Jump to content
BC Boards

Sheep Apprehension


Recommended Posts

*I originally posted this in the stockdog expert section but didn’t realized it didn’t allow regular members to respond so I’m posting it here as well.

Hello,

I’m not 100% sure if I am writing in the correct topic area so my apologies ahead of time if I am not. I recently started herding lessons with Judith Kelly at Asher Dell Farm. I’ve had about 4-5 lessons so far and have really enjoyed it. She has been building it up slowly which I appreciate. We noticed lately that Braden (my border collie) is interested in sheep and engages with them but stops himself after a few seconds everytime. When he does this, he glances at me almost to check if it was ok to keep going which we want him to do, but it takes coaxing to get him confident to engage with the sheep again. We also just realized he is much more confident when I am holding the line then when I drop it. In the waiting pen he is also completely fixated on the sheep so I know he has interest. She mentioned how obedient he is and how he looks at me for approval and that may be holding him back, but now I feel like I may have hurt his potential to herd. Any thoughts on why he is apprehensive on continuing engagement with the sheep ? Do you have any tips on overcoming this? Judith  seems confident that he will be good and said he just needs more exposure so he gets more comfortable but I want to make sure I’m not doing anything to prevent that and I also want to check if I could do anything to help him overcome it. Thanks for any advice! 
 

Additional information: He is 1.5 years old and comes from a herding line. We’ve only been going to lessons for the past month or so. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Journey I meant she didn’t just throw us in with sheep. We practiced in a pen without sheep, then a small pen with about 3 sheep, then a larger pen with about 5-6 sheep. We started with a line and then letting the line go. There were other things we did as well but that was the gist of the progression. She gives feedback as well and is open to questions throughout. I also did a herding instinct test with a different trainer but ended up going with this one because she is only 30 minutes away and I had heard good things about her experience. All other trainers are close to an hour away or more. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@NCStarkey This was just the first day, but we practiced "Walk", "lie down", "walk", "lie down", "here", etc. to ensure the dog had basic obedience before joining the sheep.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the explanation about practicing without the sheep, and it could be that practicing and using the basic commands are adversely affecting your dog.   Usually, when beginning dogs are introduced to sheep, the dog is allowed to freely interact with the sheep without our commands.   We want awaken the instinct in young dogs, not suppress it.  Of course, we want to be able to call the dog off, but in the beginning, there are no other commands given.  Journey has suggested finding another instructor, and that may be a good idea for you and Braden. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since Braden is 1.5 years old, what other training have you done with him? And how much? If you have done too much training requiring a lot of focus on you, which is then rewarded, Braden may be defaulting to that type of interaction with you -- checking in with you a lot for reinforcement that he has done the correct behavior.

Take this with a grain of salt because I am not an expert in training for herding (but have done a little and one dog is a little like Braden) -- you have to try to break the habit of him looking to you for approval. Since it sounds like he will not go in and attack the sheep, let him walk around the sheep with you, but if he looks to you, don't say anything. Don't encourage. When you encourage, you are strengthening the 'looking for approval' habit. Try to break the habit of him looking to you by not responding. Just keep walking around the sheep and see what he does. He must learn to focus on the sheep and think for himself.

Just my 2 cents - for better or worse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When my dogs have been on sheep the shepherd has handled them, especially when they were really starting to get a feel for sheep. Both my dogs are agility dogs and are used to watching my body and arms for signals, with the shepherd they focused on the sheep and the commands. Once they had a decent understanding of what was happening I started to be able to work them, new skills he would start them always. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@gcv-borderthanks for your input! This sounds exactly like what’s happening with Braden. We do quite a bit of training (obedience and tricks). So it seems like the main issue is him looking for me for approval like you described. I’ll try out your tips and see how it goes. Thanks again!

@alligandegood point! I’ll see if we can try this as well!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Update! Went to another lesson today, and we made significant progress. Looks like he is building confidence and we even moved to the bigger area to move sheep. Honestly the progress we made today was exponential and has made me hopeful that I can trial him. He wasn’t “all or nothing” like before (i.e. either timid or all out rushing the sheep) but rather slowly approached the sheep, crouched, made eye contact, etc. I was beyond ecstatic to see it “click”.  It looks like I just needed to be patient and trust my trainer and the process. I’ll share any further progress I make. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...