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Retraining a self taught dog?

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#1 mjroach


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Posted 12 February 2017 - 04:02 PM

Hi everyone,great board- I love just perusing all the past threads for reading material. My husband and I have both owned and trained dogs for about 15 years for different disciplines but though we have always wanted to get into herding wehavent had the opportunity yet.
Recently we adopted a three year old male intact bc from an interesting situation. He was a ranch dog but had zero training even of the most rudimentary kind. He herded the ranches cattle and after a few years they finally tired of it and decided to get rid of him. He was pretty durn close to feral but not in a scared or fearful way, just more of a dog left to his own devices for years who faithfully though Misguidedly "worked" every day, all day.
Our question is,being so new to herding, is a dog who has worked alone off of his herding instinct is long going to be a problem to retrain to work with its person? He has no food or ball drive but nothing could entice him off his cattle, we had a time trying to catch him when we picked him up. He has already learned his recall,sit and down purely on desire to please his handler Andy bonding is going really really well.
I guess my main question is, are there special considerations or things I should be on the lookout for or start differently in herding with this kind of a dog(with a herding instructor, obviously)?

#2 denice


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Posted 12 February 2017 - 05:20 PM

I am sure he is not unique among ranch dogs.  By and large if they have a herding dog working stock they are left to figure it out and if they are 'trained' they might have some recall but that's all and a get out of that if they are in they are in the wrong place.  They expect not to have to 'train' a dog.  So taking a 'natural' dog that has been doing it his way for three years might be challenging to get him to do it your your if that is the goal.  I think teaching him a solid recall will take time but if you do it in a small space so you can get the desired result you will most likely be successful.  If your goal is having him help with stock then he is half way there.  Building that respect and relationship is the place to start. 


Changing the way he works and his particular 'Method' of working might be tough.  The approach to stock work is largely innate, you can influence it but they are born with certain tendencies.  I would look for someone who does ranch work with their dog and uses very few commands to help you with him. 

Some dogs do not enjoy working if micromanaged so keep that in mind.  I am always reminded my dogs come out of womb knowing more about stock than I ever will.  If wanting to use him as a trial dog where he must do things you ask - that is a totally different.  He has to willingly give you that control, you will not be able to take it.


Obedience has very little place in herding.  The training is different than any other, it is a partnership.  Herding takes teamwork to accomplish a common goal, it needs to make sense to them.  You have to keep instincts in mind.

#3 dsmbc


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Posted 22 February 2017 - 11:33 PM

my suggestion is to get the help of a very experienced trainer. Also, I think it is important that you establish a very clear set of rules both off of stock. if the dog starts to learn that they have to do things your way off stock, it will make it easier for them to transition on stock. I would wait a little while before you tried working him on stock as well so that he starts to learn your rules first, If you are clear and consistent and get good help from a good trainer, you should be alright. but if you are not consistent or clear or at all wishy washy with the rules, he will likely just revert to doing things his way.

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