I posted a year ago asking if an agility person could cross over to herding. In the Fall of 2016, I started taking herding lessons with an experienced sheepdog trialer and trainer. I was quickly addicted!
My boy was lovely, with typical baby dog issues. Another experienced sheepdogger visiting watched him move pregnant ewes and commented how perfect he was for a beginner like me: "so nice and easy" while still powerful. I still remember the day the lightbulb turned on over his head and he suddenly "got" balance. It was like magic! He was described as soft to handler, steady under pressure ("this ain't no chicken shit dog"), learning pace, "stylish," and no quit in him.
I started lessoning as often as I could, which is once a week according to weather. I spectated at trials. The interaction between dog and stock is fascinating. I love the community I've found of supportive, encouraging people welcoming me into a world that's been right under my nose.
As my dog's exposure to sheep increased, so did his arousal. He was tuning out the handler, chasing or singling out sheep, diving into them like a bowling ball, starting to grip. He went from a stylish green dog showing the innate instincts of outrun, balance, and fetch; to looking like a pet mutt chasing wildlife in a field. Back on the longline. We tried running him before putting him on sheep. We tried calmly walking behind 100+ flock for an hour or working a small packet in a controlled area for 15 mins. I worked on lots and lots of impulse control and obedience at home. We took a break of several months then tried again.
Nope. Chasing, splitting, gripping, chasing, chasing. Glimpses of covering but never settled into working instead of wanting to chase them willy nilly.
I keep thinking it's supposed to go the other way: I've watched many young dogs at their first intro chase and run amok or grip, then they settle with more exposure. We've had the opposite. What is going on? Is there any way to get my "nice and easy" dog back or is he done? The trainer commented that his brain flies to Mach 10 in a blink (basically as soon as the car hits the farm driveway) and he can't come back down. Trainer doesn't know what else to do. Everyone who knows us is sadly shaking their heads and saying that's too bad.
I'm a pet person who enjoys herding. I can't go out and get another dog because this one isn't working out, nor will I place him elsewhere (Where?!!?!) Is there anything that can be done?