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A year later- The More Work, the More Amped?


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#21 Tea

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 10:44 AM

i have had two dogs given to me that were kinda similar. while i do not consider myself a trainer. i need the dogs to do my work.

one of these dogs, very agressive on stock. i put soft muzzle on him so he could not bite, but could drink and pant and he learned on the hill on the ram flock good behaviour.

 

the other was not agressive but didn't listen well, did not see partnership.

 

she went our and worked the big flock on what ever job, and did it till it was right. even if it took a while. she was made responsible for her screw ups.

however i was on a horse which makes this easier to keep up, or put yourself between.





#22 Bicoastal

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 11:06 AM

Apparently I just missed an opportunity for a Jack Knox Clinic in VA. Darn it! As far as don't take him to just anybody [because trying to 'screw him down' is only going to backfire], where do I go?

 

Yes, he pulls me to the sheep and I try to hold his brains inside his head with commands from car to sheep. I imagine all of that is building pressure. He snaps into a "here" with a BAM! He obeys with loads of excitement. When I ask him to lie down, he drops like he's been shot, ears and eyes forward as his brain screams "SHEEP!"

 

How do I avoid that control and pressure build up before we even reach sheep? Do I let him jump out of the car and run to the fence? Then he runs the fence line or jumps at the gate.

 

I am astounded by the dogs at trials: calmly and nonchalantly watching the previous run then suddenly exuding keen focus when they trot to the post. They take off like a shot when sent. After their run, they hop in the stock tank, turn their back to the field, and walk away seeming to completely turn their mind off of sheep. Can that only be achieved by starting as puppies? Or only a small percentage of dogs are mentally capable?

 

I'm from the sports world where pulling on leash, barking, spinning, and being maniacs who can't settle is considered the price to pay for "drive." Where Border Collies are being bred with higher and higher innate arousal and adrenaline levels and losing the ability to be clear headed or calm [I may have one of those on my hands]. Handlers jazz their dogs up more before going to the line. As another poster mentioned, this level of 'high' is now routine and handlers one up each other in tales of being bitten by their BCs. I'm seeing the sports world could learn A LOT from the stockdog world.

 

I'm confident the trainer would let me borrow some sheep time to sit in a tiny pen with a chair. Or sit in a pasture with sheep grazing. Which would be a better scenario?



#23 Bicoastal

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 11:14 AM

I am having exactly the same problem with my agility dog. It's like a switch flips after we walk into the ring.  I can increase his arousal simply by moving agility obstacles around the yard.  The obstacles themselves are so reinforcing, the dog has little use for me.

 

My dog has developed all sorts of interesting behaviors at the end of agility runs--all that adrenaline and frustration (from stopping the activity?) with no place to go. He is very talented, but I'm not sure if I will be able to show him anymore.

Hey Blackdawgs, thanks for sharing your own heartache. I appreciate hearing your story. I really benefited from Sarah Stremming's online class called Worked Up. Biting at the end of the run seems pretty common. I think Sarah would say something like the dog might be frustrated because he expects to receive reinforcement at the end of the run but doesn't in a trial. She might suggest practicing an end-of-run routine so the dog learns what to expect when the run ends and when/how he will receive reinforcement. That class revolutionized how I warm up my dog for agility. He doesn't need any revving up, thankyouverymuch!

 

Then I discovered this whole herding thing  :D  and that is calling me, now.



#24 Maralynn

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 11:38 AM

So, with that type of quick response to your commands I might try getting him out of the car, telling him down and then just waiting there at the car until he relaxes. It may take forever at first but, if hes out of sight of the livestock it will eventually happen. If youre close enough, Id ask the trainer if I could make it a frequent thing where you just go to the farm to hang out. In the car, out of the car. Try to reprogram that brain to sometimes we work, frequently we relax mentality.

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#25 GentleLake

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 11:40 AM

I'm from the sports world where pulling on leash, barking, spinning, and being maniacs who can't settle is considered the price to pay for "drive." Where Border Collies are being bred with higher and higher innate arousal and adrenaline levels and losing the ability to be clear headed or calm [I may have one of those on my hands]. Handlers jazz their dogs up more before going to the line. As another poster mentioned, this level of 'high' is now routine and handlers one up each other in tales of being bitten by their BCs. I'm seeing the sports world could learn A LOT from the stockdog world.

 

Breeding border collies (or as we call them here "sporter collies") for this kind of intensity is a razor thin close second behind conformation breeding ("Barbie collies") in the ruination of the breed at the hands of people who were originally attracted to the amazing dogs working border collies are but then decided they needed to change them for their own self interests.

 

Can you imagine how useless a maniacal dog with no self control and no off switch during down time on a farm would be to any livestock producer? That's why they bred for a dog who could keep his (or her) wits about it whether actively working or just hanging around waiting till it was needed. They have no time or inclination to spend any longer than necessary training up a useful dog.

 

Fortunately there are people who still need and value the original working border collie and breed for that purpose. And you'll find that at least some of the sporter collie people are realizing the insanity that's been bred into them and going back to the working bred dogs for their agility prospects. And those dogs still have tons of drive. :rolleyes:


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#26 Donald McCaig

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 01:33 PM

<p>Dear Aspiring Sheepdoggers,</p>
<p>Reading more thoughtful replies than mine forced me to think exactly what I would do with a hysteric young sheepdog.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>1. A Tommy Wison trick. Cram as many sheep as possible in a small enclosure before squeezing in yourself with dog (leashed at first, later off leash.&nbsp; The sheep will give him space but threaten and he'll not know what to do and will learn some patience. CAUTION: No more than 10 minutes. Sheep packed in this tight can go down and suffocate.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>2.Tie a grocery bag to the end of your stick, use a stock whip or rattle paddle : something unusual and threatening to the dog.Then, in a spacious paddock 1/3 acre? turn out fifteen older ewes. Walk around with the dog on lead, leash pops when he blows you off. When he's hearing you, drop the lead (no, don't unhook it) drop back to the sheep and block the dog. The proper working distance between dog and sheep varies dog to dog: it's the lane between indifference and attack. That lane is where the dog can think and hear you. Closer he cannot and further his interest flags.</p>
<p>&nbsp;Force him with body language, whippy stick, shouts into that lane and keep him there. If he gets past you, reset.</p>
<p>He WILL try and get past you. You'll need to be quick but you've got the leverage.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Your goal: teaching him that you control access to the sheep. Stay quiet as you can, shrieks are counterproductive. Flank him with body language. Don't let him have the sheep, not yet. When he is tired (when you're REALLY tired) is the moment to win or lose this lesson. As he is stopped, reversing a flank, down him. Block his slip sliding away and down him. Eventually, from confusion if nothing else, he'll go off his feet.Go straight to him as your leverage shrinks repeating &quot;Down, down,lie down. Spot! down.&quot; until you've got his collar. After he's leashed you can be as silly as you want to be. &quot;Oh what a good Boy!!!&quot; Not before.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Donald</p>

#27 Luana

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 01:52 PM

I often drive with the car right close to the pen where the sheep are, with Spillo in his crate. I open the window and let him stay in the crate for a while in the car. I walk away.

then I walk him to the gate(which is quite close the the training pen) ask for a lie-down and insist till he does, (this is not without struggle) then I open the gate and when I have him close to the training pen I let him free and I try to keep him under control with my presence and the training stick. he is manageable if the sheep are not moving, but he cannot definitely watch other dogs work sheep. when I have him staring at the sheep in the pen and lie-down when I ask, I enter the pen and start the session with the trainer. In the pen, I ask for a lie down and as soon as I feel ready, I let him go.

this is all to minimize the initial pressure, as the more I was trying to keep him under control with the leash or a long line, the more his frustration was building up...

so the initial struggle, I try to minimize as much as possible, hoping that with time this will improve.

I now am able to call him off the sheep to send him to drink water after the first several minutes of training which are quite intense, so it is a big improvement from where I started. I was at the point to give up several times.



#28 Sue R

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 04:16 PM

Knowing where you are located might be helpful in giving people a better idea of recommending a trainer or clinic locations. 

 

Stacy Scott and Peter Hall (Maggie's Farm) hold a Jack Knox clinic once or twice a year (that's probably the one you just missed, I'm guessing). 

 

Kathy Knox used to do two clinics a year at Chestertown MD at Sarah Ruckelshaus' Victory farm, one in December and one in April. Even if you could not get into one at this time, auditing might be an option, or being put on a waiting list. 

 

Patrick Shanahan does more than one a year in eastern MD, either with Linda Tesdahl or one of the other handlers in that area. One of the handlers that frequents those clinics is a member here. 

 

Someone earlier on mentioned that even though your current trainer might be a good handler/trainer, that doesn't mean that his/her approach to training is a good match for your dog and you. I know this can be true because one of my dogs spent five months with a very competent handler and it was largely wasted time and money - not every handler works well with every kind of dog. 

 

There are some really good trainers in the MD/VA area who either give lessons and/or take in dogs for training. That might be an option for you, trying a different trainer and trying someone who will take your dog in for training. If that trainer is honest with you, you won't be wasting your time or money because he/she will let you know in short order if the dog is not going to make reasonable progress with them. 

 

The marvelous thing about supremely competent and experienced handlers/trainers like Alasdair MacRae, Jack and Kathy Knox, Patrick Shanahan, and the like, is that they have the level of broad experience with many, many different dogs (and sheep and facilities) to generally be able to make a very positive difference in almost any dog with potential. This is not always the case with every handler/trainer. 

 

Apparently I just missed an opportunity for a Jack Knox Clinic in VA. Darn it! As far as don't take him to just anybody [because trying to 'screw him down' is only going to backfire], where do I go?


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#29 gcv-border

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 04:17 PM

 

I'm from the sports world where pulling on leash, barking, spinning, and being maniacs who can't settle is considered the price to pay for "drive." Where Border Collies are being bred with higher and higher innate arousal and adrenaline levels and losing the ability to be clear headed or calm [I may have one of those on my hands]. Handlers jazz their dogs up more before going to the line. As another poster mentioned, this level of 'high' is now routine and handlers one up each other in tales of being bitten by their BCs. I'm seeing the sports world could learn A LOT from the stockdog world.

I go back and forth between agility (competitive) and herding (novice handler and trial spectator) and will also compare and contrast between the two worlds.

 

I have seen the agility handlers with the dogs that drag their handlers to the ring, and spin or other undesirable behavior - but I often associate those teams with handlers that do not fully understand (and therefore have not trained their dog appropriately) to use their brain in the ring. I agree that there is/was a trend to breed 'drivier' agility dogs - not only border collies, but other breeds as well (shelties, paps, etc.), but (most) top level agility handlers know the value of calm, focused behavior.  OK, maybe not as calm as at a sheepdog trial, but definitely not spinning or dragging their handler. And with respect to border collies, most of these top handlers often use the working-bred dog vs. the "sporter collie".

 

Just wanted to say that all the high-drive agility dogs are not crazy. That is a pretty broad brush stroke. [I do see a lot of crazy behavior at an agility trial, but prefer to focus on the well-trained dogs to see if I can learn something.]  I am in awe of several handlers that can put their dog on a calm down on the side of a ring with dogs running a course on the inside of the ring and dogs being walked and played with on the outside of the ring.  And these are dogs that can 'turn on' and smoke the course (and win) when asked.


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#30 Laura Vishoot

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 08:11 PM

It sounds like your dog is very frustrated and the training methods are making him more so.  Things like:

 

We tried demanding calm loose leash walking to the pen, backing up if he lunges forward, leash pops, clapping his noise for whining or barking. Demanding manners from car to pen makes that walk take an eternity, while he’s senses are overloaded screaming S-H-E-E-P. The longer he has to wait while exposed to that stimulus, the more wired he gets. It’s like the steam builds and the faulty pressure cooker is going to explode.

 

are indeed building up rather than diffusing his "drive".  The pressure cooker analogy is a good one!

 

Coming once a week and then being asked to be "calm" (heh heh) before getting on the sheep may be causing his brain to fall out of his head.

 

Is he "sport bred"?  I have seen this more than once in dogs that were bred with the main criteria being HIGH DRIVE.  Training for agility and some other dog sports also encourage this.  In my experience, dogs with a ton of DRIVE but without the rest of the sheepdog package are at a pretty big disadvantage.  I actually feel sorry for them, the adrenaline, frustration and panic must not feel great, and on top of it they are constantly in trouble and can't do anything right.

That said, I know of dogs definitely bred for nothing but what makes a good working dog that have been at this place.  I own one.  Frankly, I'm not sure if she will get through it well enough to be a good sheepdog.  One thing I've learned with her is to let her work a LOT of sheep and to take care not to try very hard to keep her under my thumb for now because the other side of that waits an explosion.  

 

I think you should try a different trainer and make sure you get to a clinic with one of the mentioned great dog people.  Maybe, if your dog actually has promise that would warrant this, put him in training with a sheepdog trainer for at least 2 months.  It's hard for a dog who is OTT keen to get on sheep one time a week.  I'm sure they are always thinking it's like a once in a lifetime opportunity that may never happen again, and they cannot possibly settle down.  When walking out and working sheep on a daily basis becomes a norm, they can often learn to take it all in stride.

 

 

They really need to have experiences of being "right" a lot of the time during their trainings.  

 

Also - maybe have his hearing checked.  I had a dog who was doing great and at 3 he turned into the worlds biggest ass (I unfairly thought).  I rehomed him. Turns out, he had lost his hearing.  

 

Good luck and I agree that video would be very helpful here.



#31 Shoofly

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 12:01 AM

Yes, he pulls me to the sheep and I try to hold his brains inside his head with commands from car to sheep. I imagine all of that is building pressure. He snaps into a "here" with a BAM! He obeys with loads of excitement. When I ask him to lie down, he drops like he's been shot, ears and eyes forward as his brain screams "SHEEP!"

 

How do I avoid that control and pressure build up before we even reach sheep? Do I let him jump out of the car and run to the fence? Then he runs the fence line or jumps at the gate.

 

I am astounded by the dogs at trials: calmly and nonchalantly watching the previous run then suddenly exuding keen focus when they trot to the post. They take off like a shot when sent. After their run, they hop in the stock tank, turn their back to the field, and walk away seeming to completely turn their mind off of sheep. Can that only be achieved by starting as puppies? Or only a small percentage of dogs are mentally capable?

 

I just had to skim this thread but something jumped out at me when i read what you wrote above. It's kind of hard to explain but i'll try to give it a shot. The reason those dogs at trials hang out and wait and behave is because they've been taught that they don't get to decide what they will do and when. You say your dog will "bam" to your side on a here command, but he can't walk properly on a leash near sheep. So teach him! And i don't mean teach him a heel command, i mean give him a loose leash and if he tightens it, he gets a leash pop. If he's hanging out with you and starts off towards sheep (or whatever) on his own without being told, notice it immediately and tell him to get his butt back to you where it belongs until he's released to work. Don't nag and beg him to do things right with commands. Watch him and tell him when he's wrong and try to do it as soon as he's made that choice to be wrong. 

 

It's on *him* to choose to do it right, not on you to command him into acting like he's got a brain. Give the dog freedom to do it right, watch his choices and let him know when he's wrong. There is a vast difference between that and commanding a dog into behaving himself. It puts it on the dog's shoulders to act right rather than you trying to *make* him right. Sorry this has to be brief and i hope it makes sense, but you need to do a 360 on how you're training this dog because you're working against each other instead of together. And it sounds like he's winning. 


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#32 Bicoastal

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 10:14 AM

I'm in Northern VA. I'm happy to drive a couple hours and understand we may be done after 15 minutes.

 

The dog was bred by a sheepdog trialer and trainer. I was connected through the sport world. I don't know if the litter's intention was for herding or sports.

 

I'm not knocking the trainer we've been going to at all. He got some great work out of my dog, warmly welcomed me into this community, and was big enough to say he doesn't know what else to do. Maybe it's not the right training match, maybe my suburban lifestyle is too incompatible (weekend warrior sheepdog), maybe the dog has a crossed wire. I'd like a second opinion before throwing in the towel completely.



#33 denice

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 05:56 PM

I know Jack will be in GA in a couple weeks, I believe he is judging and having a clinic.  He is in MD in the spring I believe, again in VA and here in IN in April.  He does a winter indoor area clinic in WI in Feb and usually one at his place if he has open weekends.  I am less familiar with Kathy's schedule.

 

I really believe the small things make a huge difference.  I would take a look at your interactions with him at home.  If he is doing his own thing, blowing you off, needs to be asked twice ect..... that is where I would begin.  Correct and allow him to make a choice, reward for the right one.  Dogs need to THINK to work stock so I try to raise them so it is more about thinking and making wise choices not about obedience.



#34 Eileen Stein

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Posted 23 November 2017 - 01:31 PM


For the suggestion to take a chair and sit, I think I would be "flooding" him until he gives up. I would definitely need a cable or chain because he'll chew a regular lead. He would probably whine, bark, leap about, maybe scream. It is a passive exercise and no one is exerting any force on him, but it seems like it would torture him. The trainer has already said he has no quit.

With his arousal starting before we leave the car, it would probably be better training to start that exercise before we reach the driveway, then at the driveway, then in the parking area, etc. thoughts?

 

FWIW, I agree with Julie.  I'd be wary of applying the concept of "flooding" to this situation, or to fear his "giv[ing] up."  IMO, that trope is best confined to situations where the dog's behavior arises from fear.  Your dog is not fearful, and his giving up this bad behavior is something you want to achieve.  I also don't think it's necessary to start from far, far away and gradually move closer.  I'm guessing he's just as aroused in the driveway as he is fairly close to the sheep.  

 

It seems to me that his undesirable behavior change may well have come about because he's come to see you as the opponent who's trying to keep him from the sheep.  I think when Jack Knox says, "Give the dog freedom," part of what he's saying is not to try to block him from the sheep or "make him right" by keeping him off the sheep.  Of course, you need to protect the sheep and stop his lunging and biting, but it's a fine line (often hard to achieve) between preventing him from bad behavior and creating a fight between you and him for the sheep.  

 

The good thing about sitting in a chair near sheep until he is calm is that it does not fit into that scenario of a fight between you and him for the sheep.  Neither of you are interacting with the sheep.  You are by and large ignoring him.  You're just giving him a chance to wind down from his overstimulated reaction in a place where sheep are present.  It would require a lot of patience, but I think it's worth a try.  

 

Of course, I'm not saying you shouldn't get to some clinics and/or seek a good trainer for a second opinion/approach.  That's good too.  But in the meantime . . . 


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#35 GentleLake

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Posted 23 November 2017 - 06:16 PM

AFAIK flooding is used in human behavioral therapy to treat phobias, not over-arousal or over-stimulation, which is what it seems like Bicoastal's dog is experiencing. And I believe it's pretty generally rejected by therapists these days, at least in part because it so often fails to achieve the desired results.

 

For dogs I would think there'd be a pretty big risk of the dog's biting or clawing as it becomes even more highly aroused. It's something I'd approach very carefully, if at all. JMO, of course.

 

Bicoastal, if you're in northern VA, have you considered contacting Tommy Wilson in Gordonsville? I really don't know him well and haven't spoken to him in decades, so maybe he doesn't do any consulting or outside training, but I imagine someone here would know.


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#36 Eileen Stein

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Posted 23 November 2017 - 07:22 PM

Just to be clear, I wasn't suggesting that flooding be employed.  I was saying that I don't think the approach Julie recommended -- sitting in a chair reading with your dog in a field with sheep -- would constitute flooding.  I don't think it's useful to think of it in anti-flooding terms, e.g. starting out where you turn into the driveway, giving treats, moving a little closer, etc.  Again, JMO, but no dog I've done this with has bitten or clawed me.

 

Tom Wilson does give private lessons now, and I don't think you can find anyone better than him if he can fit you in.


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#37 GentleLake

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 12:40 AM

Several people have mentioned approaches that amount to flooding. I wasn't responding to any one person in particular. ;)


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#38 juliepoudrier

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Posted 29 November 2017 - 11:56 AM

Interestingly enough, since his name was brought up, Tommy W does advocate taking a dog in a pen with sheep and leaving the dog to settle. Call it flooding or something else, I've never seen a dog go nuts and try to bite, attack, or anything else like that. Generally they settle down very quickly. But of course, if the OP believes the approach would be counterproductive for her dog, I can't gainsay her. For me, it creates an environment where the dog gets nothing but calm from me (I'm just reading after all) and the dog's overexcited behavior gains it *nothing*--no work, no response from me, no real response from the sheep. I agree with Eileen that if the dog were reacting out of fear doing this might not be a good idea (although IMHO a fearful dog might just realize there's nothing to fear if it's in close proximity to stock and nothing happens), but for a dog that needs to learn self control around stock, this isn't going to somehow permanently scar him.

That said, I am not the OP and the dog is not my dog. Only she can decide what she's willing to do to try turn this situation into a productive relationship.

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#39 juliepoudrier

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Posted 29 November 2017 - 12:17 PM

P.S. There a Tommy Wilson clinic Maggie's Farm (Stacy Scott and Peter Hall) in Sperryville, VA, this weekend (12/2-3). I imagine all the working spots are filled, but think auditing pretty cheap. If the OP is interested it would be a good introduction to Tommy's training, and he's good answering questions. The address is 455 Old Hollow Road, Sperryville. It shouldn't be much more than hour from many places in NoVA. I'll see if I can find/attach the flyer. Stacy's email is sss2604 at gmail dot com.

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Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, Birdie, Kiskadee (Kiss), Rue, Corbie, and Kite!

Willow's Rest, Tunis, Tunis mules, Leicester longwool, Teeswater, Border Leicester, and Gulf Coast Native sheep


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#40 Bicoastal

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Posted 29 November 2017 - 01:29 PM

Thank you for all of the suggestions and the discussion about flooding. I agree my dog doesn't seem fearful. I guess if I find the read-a-book method too upsetting, I could abandon it and head home. Or is that the worse thing I could do and I need to be prepared to sit there all day AND all night until he's calm? Once I stand up, I bet he'd ping up again. Sit back down. Rinse repeat until we can walk around the pasture calmly, yes? Then I reward him by letting him move the sheep while on lead??

 

I've seen Tommy a couple of times and have exchanged a few words and a joke with him. I would be pretty scared to ask HIM for help! He's a really big hat, right? He also knows who's been training my dog... I don't know if he would decline out of professional courtesy. I want everything to be above-board and matter of fact to avoid any hurt feelings.

 

I will be in Charlottesville this weekend visiting family but maybe I could sneak away for a few hours  :ph34r: . My dog would have to ride along, so the behavior might be on display from the parking lot. Embarrassing! As an "advanced clinic," would it  be way, waaay over my head? Julie, do you know if I need to provide advanced notice to audit or if I can arrive unannounced midday and bring a check? My availability would depend on my hosts' schedule.

 

Is there a sheepdog trainer in Shipman? I thought there was but I can't find anything online. (BTW, this world seems to be mostly offline so it's difficult for a newbie to find resources in the day of "google it." I'm thankful for this discussion board.)

 

Lots of questions. Sorry! If any locals would prefer email, I'm happy to share my email address privately.




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