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TheWoman

Herding his people...

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Hi all,

I tried to do a search but nothing concrete came up. Ideas about how to get Dodger to understand that people are not sheep, and that chasing people, barking at their feet and nipping at toes to get us moving is not polite? He mostly does it when he's worked up from playing other games, and people aren't quite as excited as he'd like them to be.

So far, I've just been stopping all play, and walking away. When I have a pup chasing after me as I go, nipping at my heels, I ignore it completely. If it gets intense, I'll give a firm 'NO!' and stop moving completely until he stops. Then I'll carry on to my destination. I'm hoping he'll connect that nipping/barking/herding actually has the opposite effect than intended in people. Not sure if this is the right approach though.

Other than this, he's a fantastic little dog, and has fit right into our family. I want to help him nip (ha!) this behaviour in the bud, before it becomes a habit.

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First of all I'd like to disabuse you of the concept that this is "herding his people." It's not.

It's rude, obnoxious behavior, plain and simple. You don't remind us how old Dodger is (and I'm not inclined to search past posts to find out) but I suspect this is just puppy behavior. If so, continue what you've been doing and be consistent and persistent. I might take it even a step further than you are now and when he follows you biting at your feet pick him up and pop him in his crate or ex-pen for a brief time out.

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Our puppy did this! We got him at 8 weeks, he's 16 weeks now and doesn't really do it anymore.

To start with if he did this we'd just stand completely still which sometimes worked, if he was really frenzied we'd pick him up and put him inside. Trying to walk calmly away just made him more excitable.

Then someone suggested a long toy, we've used an old scarf with a couple of knots in it and when he started on our feet or trouser legs we'd redirect his play onto the scarf. The benefit of the long toy is it keeps his attention low down (so not nipping at hands).

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Agree with above posts. Stop all movement. If he doesn't want to behave once you have started up again, try a timeout in a small room (bath?) by himself or a covered crate.

Do you think he nips more when he is overtired? If so, like a toddler, it may be time for a nap in the crate.

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52 minutes ago, gcv-border said:

Agree with above posts. Stop all movement. If he doesn't want to behave once you have started up again, try a timeout in a small room (bath?) by himself or a covered crate.

Do you think he nips more when he is overtired? If so, like a toddler, it may be time for a nap in the crate.

Ah, I didn't even think of the overtired angle. I was thinking overstimulated, but just like a toddler he does get more obnoxious when he's tired (or has been playing for a while), now that I think of it. Maybe stopping play sessions sooner would solve some of this.

 

1 hour ago, GentleLake said:

First of all I'd like to disabuse you of the concept that this is "herding his people." It's not.

It's rude, obnoxious behavior, plain and simple. You don't remind us how old Dodger is (and I'm not inclined to search past posts to find out) but I suspect his is just puppy behavior. If so, continue what you've been doing and be consistent and persistent. I might take it even a step further than you are now and when he follows you biting at your feet pick him up and pop him in his crate or ex-pen for a brief time out.

Well, yes, it's puppy behaviour (he's 12 weeks), but it's herding dog puppy behaviour. Of all the many dogs I've had in my life, the only ones to do this are the herding dogs. Since it's been nearly 20 years since I've had a herding dog pup, I don't remember what worked in the past.

I'm hesitant to use the crate as a 'time out', since he's already having difficulty adjusting to crated time, and I'd like it to remain a positive experience.

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1 hour ago, jami74 said:

Then someone suggested a long toy, we've used an old scarf with a couple of knots in it and when he started on our feet or trouser legs we'd redirect his play onto the scarf. The benefit of the long toy is it keeps his attention low down (so not nipping at hands).

Yes! We've got a long tug-toy that I use for nipping at fingers (which has been all but eliminated), but I didn't want to reward the heel nipping, because it's not just misdirected nips (like a finger nip), but clear 'get moving in the direction I'm telling you to!' behaviour. I wonder if it would work here too. Thanks!

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18 minutes ago, TheWoman said:

Well, yes, it's puppy behaviour (he's 12 weeks), but it's herding dog puppy behaviour. Of all the many dogs I've had in my life, the only ones to do this are the herding dogs.

Having been active in dog training, other dog related activities and working as a pet sitter for many years (and I'm an Official Old Fart), I have to disagree.

I've seen this with many puppies of breeds completely unrelated and dissimilar to border collies or even other herding breeds and even adult dogs, especially among rug rats (used affectionately ;)).

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8 minutes ago, TheWoman said:

Yes! We've got a long tug-toy that I use for nipping at fingers (which has been all but eliminated), but I didn't want to reward the heel nipping, because it's not just misdirected nips (like a finger nip), but clear 'get moving in the direction I'm telling you to!' behaviour. I wonder if it would work here too. Thanks!

It sometimes feels like a fine line between rewarding a behaviour and redirecting a behaviour. 

For a while we fell into the trap of rewarding sofa chewing by jumping up to play with the puppy every time he did it to distract him away from the unwanted behaviour, but then he started chewing the sofa because he wanted us to play with him. We adapted that one to being very boring and offering him something 'allowed' to chew instead. If he still chews the sofa we assume he's tired and pop him to bed :) 

We've also re-assessed how we play with him. My teenage son, thinking he needed to tire the puppy out, was getting more and more boisterous in his play and the puppy was getting more and more bitey/grabby/jumpy so after a chat he's changed his style of play to much slower/calmer/gentler movements and almost immediately the puppy started being nicer and isn't trying to get attention by jumping and grabbing. The puppy is allowed to drag, growl at and shake his toys around the garden as much as he likes, but we don't play that way.

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Yeah, it's been a struggle to get my kids to play in a calm, productive manner, rather than just getting the pup worked up (like your son). Luckily we worked on it for a couple of months with my parent's newest pup before we brought Dodger home, so we really only had a couple of days of me reminding them that wrestling with a puppy might be cute, but wrestling with a 60lbs adult dog is going to hurt! ;) 

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1 hour ago, GentleLake said:

rug rats

The term I was actually looking for and that my over-tired brain couldn't come up with at the time is ankle biters.

@TheWoman, there's a reason toy/small breeds as a group acquired this nickname and it has nothing to do with herding behavior. :P

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54 minutes ago, GentleLake said:

The term I was actually looking for and that my over-tired brain couldn't come up with at the time is ankle biters.

@TheWoman, there's a reason toy/small breeds as a group acquired this nickname and it has nothing to do with herding behavior. :P

Yes, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the standard puppy ankle biting (which I agree, is DEFINITELY a thing!). I'm talking about the herding behaviour of running after something, barking and nipping at its heels to get it moving. It's accompanied by the border collie stare at the beginning, and is clear herding behaviour. The other is just standard puppy behaviour, and I've no issues training that out (I've been training dogs for 25+ years, and worked in animal care/training in a zoo setting, training animals for shows w the pubic, so my animal psychology background isn't too shabby). I'm talking about the herding instincts kicking in (his parents are both working BCs, and he def has a high drive). My cats have stopped him from doing it to them with a few well placed scratches/swats, but the kids don't have pointy feet! ;)

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2 hours ago, TheWoman said:

Yes, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the standard puppy ankle biting (which I agree, is DEFINITELY a thing!). I'm talking about the herding behaviour of running after something, barking and nipping at its heels to get it moving. It's accompanied by the border collie stare at the beginning, and is clear herding behaviour. The other is just standard puppy behaviour, and I've no issues training that out (I've been training dogs for 25+ years, and worked in animal care/training in a zoo setting, training animals for shows w the pubic, so my animal psychology background isn't too shabby). I'm talking about the herding instincts kicking in (his parents are both working BCs, and he def has a high drive). My cats have stopped him from doing it to them with a few well placed scratches/swats, but the kids don't have pointy feet! ;)

I am coming in to agree with Gentle Lake about this. This is not "herding instincts kicking in". It is simply bad behavior. I am making this distinction because if you view it as herding instincts kicking in, you may not deal with it as effectively. It is always too easy (for all of us) to go more easy on a bad behavior if we think it is just something "instinctual" about the dog's breed; ie, something the dog can't help doing. Having trained a lot of dogs myself, I know that I have seen this exact behavior, including the staring, nipping at heels to get something moving, everything you have described, in pit bulls, greyhounds, hunting dogs, poodles, chihuahuas and other breeds and mixes that haven't an atom of herding breed in them. It is predatory behavior rather than stockwork behavior, and simply needs to be nipped in the bud. It sounds as though you are doing the right things to deal with it, and it will simply take a lot of persistence and absolute consistency on your part to break this behavior.

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"Herding instincts" are really modified (sometimes very highly modified) predatory behaviors (read the Coppingers' book Dogs for a very good take on this, as the Border Collie is one of the several dogs discussed as examples). As such, these puppy behaviors do fall into the category of being rude and obnoxious because they are treating you or your children like "prey". 

As D'Elle points out, by calling it "herding instincts" people are most likely to dismiss the behavior and/or not deal with it because "it's instinct" as if it can't be controlled. It can and should be dealt with because it's not cute and it's not fun - especially not for the person or child who get nipped or harrassed. Once you look at it as rude or obnoxious, it becomes much more easy to approach it as a problem and train and manage to avoid it. And that will not ruin a pup's future as a working dog, if that is your choice, but it will improve it's future as a family dog. 

Best wishes!

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There are some people who can very effectively train with positive reinforcement, no or very liitle correction.  It takes a ton of diligence.  For me I have no problem with an appropriate correction, no matter the age or the behavior.  I see mis behavior as an opportunity presented to me to teach/raise the pup so we can have a great 16 years together.  I see correction as giving the pup very vital information.

Why would you allow SOME nipping, chasing, biting only correcting when it was really bad?  What signal does that send?  You can bite me but not hard?  That's silly.  Crates are great but they do not teach dogs HOW TO ACT appropriately, we do.  The cats have figured it out it seems.  I would say they were very clear on what is acceptable puppy behavior and what is not.  I am fine with redirecting - don't play with that here play with this but some pups are very focused.  Redirecting only goes so far with some.  I would say he needs clearly defined rules.  What is and is not acceptable followed by all humans in contact with him.

Ex if he is not to jump on you then he cant be putting his feet on you when you are sitting down,  If he is not allowed to chase then no running and chasing games with the kids.  Most pups simply need an AH then they look up at you saying "What do you want"  then show him what he is to be doing.  I think make it more complicated than it needs to be.

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Guys, I didn’t say I was accepting this behaviour, or that I was only training w positive reinforcement. Regardless of whether it’s herding behaviour or not, I’m obviously interested in getting rid of it.... that’s why I made this post. No one is excusing it or allowing ANY biting, nipping or chasing. My point was that I firmly believe that the best kind of training addresses the dogs motivation for doing something, thus addressing the underlying behavioural reasons FOR that action, and countering it w something else. I’m not a newbie to dog (or animal) training (I’ve done graduate level research in animal psychology, along w 20+ years of training work), I’m just not a breed-specific expert to herding dogs, who are universally acknowledged to have their own set of challenges for ownership. Heck, that’s why forums like this exist. BC’s are different from labs, or huskies or chihuahuas. Which are different from mice, donkeys, birds or squirrels. They have a high prey drive/chase drive/herding instinct. Call t whatever you want, but that behaviour is what I’m seeing manifest, and what I want to stop while he’s a pup, and not when he’s a 60lbs adult  

I asked the question because you all have years of experience w this breed, and I was hoping someone had breed specific advice. I don’t need to be convinced that it needs to be addressed, I was hoping for concrete tips on what’s worked for others to determine if I’m on the right track. 

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3 hours ago, Sue R said:

"Herding instincts" are really modified (sometimes very highly modified) predatory behaviors (read the Coppingers' book Dogs for a very good take on this, as the Border Collie is one of the several dogs discussed as examples).

@Sue R. Is this the book that you refer to?  Thank you for the recommendation.

 

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2 hours ago, TheWoman said:

 

I asked the question because you all have years of experience w this breed, and I was hoping someone had breed specific advice. I don’t need to be convinced that it needs to be addressed, I was hoping for concrete tips on what’s worked for others to determine if I’m on the right track. 

Since most of us seem to be in agreement that it is rude, puppy behavior (and not some sort of specific, mis-placed adolescent herding behavior), just treat it as such. For me, the only BC-specific advice is that often BCs can be soft dogs (but some are very hard-headed). So I prefer to start with a less confrontational approach (softer voice, positive reinforcement, treats) to see if it has any effect, before I ramp up (loud voice, body pressure).

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(I wish I had access to that animated emoji one of our members used to use -- the one with the emoji character banging its head on a brick wall.)

@TheWoman, what you seem not to be willing to acknowledge or accept is that this is dog behavior, not border collie behavior. Nothing your pup is doing is unique to border collies.

I've been volunteering for a border collie specific rescue for 10 years. Prior to that I was a vendor of border collie items at sheepdog trials and tons of people would ask me questions about border collies when they felt too intimidated to approach the trialists. (I raised sheep and worked dogs, but never felt the urge -- or more likely, the confidence -- to compete.) I can't tell you how often people asked for recommendations for trainers who specialize in border collies or for border collie specific training methods for everyday manners or behavioral challenges. These questions come in to the rescue's email and FB pages all. the. time.

The thing is, border collies are dogs, just like other dogs. With the possible exception of greater intensity and predisposition for CCD-like behaviors than many, almost all of their behaviors are rooted in generic dog behavior and can be trained and dealt with in the same ways that you'd approach them in any breed or mix. The only time someone would need a border collie specific approach would be when training border collie specific behaviors as they apply to working livestock, which is based on a specifically selected set of behaviors useful for managing livestock.

Several months ago, before you joined the Boards, there was a thread regarding what constitutes "herding" behavior. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it now, but one person's definition really stood out to me and I hope I can paraphrase it adequately. True herding involves not only the dog but also a group of other animals to be moved with purposeful intent. And, IIRC but this part I'm not so sure about, with the dog working in concert with a human handler and under his or her direction. I hope the person who wrote it reads this and can fill us in; I'm butchering it badly.

As you've said, you have plenty of experience with other types of dogs. Use it and you'll be fine.

Anyway, you've been told this already, but it bears repeating. . . .

This is not a border collie specific problem or behavior. There is no border collie specific approach.

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2 hours ago, Caesg said:

@Sue R. Is this the book that you refer to?  Thank you for the recommendation.

 

Yes. It's a good book, period, but one thing that I find makes it particularly valuable to me is that one of the breeds that specifically reference is the Border Collie. 

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26 minutes ago, GentleLake said:

This is not a border collie specific problem or behavior. There is no border collie specific approach.

This is the point that I think everyone has been trying to make. It isn't "herding" and it isn't just "a Border Collie thing" but it is a puppy/dog thing and simply needs to be viewed as such and worked with as such. No one's been trying to put the OP down but to get this very basic, fundamental point across because, as we view the dogs, it colors how we respond to their behaviors - therefore, we need to view them as dogs, a certain kind of dog, but basically dogs. 

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38 minutes ago, GentleLake said:

 

Several months ago, before you joined the Boards, there was a thread regarding what constitutes "herding" behavior. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it now, but one person's definition really stood out to me and I hope I can paraphrase it adequately. True herding involves not only the dog but also a group of other animals to be moved with purposeful intent. And, IIRC but this part I'm not so sure about, with the dog working in concert with a human handler and under his or her direction. I hope the person who wrote it reads this and can fill us in; I'm butchering it badly.

 

Gentle Lake, I'm not the one who came up with that precise wording. My way of thinking about it, and what fascinates me, is that herding work is a rare thing. It's 3 very different species communicating, with the canid doing most of the 'translating'. 

We're all mammals, there's that. Humans are primates, dogs are canids, and sheep are bovidae, if I remember high school biology correctly. 

Are there other examples of three way communication between very different beings that I'm missing?

Ruth & Gibbs

 

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1 hour ago, Sue R said:

This is the point that I think everyone has been trying to make. It isn't "herding" and it isn't just "a Border Collie thing" but it is a puppy/dog thing and simply needs to be viewed as such and worked with as such. No one's been trying to put the OP down but to get this very basic, fundamental point across because, as we view the dogs, it colors how we respond to their behaviors - therefore, we need to view them as dogs, a certain kind of dog, but basically dogs. 

Ok, I think the bolded statement (my emphasis) makes my point. Thanks for your thoughts all, but I think we just have a fundamental difference in how we view dogs. I'll respectfully bow out of your forum because I just really don't agree with the apparent majority perspective here. Different breeds have different needs (resultant from generations and generations of selective breeding and genetics), and I choose to train with that in mind. Of course Border Collies have BC specific needs. The same as huskies have husky specific needs, and labs have lab specific needs, etc. A BC pup is very different in how it views the world from a lab puppy, and so my training will necessarily also be different. You all might feel that this is a universal 'puppy' trait, but how it manifests is breed (or type) dependant, in my opinion. I can promise you, how this BC pup behaves is dramatically different than how a working sled dog pup behaves, because they are selectively bred to have different characters. Yes they are both dogs, and might both have similar 'dog' behaviours, but the why and the how of those behaviours is quite different. If I want a happy, well adjusted adult dog, understanding that 'why' is critical, IMO.

Over the years I've had 20+ dogs come through my life (and my pack has been upwards of 5-6 dogs at any given time), not to mention my professional life, wherein I've seen dozens more (with many other species to boot). I just see dogs in a fundamentally different way, I guess, and that's ok. I'll look for a community that better suits this perspective.

All the best.

 

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I'm sure I'm only speaking to the choir here and not to the OP because she says shes gone, but . . .

I'm always dumbfounded by newcomers to border collies who come to these Boards because they [say they] want to hear from people who know the breed, and then are unable to concede that we might know what we're talking about. :rolleyes:

Btw, @TheWoman should you actually come back to read responses, many of us have had as many (or more dogs) in our lifetimes and as many (or more) at one time as you have, and much, even most of that experience with border collies. But you who have only weeks of experience with the breed know more about them. :blink:

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