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Training new herding cues without sheep

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Is it possible to correctly train my dog certain cues used to work animals without sheep?

 

I am sure it is, but how?

 

We have a mini farm. I have chickens and ducks, goats and a horse. I have access to a herding instructor with sheep and hour and a half away. I want to get a few lessons there but for now I need to focus on practicality.

 

Here's my situation. I have a rescue bc pup, now 8 months old. She exhibits herding behaviors when chasing or playing with my other dog (stalks, crouch, eye etc). She now has taken to herding my horse into her stall. Now I have been good at letting her be exposed to the farm animals without being in danger or risking them turning on her. She started behavior along the fence, but the other day I had a break out situation with my horse and I was corralling her back in and Keltie (my pup) ran up and barked and very convincingly turned my horse around and put her up. I believe she is from cattle dog stock because of the area she was found....a dirt road in a cattle ranch town (and one very large commercial sheep farm). But just the way she is with my horse leads me to believe she has a preference for larger livestock.

 

Anywho, I really want to teach her to go left or right, come by away etc, because she could help me bring the goats in. As it stands, I have tame goats and ones not yet ready for me to lead them. And babies. I find myself in the situation where I get half my goats in their pen, have to shut the door so they don't run out while I get the others but then face the problem that when I have to open the gate they dart off, and occasionally the others escape go if I opened it.

 

Her presence seems to help---sometimes---but because she follows me at my heels it's also a hindrance because they won't walk past her. I have her sit away, but it's not useful either.

 

I understand goats aren't the best starter flock, but I'm just wondering where to start to get her to follow certain herding commands so I can bring the animals in.

 

Sorry if it's confusing, but here I am, finally with a dog old enough to start some training IMO. The tasks are rather easy. I live on 1.5 acres and my goats don't have horns, and although they are used to my dogs now and not quite as flighty as they were when I got them, they are also not too stubborn with the dogs. Before when I had rams (babydoll Southdown), those guys were much harder to persuade.

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First, do NOT let her work the horse. You risk her being killed. You say she's been exposed and there's no danger, but horses aren't sheep, goats, or cattle, and one kick can kill or maim her.

 

As for the goats, I think your best solution is to get her well started with a trainer. You can teach her commands off stock, and some well-known handlers have done so, but ultimately she needs to understand those commands in relation to the stock. And you both need to know what to expect and how to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

 

Most working-bred border collies should have a natural gathering instinct. That means she should want to go out and around and bring stock to you. Young dogs will exhibit this tendency along a continuum, and it's not unusual for a youngster to run straight into the stock, split them, and then put them back together and bring them. Most training starts from working with that natural tendency to go around.

 

My biggest concern would be shutting her down or letting her learn bad habits by trying to train her when you don't really know what you're doing and the stock you have aren't amenable to starting a youngster.

 

Honestly, you can muddle through and figure it out with the goats (I'm sure lots of folks with stock and border collies have done just that), but personally I think investing a little time and money to get her started with a trainer (that is, lessons for both of you) so you both at least has some basics would be the best approach.

 

Where I live now, the stock for starting youngsters is goats, so that's not necessarily the issue, though spoiled goats who will challenge (or butt) a young dog can go a long way toward turning one off from working. Of course, sour, spoiled sheep can do the same.

 

So, keep her away from the horse. If you want to get the goats up go out toward them with her and encourage her to go around them. Once she's behind them, she can bring them to you as you walk toward the gate. But of course that's very simplistic and it's not likely to happen like that, even if you have put "dry" commands on her.

 

J.

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Hi there ~

You've already gotten good advice, so I'll try to keep my tuppence brief.

First and foremost - please do NOT let her EVER get in with or chase the horse. One kick or strike by an irritated/annoyed horse and your dog is dead or maimed. I don't care how nice and gentle your horse is, it just takes a split-second of him deciding, "Dang it, little yapper, go away" and you are looking at the broken body of your beautiful pup. Stop that behavior now. I've seen tragedy too often, even with gentle horses.

Secondly, teaching things like right and left without livestock don't necessarily translate to work on livestock. Sure, you can teach her to go in directions for fun, as a trick. But directions on livestock have to do with the positioning of the livestock and the dog's relationship to them. Otherwise, it's like trying to teach someone to play tennis without a ball. ;)

Some people use goats to teach a dog some basics, but goats can be tricky. They don't always flock together well, they can be prone to stopping and staring at the dog, ("why should I move for you?") and they can intimidate a young dog, possibly rattling his confidence. Heck, even my older dogs aren't nuts about goats and if given a choice, they'll walk right past them. They think goats "ain't right in the head." :P

Last, unless you know how to start a young dog on livestock, I advise against doing anything without skilled supervision. It's too easy to accidentally instil bad habits or improper behavior in a youngster, and it's far easier to train a dog who doesn't know anything than to un-train a dog who's learned improper things, or who's had his confidence shaken by a negative experience.

If she shows a natural inclination to gather your goats up and help keep them in a group near you, then maybe you can go ahead and let her do that, so long as the goats don't challenge her or stand and stare at her, or split off in a dozen directions at once. But if she's not showing any inclination to gather them just now, then I'd say she's not ready to work with them yet. Better to wait and try her later on sheep, and let her get a positive and confidence-building start on working livestock.

I think that the very best thing you can do with your youngster, at this stage, is simply build your partnership together, get a good recall on her, and enjoy your time together. It may be better to wait until you have some proper training on her before asking her to help with your goat chores.

Hope this helps!

Gloria

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Rant warning as they would say on some forums- one day soon I'm going to take a photo of my Xena who was kicked in the head by a colt a few months ago. And I'm going to post that photo Every Time someone mentions they let their dog herd horses. Xena lost her right eye because for one second I didn't think she would chase that horse. Horses can and will kick and even stomp a dog just because they're irritated, they thought it was a fly, some stupid thing like that. Just a week before the same colt had kicked Jess lights out. For a few heart stopping seconds she was totally unconscious. She lay on the ground like a crumpled, broken dog. It's not a sight I wish on my worst enemy. Words cannot describe what goes through your head at that moment. I'm thankful they are both alive. Jess none the worse for her experience, Xena minus one eye, but otherwise fine. But it could so easily have been different.

Goats, while in many ways probably not being the perfect training animals, are a heck of a lot more suitable than horses. I'm hoping to train my youngest Meg on goats as soon as kidding season has finished. We no longer have sheep. If you have access to a trainer, make the most of it. I don't so i'm dependent on books and videos.

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For the record, I don't "let" my dog work my horse. In this situation my horse had busted past me through the gate (because ironically she's attached to my goats and they were grazing weeds). My dog just happened to be with me while this happened and as I was trying to get the horse turn get back in her pen Keltie stepped up.

 

Of course I understand the danger a horse can do. This is not something I allow to happen or wish to promote, but it happened on accident which led me to believe she might be ready.

 

The rest of her barking at the horse stuff is along the fence line, not in with the horse and I call her off whenever she is caught doing it. If recently switched things around so she no longer has access todo even that.

 

As for my goats, most of them are super easy to work with a dog other than the current herd queen who does occasionally offer a challenge (she head butted at my ridgeback once---he thinks they are dogs, she knows better that he is no goat), but that's only if the dog gets close enough.

 

I have done my darnedest to raise her as a farm dog, around my farm animals without her having any negative experiences.

 

I'm really curious what she would do with sheep. Maybe in a month or so I can get her out to the trainer.

 

For now, I've found the mere presence of my Aussie sends my goats running for their pen. So that helps.

 

Patience is a virtue Ido not have.

 

Thanks for the tips.

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I think we all got the impression, from what you wrote, that it was not unusual for her to work the horse and that's why we all jumped to that conclusion. I'm glad it's not what you plan on doing and that you have also stopped the situation where she runs the fence and barks at the horse. That is a couple of no-nos combined - barking at the horse and running the fenceline.

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What Sue said. :)

Your post apparently led me to the wrong conclusion. If it was a one-time incident and no harm done, that's great. If she's no longer barking along the fence line at the horse, even better!

For my crew, barking or paying ANY attention to horses is a capital crime. If they so much as bounce towards a horse two hops, they get a bellowing-at like the Wrath of Doom is coming down on their heads. The only acceptable behavior for my guys is to ignore and tolerate horses wherever found. It's been that way through more than 20 years of cowboying, mule packing and farm-visiting.

That's paid off the rare times they've had to filch sheep out from a horse's proximity. ;)

~ Gloria

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No Worries. She's still young and loves to pick up bad habits from my other dogs. My ridgeback is the one who taught her to run the fence line. I had him before I had my farm, and he is true to his breed character and loves to "Bay" large animals per his breeding. He generally ignores the horse but she runs around like a wild mustang when I go to bring her hay. And that's when he would run at the fence. Getting in trouble every time. But, the behavior persists. I guess he can't help his genes. For that reason we fenced in our back yard and he no longer is allowed out when I feed. And of course, Keltie learned that behavior from him. At least SHE responds when I tell her no. Did I mention I'm over puppies? LOL.

 

But now that we have fences and more control of the situation, they've all behaved rather well. I look forward to seeing how she works sheep. I may wait a few more months. She's so sensitive sometimes and not others. I can't really predict how she would behave. Would she sit behind me the whole time not wanting to do anything wrong,or will she go charging around? Borde Collies these days :)

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Heh. I just noticed this question and it's funny because I just finished reading Chaser and how John Pilley teaches her the herding cues on her toys and then later uses them seemingly without issue on sheep. I haven't a clue if it really was that simple for them, but it's an interesting idea.

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I don't have a clue about Chaser and her handler but many a dog can appear to do a good job "herding" when all the dog is really doing is following the commands the handler gives him/her, particularly when the sheep are very dog-broke. I've watched more than one dog that a handler could place, really strictly by obedience, wherever the handler wanted, and the sheep would respond. You'd say it was "herding" but it was just obedience with sheep.

 

It would be interesting to see a video to see just what he's talking about.

 

PS - Polly Matzinger is a good handler who has been known to start her dogs on commands on lawn furniture. Not saying it can't be done but it's certainly not the norm and probably most often not productive.

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I can't remember the details at this point, but Pilley took Chaser for lessons with her breeder, who IIRC is a farmer and uses his dogs with his livestock. I can't remember whether he trials or not, or whether Pilley has trialled with Chaser, though I don't think so.

 

Like I said, I can't claim perfect memory on this, but knowing the care he took to make sure Chaser's learning of words was well documented, double blind, etc. I feel pretty sure Chaser was doing more than ACK style mechanical herding. ;)

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That's good. As I said, I know nothing about this particular dog or handler. Apparently Wayne West was the farmer who produced Chaser, or at least that's how I read the article.

 

We teach things like a recall and a down off stock - both of which are often promptly forgotten when a young dog Is first introduced to livestock. The question is, is it worthwhile to try and teach commands without stock? I think that it's far better to do it on stock rather than with inanimate objects.

 

Again, it would be nice to see this on video where we could see for ourselves.

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All I could really find of it on video are these:


On toys:


On sheep (at around 1:33):


Admittedly the little we do get to see on sheep does not to me seem very impressive, but I certainly don't know enough about herding to be the judge.

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LOL No, it's really not that great. But, as you say, we only see a minute, and I really don't think he's done a lot of training on sheep. It's more just for fun and only occasionally.

 

But at least it's not tame sheep with the dog following the handler like we've seen in some"working breeders'" websites. :rolleyes:

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Ha. That's true - we can say she has the drive, at least. Oh well, there goes the "interesting idea"! Though I get the feeling the video was edited by someone who knew nothing at all about herding, so perhaps there were some better moments that were seen as "not exciting enough". I suppose we'll never know.

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Is it possible to correctly train my dog certain cues used to work animals without sheep?

 

 

 

Staying in line with the OP’s question……

 

Even though we don’t have livestock I still want Jake to remember a couple of commands so a couple of days ago I put Jake on one side of the living room and told him to wait. I walked to the other side, turned to face him and waited a few seconds before saying “Walk Up”. When he took a couple of steps I said “Lie Down”. We did this a couple of time. Am I reinforcing the commands or “ruining” Jake?

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Dear Dogger,

 

You're training a dog to wait, walk to you and lie down on command. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing to do with stockwork.

 

Donald McCaig

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I wouldn't do the "walk-up" in my living room purely because the dog isn't working anything. It's not feeling the bubble of the livestock...unless your dog doesn't have a lot of keenness and you just want an obedient dog out there.

 

Just wanted to add that I personally do work on my lie-downs around here when I'm out and about.

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I agree with Donald McCaig, there is nothing wrong with teaching obedience off sheep. However, in order to manage stock so that they are not stressed, your dog needs to develop a good feel for his sheep/cattle.

 

For me, working stock is about the partnership and trust I have with my dog - It is not about black and white obedience.There are times when a sheep may try to bolt from the others. At these times, I want my dog to know he is allowed to use his instinct and turn her back without waiting for my command even if I had previously asked him to lie down.

 

So although I do some basic obedience eg lie down and recall with my young pup, I mainly do this so that he has good manners around humans and other dogs. Once I have introduced him to sheep and he is starting to balance them to me, I spend hours working close at hand. This way I can encourage him to learn how to adjust the pressure he exerts on the ewes so that his work manner suits the situation.

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My grandfather always used to say that the very last thing anyone needed was an over-obedient sheepdog.

 

I find it's a common misconception - biddability and obedient are not the same thing and I find Border Collies CAN be obedient, but one of their great strengths is that they are biddable instead of obedient. It was once described to me as the difference between telling the dog the objective (bring the sheep to the gate, for example) and having him accept your advice when appropriate and telling the dog how to accomplish it, step by step.

 

It's an interesting discussion.

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Dear Dogger,

 

You're training a dog to wait, walk to you and lie down on command. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing to do with stockwork.

 

Donald McCaig

 

 

What Mr. McCaig said. :) You're teaching him commands and to work with you, which is fine. But adding sheep to the equation will change everything, because you're adding other living things to which he's going to react - regardless of what training you've done at home.

 

Heck, when a young dog really turns on to sheep, sometimes they don't even remember their own names. :P

 

~ Gloria

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