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Socializing to Livestock for Urban BC

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Have a 9.5 month girl, whos been doing great with training and socialization. We live in an urban area, and despite the standard trials of puppy and adolescents behaviors that crop up, we've managed to train through everything that comes up. She's a harness, clicker, treats and toy girl as an fyi to training methods we chose for her. Her environment is definitely a city center, but not too loud, loads of kids, strollers, cars, motorcycles, etc. She's got her space everyday for romping, loves going for her walks, has been coming into work lately. 

Inside, fairly couch potato at this point but loves to play. Loves visitors, easily overexcited by guests (which is new).

We had an opportunity come up to stay and vacation at a home in the countryside nearby, where there is some livestock. Goats, ducks, chickens etc. She's properly socialized to walk past birds, she's certainly interested and curious, never rounds them or crouches or anything. I'm excited to see her around livestock daily, could be a great training opportunity, but I want to be extra careful as this isn't my livestock. A few things I'm considering, but I figure this group could provide even more insight and experience to things I'm not considering.

  • Considering a muzzle for her. She's never nipped or bitten or chased a bird before, she has wanted to chase the rabbits or rats she sees sometimes. She can 'ignore' them now, but its very apparent she's noticed them in the distance.
  • Doing LAT training. We did this as a puppy, at really anything she noticed that made her stop and couldn't hear me. Seems to have worked as she typically gets curious, and then checks in. These will be all new stimuli so I figure it can't hurt.
  • Long line. I love the longline, I feel her recalls at 80ish percent now, but I just prefer having that safety net. Especially on someone else's property, with their animals.
  • Sticking to our routines like coming inside. When we've had access to a yard, she just putzes endlessly. She does much better when we stick to a schedule and she has inside time. Again a shame, as she'll have a farm to romp, but I just worry she'll get the wrong message about chilling out when she's tired vs going all out. 
  • Lots of rewarding curiosity while chickens and everyone are behind fences.

She is plenty toy and food motivated, but it depends on what we're doing, and a bunch of factors. What I'm curious of. If I am rewarding say, calm reactions or being around animals, food seems more appropriate, as amping her up with tug or games could re-direct? Vice versa, if I see her prey drive kick in, I guess just remove from the situation? In all our  time, she's never shown some of the physical instincts I have seen of other border collies, she's just a goofy kid. Once, when we were playing some tug, I had her come forward and gave her a 'down' and she did the BC crouch with tail wagging again, and as I brought her forward she crawled all the way slowly. It was awesome! Its never happened since :lol:. TBH I am not confident enough to notice if its instincts kicking in (if thats even a thing untrained), or if it was hunt/ prey drive revving up. 

I'm sure there's things I haven't considered, so input would be appreciated! As an FYI, she wont work stock ever, so this isn't a stepping stone attempt, but a great socialization op if we handle it right. 


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I'm surprised no one has commented yet.  I have NO experience with this, but the usual advice is to keep the dog or puppy on a long line all the time until she ignores the animal in question all the time.  You may be working against instinct here, in which case the long line will be necessary whenever livestock are present.

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I am glad you want to be prepared, but don't overthink it. Just keep it simple.

Definitely keep her on a long line if there is no fencing. That will prevent any major incidents - chasing livestock or gripping them. And since she is on a long line, if she shows too much interest in the livestock and doesn't pay attention to you, then you can employ distraction/training strategies to redirect her attention. Personally, I would expect her to be very interested in the new sights and smells. If she wasn't, I would be worried. Keep it fun and light and don't expect perfection. Let her have a good, and safe, time.

Just re-read your OP. Regarding the muzzle: I think that would be totally unnecessary if she is kept on a long line. Just keep her far enough away from the livestock. Using a muzzle is like going to DefCon 5 without transitioning through 1-4.

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Ok, all makes sense, and thanks on the muzzle note. As for longline, yea, since its not our property I don't know how everyone's setup with fencing and the like, so until we're able to guarantee everyone can be safe and isolated, long line it is! I'll update how things turn out, and if any specific issues arise! Should be a fun week.

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On leash at all times. All dogs will chase livestock and most can't be trusted to be recalled. A Border Collie will chase livestock. Livestock that is chased will end up getting hurt. Even a Border Collie that has never shown interest in stock will chase stock.

When we train Border Collies to herd, it always starts out as chasing. Usually as very young dogs, always in controlled environments (like a round pen) where the dog can be stopped or discouraged from chasing or injuring stock. In an open field with an untrained dog, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

I agree that a muzzle would be unnecessary if the dog is leashed. I would keep the dog leashed and not on a long line. On a leash, you can discourage chase behavior. A long line will encourage by giving the dog some room to chase. Long lines are fine in a training environment but for walking around someone else's farm with an untrained (and by untrained I mean not trained as a stock dog) a long line just gives the dog room to lunge after stock.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks @Pearse. A few days in, livestock wise we were lucky in that most everyone except some ducks are fenced and we can safely introduce her, she's been primarily on leash and has a ton of interest in the chickens, she likes to watch them, she has also gotten a lot of satisfaction from one particular coop where the younger chickens move with her, so she's seeing her influence. All in all she's done surprisingly well, she recalls away (of course theres a fence dividing and she knows that) but that aspects been good.

Really underestimated how poorly she'd do out of her normal environment though in all other aspects. She's clearly just really uncomfortable and out of her element, and its been a trying time for everyone. Could be a super storm of 9-10 month fear period + first vacation away + tons of new stimuli, but she's been a handful and has really struggled to settle, leading to some exhausted tantrums and barking at the sky and any pin drop sound. She's in the middle of her first nap in 3-4 days, so we're taking it easy. She accompanied me today feeding the chickens and ducks and did great (all separated), she liked being part of the action and 'helping' and is calming down a bit. What a trip, thanks for the tips all! 

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