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How to encourage biting?

bite grip novice training heading young dog cattle cow

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#1 ocitalis

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 11:24 PM

I am trying to train my 1.5 year old female Border Collie to work cattle. I have no prior stockdog training experience.
 
My problem is related to (a lack of) biting. The dog does not bite heels. She doesn't recognize the heel as a target. She only shows interest in light nipping at a calf's head. 
 
I purchased 3 gentle 450 lb. Holstein calves for training this dog. My herd cattle are somewhat unfriendly, so I was advised to use comparatively docile milk cows for dog training. The calves were not dog-broke. 
 
The calves quickly learned that if they turn their bodies away from the dog, the dog will not bite their rear or heels. When this happens, the dog tries to circle around to the calf's head. This causes the dog to push the calf the wrong direction, or more often, the calf spins away, and the dog chases the head, in a circle. I tried to strongly discourage the dog from running in front of the calf when I want her on the opposite side of the calf. Unfortunately the dog can't do much if she is behind the calf and the calf refuses to walk forward.
 
Even when the dog is face-to-face with a calf, she has trouble forcing the calf to move away. She has a very weak bite, like a kiss, which is really too gentle to motivate the calf to leave. The dog gets nose-to-nose with a calf, but the calf often just stands in place. The calf stares at her, or moves his head away, or butts the dog.
 
If the dog would bite, instead of gnawing at the calf's face, the calf would move. I don't know how to encourage the dog to be more assertive. I try to praise, excite, and encourage her, and she becomes excited, but she doesn't use her teeth to make the cattle move.
 
How can I encourage the dog to bite when appropriate?


#2 red russel

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 01:01 AM

In no way do I mean to discourage but training a new dog with little to no experience for either of you may not end well for all involved... you, cattle, or dog.  I would suggest finding a competent trainer in your area to assist your efforts.  If you let us know your general location someone here can, perhaps, direct you to a hand with experience.

 

dave



#3 Sue R

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 04:33 AM

Welcome!  And I totally agree with Dave.  Get help from an experienced and competent person and you all will be the better for it. 


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#4 Liz P

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 07:58 AM

Agree 100%.  Find a trainer.  She is young and won't be harmed by putting off her training a bit in order to find an experienced handler to help you out.  You could, however, ruin her for your purposes if she keeps learning bad habits. 



#5 Debbie Meier

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 07:59 AM

Welcome to the boards, I would agree that finding someone with experience with border collies and cattle would be very important. 

 

One thing that is often missed when it comes to working livestock is that if the cattle are moving away from the dog there is no reason for them to be bit.  Our oldest dog, and most successful rarely bites heels, he prefers to convince cattle to move and yield to him by addressing their heads.  Now, with that, as a trainer we have to be certain that the cattle are free to move away from the dog and that the dog doesn't just run around and head them again to stop them, allowing the dog to run/flash to the head will teach the cattle to stop, wad up and frustrate them putting them on the fight, they then may need to be heeled in order to get in motion again but by this time the dog is frustrated and discouraged and may not want to give up on what their instincts are strongly driving them to do, stop and contain.

 

This last weekend we were at a trial watching a new dog/handler.  The handler could not see that the dog was holding the cattle against the fence even though it appeared as if the dog was driving them, as they got to a corner the dog would slide slightly to its left trapping them in the corner.  The handler couldn't see what was happening, basically not experienced enough, though it was obvious to us.  He would give the dog a walk up, the dog would put more pressure on, the cattle would then get aggressive, they had no choice.  The dog would then get ugly and into their faces chewing on them.  This type of dog won't heel because she has no intentions on creating motion, instead she wants to trap and contain.  It may be what you have going on with your dog, we see it a lot, comes pretty natural to some border collies.  To get through such a situation the assistance of a experienced border collie handler/trainer can come in handy. 

 

Anyway, back to the new handler and dog, during the run I was explaining what was going on to another newer handler who is having a similar issue, once pointed out and demonstrated she was able to see it and it made sense as to why things were not working.  I made a point to mention that it would not surprise me if the dogs owner blamed the cows and just felt that they were refusing to move.  As luck would have it, when he arrived back up to the handlers tent with a very wore out dog he mentioned to someone else "boy those cows wouldn't move no matter how much she chewed on them".  Classic example of someone who just isn't seeing how the dog is causing the problem and rather then needing more bite the dog needs to be shown what the job really is.


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#6 juliepoudrier

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 06:24 PM

Even if you can't get training for yourself, it would help to have dog broke calves to start, so that your youngster would have a fighting chance. Some people will use goats, because they are less intimidating, but still behave more like cattle.

 

At the very least you need to be helping her. If she can't move the cattle from behind, get behind them with her and help her get them moving. Doing so will improve her confidence, and it's the confident dog who knows how/when to bite (that is, the dogs who grip appropriately vs. those who grip out of fear). Being behind the cattle with her will also put you in a position where you can call her back behind the cattle whenever she tries to swing around to their heads.

 

Even if she is heading them and not having luck moving them from the ftont, I'd be right in there helping her to move them. You can gain a lot for and from a young dog simply by helping it to do its job in the beginning. Your help will give the dog the confidence she needs to be able (eventually) to move cattle on her own.

 

Right now you've sort of set her up for failure: non-dog-broke cattle and your own lack of experience training a dog.

 

If you can't find an experienced person nearby who can help you with the training process, consider getting Anna Guthrie's book Working with a Stockdog. It's meant to help people like you, who need a dog to help them on their farm/ranch but who might not have access to trainers/training. I've heard a lot of positives about the book. Anna is a member here, under the name Stockdog Ranch, but she doesn't participate as often as she once did.

 

Last, do your best not to get angry or overly disappointed with your young dog. Doing so will only sap what confidence she may have and will work against you and she having success in this endeavor. If you could afford a second dog, I would suggest getting a dog proven to work cattle and using that dog for chores while you learn to train your young dog.

 

A final note: Sometimes all the attempts at "geeing" a dog up to encourage biting can backfire by way of putting too much pressure on the dog, which is when you end up with the more frantic chewing rather than a good clean grip-and-let-go situation. That's not to say that you shouldn't encourage your dog, of course, but just that you should consider that with a young dog, when you do things to amp them up you might be eliciting just the sort of behavior you don't really want, as you've noticed.

 

A lot of this advice is very general, but without seeing the dog and seeing you work with her and how she responds to you and to the cattle, it's difficult to give specific help.

 

J.


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#7 ocitalis

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 11:06 PM

Thank you all for the replies. I am located in the northwest corner of Alabama (Florence). If anyone knows of a trainer nearby, that would be great.

 

I am using the Holstein steers because I couldn't locate any dog-broke cattle nearby for sale, and Holsteins seemed to be the closest equivalent. I considered goats, but there are several reasons I haven't bought any: I don't know much about goats, I don't have a pen that can contain goats, and there are many coyotes in the woods here. The coyotes kill goats unless the goats are sharing a pen with cattle. If the goats are in the same pen as cattle, then I don't think I can train the dog using them, because they will run to the cattle for safety.

 

I started helping the dog to move the cows by prodding the cow a bit when he is reluctant to move. I think this is helping the situation. The cows are not as rooted in place as before. Once the cow moves, the dog's natural desire is to immediately race in front of the cow to stop it. Her desire to do this is especially strong when I am helping her to move the cow. I am using various means of stopping the dog from doing this, and she is showing improvement I think.

 

I am working with the dog once per day. She usually lasts 10-15 minutes before her ability to focus on the task at hand has dropped off. When I notice this happening, I wrap up the session. I have read that this drop in attention span is not abnormal for young dogs. After a dog fairly well-trained, how long will a dog generally work before needing a break?



#8 juliepoudrier

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 06:50 PM

You're correct about the drop in attention span, though I would refer to it as becoming mentally tired. There's only so much a youngster can manage before their brain just sort of shuts down.

 

Once she is a trained adult, she ought to be able to work for longer periods, for sure, but being in Alabama, you will have to be mindful of heat and humidity and how much effort she's putting out. You can kill a dog pretty quickly in a southern spring/summer/fall when the temps and humidity (or heat index) are high. If she has access to water to cool off in while working, that will help, and you can put a "go to water" command on her to encourage her to cool off before she becomes dangerously hot.

 

Also (and you probably already know this), try to move your cattle early in the morning or late in the evening when the temps and humidity are lowest. It's safer for all of you that way.

 

P.S. I will encourage a youngster to stay behind when driving by walking along with the dog and patting my leg and calling their name to pull them in behind the stock and nearer to me. Dogs with a very strong heading instinct will be more difficult to control from going to the heads, but if you're walking along helping her move the cattle and keep your voice kind/light, you should have some success calling her back to your side and keeping her pushing behind the cattle with you. The trick is to have your timing right so that you get her moving back behind the cattle before she's fully committed to going to the heads. Young dogs will naturally drift, so try to catch her when she takes the first step or two to the side rather than waiting until she's already around toward the shoulders and trying to catch their eyes.

 

J.


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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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#9 bcnewe2

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:02 PM

Walking along a fence line next to her will help to. You'll only have to cover one side instead of trying to keep her from jetting the other way.


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#10 Chesney's Girl

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 02:08 PM

I suggest reading Anna's book. I work with Anna on a regular basis and is successful in the cattle world. 

 

I'm not sure where you are in AL, but I do know there is a gentleman that competed in this years NCA finals from Louisiana and a couple people in MS. I can try and track down their information if you are interested. 

 

Suggestions for your young dog have been good, however, my experience training a dog to work cattle is the fastest way to figure out just how much dog you have to work with. My dog Chesney can move cattle and will take a hard nose bite when needed, but is a little leary of cattle that don't move readily after taking a hit. Chesney does not have a heel bite. I have tried many different things to try and teach him that a heel is a viable target to move stock. At 8 and a 1/2 he has no heel bite. It's much easier to teach a dog to hit a nose that has a natural heel than the other way around. I don't think Chesney is enough dog to work cattle efficiently so I added some heavy artillery with the new pup I have. Already, knowing my new pups background and seeing how he works now, this guy will be able to move heaven and earth... That's just who he is.

 

Now with that said, it's important that you teach your dog that if the stock is moving where they want, hitting a nose is only going to undo things. Thus a heel might not be necessary if there is enough dog to convince the cattle to keep moving.


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#11 Liz P

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 08:03 PM

I taught a heel bite on goats in a trailer.  Useful command, especially when you can point right at the animal you want the dog to hit.





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