Jump to content


Photo

One step forward, another backwards?


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Alchemist

Alchemist

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,489 posts
  • Location:Timonium, MD

Posted 23 October 2011 - 11:37 AM

So, Duncan (two and a half years old) has been in regular training (once or twice a week, all I can afford) since April. He's keen, keen, very keen. He is not at all soft - in fact, he can be a bit hard-headed. (But he takes corrections well and doesn't sulk). After an initial phase in which he listened well to stops, he spent a fair amount of the summer deciding that "lie down" was for sissies, and it took us until mid-July to convince him that he really should do it, at least most of the time. Until recently, he's still been a bit of a wild child during his first session at each lesson, inclined to orbit in space at times when he feels under pressure. Even when he was wearing, he was inclined to run right up the sheep's asses at a fast clip, and he had trouble locating balance (swishing back and forth like a windshield wiper). But a couple of weeks ago, he had a bit of a breakthrough: he discovered first gear, and he discovered that hitting the balance point made his life a lot easier. Of course, he's still mainly been showing this better effort during his second work of the lesson. What we'd love to see is him showing this behavior during both works.

We saw another step forward at his last lesson, when even the first work was great. His outruns were poetry: perfect upside-down pear shape, going deep behind the sheep to lift. He was wearing nicely in first gear, with little or no windshield washer, and driving smoothly. He appeared perfectly relaxed throughout. Here's the rub: for the very first time in his life, he was eating sheep poop. And I don't mean tasting it once or twice - he was gobbling it as if someone had scattered dog treats all over the field and he hadn't eaten in a week!

His trainer and I were both befuddled. All she could suggest was that he had finally decided he wanted to be a team player, but still wasn't 100% certain of how to do it, so was eating sheep poop to relieve his stress. (I did change his food from Innova to Taste of the Wild last July... don't know whether that could be a factor, but it is a good food...).

Before "lie down" gets permanently converted to "lie down LEAVE IT I SAID", does anyone have any advice? Anyone have a dog that suddenly took up eating sheep poop while working? Was it a temporary phase, were you able to break them of it, and if so how? He does have a good "leave it" (off stock, sigh...), and I'm thinking of maybe trying to apply Derek Scrimgeour's "dangerous ground" trick by whacking any sheep poop he tries to eat with a whip, telling the poop that it's BAD POOP, but if anyone else has any suggestions, I'm all ears. I'm a total newbie at all of this, so any and all advice would be gratefully received.

Here he is from a few weeks ago, in orbit...

Posted Image

#2 Maja

Maja

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,521 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Poland
  • Interests:farming, translation, linguistics, writing, stock work

Posted 23 October 2011 - 12:07 PM

Did you look at the sheep's poop? If the sheep have soft droppings dogs think it's tasty sometimes.

Maja

#3 Alchemist

Alchemist

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,489 posts
  • Location:Timonium, MD

Posted 23 October 2011 - 12:18 PM

I'll take a closer survey tomorrow, but I definitely remember seeing (at least some) well-formed droppings. (Not to say they were all that way...).

#4 Donald McCaig

Donald McCaig

    Geezer

  • Registered Users
  • 1,250 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Highland County Virginia

Posted 23 October 2011 - 12:33 PM

Dear Doggers,

Sheepdogs prefer sheep poop from sheep on grain. Gourmet sheepdogs rave about post-lambing poop.

Donald McCaig

#5 Maja

Maja

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,521 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Poland
  • Interests:farming, translation, linguistics, writing, stock work

Posted 23 October 2011 - 12:35 PM

Of course, I am not negating what the trainer said, but sometimes there are contributing factors. That's how I usually know that some of the sheep have softer bowels (not necessarily the runs, just softer stool), because the dogs show greater interest in them - not just a perfunctory sniff like they always do. E.g. Post wild pear poop is very tasty.

Maja

#6 stockdogranch

stockdogranch

    Cowgirl in the sand

  • Registered Users
  • 2,072 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Southern California
  • Interests:Training stockdogs (duh), particularly for everyday, practical work. I trial my dogs on cattle when time and money permit. I also teach academic writing at one of the Cal State University campuses, so in recent years I have been merging writing with stockdogs. I published Working With a Stockdog in 2009 (Outrun Press), and am working on ideas for a second book...

Posted 23 October 2011 - 02:56 PM

Eating poop is most often a sign of feeling pressure. It sounds like he has had a bit of a time learning to be comfortable in the pressure spot, hence the windshield wiper (I've always called it winging and wanging)--in other words,a reluctance to get into that pressure spot and just cruise there at a nice calm pace. Being uncomfortable in the pressure spot also accounts for the zooming in. What I'm referring to is the dog feeling the pressure/energy from the stock and not being sure how to handle it, so staying there is uncomfortable. It sounds like he now understands where he is supposed to be, and how he should behave there, but that doesn't mean he is comfortable there. It sounds like it still makes him nervous, but he knows he's not supposed to either zoom in or wing and wang, so he stays there, but exhibits his discomfort by eating poop. I would just lighten up, trying to keep everything upbeat and as comfortable for him as you can, while still making him behave as he should back there. The more he is in that spot and nothing horrible happens (over time), the more comfortable he should become there. So I would not holler at him for eating poop, but try to get him back on his job as "nicely" and as encouragingly as you can. What's his breeding?

Or I could be totally off base here and it could be something else entirely,
A
"Life's too short to work bad dogs."
www.stockdogranch.com

#7 NCStarkey

NCStarkey

    Just a few shovelfuls short of a full load

  • Registered Users
  • 663 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Mt. Airy, Maryland
  • Interests:Border Collies, Sheepdog Trials, and Bluefaced Leicester sheep

Posted 23 October 2011 - 03:49 PM

Hello everyone,

I think that stockdogranch's input and advice is right on target for this problem. Also, I have found that if you correct a dog for eating sheep poop, the problem usually gets worse, because you are adding to the stress/pressure that the dog is already feeling. So, hopefully the sheep poop eating is a temporary phase, and as Duncan becomes more comfortable about his work, the problem will diminish. That's my shovelfull, anyway.

Regards to all,
nancy
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
Author Unknown

Posted Image

Nancy Cox Starkey
Trial & Error Acres
Mt. Airy, Maryland
NCStarkey@aol.com
www.TrialandErrorAcres.com
www.TrialandErrorAcres.blogspot.com

#8 Amelia

Amelia

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 285 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 23 October 2011 - 04:31 PM

First off, I would never use "lie down LEAVE IT I SAID" because the dog won't be able to separate your desire for him to lie down from getting yelled at for it immediately upon compliance. That glaring contradiction itself would cause him to eat pellets from stress. Just like your "dangerous ground" idea of whipping the pellets that are right under his nose. "Dangerous ground" is a training concept that has sbsolutely nothing to do with your problem. Nor does it have anything to do with whips. I would not wave a whip around a dog that was showing stress. Use the presence of your body and your voice to influence him, and be gentle, consistent and encouraging.

Wearing behind sheep and working too closely are signs of a dog that has not been taught feel of stock, not one that can't find balance. He can find it, you've just never showed him what to do when he does. An appropriate correction that matches his intensity at the exact moment of the first wayward step will help.

Same for a dog that works too close, but it's all about timing and an appropriate correction for each dog. A correction should have the desired effect with applied consistency, and should cause a dog to willingly try something different. If you're getting another result, like eating pellets, your corrections are poorly timed, contradictory, too harsh, inappropriate or all of the above.


It's unreasonable to expect a young, green dog to work as well in the fist session as he does in the rest. Consider the expression that "you can't teach a dog that's too fresh or too tired." Expect that he needs to burn off some steam until he's older and completely trained, especially since he's only working once or twice a week. When I train young dogs, I give them a bit of kindergarten every day. I start with easy stuff, close at hand, that I know they know, before venturing into new lessons during that optimum period between too fresh and too tired.

Never look to the dog as the root of your problem. Always look to yourself, because that is the only way you will get better. 99% of the time, you'll be right. Put the whip away and lighten up on this dog. Temper your expectations to something much lower and start again from the beginning with patience.

Begin teaching a flank, and keep them short. Call him in if he gets too wide. Make sure you are MOVING your feet so the sheep and the dog have somewhere to go. It will prevent the orbiting. If you start over and find yourself standing still, you are wrong. Work on the down off stock and make it a happy experience for the dog. Put him on a line, call him to you, tell him "down" in your happy voice, then gently enforce with your hands if necessary. Once you can whisper to him and he hits his belly while you are backing up, then go back to stock. Expect you'll lose the precision once you get there.

It doesn't matter how the dog's bred, because eating pellets isn't genetic, it's environmental. Improve his environment, and best of luck with him.

#9 Alchemist

Alchemist

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,489 posts
  • Location:Timonium, MD

Posted 23 October 2011 - 09:07 PM

Thanks to all for your very helpful input. I was worried that the poop eating might be something I was going to have to nip in the bud lest it become an obsession. Glad to see there's hope that this, too, may pass.

I think Anna exactly captured what seems to be going on in his mind. He has definitely been uncomfortable with being in the pressure spot until recently. (That's how we know he CAN read his sheep). Sounds like I should stop worrying, we should make sure we keep it light and easy, and keep encouraging him to make the right choices.

For what it's worth, the whip is only used as an extension of my arm - to point to the direction to take for a flank. His trainer had told me about how Derek Scrimgeour used it to define "dangerous ground", and how it worked for things like counter surfing (not that Duncan has ever even tried that - he's too much of a gentleman), so this was my idea - not his trainer's - to think of using it next time on poop. But you've all convinced me that this would be counterproductive.

Here's hoping it's a short-lived phase. I won't be soliciting any doggy kisses until it's over!

(ETA: oh, and the poop eating started at the last lesson the moment he stepped onto the field - he hadn't even been sent, let alone corrected, and he was gobbling it right and left. Not saying it isn't a response to stress - that's how I described it earlier - but he started doing it long before he got corrected for anything, and he'd never done it before the last lesson).

#10 juliepoudrier

juliepoudrier

    Poseur extraordinaire and Borg Queen!

  • Registered Users
  • 15,216 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 24 October 2011 - 09:03 AM

Others have said what I would have said, so I won't repeat. But I wanted to note that poop eating before starting work can still be a reaction to pressure--anticipated pressure. If he's feeling uncomfortable working and you're heading out to work, then he will anticipate the discomfort he's going to feel (or already feel uncomfortable knowing what's to come, in other words) and start eating poop straight off.

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
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, Twist, Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, and Birdie!
Willow's Rest, Tunis and mule sheep



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


#11 NorthfieldNick

NorthfieldNick

    That's so cake!

  • Registered Users
  • 992 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:SW Ohio

Posted 24 October 2011 - 11:42 AM

This topic is very timely for me. Hoot will eat poop when he's feeling pressure he's not sure how to handle. He just turned two in August. Yesterday, I had a revelation when Hoot started eating poop when the sheep were at the mouth of a pen (for sorting, practical work). I knew if Hoot walked up just two steps, the sheep would be in, but he's got a fair bit of eye, and he was uncomfortable with the pressure. He started going for poop. I started to correct him for it, when it dawned on mr that hollering at him right there was basically correcting him for holding the pressure. Duh! Wrong! I switched over to an upbeat, "walk up! Walk up!" encouraging him to be excited about pressure. Whaddya know?! He ignored the poop, marched right in, and penned the sheep.

Next time, I'm ignoring the poop eating. Hoot has no lack of power, presence, or ability. When pressure is a chance to keep working, I know he'll take it.

Northfield Farm:
-Ben: the shepherd on hiatus-
-Nick: the mud-brown collie-
-Hoot: the weird one-

-Lu: the mutt-dog who was-


barn's burnt down... now i can see the moon
-masahide


#12 Alchemist

Alchemist

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,489 posts
  • Location:Timonium, MD

Posted 24 October 2011 - 02:15 PM

Update: the sheep have not been fed grain, nor did I see anything but pellets on the field today (no loose poop). I'm still sure it is a sign of stress (never claimed it was anything but).

At Duncan's first work today (with the trainer, whose corrections are anything but "poorly timed, contradictory, too harsh, inappropriate or all of the above"), he only sniffed poop once. (It started off only so-so as a work, but got much better as it went along). At his second work (with me; I've been told by two separate trainers that if anything, my corrections are too mild, that I need to find a firm enough tone of voice so that he at least flicks an ear to acknowledge that he's heard me), he ignored poop (but blew off my stops, so we cut this work short; trainer said no, it wasn't my timing or anything else I was doing, he had just turned off his brain). At his third work, back with his trainer, he started to eat poop part way through - but it was a good work. I think I was seeing the poop eating the most when she'd stopped him to help him maintain his distance (something he's struggled with). All in all, though, a lot less consumption of poop than last time.

Wouldn't it be fun to get inside their minds?

She's convinced it's just a sign of a transition in how he perceives his role as he starts to become more of a team player and gains confidence in working while under the pressure of the sheep, that it will resolve by itself. She says he has a lot of presence, he just hasn't fully realized he has it yet and how best to use it. I'll stop fretting. And everyone's points about refraining from telling him off for eating poop while doing everything else he should be doing are very well taken.

#13 Laurae

Laurae

    i'd rather be working my dogs...

  • Registered Users
  • 3,172 posts
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Location:Colorado

Posted 24 October 2011 - 02:52 PM

Sounds like your trainer knows what she's talking about! ;)
Will look forward to hearing how Duncan is doing as gets more comfortable incorporating his growing understanding of where he needs be to best influence his stock while working more closely with you.

Cheers,
Laura
5120876952_de8afa8164.jpg
Poetry in motion with Sophie, Taz, Meg, Ike, and puppy Gus!
And Craig waiting at the bridge.

See profiles of many top competitors from the 2011 National Sheepdog Finals in Carbondale, Colorado
My Flickr page


#14 Maja

Maja

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,521 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Poland
  • Interests:farming, translation, linguistics, writing, stock work

Posted 25 October 2011 - 09:41 AM

Wouldn't it be fun to get inside their minds?

Certainly it would be more fun than getting inside their stomachs :lol: :lol:

Sounds like things are progressing in the right direction. I just wanted to add that my dog, as she matured, began to need less and less pressure from me to feel pressured. I don't know how it is with other dogs, but what was sufficient pressure two months earlier might have been too much later. So for a while it was very hard for me to give the right amount, because of this fluctuation.

Maja

#15 bcnewe2

bcnewe2

    If you stumble make it part of the dance!

  • Registered Users
  • 3,959 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Union, MO
  • Interests:Stockdogs, Sheep

Posted 25 October 2011 - 10:05 AM

Poop eating on field is a sure sign of pressure if my dogs are working, at least for my dogs.
But our dirty little secret....
My sheep are getting grain, my pastures have been over horsed grazed and I just moved here so its supplemental. My dogs LOVE grabbing a bite or 2 when we are leaving the barn. Just a quick nibble, and its the taste not pressure.

Jazz...my little looney 15 yr old girl, lives for her nightly jaunt after dark to partake in an after dinner snack at the gate of the barn. She's old, sheep aren't wormy, what the heck, have a nibble old girl, you've earned it!.

Kristen
 

The world is a magical place...
Full of people waiting to be offended by something!

 

 

 

 


#16 Alchemist

Alchemist

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,489 posts
  • Location:Timonium, MD

Posted 13 December 2011 - 05:19 PM

Update: it's now been over a month since my first post on this topic. It did, indeed, turn out to be a temporary phase (as several of you suggested it might be); Duncan only ate poop at two lessons. I think Duncan's trainer (as seconded by some of you) called it when she suggested that his stress lay in trying to figure out how to be a "team player", in forcing himself to exert the impulse control required to SLOW DOWN and occupy the pressure point, because the brief poop-eating phase exactly coincided with his relatively abrupt transition from "wild child", wanting to orbit, having trouble staying on balance, having trouble doing anything other than at warp speed, to ... deciding that it's fine to switch into first (or at least second; we're working on that) gear for wearing or driving, and that playing windshield washer is just plain silly, things are much better if you stay on balance. Better yet, he's exhibiting the appropriate control for both halves of his lesson, and seems to have his "listening ears" on (at least most of the time). He still overflanks (if you don't stop him), and going into the woods after the sheep is still a touch intimidating. (It's where he'll still slice on an "away" flank, his less favored side, if you let him get away with it). But he's progressed a lot of late. And while he occasionally glances at poop, he clearly no longer views it as a staple of his diet.

#17 Maja

Maja

    Senior Member

  • Registered Users
  • 1,521 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Poland
  • Interests:farming, translation, linguistics, writing, stock work

Posted 16 December 2011 - 02:29 PM

Great news!
maja


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Copyright: All posts and images on this site are protected by copyright, and may not be reproduced or distributed in any way without permission. Banner photo courtesy of Denise Wall, 2009 CDWall. For further information, contact info@bordercollie.org.