dog, second contact with stock. What's not to like? It went around, showed interest, took some pressure, went off to think about things, and then came back... What's not to like?

 

It is a day by day, step by step, lesson by lesson process. If you look too close too often you can be frustrated with the process or progress. Sometimes it is best to stop thinking things to death and just go and enjoy your dog. If you listen to her she will tell you how far she wants to go.

 

dave

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