The next step in training
Posted 04 November 2003 - 08:54 PM
<small>[ November 04, 2003, 08:56 PM: Message edited by: Kim Kathan ]</small>
Posted 05 November 2003 - 09:18 PM
.... is great on a line, without me holding onto it, but the moment I take it off it's as though everything she's been doing so well on leaves her brain, and she blows around like a crazed dog. It seems as though she is trying ot cover the stock, but she also is the one causing the stock to blow apart and start running. So I put the line back on and work again, quite well, listening, and in control. I have tried several times when she blow around, just taking her off the field for the rest of the day. This seems to have little affect on her. I'm wondering how I might get her to work off line as well as she does on, and how to go about training her her flanks. I have been working on her flanking in a compleate circle, stoping at the top and calling her around. We've been doing this about 3x per week for two weeks, but have seen little improvement/recognization of the command. She will take the command flawlessly with spatial/body language. What is your advice on working a dog around stock in a small pen, so that the stock is somewhat confined, and the dog can't blow them apart? I know no all training can be done like this, but I didn't know if it may help with her feeling that the stock is not getting away. I know that each dog varies on it's trianing , but I didn't know if you had a basic overview as to what should be done in what order. You often talk of going from point A to point C, but what is Point A,B, C, and D for that matter.
I want to take the time to assure you that the questions you are asking are ones that are on many people's minds when starting a young dog!
Is this the started dog you bought or a different one?
It seems to me your dog is ready to move to a new plateau of work. If it is OK on the line but blows you off when it is removed, you obviously need to find some way to get her to work that way without the line. The question is how?
The line has the power—YOU need to get that power.
If taking the line completely away in the field causes you to be in a position to lose your authority, can you test her out to see at what point—what distance away from her she might take advantage of you with the line still on? In other words, can you keep it on and set something up to make her feel you are too far away to correct her so she will misbehave and then get ahold of the line and correct her?
However, if she were mine, based on what my mind's eye is seeing, I would put her back in a smaller area where the sheep can't get away. I start all my dogs in such an area and mine is about 60 feet by 80 feet. It is big enough for room to maneuver but small enough for you to catch her or get in between her and the sheep. I would work her in that area until she will stop 100%, come off the sheep 100% and start responding to you and your presence better. I would work her first for a few days with a line on to establsih the parameters and then I would remove the line. I always try to find a way to show the dog what I want first and working it with the line would do that.
Then you need to take the next step which is teaching her to work properly WITHOUT a line on. Without seeing your situation, I don't know if maybe the pressure in your field is what is causing her to blow up or if she just has a nerve. This smaller area will take care of the sheep getting away so you can eliminate that as a possible reason for her behavior. But it is plenty big enough to give her room to develop a very small cast and big enough to do it correctly. You can also get her to take flanks properly here—by this I mean at the right distance off her stock as well as in the right direction.
If she takes advantage of you by not stopping, by not coming off the sheep, get yourself in between her and the sheep and don't let her keep working them. That is the punishment. Make her clear that you are unhappy. You will have to find what has that effect on this dog. I usually use something to intimidate the dog along with my voice to do this. My goal is to drop the device and use my voice alone. I will carry either a paper feed bag, a foam pole, a buggy whip, a baseball hat—it doesn't have to be any specific thing but needs to be something that gets the dogs attention if you hit it against your leg or the ground along with a gruff voice when it is blowing into the sheep or not stopping or taking off after sheep again. You are trying to put the dog off a bit if it is blowing you off. You need it to pay attention to you—not to the point that is is afraid to work—but to the point it considers you!
When you reach a point that you can get its cooperation working the same in the pen without a line as you could out of the pen with a line, then you are ready to tackle going back out again.
Once out of the pen, you need to retrace all the steps you took in the pen to get the same behavior. Keep things familiar. You do not want to start doing trial courses or anything like that. You need to build her respect for that later work. When she is working on those things out of the pen like she did in the pen, then start adding new more difficult tasks.
This is what I mean by going from A to B to C rather than from A to D. It may seem elementary and boring to do all this foundation work, but unless you get those beginning steps right—the respect for you and your basic at hand work—stopping, coming off sheep & entering the field— you will fail at C or D because the conditions there are a lot more difficult. You will not be able to communicate with your dog because you will not have established the groundwork to communicate or the trust to help your dog when she gets into trouble. She will not consider you.
In the beginning in a pen, I work on getting the dog to go properly around sheep, to stop anywhere I ask—not just at balance (very important), to flank both off balance and on balance. If you ask for a flank and do not get it, stop her and give her a moment to think. Then ask again. Don't start firing a million flanks and commands. That is the part that is difficult for these young dogs. Give her a chance to think and quietly ask her with authority—don't be yelling. You can have her go around the sheep and ware them to you and have plenty of room to do this in a pen. The important phases are the stopping and also the coming off sheep. When she will do these readily and quietly with no line, then she is respecting your authority and not just pleasing her/himself. The stopping is your main tool for keeping tings under control when they might go wrong later. I am not advocating stopping your dog all the time, but work on it til you know you have a good stop, then give her the freedom to work more.
So to answer your question about going from point to point—because a dog is capable of doing some tasks like a small outrun and a little driving, don't put it in a position where you lose control over HOW it is doing it just for the sake of moving on. You will see many people at dog trials running young dogs that are not ready to be there. They cut their outruns short pushing the sheep off line, they don't stop causing sheep to panic or run, they slice their flanks again making the sheep panic, etc. In my estimation, they would have been better off staying at home refining the work rather than trying to move a dog along quickly and get onto the trial field quickly. There is plenty of tme for trialling. I think the dogs that are taught to work properly first and then refined to trial level are the better workers in the long run!
Go for quality—not quantity.
It is long winded, but hopefully it helps. It is what I do with my own dogs.
Posted 06 November 2003 - 09:05 AM
...the moment I take it off it's as though everything she's been doing so well on leaves her brain, and she blows around like a crazed dog. It seems as though she is trying to cover the stock, but she also is the one causing the stock to blow apart and start running. So I put the line back on and work again, quite well, listening, and in control. I have tried several times when she blow around, just taking her off the field for the rest of the day. This seems to have little affect on her.
Kim, after rereading your post again, I would guess that in addition to the "respect" issues, what is happening here is that she doesn't know how to flank properly. It could be the pressure is causing her to flank tight, into the sheep, and then it creates a vicious cycle with dog reacting to how this flank caused the sheep to relact.
If you picture in your mind that a flank is to move the dog around the sheep to place it in a new postion, you will then see that if the sheep are being moved by her flanks, she is flanking wrongly. She may be going in the right direction—left or right—but the quality of the flank is not there. If you see a problem here you most likely are seeing it on the top of her outrun.
When you ask her to flank in your training sessions, in addition to making her go the right direction, you need to get her to turn her head out as she first goes allowing her to cast in an arc around the sheep rather than in a "v" shape toward the sheep. I am not advocating the square flanks that cause her to lose contact with the sheep, but you want the start of the flank to angle her so that she can move around the sheep without upsetting them.
By doing this, she is able to position herself so that when she does walk forward to move them, she can come directly onto them and it should not make the sheep bolt at an angle. That might be what her "blowing into the sheep" is a reaction to.
Again, I am seeing this in my mind's eye. If you have someone you can take her to that knows the difference, it is worth the trip. One of the most important parts of training a dog is the ability to recognize what it is supposed to look like so that you know what to aim for.
If she is not flanking correctly, set her up in that circle with you across from her and the sheep. Ask her to flank. If she is tight, what I do is immediately stop the dog. I give her a correction along with slapping something against my leg. You may see her kind of back off away from you. Don't panic that you are offending the dog. This is what you need to see. You want to see her give you a little ground. Also,don't let her just get up and take off before you ask her. Make her wait til you release her with a flank. If she turns her head out to go, let her go and shush her to encourrage her. You want to put pressure on her at a point somewhere between her shoulder and her head. If you walk into her at a point too far to her head, you will turn her back. if it is too far toward her hip, you will only make her go faster.
So the idea here is to get her to always turn out enough when she flanks that this becomes her method and concept of a flank. Again, not so far she is out of contact but enough that she is relaxed and therefore calming the sheep in her flanking. You see, it needs to be built to the degree that out in the open with different challenges, she will still give them room on a flank even though the movement of the sheep may lure her in some—and at times rightly so.
Don't know if this is part of the problem but I think maybe. Especially if the sheep can feel her keeness when off the line. They will tense up and move quicker causing her to tighten up. So work in the pen and then out of the pen on those flanks.
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