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Maralynn

Making Progress - next step?

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Kipp now has the ewes pretty well plastered to me. He seems to be really thinking/controlling them pretty well at this point while everyone is moving.

 

I've started asking for stops and I'm getting them pretty well if I ask at the right point (so he doesn't feel the sheep are escaping). Tonight we did quite a few stop and go's - I'd ask for a stop and as soon as I got it I'd let him back to the sheep.

 

So where would you go from here? Practice this for a while longer? Ask for longer downs? start naming sides?

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Who are the sheep and what are the sheep telling you? Is he too close? Out of contact? Why aren't you using flank commands already? (without insisting on obedience?) What is his "stop"?: a down? a stand? a pause in forward motion?

 

Donald McCaig

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The sheep are becoming used to the idea of being worked by a dog. They are flocking to me for the most part as opposed to trying to scatter (as they did when I started with this two weeks ago). They seem to settle pretty well when Kipp stops.

 

The past two weeks I've had Kipp on the sheep 6 or 7 times. Since they weren't dog broke the idea has been to get them used to being worked by a dog and to let Kipp get a feel for them. He is quite fast and athletic and started out with quite a bit of tension. But I've felt the tension subsiding bit by bit.

 

For instance 2 weeks ago I could get a pause a couple times in a 5 minute session while working with him. Anything more and he try to respond by wanting to bust into the sheep trying to get them back. Now I can get several stops (mostly just a stand, a couple times it's been a down) for several seconds and when I let him go back to the sheep he picks up where he left off with gathering, balancing - it seems he's thinking about what he's doing instead of feeling pressured to react to the situation. Also yesterday was finally able to get a few stops (the stand for a few seconds) without putting a lot pressure on him. Before that I had to block him/really insist on it to get a stop.

 

As far as the amount of space he's giving the sheep, I think it's pretty good for the area we're working in. I can push him off a bit further if I see him trying to cut in too close, but he does does seem to be giving them a decent amount of space for working in a round pen.

 

I haven't added in any commands because a, everything has been moving really fast and b, I wanted both of us to get a feel for what felt right before adding something else into the mix. But now that he is much more willing to stop and the sheep are becoming comfortable with everything I feel like I could start adding them in.

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For instance 2 weeks ago I could get a pause a couple times in a 5 minute session while working with him. Anything more and he try to respond by wanting to bust into the sheep trying to get them back. Now I can get several stops (mostly just a stand, a couple times it's been a down) for several seconds and when I let him go back to the sheep he picks up where he left off with gathering, balancing - it seems he's thinking about what he's doing instead of feeling pressured to react to the situation. Also yesterday was finally able to get a few stops (the stand for a few seconds) without putting a lot pressure on him. Before that I had to block him/really insist on it to get a stop.

 

As far as the amount of space he's giving the sheep, I think it's pretty good for the area we're working in. I can push him off a bit further if I see him trying to cut in too close, but he does does seem to be giving them a decent amount of space for working in a round pen.

 

I haven't added in any commands because a, everything has been moving really fast and b, I wanted both of us to get a feel for what felt right before adding something else into the mix. But now that he is much more willing to stop and the sheep are becoming comfortable with everything I feel like I could start adding them in.

 

If the sheep are on top of you then it seems he is pusing too hard. How big is the round pen? It could be he does not have enough room to get out wide enough and is therefore pusing the sheep too hard assuming these sheep while not dog broke are not hand tame.

 

I prefer a dog that will keep a down as I find it very useful in practical work. But that is a personal choice. I'd want to be in a larger area (my small pen is about 120 feet x 120 feet) and doing walk abouts letting him learn how stock react to him, all the while making sure he is working properly.

 

I don't add commands until the dog is doing them properly. I prefer for the dog to learn how stock responds to him and how to respond properly to stock before concentrating on too many commands.

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I agree with not using the flank command words until the dog is doing close to what you want, less to unlearn later that way. As far as the 'stop', I will see that the dog is stopping reliably (on-balance) then I'll add time. Asking for an extended stop at this early stage IMO may be asking the dog to do something it may not be capable of (and it may lead to a struggle or an outright pi$$ing contest so why go there now?). When I add time I usually do something with that time... like maybe walking the sheep away a short distance to begin their assisted outruns... basically just making the circle bigger. This also gives me chance to get an idea of where and when they might try to slice if they're going to. While the circle is getting bigger I'll begin working in off-balance stops, gradually at first. By this time I've usually started using flank command words. I use "stand" for a stop command and generally allow the dog to choose the position it wants to be in. Making the dog lie down for each stop isn't really advisable, and what I'm really interested in is that they stop when I say. All along I try to keep it fun for me and the dog, because if one of us isn't having fun something is probably not right with the situation. Another thing I try to remember is to try to work just inside of the dog's envelope most of the time, carefully choosing when and where to try pushing out one of the edges of that envelope. This way the dog is mostly succeeding and not mostly failing, and progress is still being made. Good luck.

 

Ray

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

I disagree (or maybe I don't) with my friend Ray. Although much small ring work is silent/wordless, I often find myself giving the dog his flank words when he's executing a good flank. Not as a command, as a beginning of the necessary association. I don't insist and if the dog changes directions I either hush or change the command.

 

Do they learn their flanks quicker, slower, better or worse? I don't know - I do know that when a dog is going "away to me" it's going "away to me" and I find myself marking that bit of our shared language.

 

Donald McCaig

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Thank you for the advice!

 

 

As far as the round pen, it's about 70 ft in diameter. The size seems to have worked really well for me to be able to keep everything under control at this point. And things have been gradually calming down as the sheep get used to being worked and Kipp gets a better feel/increased confidence for what he should be doing. The sheep are quite used to people and will often gravitate toward a person if no dog is in the picture.

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But Donald if the dog is doing it wrong then that is what they likely learn, the wrong way to do the flank. I've spent many years retraining dogs and this is a common problem

 

 

Mara: 70 feet could be too small if the dog runs wide. Originally round pens were for cutting horse training and much bigger. They have shrunk over the years.

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Mara: 70 feet could be too small if the dog runs wide. Originally round pens were for cutting horse training and much bigger. They have shrunk over the years.

 

He doesn't naturally run wide - he actually started off too tight and had to be pushed off a bit. I want to see him run a bit wider but I think he's going to gradually have to learn that he can control things at a greater distance.

 

That said, I could also certainly see where a larger pen might relieve some tension as there would be more space to work in and things wouldn't feel as tight for Kipp or the sheep. But I'm not sure how much bigger I could make it at this point though due to limited supplies on hand/finances.

 

I think I'll try to figure out how to get some video in the next few days.

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Hello all,

 

Once my pups can flank to balance without chasing or gripping, I get them out in the big field. I don't worry about the stop in the beginning. I'm more concerned with the dog making clean flanks and balancing and I introduce whistle and voice commands from the beginning at the same time.

 

I keep things moving, because my dogs learn more when I leave them alone as much as possible and allow them to manage their sheep. I teach my dogs a lie down off stock. For the most part, I only use it on stock when I'm finished for the day.

 

Try to relax and have fun with it, you and the dog.

 

Cheers all,

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Pam,

I don't think Donald is saying he puts the name to the wrong flank or mistakes, but rather when the dog is flanking in X direction he gives the command (that is, not before the dog flanks, but as the dog is flanking).

 

I tend to start out pretty quiet, just letting the youngster learn to feel the sheep, but at some point (fairly early) as the dog is balancing reliably on the circle, I do add the flank names. I'm not expecting the dog to take the flank with no help from me, but rather if I step to my right, as the dog moves to the right to get back on balance, I give the command. I think this is what Donald means. But I could be wrong. ;)

 

J.

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I agree, Julie.

 

This is why (my emphases) - "Although much small ring work is silent/wordless, I often find myself giving the dog his flank words when he's executing a good flank. Not as a command, as a beginning of the necessary association."

 

I also find myself doing the same thing, just because I am often still trying to get my flank commands right! But that's a whole different topic...

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