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Training traits associated with "eye" versus "low-eye" dogs

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Hi there,

I am a newbie to BC herding training and was talking with a USBCHA trialer and trainer. She said that some people like dogs with "eye" and others don't. I'm looking at getting one of her dogs that she thinks has more "eye" than she likes. She said a trainer kinda picks which training problems or traits they are willing to deal with when they pick an "eye" dog or "non-eye" dog. I guess I am wondering if someone with much experience could tell me something about how training the two types of dogs might differ; what sort of tendencies each type of dog has; and what "problems" might have to be corrected when training a dog of each type.

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Dear Ms. Karen,


Eye is focus and predatory intent. Imagine the few seconds when a wolf stalks its prey before it attacks that's eye and prey animals move off it.


One of my trial dogs (Fly) has too much eye, one (Jake) too little (loose eyed).


Fly will lock on to her sheep and control them. She is so focused I need to startle her so she can hear a command.


Jake moves his sheep by movement, not eye. He is always biddable but movement upsets sheep more than eye so Jake's sheep are harder to direct with the precision one wants at a trial.


Note that both dogs (who are fairly extreme instances) are perfectly useful farm and ranch dogs.


In general, dogs with too much eye must be trained to keep moving. In early training you keep them on their feet and flanking against the way they know is best to control the sheep.


A dog with too little eye must be trained to focus. A dog asked to work just two sheep can't control them with movement and must develop his eye.


Donald McCaig

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  • 2 weeks later...

Karen if you post your question in the other training section more folks will reply. Since this it the "Ask an Expert" only that one person is supposed to reply. Most folks are wanting to help or at the least have an opinion so you will get more input in the other section

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I should mention that our current expert, Amanda Milliken, is putting on two major trials within the next two weeks and is probably not in a position to check the Boards right now. I too suggest that you post this in the Training Discussion forum, just above this one. You will certainly get more responses there.

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  • 4 weeks later...

People don't ask questions for ages and then I stop looking and look what happens.

I thank Donald for his explanation. A good one.

Having some eye is an asset. it brings useful balance to dogs that makes them easy to train. Bereft of the balance, the eye, dogs must be put everywhere, instead of that they go. Without a pleasant amount of eye, a dog has less to contribute to the job. We all like a useful partner afterall and that is pretty much what we are after. The dog with too much eye, the one that gets locked up and doesn't get up, really would not have too much eye if you could obedience him past the liability. If heavily eyed dogs could overcome their natural inclinations and do as we ask, the eye could be viewed as a pleasant thing. It wouldn't be too much.

We want the perfect balance--free enough to be responsive but with enough eye to engage the sheep. Very free dogs are adored by western sheep, as the sheep relax in their presence. Dogs with too much eye draw sheep back to them and predispose confrontation.

An honest trainer will know if he or she has trained past a propensity in a dog, like for example too much eye. It will position the trainer to make intelligent breeding choices with the dog at hand--breeding to a freer dog, if in fact the amount of eye in the bitch has been a problematic tendency. We all see dogs that may have had too much eye, but they rose above it in training to be successful dogs. They were trainable. They wanted to be partners on the job.

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