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The Darinka story.


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#1 Maja

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 04:41 AM

Darinka is my third border collie. The second is Bonnie, out of my Kelly - our first BC, whom I trained with the generous help and patience of many people here and other places. 

 

Darinka is not like Bonnie. In fact, she was not like anything.   As a small puppy, on sheep she was 'a dog with a plan'. Her resoluteness around the sheep was almost scary. But she got over the resolute puppy stage and went into the instinct-crazed teenage-hood very quickly.  And quickly, things went down hill.  Not just with training but with my life, of which I don't want to write here, but it had a great impact on the training.  

 

My main difficulty with her was that nothing seemed to work. I tried this, and I tried that, I tried every doggone thing in the book.  I tried the same various things on various dogs that came to train thinking, maybe I was doing something wrong. It worked on them. It didn't work on her.  

 

And then last February, I got a telephone call with the news I never thought I would get, and the life load went down to a manageable size.  That evening Darinka lay down by my desk and went to sleep.  That consummate wiggle-bug had never, ever done it before. 

 

And from this point we were both ready to start over.  Things didn't exactly take off, particularly that the physical side for me got worse - g an unusable shoulder and a partly torn ligament in the knee which I got twice after I was hit twice in the same knee by the same sheep from a small flock we had borrowed special for Darinka to train on.  So there were long periods of me unable to train with her at all. 

 

So a real new start was when went we went to a clinic late  March, and I asked the teacher to work with her, because I still felt very nervous about the sight of sheep running towards me. So the clinic was therapy for me really.  Later, I tried working with her with a knee protection, and then later again, I tried without it (since it limited my mobility a great deal).

 

So from that moment, after we came home  I treated this a s new beginning, as though we had never trained before.  Which was easy, since she still wanted to head like crazy, and had zero stop, unless she actually wanted to stop and then it was impossible get her to move.

 

I am not the fairy tale type, so things didn't exactly take off from there.   But I took this time to finally calmly learn this dog. I decided to be much harder on myself and go easy on the dog.  I thought, after a year of bungling, minimum fairness would require a year of fixing things, before anything happens.   

 

At the clinic, I had learned something important about Darinka. The teacher said, "She is an honest, straight forward dog."  So I started working with her with this in mind.  I wrote about it  in one of Donald McCaig's topics on (not) lying to the dog.  E.g walking away from the sheep, I used to teach so that to the dog  "that'll do" means - most of the time we will do a small outrun and sometimes we will go home. 

 

Not with Darinka.  For her "that will do"  had to mean "we are going home" otherwise she kept running back to the sheep. It took a lot of will power for her to walk away from the sheep knowing it was over, but she did it most of the time (and sometimes, yes, she brought the sheep with her). And for walking away in order to come back - we have a different  command.  

 

The same with lie down.  As soon as she realized that sometimes I come to her on lie down to put the leash on,  would not lie down for beans.  So lie down, was lie down, and no strings (or leashes) attached.  And when I wanted to go over and pet her, I did that. And when I wanted to put her on the leash I took it out and called her.  

 

She is a strange dog.  There are a hundred little ways about her that are different. So I was ready for the continuation of slow progress, and I had shed my earlier  frustration and impatience, and kept writing to various generous people for advice.  

 

And about 4 weeks ago things started happening.  She started to do things she had never done before. She resembled again that resolute dog, she had been as a small pup  except now she knew how to put me in her picture. I have no doubt she had always wanted to put me in the picture, she just didn't know how.  

 

And yesterday, she suddenly started doing outruns, nice shape, nice lying down at the top. Just like it was out of the blue. Not big distances of course, but previously she seemed unable to do anything with me at any distance from the flock (she would walk up straight until almost on top of them and then flank). And when she finished that lovely outrun (with me doing absolutely nothing except  stand and say "away" to the dog at my feet), I shouted "super!" which is a thing I rarely do. 

 

Later, at home, I watched a recording of this (it is still my important learning tool).  I looked at her lying down at the top.  I saw something I didn't notice when standing in the field. But  I thought, no, that's impossible, particularly for her. I put the bit in slow motion - yes - she did it.  She wagged her tail. Twice.  The non-wagger Darinka, wagged happy with a job well done.  


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#2 Maja

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 04:49 AM

That was a long post. So something to rest the eyes on:

 

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"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#3 Maralynn

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 07:02 AM

Beautiful story. I can imagine how sweet this is for you right now. It's an amazing feeling when we work so hard for something and it finally starts clicking between us and our dog.

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#4 TEC

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 12:43 PM

...I have no doubt she had always wanted to put me in the picture, she just didn't know how.  

 

Good job, and inspirational tale/tail. Darinka is on the way.

 

The above sentence struck a chord with me.  My Josie has an independent streak in her. She has a very good recall when she feels the sheep are settled. Her idea of settled is often quite apart from mine. If I could read her mind, I think she would tell me that sometimes the sheep will see her as weak if she recalls at the exact moment I wish her to leave them.

 

Somewhat similar problem when I walk about the field as the sheep graze, Josie alongside. She must see something in the flock to trigger the first few steps of outruns. I have had to be very firm with her about staying in my vicinity, to the point of leashing her up. I eventually hit on the solution of leaving her off-leash, and keeping her quite close as we move around -- far more close than on walks we take together. She still needs gentle reminders to stay nearby, but much better

 

I believe there has been a huge pay-off to calmly staying  near me. I found, like you said above, it instilled in Josie that she is working for me She kind-of forgot that for a while. Staying with me helped her relearn that it's not entirely about how she thinks something should be done in a certain circumstance. Everything improved: recalls, downs/stops, open flanks, you name it. I believe good handlers try to understand their dogs, and ask things of them that make sense, at the moment they are most likely to comply. Now, when I honor my end of the bargain to the best of my ability, Josie holds-up hers. 

 

I could see Darinka's tail wag. Great story. -- Best wishes, TEC

 

PS -- The photo of Darinka leaning forward, the thistle over her shoulder, is perfect. Stunning. 


          Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. - Patton

                                                                                      Josie eye.jpg


#5 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 02:13 PM

What a wonderful, hopeful, inspiring story. May the two of you continue to grow in your journey together. Well done!  :)

~ Gloria


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#6 Sue R

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 02:21 PM

Love the Darinka story, Maja! 

 

Maybe she is for you like my Dan is for me, a dog that will teach you things that your previous dog(s) have never taught you - but it won't be easy! 


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#7 gcv-border

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 05:55 PM

I am happy to hear of your success with Darinka. I hope you and she continue along the same path.

 

She is gorgeous.


Jovi

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#8 Maxi

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Posted 13 September 2014 - 11:28 PM

Great story.. Sounds like you are building a wonderful partnership together based on mutual trust and respect.

#9 Maja

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 02:29 AM

Thank you all for the encouragement.

 

I had been thinking and thinking why these things with lie down and that'll do worked the way they did.  Darinka also has a great deal of resistance to many kinds of pressure, she seems to simply completely ignore most of it.  E.g. most of the time if you use the "dangerous ground"  trick, you could nuke the "dangerous spot" and she would go right through it. 

 

There was a period when I couldn't make fast movements to be in the right place, or to block her,  I was not able to use a stick,  and I had to make up my mind that she will just have make up her mind  to listen to me in these conditions.  This was very good.  And I think that in her case me standing there helpless   simply took away (from her point of view) some extraneous worrisome things, and left her with the bare situation to deal with - me, the sheep, a "no" when she was doing something wrong, guidance, instructions and reassurance when she was doing things right.   

 

My conclusion is that when a dog focuses very intently (and Darinka is the type) and she is reasoning about the situation intently in her mind, it is much easier to get a point across also by reasoning than by creating a simple association (as in "that'll do" is fun because we go to the sheep afterward).  She was not creating an association,  she was searching for cause and effect.  So "that'll do" meant  - "most of the time we go back to the sheep", and not just "that'll do is fun."  [It does not meant she is not creating associations during training at all, but rather I am talking about the chief mode of thinking at the moment. It is using the same dominant paths as she is at the moment.]

 

This thought about reasoning v. creating associations, and my previous realization that a border collie will want to overcome all the obstacles in his or her work but will desire to bend its will to the handler's, are to me  of fundamental importance in training.

 

Darinka's name is Slavic, and it means "a gift [from God]," because I was able to buy her at a time I didn't think I could out of an "oops" litter (or a match made in heaven :) )  And so far she has shown to be true to her name.


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#10 Maxi

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 03:28 AM

I find that if a dog understands what I want rather than just blindly obeys my commands, we get a much better working partnership.

IMO It takes longer for a dog to develop this understanding than just having it 'lie down' or flank to my command.It also requires me to 'give and take' during training. So I use my body language (also often without any stock in my hand) and only start adding softly spoken commands once the dog is using his instinct to move and stop in the place he feels comfortable. He then associates the command with his instinctive movement,

It is a much more relaxed way of training than the way I was originally shown, but I get a lot of satisfaction of developing and strengthening the bonds with my dogs by doing this (I think my dogs like this method too)

It sounds as if you are using a similar method with Darinka (great name..sounds very appropriate).

#11 Smalahundur

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 05:58 AM

Great story Maja. Nice to hear things are looking up.

Really like your pictures too (as always ;) ).

Darinka is a really beautiful dog.


"Milli manns og hests og hunds hangir leyniþráður"


#12 juliepoudrier

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 09:07 AM

What a lovely, inspiring story Maja. I look forward to hearing of your continued progress. (FWIW, for the first time EVER, I was run over by a flock of sheep. Thanks, Birdie.)

 

J.


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#13 Donald McCaig

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 09:55 AM

Dear Ms. Maya,

 

You wrote (in part): "when a dog focuses very intently (and Darinka is the type) and she is reasoning about the situation intently in her mind, it is much easier to get a point across also by reasoning than by creating a simple association (as in "that'll do" is fun because we go to the sheep afterward).  She was not creating an association,  she was searching for cause and effect."

 

Thanks.

 

The down isn't taught by association but we use simple associations to initially explain the meaning of flanks.

 

After the dog knows its flanks (and the down) context and understanding help the dog decide whether he'll take that flank or hold the pressure.

 

"What works" is wonderfully complicated, in the moment,  and depends on your dog's abilities and soul, yours and the dog's understanding of yours.

 

Donald McCaig



#14 Maja

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 10:58 AM

Dear Mr. Donald,

 

I wasn't actually teaching "down" by association, and in the situation I described I wasn't teaching down at all.   I was teaching (1) walking away from the sheep (that' will do), and  (2) as a separate thing putting a leash on her.  But both things I attempted to associate for her with something pleasant - this is the association part.  I think it is a pretty standard approach to make the dog realize that "that'll do" is not the end of the world.  But I think that when a dog is focused on reasoning, this approach will confound her, send her mixed signals.  So instead, I taught her to walk away from the sheep by "End of the world, Darine! Lets go home!" and " come here, I am going to put a leash on you, see here it is" or "stay there, I am coming to you with the leash."

 

I came up with the idea what to do before I came up with the idea why it should work (which was yesterday). And my surprise was very big when we started making big strides very quickly. I didn't make much sense.

 

And lie down is altogether another story :)  , because I had this really neat way of teaching Bonnie lie down which resulted in a dog that lies down fast and happily, with an additional bonus that when she is confused she lies down. 

 

But then there is Darinka. 

 

Maybe what I actually did made no difference. Maybe one day an angel was sent that told her to listen and understand me so she began to understand.   Or maybe both.


 

After the dog knows its flanks (and the down) context and understanding help the dog decide whether he'll take that flank or hold the pressure.

 

"What works" is wonderfully complicated, in the moment,  and depends on your dog's abilities and soul, yours and the dog's understanding of yours.

 Very true!


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#15 Maxi

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 11:55 AM

Individual handlers obviously need to find an approach that works for them and their dogs.

But, surely the reason WHY that particular approach works will always be open to interpretation. This will inevitably have to be speculative because we humans can only really theorise ( I.e guess) as to how a dog's mind really connects a command to an action

In addition, isn't it also formally possible that some dog's learn in different ways to others (similar to the way that some humans benefit from differing teaching approaches).

Therefore both Maja and My. McCaig can be correct, even if their interpretation of why a training method works is different.

#16 Maja

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 12:08 PM

Absolutely. But I was not arguing with the interpretation. I just pointed out I had not been talking about teaching lie down at all. 


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#17 Maja

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Posted 16 September 2014 - 12:14 PM

And it is sure nice to able to  lie in the grass without  being afraid that the sheep will run me over

 

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"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#18 Maja

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 09:55 AM

When I was writing my first post I was fully aware of the existence of false break-throughs.  And part of me was afraid, thinking, what if it's just a freak accident and things will go back to the icky hair-ball of tangled misunderstandings between us? 

 

But it wasn't, thank goodness. We are progressing steadily and I am happy with her work, and I can trust her more and more.  So that's really good. She is still weird, but figuring her out is now a pleasant task. 

 

One of her problems is stickiness, and thanks to an improved stop, I can put more distance between her and the flock which - probably for you it's not weird -  makes her less sticky.  I used to  go around the stickiness with small flanks, and it helped some, but it seems that greater distance improves everything (and that in itself is not surprising at all).   

 

Darinka's X-rays came with a diagnosis of a hip dysplasia. Since in Poland, the diagnosis is done by one vet, not three like in OFA, I will repeat the X-ray in the spring to make sure, but  her breeding lookout is not good. But I am looking forward to competing with both of my dogs one day.

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"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#19 Ludi

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Posted 22 October 2014 - 07:28 PM

What about the increased distance do you believe helps prevent some of her sticking? I was told, once Lady is OK to take a couple more instructions (as we are free-flowing atm to build her back up), that making her give the sheep a wider berth would help her stickiness as well. My instructor told me that the sheep are getting wary of having her rather close, so they turn, and this in turn can cause her to stop off-balance because of "confrontation". If she keeps her distance, sheep are happier, less likely to confront, and she is less likely to stick. But I do not know what may be the cause for Darinka, what do you think?

 

Had Darinka been showing signs of dysplasia hence the x-ray? There are a lot of things that can cause a misdiagnosis including coming in to season, and faulty positioning.



#20 Maja

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Posted 23 October 2014 - 07:53 AM

Darinka was X-rayed because I was planning to breed her. She is a very athletic dog, loves to jump and run, and I had thought that the X-ray was a pure formality.  

 

Yes, I agree and this is what I meant in my previous post - putting a larger distance between her  and the sheep helps her.  She does not have so much of a problem in off-balance stickiness.  The worst it is when the sheep are content  and not moving.  That's why distance is good because (1) Darinka wants to move closer to the sheep (2) She has much more push on the sheep at a distance.  But most importantly -  we are moving forward. 


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23



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