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Flora & Molly

Molly's first time on sheep

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Yesterday I took Molly to her first training session on sheep, she is three years old. I didn't know what to expect. She was trained to ignore animals and I thought she might need some coaxing before she realised that she could work the sheep. 
Boy was I wrong. I saw a completely different dog yesterday. I was in awe. As a pet dog she can be a bit insecure, but that all washed away the moment I said she could go. Confidence, purpose, it was lovely. Clearly she shares my dream of becoming a sheep farmer. 

Molly is very ready, I still have a lot to learn to guide her. My teachers make it seem so easy, but I kept spinning in circles and tripping over my own feet, pointing the wrong way. Molly didn't mind :) 
So, I want to do my homework and I am watching a lot of stockwork videos, but I would love to find a good book to read. Do any of you have some good recommendations on what book(s) to buy?

I have another question regarding barking. Molly has been quite a vocal dog since birth. Not only barking, but she makes her feelings known through all kinds of noises. We taught her not to bark at inapproriate times, but she would give the occasional happy bark during bike rides. She barked a lot this first training session. At first I think it was excitement, then she figured out that she could get the sheep to move using her bark. I was a bit embarrased, but my trainer said some farmers look for dogs that have some bark. As this was Molly's first time I didn't worry about it too much. But it made me wonder about what other people think about barking. Is it good, bad, matter of opinion? Is it undesirable and why? 
I'm curious because I think I read somewhere that Border collies shouldn't bark at sheep. Then again, I read different things about the amount of "eye" a dog should have. So I am really curious what more knowledable people have to say about this, as I am a complete beginner.

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I would recommend "Herding dogs, progressive training" by the late Vergil S. Holland. A very practical guide to training a stockdog. It doesn't assume any knowledge from the reader, it takes you through all the stages of the proces in a structured manner. Lots of exercises, and practical advice, no "fluff". It is very much focussed on bordercollies, and their style of working.

I wouldn't worry too much about your dog barking at this stage, I think it is most likely, as you say yourself, the excitement of this new experience.

Good luck with your training, and yeah, there will be sheep in your future....:lol:

We zouden dit gesprek overigens ook in het nederlands kunnen voeren, maar wellicht wat onbeleefd voor internationale meelezers, ;)

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I'm not familiar with any of the newer books, but I liked A Way of Life: Sheepdog Training and Trialing by H. Glyn Jones with Barbara C. Collins.

Have fun with Molly.

 

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Vergil Holland’s book is great.

I also really like the way “Lessons From a Stockdog: A Training Guide” by Bruce Fogt is organized. The diagrams illustrating tasks are a great help as well.

Mr. Fogt’s book is divided into chapters such as “Balance”, “The Outrun” and even “Learning to Walk Backwards” for clumsy newbies like me. The explanations under the chapter headings are clear and accompanied by real life examples and scenarios.

This is not a thick book; it is succinct (with elaborations) and well written. The book takes you from beginning training and on to all the things I couldn’t begin to try (shedding!) at this point. I highly recommend it!

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Sounds a bit silly terrecar, but I think you should just try shedding. I am no "crack" by any stretch of the imagination, but my experience was that some of those "advanced" tasks like shedding and penning may turn out to be less daunting than you think, if you actually just give it a go. In my personal experience this happened with penning, and my first real stockdog  Gláma ( fine worker but not brilliant, bless her, and with the bonus disadvantage of being trained by a newbie). I imagined that penning would be really difficult, turned out she was quite good at it and getting it down was a lot easier than expected ( not really sure who taught who though...;))

 

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@Smalahundur Watching Aled Owen demonstrate the shed with a student and her dog recently was interesting. Seconds before the sheep parted like the Red Sea without either group bolting, I tried hard to perceive the movements that would produce that result. The only question I could think of was, “What just happened?” I kept my mouth shut. :lol:

ETA: So you’re right. I am not going to get it until I try it (under tutelage, of course).

To the OP, I have not taken my Hannah (Aussie/Border Collie mix) to livestock, but we did live on some property with goats for awhile. While she started out barking at them (they were in a large pen), she quickly lost that response once she became more accustomed to them. This might also happen with Molly, although the situation is different.

 

 

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I agree with Smalahundur. In real stock work there's not always a linear progression with what tasks you need to accomplish and you just have to take them as they come. The way my pasture and barn were set up I had to shed before I ever needed to pen. My dogs needed to learn a look back before they really needed to drive. I needed my dogs to hold sheep in place long before I needed them to negotiate sheep between gates.

It's not always practical to learn according to a specific progression of tasks, and not everyone has the luxury(?) of learning or teaching their dogs in such an idealized and artificial instructional setting. ;)

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On 12/3/2018 at 11:08 AM, GentleLake said:

It's not always practical to learn according to a specific progression of tasks, and not everyone has the luxury(?) of learning or teaching their dogs in such an idealized and artificial instructional setting. ;)

[ETA: Reading this thread over again, I have to apologize to GentleLake (and the board) for interpreting the last line of her post negatively. I am rarely unkind (I even fretted after posting an insensitive comment about a duplicate post, recently). Thanks, Julie, for helping me see this in a different light.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is such a bizarre comment in a thread about taking a dog to sheep with a trainer, that one has to wonder at the point of it— particularly in light of the fact that it follows a rabbit-trail away from the OP’s specific circumstances.

I get and appreciate your comment , Smalahundur. Shedding (though not penning) seems daunting to me, but that is likely because I’m viewing it in the abstract before attempting it.

Regarding the quote above, I would like to point out one thing (and this is for fellow novices). The verifiably competent folks on these boards speak often of the importance of finding a good trainer/mentor and, if possible, attending sheepdog trials. For those who don’t yet have sheep, these settings are probably the best way to network and learn; and I dare say they have been the way forward for many on this board.

However, books can be very helpful, especially for an issue that you might not be able to think through while on a training field where things can move so fast. Your trainer, not being a mind reader, might not pick up on the origin of your problem. 

Mr. Fogt’s book addresses a problem I had with beginning to drive; my dog would flank around toward the sheep’s heads-even while I thought I was positioned correctly-because I was not effectively communicating what I wanted. My dog was not wrong to anticipate a walk-about. I was inept at getting her to switch gears. Down time reflecting on a lesson and reading about the specific task can be helpful for the next time you attempt it.

Clinics and trials are especially helpful. I wish I had the opportunity to attend more, because they are usually held at farms (and I haven’t seen an idealized and artificial one yet) where there will be people who can steer you in the right direction. For example, I found someone at a clinic who trials at the open level; someone who offers training and would be better suited for me to continue learning Border Collie handling. The trainer I use is suitable for my level and helpful in providing an opportunity to learn sheep (including a much valued opportunity to be present at Ivermectin dosing and hoof trimming). However, she has Aussies. I never would have known about the Border Collie person had I not attended a clinic.

To the OP: I am glad you found someone to help you. I hope you learn a lot and have a wonderful time doing so! 

 

 

 

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On 12/2/2018 at 5:45 AM, Flora & Molly said:

I have another question regarding barking. Molly has been quite a vocal dog since birth. Not only barking, but she makes her feelings known through all kinds of noises. We taught her not to bark at inapproriate times, but she would give the occasional happy bark during bike rides. She barked a lot this first training session. >>But it made me wonder about what other people think about barking. Is it good, bad, matter of opinion? Is it undesirable and why? 
I'm curious because I think I read somewhere that Border collies shouldn't bark at sheep. Then again, I read different things about the amount of "eye" a dog should have. So I am really curious what more knowledable people have to say about this, as I am a complete beginner.<<

Hello, @Flora & Molly:

I also have a BC who does his share of barking, and was concerned about how that would interfere with his effect on sheep and training. Took him to a Jack Knox clinic, and asked this question of him. With tongue in cheek, he replied that in earlier years of Scottish shepherds, it was not uncommon there would be some pilfering of the neighbor’s flock- and a barking dog could not go stealthily into the night to steal them away :rolleyes: 

I’ve had the book/workbook “Stockdog Savvy” by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor recommended to me by another forum member. You might take a look at that.

Best of luck!

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Thank you all for your kind replies! (En dankjewel Smalahundur, het blijft gek om ineens Nederlands te lezen waar je het niet verwacht!)

I have ordered Vergil S. Holland's book to start with and hope to receive some others you suggested for christmas (when it comes to books I can never have enough, especially about dogs).

I have been on a high all week and can't wait until it's Saturday again. I'm sure Molly feels the same way. 

On 12/4/2018 at 3:01 PM, Ranchhand said:

I also have a BC who does his share of barking, and was concerned about how that would interfere with his effect on sheep and training. Took him to a Jack Knox clinic, and asked this question of him. With tongue in cheek, he replied that in earlier years of Scottish shepherds, it was not uncommon there would be some pilfering of the neighbor’s flock- and a barking dog could not go stealthily into the night to steal them away :rolleyes: 

Darn, there goes my sheep stealing career... :P guess that'll be a great excuse to buy another BC just for that purpose. Or maybe two just to be safe. And then maybe some sheep of my own so nobody will notice... 

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I'm not sure why anyone was offended by GentleLake's comments: they are, in fact, true and do follow on from Edze's (I hope I got that right) comments about just trying the shed. In an ideal world we would train our stockdogs in a progression of steps and for the novice, stepwise training certainly makes the most sense from a human learning standpoint. I think most everyone who trains a stock dog has an idea about the normal progression of training. But when I give lessons, I try to encourage my students--once they understand the basics--to be open to opportunities as they present themselves because a lot of learning/training can happen in those moments. So if you're working a large group and a big hole naturally opens up, why not call the dog through, even if it's not at the "stage" where you'd be teaching a shed? I think all GentleLake was trying to say was that many people train in the moment, adjusting to what's happening in front of them, and Flora (?, not sure if that's your name) will eventually get to that point too.

 

Flora & Molly,

Barking is not unusual the first time (or first few times) a young dog is put on stock. I personally don't like it, but I won't correct it unless it's excessive and is because the dog is losing its head rather than thinking about working. They are trying to figure out what to do to move and control the stock and that's one of the tools they try. Excitement certainly plays into it. There are breeds where a "force bark" is said to be an asset, but no one typically says that of border collies. That said, I wouldn't worry about it right now--see if she settles in a few sessions. If it continues overlong (like throughout many training sessions), then I'd probably start correcting her (verbally) because by then it would say to me that her head wasn't in the right place. Of course this is a generalization having not seen Molly, but your trainer should be able to judge Molly's state of mind and deal with the barking appropriately if it becomes necessary.

 

J.

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I wasn’t at all offended by GL’s first paragraph. I’ll leave it at that.

I do hope the OP gets something beneficial out of the discussion re: progression of training though. I am personally a linear thinker, so I do best by learning tasks in that manner. Not everyone has the same learning style [ETA: which granted, might be a limitation.]

However, that isn’t the entire reason I find shedding intimidating. It has more to do with a fear that the sheep, once separated, will bolt and things will fall apart.

Flora & Molly, don’t let my own anxiety about shedding rub off on you. As long as you are working with a competent trainer, you are fine. As Smalahunder suggested, sometimes a task that seems daunting turns out not to be so when you actually do it. That one just happens to be daunting in my own mind.

As far as the barking is concerned, you have gotten some good advice. Enjoy the journey!

 

ETA2: Perhaps one of the pieces of the shedding puzzle I am missing is that it should probably be attempted after the sheep are settled.

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