Besides the dog I have been previously writing about I have a 2 year old BC that I have been training since he was about 7 or 8 months old. In the very beginning we worked with a trainer that ended up having the dog quit on him due to what we believe was a poorly timed over correction. (At least in the dog's mind). That was when he was about a year. Since then other than some clinics and some private lessons with very good people (Julie Simpson, Carol Campion and Kent Herbel)we have been working on our own. I am a novice handler with a novice dog and most of what we have learned has been trial and error. The largest area we have to work is approximately 200 by 275 feet. It is a comfortable space and I am aware that he needs much practice in larger spaces. I have a dozen sheep to work and work at keeping it mixed up as possible. I have started going to Connecticut to Carol's for experience with other sheep, here expertise and larger areas however due to the distance it doesn't happen as often as I would like. We do work daily and he does do all chores with me. I will provide a brief description of where he is at home (recognizing that may not be where he is any where else). He does a nice outrun, lift and fetch using the whole area that he has. He was slicing in on the top of the outrun and after a lesson with Julie and one with Carol we seemed to have fixed that problem although occassionally now he will over flank slightly. We started driving about a month or so ago. Julie had told me that he was a natural driving dog and that it may be why he was often in tight when fetching. Anyway, we started driving based on her instructions and he seemed to love it. He took to it very quickly and will now drive the sheep anywhere in the field that I choose (while I stay in one place) and leave them. Here are the problems we are having. The line of the drive is not straight. If we use the fence he does pretty well. If we are out in the open he drifts to the right (his preferred side)which eventually starts drifting the sheep. He will respond to a flank command and take a there to straighten them out. The drift is slow and over time. Is not going straight just part of the initial training of the drive and are there ways to help with this. The other thing he does is turn to look at me to see where we are going next. I try not to respond in any way until he is once again focused on the sheep. Although he is looking at me I do believe he knows right where the sheep are and what they are doing. The other problem that I am having and again it may just be part of the normal development of the drive is if I want him to turn the sheep 90 degrees he really gets all worked up and frustrated usually resulting in him blowing in and gripping. (This has always been his response to not understanding what to do or frustration so it does not surprise or overly concern me). He is telling me he doesn't understand and I need help to know how to teach him this manuever. Here is the scenerio. He has the sheep along the fence line (not in a corner in the middle like you were going to do a cross drive), everyone stopped and calm. Response #1. He does about a quarter flank and begins to drive along the fence.
Response #2. He will flank all they way around taking the there late and begin fetching to me. He will then take the hurry up flank to take them back to the fence. Response #3. Blow in and grab somebody anybody!!! Usually in that order although not necessarily 1, 2, 3. By the way corners are not as difficult except if they move the sheep in the direction of the draw. Then they will run and he has to start again. I hope that I am explaining myself well enough for you to envision the two problems.
Just another little bit of info about him. We really struggled for the first year and half. We had developed a game of him trying to beat me which we have ended although will occasionally surface if he is frustrated. The past six months it seems like everything has clicked in and the working relationship we have is great. He listens well, can be stopped anywhere, moves off pressure from me. He knows both whistle and verbal commands. More reliable on verbals but is learning whistles as we go. I probably make more mistakes with the whistles than he does. Any thoughts or help with his driving would be most appreciated. One other question on driving. If we are driving towards the draw, should he be able to keep the sheep from running and if so, how. Well this is packed full of questions so I guess I will end here. Once again thanks for your help.
Different dog and driving
1 reply to this topic
Posted 31 December 2003 - 11:41 PM
You have to see the drive as the reverse of the fetch, except that there is no obvious object toward which the dog is driving (i.e. no handler). Natural driving dogs ("line dogs", if you like--Julie was right about tightness) balance on the drive by simply doing this against the movment of the heads of the sheep, and can keep a reasonably straight line by so doing so; but they usually require some handler assistance to maintain that line with a dregree of precision, more than they might if they were fetching with the handler clearly in view. So, the drifting is normal and can be corrected simply by the handler giving the right flank at the right moment, followed by a "there",which turns the dog in, or a stand (try to avoid the lie down if you can). Generally because sheep have good peripheral vision you can turn the dog in with a "there" near the middle of the flock or even just before the middle, depending on the pressure from external quarters. Only if the sheep are notably dog broken and won't respond to small flanks might you need to flank the dog further, sometimes even to head. So avoid overflanking, unless the sheep are resistance to pressure from the dog, otherwise the sheep will turn too much in the opposite direction instead of turning up the middle. So the handler really has to establish the line and help the dog maintain it perhaps a bit more than expected on an ideal fetch. Now the dog may be turning back to look at you for a variety of reasons. You may be asking it to go a longer distance than it is accustomed to doing; your commands might sound a little harsher than the dog finds comfortable; or you may be overcommanding the dog and making it a tad uncertain about what it is supposed to be doing. You want the dog continuously focused on the stock and not turning back to look at you. Now to ask the dog to turn 90 degrees is really to ask him to advance to another level of driving; so far he's been driving straight away, and now you are asking him to make a large flank while driving. This he needs to be taught as a spearate exercise in order to gain confidence in doing it. Generally, I do parallel drives where I am walking along side, reasonably near to the dog so that it gains confidence seeing me; I give it a flank command and then step in toward the dog and flick my crook, then say "there" when I want him to turn in. I grandually widen the distance between me and the dog while remaining parallel, and then I start dropping back, so that there is a kind of transition. The dog has thus learned not only to drive the sheep forward, but also to turn them at a 90 degree angle. Yur dog is reacting the way you describe because he doesn't know yet how to do this turn. Also if you're just working in a straight line at some point any young dog will drift past a certain point and break into a fetch, and this can be prevented only be the handler being viiglant about stoppoing the dog before it crosses over that line. Now finally, if you're working against a fence line, and ask a yound dog to flank, you may be doing so against some pressure which he is not yet fitted to take, and so will bust up the sheep. At this stage try not to flank him too much against pressure because he might lose confidence; he can learn to do this afterward. And try not to use a fence line, as it is a crutch for both handler and dog.
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