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jgambill

sniffing the set out dog

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Hi Amanda,

 

I am seeking your advice for what to do about my dog(s) sniffing the set out dog at a trial. Both are intact males, one is 5 years old and one is 2. The 5 year old (Tweed) can be sensitive and I first had an experience of him stopping on his out run to sniff the ground. It happened last year at a trial when the sheep started to move and the person setting tried to catch them with her dog. Tweed stopped and started sniffing, but was able to easily pick up his sheep after I waited a sec and gave him a redirect. Since that time, however, it seems that he will stop and sniff when the pressure gets to him. Recently, it has escalated to sniffing the set out dog at trials. I have worked on this in training, having people over as well as going to new places and asking people to hold or just be on the field with their dog to use that as a teachable moment if he stops to sniff. It seems that it is really just at the beginning before he's actually picked up his sheep, once he starts working, I really don't see the same issue. So the last thing I need to add about this dog is that if I correct him too strongly, he gets very, very careful and loses his natural flow and covering of the sheep.

 

The other dog, Cal, is just 2 years old and has just started trialing. His first trial of the season he did great, but 2 weeks later, he also stopped to sniff the set out dog. On his way back to the sheep stopped to visit the set out person as well. With him, I'm thinking it is just getting used to the pressure and excitement of a trial and will disappear (I HOPE) with more mileage, but don't want to have a trial habit starting either. He calls off of the sniffing easily enough and in training when he slows down a simple sush will just keep him going past the dog and to his sheep.

 

So I guess that's about as much information as I can think of and any advice would be very welcome.

 

Thank you.

Judy

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Hi Amanda,

 

I am seeking your advice for what to do about my dog(s) sniffing the set out dog at a trial. Both are intact males, one is 5 years old and one is 2. The 5 year old (Tweed) can be sensitive and I first had an experience of him stopping on his out run to sniff the ground. It happened last year at a trial when the sheep started to move and the person setting tried to catch them with her dog. Tweed stopped and started sniffing, but was able to easily pick up his sheep after I waited a sec and gave him a redirect. Since that time, however, it seems that he will stop and sniff when the pressure gets to him. Recently, it has escalated to sniffing the set out dog at trials. I have worked on this in training, having people over as well as going to new places and asking people to hold or just be on the field with their dog to use that as a teachable moment if he stops to sniff. It seems that it is really just at the beginning before he's actually picked up his sheep, once he starts working, I really don't see the same issue. So the last thing I need to add about this dog is that if I correct him too strongly, he gets very, very careful and loses his natural flow and covering of the sheep.

 

The other dog, Cal, is just 2 years old and has just started trialing. His first trial of the season he did great, but 2 weeks later, he also stopped to sniff the set out dog. On his way back to the sheep stopped to visit the set out person as well. With him, I'm thinking it is just getting used to the pressure and excitement of a trial and will disappear (I HOPE) with more mileage, but don't want to have a trial habit starting either. He calls off of the sniffing easily enough and in training when he slows down a simple sush will just keep him going past the dog and to his sheep.

 

So I guess that's about as much information as I can think of and any advice would be very welcome.

 

Thank you.

Judy

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Hi Judy

Sniffing is a bad vice. It sounds as though you have covered the bases. Set up the training opportunities. And you say he resents a strong correction, so he is bucking at pressure. You are right that it can frequently derive from pressure or more importantly, a dog's intolerance for it. Knowlegable spectators will cast a critical eye, brows raised, and say "Sniffing." And that is all that has to be said. Points will come off every phase of work where it happens.

A hallmark of a great trialling Border Collie,is their ability to accept discipline and adjust, under extreme pressure. Farm dogs have very few such demands made of them, since most of their work is repeat, familiar undertakings, and patterns. Trial dogs are required to run on different fields, under diverse circumstances on a wide range of sheep temperaments. You are describing a dog who for some reason has not made the leap to trial dog. When asked to do, he sulks, with the sniff.

The only thing you have not tried, is castrating him. If he is a chronic sniffer, you are unlikely to want to breed off him, for all the reasons you are describing--his oversensitivity, his inability to accept pressure and the distracted style of work that sniffing epitomizes. If you are unlikely to breed off him, why not neuter? It will improve your odds of the sniffing stopping, but he is such an age, five, that may or may not help, insofar as his habits may be ingrained. It is worth a try.

I share your hope on the second dog, young at two, so more hopeful. Without knowing if they are related however, (maybe they are and the pressure trait is re-expressing itself in the young one) one worries about how much pressure you are putting on the dogs at home where they would both start sniffing. Maybe it is a genetic repeat problem, but maybe it is a management repeat problem. I am not saying that you are too tough a trainer, but I am saying that however tough you are or were, it is too much for the dogs that get the sniffing habit. So if you consider yourself to be undemanding, then you need dogs more equal to what you ask.

Either way, you are in a position to do something about both. If it is genetic, don't breed it. Get yourself a dog with a more high powered pressure level, made of sterner stuff. If it is management, re-examine your training techniques and find a way to make your dogs more comfortable throughout the process at the same time getting them to do what you want--an alternative means to the end.

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