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A year later- The More Work, the More Amped?


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#1 Bicoastal

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 12:54 PM

I posted a year ago asking if an agility person could cross over to herding. In the Fall of 2016, I started taking herding lessons with an experienced sheepdog trialer and trainer. I was quickly addicted!

 

My boy was lovely, with typical baby dog issues. Another experienced sheepdogger visiting watched him move pregnant ewes and commented how perfect he was for a beginner like me: "so nice and easy" while still powerful. I still remember the day the lightbulb turned on over his head and he suddenly "got" balance. It was like magic! He was described as soft to handler, steady under pressure ("this ain't no chicken shit dog"), learning pace, "stylish," and no quit in him. 

 

I started lessoning as often as I could, which is once a week according to weather. I spectated at trials. The interaction between dog and stock is fascinating. I love the community I've found of supportive, encouraging people welcoming me into a world that's been right under my nose.

 

As my dog's exposure to sheep increased, so did his arousal. He was tuning out the handler, chasing or singling out sheep, diving into them like a bowling ball, starting to grip. He went from a stylish green dog showing the innate instincts of outrun, balance, and fetch; to looking like a pet mutt chasing wildlife in a field. Back on the longline. We tried running him before putting him on sheep. We tried calmly walking behind 100+ flock for an hour or working a small packet in a controlled area for 15 mins. I worked on lots and lots of impulse control and obedience at home. We took a break of several months then tried again. 

 

Nope. Chasing, splitting, gripping, chasing, chasing. Glimpses of covering but never settled into working instead of wanting to chase them willy nilly.

 

I keep thinking it's supposed to go the other way: I've watched many young dogs at their first intro chase and run amok or grip, then they settle with more exposure. We've had the opposite. What is going on? Is there any way to get my "nice and easy" dog back or is he done? The trainer commented that his brain flies to Mach 10 in a blink (basically as soon as the car hits the farm driveway) and he can't come back down. Trainer doesn't know what else to do. Everyone who knows us is sadly shaking their heads and saying that's too bad.

 

I'm a pet person who enjoys herding. I can't go out and get another dog because this one isn't working out, nor will I place him elsewhere (Where?!!?!) Is there anything that can be done?



#2 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 08:20 PM

Before getting rid of the dog, I'd suggest looking into another trainer. Is there anyone else in your area who may be able to help?

I have never seen where running a dog before work settles their mind - on the contrary, I've heard many wise handlers say this only revs them up and makes them more physically fit! It sounds a bit like your dog may be suffering from issues with anxiety and adrenaline and he may need to work with someone who can dial a dog down.

So that's what makes me wonder if perhaps this trainer is simply not a good fit for your dog. This is not to take a slap at your trainer, just that not every handler is equipped to handle every dog, and this may simply be a poor match.

What has your trainer done to try calming him?


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#3 sjones

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 09:59 PM

I agree with Gloria.

Its hard to give good advice since we don't have a video to see whats going on, but here is what I think. You said that he initially was working very nicely on the sheep and now for whatever reason its a disaster now.  This makes me wonder if pressure/corrections, are being applied correctly.  Dogs really read our nonverbal and verbal gestures very well and you/trainer might be in the wrong place at the wrong time without realizing it.  This pressure could be causing your dog to react towards the sheep opposite of what you/trainer think should happen.  Or in the course of trying to correct your dog, that correction may already be too late or end up going overboard with it.

 

Along with finding a different trainer, see if there are any clinics you could attend.  Patrick Shannahan, Jack/Kathy Knox, Scott Glen and Gordan Watt are just a few off the top of my head that are good. 

Julie Hill The Natural Way is a great book that you might find helpful.

 

Samantha



#4 Donald McCaig

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 05:11 AM

Both good advice. Sounds like too much pressure. Real work w/o so many commands calm most sheepdogs
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#5 Ludi

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 07:25 AM

This may or may not help, since I can't see your situation in person, and my advice may change if you can show some video footage of an average lesson with your dog.

 

I've had the chance to get involved with the training of quite a few young dogs now, ranging from 4 to 18 months, and your case isn't really that shocking or surprising. A cool customer turning into a pushy devil isn't new nor worrying. So fret not!

 

You mentioned that his excitement hits the roof when the car rolls into the farmyard. Is he travelling in a crate in the car, or loose and able to see out of the windows?

 

I assume you're putting him on a lead to go out to the training pen or field. How is his behaviour then? Is he scrabbling and pulling in all directions? If so, I'd work on getting him to snap out of that agitation and to focus back on you, your voice and physical presence. How you achieve that depends on your training philosophy - some people will use a physical aversive (lightly clipping the dog's nose with a stick), and others won't. I don't know your viewpoint on this, so I won't make any recommendations past the general advice of getting the dog to simmer down and walk nicely out to the training area.

 

Tiring the dog out physically isn't what cases like this usually need. It's mental agitation and over-excitement, not physical, so once he's in the right mind frame, he may begin to resemble the dog you had at the beginning.

 

I'd also recommend not getting at him for singling or gripping or chasing. I have seen young dogs feed off the excitement and rising agitation in their handler's voice.

 

Stay in a small, enclosed area where no animal (sheep or dog) can bolt and make a run for it. You, as the handler, must stay with the sheep at all times for now. If you're with the sheep, you're in control of the highest reward and highest stimulus for your dog. Reward calm and methodical behaviour (even if it's there but for a second, like the dog briefly standing still) by letting the dog have the sheep. If he behaves and thinks, he gets the sheep. If he doesn't, you let him know that under no circumstances is he getting to those sheep without going through you. This relies on the right sheep, and the right training area! I do not recommend trying to tackle over-excitement in a young dog with flighty sheep in a massive field!



#6 Bicoastal

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 08:16 AM

Dog is 3yo. I don’t have any video because… disaster.

 

Gloria, how does one dial a dog down? I know from the horse world that “lunging down” can become it’s own problem as more and more lunging is needed to tire a fitter and fitter horse. Running him before work definitely adrenalized him but adrenaline surges as soon as he unloads from the car. If dialing down is physical correction, the trainer remarked he feels no pain. My response was he can’t think, so he’s not processing cause and effect even if he were beat with a baseball bat.

 

Ludi, he travels crated in the car and the crate is covered. He still knows where we are ;) . Honestly, I’m not disciplined enough to pull off of the road and wait for him to be quiet before proceeding, nor do I believe it will work. He doesn’t seem conscious or in control of his actions. We tried demanding calm loose leash walking to the pen, backing up if he lunges forward, leash pops, clapping his noise for whining or barking. Demanding manners from car to pen makes that walk take an eternity, while he’s senses are overloaded screaming S-H-E-E-P. The longer he has to wait while exposed to that stimulus, the more wired he gets. It’s like the steam builds and the faulty pressure cooker is going to explode.

 

Sjones, I think I understand what you are saying about possibly incorrect pressure, correction, and positioning. I would be mortified and I think he would be totally inappropriate to take to a clinic. I want to say we aren’t even capable of discussing herding elements now: if he’s put to sheep, he’s going to dive in, scattering them like bowling pins, chasing them into the fence, and gripping whatever flies past his face. I’m afraid he’s going to injure or kill a sheep, more likely by running it to death but possibly through biting. When he is still, he’s like an arrow pulled taught ready to spring from the bow: pupils are dilated, muscles are taught, claws are gripping the soil. I want to cry. I saved a few short video clips from a year ago where he was just lovely. 

 

Donald, right now there is no real work. Putting him on sheep (with any amount of rein) would be completely unfair to the sheep and probably to him, too.

 

Small enclosed area… like smaller than a round pen? I’m in the Mid-Atlantic. Any referral recommendations? I obviously need to provide a full disclosure about his current behavior.

 

Thank you all for reading and contributing. I'm really heartbroken. It was so amazing to me to see him do what he's bred to do. He just goes out and does it: all the handler has to do is to be there to provide a little direction. It turns out I'm not too hopeless at reading stock. I was really excited about pursuing what he was bred and loves to do. 



#7 amc

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 09:44 AM

Have you thought about neutering him?


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#8 Donald McCaig

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 09:52 AM

Unfortunately a.smaller ring adds pressure
Twere he mine I'd get on the atv and turn him out
On a bigger bunch in a big field. Have a backup dog to regroup. Likely he'll try to sort some off. Don't let him. Be calm.Determendly
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#9 Alchemist

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 02:16 PM

I've attended a Kathy Knox clinic on the eastern shore of MD where someone brought a dog who seriously wanted to Take Sheep Down. Kathy worked with the dog and owner, and the improvements over the course of the weekend were marked. So, while some people would most certainly not relish your dog working their sheep if his behavior is as you describe, it might still be possible to benefit from the input of a clinician. You should be up front about the dog's behavior, though.

 

I've heard of people who have had success in muzzling dogs that are too grippy. Of course that won't help with the issue of running sheep into fences. Sheep can get killed that way.

 

That's about all I have in the way of suggestions, I'm afraid. I do have one dog whose training is on (permanent) hiatus because he just gets too wound up while on sheep. He's superbly well-behaved (both on and off leash) when off sheep. On sheep - he's keen as a razor - too keen. The instant he gets control of sheep, you can see his eyes start to spin in his head, and he loses his brain as well as his sense of hearing. If I keep taking the sheep away from him for buzzing them (fortunately he's not grippy), he just gets frustrated, and the problem escalates. I worked with him for years (working with a very highly regarded trainer, regularly attending Patrick Shannahan clinics) before relegating him to the role of highly valued pet. I now have two other Border collies. The one in question I won't even allow to work my own sheep. He won't run them into a fence, but he'll sour them.

 

Oh, and apparently the person (a talented handler) who owned his grandmother regularly took her for runs (while he drove his ATV) before a trial to take the edge off her.

 

I hope you can figure out a way of getting "your old dog" back!



#10 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 02:32 PM


 

Dog is 3yo. I don’t have any video because… disaster.

 

Gloria, how does one dial a dog down? I know from the horse world that “lunging down” can become it’s own problem as more and more lunging is needed to tire a fitter and fitter horse. Running him before work definitely adrenalized him but adrenaline surges as soon as he unloads from the car. If dialing down is physical correction, the trainer remarked he feels no pain. My response was he can’t think, so he’s not processing cause and effect even if he were beat with a baseball bat.......

 

Sjones, I think I understand what you are saying about possibly incorrect pressure, correction, and positioning. I would be mortified and I think he would be totally inappropriate to take to a clinic. I want to say we aren’t even capable of discussing herding elements now: if he’s put to sheep, he’s going to dive in, scattering them like bowling pins, chasing them into the fence, and gripping whatever flies past his face. I’m afraid he’s going to injure or kill a sheep, more likely by running it to death but possibly through biting. When he is still, he’s like an arrow pulled taught ready to spring from the bow: pupils are dilated, muscles are taught, claws are gripping the soil. I want to cry. I saved a few short video clips from a year ago where he was just lovely.


Hi again ~

I really feel for you and I wish we could see things in person. Is there any way you could video your trainer working him, so we can see what exactly is happening? Yes, it may be a disaster but it might be helpful to see what, exactly, the trainer is doing to try and control him.

The fact you mention the trainer saying he "feels no pain" makes me wonder if the trainer might have inadvertently caused some of this. If the dog started off lovely and has gone ballistic in training, it is sometimes possible that the wrong methods have been used and the dog is reacting to the pressure of training.

By this I mean that for some dogs a more combative, forceful style of training has the opposite effect and rather than subduing him, it may make him feel more desperate. At a clinic this week I watched a well known UK trainer take two ranch-bred, high-drive, fast-and-furious dogs and over the course of two days, he had settled one beautifully and calmed the most explosive one to a much nicer frame of mind. All he really did was ask the dogs to lie down when they were ridiculous and applied his presence and tone of voice in such a way that the dog could tell clearly when it was incorrect and when the trainer was happy.

That's what can happen sometimes, a trainer can get so caught up in correcting a dog that they miss and overlook the chances they should be taking to let the dog know it is doing right. I'm not saying that's what has happened here, but ... without seeing, it's a possibility I think several of us here are contemplating. If a dog is being continually chased out, pushed off, stuff thrown at him and repeated corrections applied, he may end up with no idea what the right thing really is.

So, seriously, if you can get a bit of video of your dog working with the trainer, that might give us an idea what's going on. Yes, it may be a disaster, but there's really no good way to fix a disaster without seeing it in action.

Hope this helps!

Gloria
P.S.
He would not be inappropriate to take to a clinic. That's what clinics are for! A good teacher/trainer would be able to offer new insight and may even help you gain a new understanding of what's going on. One of the two dogs I mentioned above started off looking like a hand grenade in an outhouse! :P   Two days later, his owner had him stopping and flanking pretty well - and no more charging like the Light Brigade.


You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell. ~ Emily Dickinson

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. ~ Milan Kundera

#11 sjones

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 10:38 PM

Diddo a video.  Yes things might be messy, but it might open more insight into what's happening. 

You don't go to a clinic to show how good your dog is; you go for the purpose of getting much needed help. 

We tried demanding calm loose leash walking to the pen, backing up if he lunges forward, leash pops, clapping his noise for whining or barking. Demanding manners from car to pen makes that walk take an eternity

Reading this reminds me of some wise advice from Jack Knox.  "Stop trying to make the dog right.  Correct the wrong, leave the right.  Let the dog think."

 

Samantha



#12 juliepoudrier

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 09:10 AM

What about sessions of just hanging out calmly with sheep? You bring a book and a chair, put the sheep in an enclosure where they are close but where you can create space between you in your chair and them. Dog on leash. Take dog in with you, sit down, read or otherwise entertain yourself. Let dog do whatever it's going to do within the length of its leash. Ignore dog and sheep. Nothing happens (except you reading) until dog settles down. This will likely need to be repeated until the dog can enter into close proximity to sheep without losing its mind. I think your dog needs to learn to settle its mind, and this is the approach I'd take. It'll be rather tedious and could take a while at once-a-week visits, but it's the approach I'd take to start with.

J.

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#13 Smalahundur

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 12:15 PM

I think Julie makes a very good suggestion desensitizing him.
And maybe, as you are not actually doing something with (or to ;) ) the sheep you might be able to strike a deal with your training place or an other sheep keeper in your neighbourhood, to do that more frequently than just once a week.
And I'd use a light chain as leash, some are pretty quick to understand that you can chew through leather or nylon....

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#14 Luana

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 12:27 PM

hi,

I'm a beginner and have a similar problem with my dog Spillo. he is very intense with sheep and very difficult to stop.

walking him nicely when we arrive to the farm so far is something I was not able to achieve. 

so I just let him walk and if he starts to drag me too much, I have him circle back and lie down and then walk again a bit more. we arrive slowly to the pen with the sheep inside.

what I found out is that, at least in my case, using the long line with a very keen dog, increases the frustration a lot!

I am now taking the advice the Gloria gave some time ago, and try to have him lie down first at a distance from the sheep I can handle and let him go when he listens to my command.

I find easier for me to work with 3-4 sheep max, so that I can have an "hold" on them and control my dog at the same time. if I feel I'm loosing control, I walk back into a fence with the sheep and try to stop the dog then.

I found the tutorials on the working sheepdog website very helpful.

I do believe that the once a week training makes it difficult for the dog to get used to the sheep and the farm, and having more time to dedicate to training or just sit and relax close to the sheep as it has been suggested, would help a lot.



#15 Bicoastal

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 05:37 PM

I really appreciate everyone's time and care in reading and replying. It gives me a little hope.

For the suggestion to take a chair and sit, I think I would be "flooding" him until he gives up. I would definitely need a cable or chain because he'll chew a regular lead. He would probably whine, bark, leap about, maybe scream. It is a passive exercise and no one is exerting any force on him, but it seems like it would torture him. The trainer has already said he has no quit.

With his arousal starting before we leave the car, it would probably be better training to start that exercise before we reach the driveway, then at the driveway, then in the parking area, etc. thoughts?

I don't want to dump on the trainer or blast him on the interwebs. It could be they aren't a good match or it could be the dog isn't suitable (or can't cope with the scant frequency I can provide).

#16 denice

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 07:45 PM

I am thinking he is entering the 'pasture' in the wrong frame of mind.  i imagine he is thinking " sheep, Sheep, SHEEP" rather than thinking he is part of a team and wondering What YOU want him to do with sheep.

He first has to be in the right frame of mind.

Does he pull you to sheep? If so that needs to be fixed first.

 

I know Jack does clinics is maryland and Virginia every year, does a couple here in Indiana.  Jack or Kathy or Tommy Wilson could all help you see what the problem is and help him work through it.

Making a dog tired will at best AVOID the problem it will not fix it, you must address it which means finding someone knowledgeable enough to do so.  With excited dogs, nervous dogs the correction and tming are even more important.  

 

Jack would say 'correct the wrong'

 

I caution you some some "training Methods" will only make this worse or create other problems so dont just go to anyone.



#17 juliepoudrier

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 09:12 PM

I think you might be surprised. Nothing is moving, so there's no real stimulation. I've never seen a dog go nuts in such a situation. Generally they just figure out that nothing is going to happen, period.

J.

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.

~Vincent van Gogh

mydogs_small2.jpg
Julie Poudrier
New Kent, VA

Beloved, and living in memory:
Willow (6/1997-5/2014, run free, my heart), Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Farleigh (12/1998-7/2014, RIP), Kat (4/2000-6/2015, I miss you, my sweet, funny little clown), and Twist (11/2001-11/2016, you were my once-in-a-lifetime dog and forever my BEST girl)

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Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, Birdie, Kiskadee (Kiss), Rue, Corbie, and Kite!

Willow's Rest, Tunis, Tunis mules, Leicester longwool, Teeswater, Border Leicester, and Gulf Coast Native sheep


Visit me on Facebook at Poudrier and Crowder, Set Out Specialists (P&C, SOS)

#18 GentleLake

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 09:34 PM

I caution you some some "training Methods" will only make this worse or create other problems so dont just go to anyone.

 

Definitely this.

 

My first working dog was a tough nut. He'd get overly excited and at the same time probably anxious, which resulted in very similar behavior to what you describe. The real problem though was that he had a dirty bite. I had to call the vet out a couple times to stitch up sheep. Of course this was totally unacceptable.

 

I took him to a couple, three clinicians (there were very few at the time, nearly 35 years ago) and they were unable to do anything at all with him. One of them was a well known big hat, and he was probably the worst. He had a certain kind of dog he like to work with and did very well with but when push came to shove, he simply had no idea what to do with a dog like mine and actually made things worse by trying to "screw him down." He was just in way over his head with this dog and I honestly thought for a while that the dog would amount to nothing.

 

Finally ended up doing a clinic with Jack Knox and he was able to read him in that way I've seen few other people able to read a dog and he started making real progress with that dog in just the few minutes he was able to work with him at a time in a weekend clinic.

 

We ended up sending the dog to Jack for training and he not only came back a completely different dog, but Jack was telling us he actually enjoyed training him. We made some more progress at home over the next year and then sent him back to Jack for another month. When we went to pick him up, Jack was using him for a lot of his daily farm work and said he would have made a fine hill dog. He'd taken a totally out of control dog and made him into a dog we could have trialed in a matter of about 2 months total.

 

My aim here is not to brag about my dog, but to point out that sometimes even good trainers (and trialers) aren't necessarily the right fit for every dog. A lot of people do well with a certain kind of dog but fail miserably with others. Your dog obviously has some ability, but something happened along the way to throw things out of whack for him. I'll bet if you can find another trainer he's in sync with you'll start seeing some differences.

 

I really don't know who the great trainers are these days, but I'm sure the suggestions you've gotten are good. If you can get to a clinic with either Kathy or Jack Knox, by all means try to do it.

 

Best of luck.


"People in your life always come and go all the time; the dogs are always there for me. Always." ~Samantha Valle


#19 toney

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Posted 18 November 2017 - 09:56 AM

The idea of " flooding" to desensitize an animal to an emotional trigger can sound over the top. And while doing the packed pen exercise Julie suggests might fit the definition of flooding in a certain sense, it's not actual flooding in practice. I put my open trial dogs in the packed pen occasionally to remind them in a passive non confrontational manner that quiet behavior equals quiet sheep. I use it with puppies to become comfortable and relax when in close proximity to sheep. It helps them when I need them to clear a trailer of sheep or push sheep out of a small pen neatly and without a fuss. Border collies learn best from the sheep. By putting him on a cable or leash and allowing him to realize that he's not going to work until he has the right attitude won't torture him. Nor, if he is as keen as you say, will he lose his initiative to work sheep. His attitude for whatever reason is wrong. In the car he knows he is going to work sheep so his adrenaline starts to increase. By the time he hits the farm he's already forgotten about you and is too charged to work correctly. I believe this has become a learned habit and now will be difficult to break. He gets in with the sheep and loses his mind. The idea is once he calms down in the packed pen you reward that with a little working in the pen- calm flanking on a leash. Bad behavior means he stops working and you go sit and read your book again.

#20 Blackdawgs

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 12:09 AM

I am having exactly the same problem with my agility dog. It's like a switch flips after we walk into the ring.  I can increase his arousal simply by moving agility obstacles around the yard.  The obstacles themselves are so reinforcing, the dog has little use for me.

 

I believe that it is a conditioned emotional response to the environment (google Pavlov). If you search youtube, Michael Ellis, a Schutzhund trainer discusses this issue.  This problem is common in high drive working dogs and can make training a challenge.

 

My dog has developed all sorts of interesting behaviors at the end of agility runs--all that adrenaline and frustration (from stopping the activity?) with no place to go. He is very talented, but I'm not sure if I will be able to show him anymore.

 

I'm going to give my dog a break from agility and try to make myself more "relevant" but don't have much hope at this point.

 

As others have pointed out, it is a training problem, but you are fighting biology.  The dog is having a neurochemical response to its environment and has no control over this response. I think that the probability of success in the herding world is greater than in the agility world because herding trainers have a better understanding of modifying innate behaviors than agility/pet  trainers.  Personally, I would like to find a schutzhund trainer, but no luck yet.

 

I wish you luck and know how heartbreaking this is.




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