Posted 11 March 2004 - 03:02 PM
My dog will be 4 in another couple of weeks. It seems that recently he is taking his sweet time when I say "here". I've tried being upbeat, and I've tried being stern. He looks to the left and then to the right and then moseys over. Is there a correct way to re-train this?
Posted 12 March 2004 - 12:30 AM
I sometimes use "here: as a call in on the shed. Usually I say "here, here" in a rapid clipped voice which encourages the dog to pick up the pace. Sometimes I might add a "ssshh sshhh" quickly given to also quicken the dog. Here the dog might be reacting slowly because he feels the pressure of the sheep. But if it's off sheep that you're refering to, it might be that he associates "here" with something you are going to have him do which he doesn't like; he anticipates. I have an Akita who reacts that way to "come" because when she did come I'd leash her and put her up; she learned to anticipate this and to resist it by slowing her compliance.
Fill me in a little more, and then I can perhaps offer a solution.
Posted 12 March 2004 - 06:12 AM
My dog tends to be cautious. Alot so. We had started doing some work on the shed, and we were actually doing ok for very beginner work. I guess some thought he wasn't enthusiastic enough and tried to get him going. Now he won't come in to any size hole I make. Against a fence or not. He will lie down opposite me and never make contact with me again. Now he will very enthusiastically look left and right or run left and right to not let anyone escape. It seems to have carried over into everyday living. I don't know if this has anything to do with it or not, but he is also very slow on the lift, yet would blast in on the fetch (think I finally have that somewhat under control). He is very, very good at covering sheep.
Is there anything I can add?
Thanks for your help.
Posted 12 March 2004 - 01:40 PM
Your dog seems more sensitive than he is cautious. Perhaps he is even exceptionally sensitive to pressure. He probably also has some eye. It's good that he lifts slowly, but he should continue in that same mode once he hits the pressure point at which the sheep will actually lift and start the fetch. That he doesn't but busts in instead is an indicator of lack of confidence, induced no doubt by the intensity of the pressure he feels the closer he gets to the stock. This same sensitivity carries over into shedding.
Probably in trying to make him shed faster, you inadvertantly put too much pressure on him, with the result that he has lost some confidence, and that is why he lies down in front of you instead of coming into the hole. Since we spend most of the time in the early phase of training perfecting the gather, the dog acquires a bit of a habit trying to keep the stock together, and actually tends to prefer this, as it appeals better to its heading instinct. So in learning to shed, we are asking the dog to suspend what we have been emphasizing and to do something that actually runs counter to it. A dog that is particularly sensitive might require more patient handling in learning the shed.
First, I would go back to the beginning. Assemble as large a flock as you can and stand near a fence but not necessarily flush against it. Here you are going to have to rebuild the dog's confidence in two senses. First that he can come directly to you without any fear. By standing on the other side of the hole and trying to speed him up into it, you may have made him a little fearful of you or of your own physical presence. And this is very likely why the problem seems to persist in every day living. So, with him on one side and you on the other, and with a very large hole created, crouch down and call him to you in the sweetest voice possible. You should at first step into the hole yourself before doing this. [You can even practice this off sheep]. I would also change the call in comand from "here" to "come in to me", later to be shortened to "come in", since "here" seems now to have become tainted. Repeat this ad nauseum until the dog shows good confidence. Then step back and do the same with the dog coming into the hole but going past the sheep and still to you. And keep crouching. Do this ad naseum until the dog again shows confidence, at which point start calling him into the hole but past sheep toward you while this time you remain standing, and see how he takes that. Hopefully, your standing won't make a difference at this point, but if it does, you may have to get out of his way, by stepping to the side as you call him in, once you begin directing him to take hold of the stock on the shed.
The second area of confidence rebuilding is in turning his attention to the stock that need to be held following the shed. Having him come into the hole toward you will have gotten him used to the pressure emanating from the stock to some extent, but when he has to turn on the stock (particularly on their heads) and / or when the hole contracts and / or the sheep become fewer, his unease may return somewhat, because the pressure from them will increase.
First call him to you into the hole with a "come in"; as he enters the hole, turn your body dramatically toward the sheep to be held while pointing toward them, and say "these" or eventaully "this one" when you want to single. Do this again on a large flock and at first with a large gap. So "these" will become his command for taking the stock as the front sheep get shedded. This will be useful especially if he has a bit of eye, which I suspect he does, because if the hole becomes smaller, his eye (not his confidence at this stage) might make him reluctant to come all of the way into it. If this happens, just say "these" and he will be able to take the stock using his eye without fully coming into the hole, and once they begin moving, he should have no trouble covering and controling them, especially since you say he's keen to do that sort of thing. With some of my dogs with eye, I encourage them with a "watch 'em, watch 'em" command, which keens them up to cover the sheep. The reason you want to spend a lot of time initally bringing him into a big hole, is that you want to build his confidence; once you accomplish this, you can rely on his bit of eye to take control of the sheep without his fully coming into the hole. It's true that some judges want to see a dog come fully into the hole, but most want to see the dog take ultimate control of the sheep to which he is directed. That's the main thing. Also, as you ask him to "come in", step to the side, so that your physical presence doesn't serve as an obstable to either his coming in or to his turning onto the stock. So the movement would be: "come in", while stepping to the side to reduce pressure, followed by "These" as you point. The dog eventually may start coming in as soon as he sees a gap open, in which case all you need to say is "these" and point. Or if he has eye and the gap starts opening, you can just say "these", and he'll know what's required. This approach can be especially useful when having to shed sheep that don't separate easily and for whom a largish gap is unlikely to appear.
Finally, if he his over-keen to gather stock instead of shedding them when he sees the hole open, I'd practice the "stay" command. This has a lot of utility because it makes the dog hold its position, while you line out the sheep, without having to worry that he's going to flank to head and ruin your set up. It will also enable you to time the call-in better. I use the "stay" command rather than repeat "stand still" or "lie down", because I don't like overusing these commmands, which might become harder to enfroce in a different context, when especially needed,if the dog gets used to hearing them repeated too often at the shed.
And lastly, the shed requires a lot of concentration, and I wouldn't work on it if I'd first been working on some other routine. Practice it separately as the only routine for that particular session. If you tire the dog mentally, you alo erode its confidence; so you also don't want to work on this too long in any particular interval. And always try to use a nice tone of voice, even when your patience is tried, because harshness of tone can easily undermine the confidence of a sensitive dog.
Hope this helps.
Posted 13 March 2004 - 08:15 PM
Gee, now why didn't *I* think of all this?
Thank you for taking so much time to give a detailed answer. I will keep re-reading it and try to put it to use this week.
I will let you know the progress I make.
Enjoy what's left of the week-end.
Posted 16 March 2004 - 08:26 PM
Well, I am beaming today! We have made progress. Not a lot I'm sure by other peoples standards, but enough for me to see there is hope. I got the sheep in front of me with Zak on the other side. Made a hole (which was the hardest part) crouched down and as nicely as possible called Zak "in here" (I could not use "come in" as that opened a whole new can of worms.) He did look left and right again a couple of times, (I could not take a step in because then the sheep all started to move) but with a little coaxing he did step into the hole and turned into the sheep my body was facing (I didn't realize it at the time) so I said "these" and he walked them away a few yards. Then the others caught up to them. We did it 2 more times. The 2nd time did not work, but the 3rd time it did, then I stopped and went on to something new.
Do you know of a way that I can keep the sheep still with out both the dog and I having to stay far off the sheep. It seems to add to nerves that you have to have the dog walk up that distance to get into the hole. If he's hesitant about it in the first place it just seems to add pressure. I wish I could paint you a more detailed picture, but I want you to know that what you said has really helped us. I'm pretty sure I will to have some time working on this before I have to re-read Part 2.
Posted 16 March 2004 - 11:48 PM
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