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Flora & Molly

Lie down, lie down, lie down

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I have had about five training sessions with Molly now.

We had a sessions that wasn't so great and she didn't understand what we were doing at all. We had a different trainer that time, which made me unsure which probably made her even more so.
Luckily we overcame this and are back on track, trained with the previous trainer again and we are heading in the right direction, slowly starting with the "come bye" and "away" commands.

However, I feel every session is just me saying "lie down, lie down, lie down, lie down". Molly doesn't want to. My trainer assures me she has seen way worse. But I am a bit worried. I don't want to put her off working sheep. I am not sure if I'm doing the right thing.
It is mostly when the sheep are between me and the dog and I am walking backwards. I ask for a lie down and Molly just wants to come to me. I feel like I should enforce the lie down if I ask for it and she doesn't do it. Sometimes I stomp my foot, or move towards her and sometimes I ask a couple of times. I read in Virgil Holland's book that if I ask for a lie down the dog should lie down. But in a training video I watched I saw a trainer asking for a lie down and ignore it when the dog didn't comply and ask again a bit later.
So during training I am sort of doing both because I have no clue what I should be doing. Probably not the best thing to do.

She is much better when I ask her to fetch the sheep. As soon as she has the sheep moving towards me I ask for a lie down and she does that a lot quicker (Might have to ask twice). Is this easier because I ask her when she reaches balance? I try to ask at the right moments when she is driving, but still she wants to come to me. It feels like she is too focused on me and not on the sheep, but my trainer says she is still keeping an eye on the sheep. Or perhaps it is easier because I am standing still when she fetches?

I have bought a shepherd's crook, because this was mentioned in Virgil Holland's book (and because I am a huge nerd and like to have the proper things so it feels like I am one step closer to being an actual shepherd/sheep farmer). I haven't trained with it yet. 

Any thoughts?

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Hi Flora, 

I suggest that you work on Molly's "lie down" away from sheep.  Here's something that you can try....make it a bit of a game.  Your goal will be to get an immediate response from Molly the first time you say "lie down".  Walk around your yard with Molly, and have a toy that she likes (and one that you can easily throw to her) to reward her when she responds.  Quietly say "lie down" (once).  If she complies, toss the toy and praise her.  If she doesn't respond, keep walking, but show her that you have her favorite toy.  Say "lie down" again (once),  and if she makes any attempt to lie down, immediately reward her.  Take the toy back and start the game again.  Try to get her to lie down when asked at good distance away from you. but don't let her come to you before lying down (ignore her if she does and keep walking).   Also, when you ask her to lie down, stand up tall and don't give hand signals.  She needs to comply immediately and happily, and this should transfer to her compliance when working sheep.  

Also, if I am interpreting your description of your training sessions correctly, it sounds as if your trainer is using the "stop and go" method (repeated lie downs) when Molly is wearing the sheep ("wearing" the sheep is when you are walking backwards with the sheep between you and your dog).  Why is your trainer telling you to stop her so often?  Is Molly too close to the sheep?  or is she moving too quickly?  If so, she needs to be mildly corrected/scolded for being too close or too fast, instead of taking her off her feet.  This method is basically "obedience on sheep" rather than having Molly understand that she is too close or too fast.   The corrections do not need to be harsh, you simply want to convey to Molly that she shouldn't be too close or too fast.  Molly will probably be a lot happier when working, if she isn't asked to lie down so often .  

Best wishes to you and Molly,

nancy

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Thank you for your advice Nancy! I started the lie down training straightaway. She has become slower to respond away from sheep as well, so this is a great way to practice and make things fun again (for me as well!).

And yes when wearing the sheep (forgot it was called that :) ) she moves too fast and is too close to the sheep. Molly is really intense with everything she does and wants to do everything fast. It is difficult to slow her down sometimes. She has quite an effect on the sheep and has to stay quite far away, or quite far in my novice eyes anyway, so the sheep don't overtake me and I have to run backwards. I find it very difficult to keep up with them. It makes sense to mildly correct her instead, I already had a feeling she didn't know what I wanted from her. I was taking all the fun out of it for both of us, very different from the fetch which feels right and it feels like we are making progress.

We have another training session tomorrow. I am looking forward to putting things into practice. Thanks again!

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I think you are going through a rather common proces as a starting handler; why does  lie down not always mean lie down? You see that with fully trained dogs handlers don't always reinforce the down, a standing stop or even just a slowing down can be satisfactory. Sometimes that is just what is needed depending on the situation, the sheep, the dog etc those different versions can all be fine. You don't want a robot, you want a dog that also thinks for himself, and that means (sometimes) allowing him to know better than to blindly obey you. Often he does!

That said, personally, in the beginning of the training of a young dog I do demand and enforce a literal down when I ask for it. On the balace point to begin with to make it "easy" for the dog, more likely than not he will tend to spontaneous drop there. Also I try at that stage to avoid asking for a down when it is very unlikely an excited young  dog will take that command.

To be able to release control over the dog you first have to have it I think.

As so often "it depends"....Not easy, good luck (and fun!) with your training.

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I'll introduce a bit of 'heresy' here, perhaps. I've had many dogs over the years, some quite intense (like the 2 yo I'm currently working with) who hate to lie down. I'm not a great fan of the 'on your belly' down either because I feel it takes away the dog's power.  So, I train a standing stop.  As with any learned command, you have to try to be 100% consistent with enforcement at the beginning, and I admit that it's way easier for a dog to cheat a standing stop than a belly lie down - but that's your problem, not the dog's.  Just be consistent, and as soon as you get the four-foot stop, release the dog with either a flank or a walk up as the reward.  Immediate release/reward will help the dog understand that stopping is a good thing, not a bad thing.  You can also work on this off stock, as Nancy outlined above with the lie down, but just get the standing stop instead.  I found that with my keen, hate-to-lie-down dogs, trying to get that hard down was a battle not worth fighting, and I and my dogs have been happier (and more successful) since I abandoned it long ago.

Good luck, have fun, and enjoy the journey!

Amy

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Thanks for your input Amy ("heresy"?  not at all!).    As you mentioned, when a dog is lying down, that takes away their power.  In Molly's case, it sounds like it is also taking her off contact with the sheep, as well..  I'm sure that Molly would be far happier if she is allowed to remain on her feet more. 

nancy

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It has made a huge difference during training today. Didn't ask for a down as much which has made a huge difference in her attitude. Tried a couple of standing stops, as she knows this away from sheep, but she still finds that difficult. A couple of times she went into a down after a succesful stop and stand.  I think I will alternate a bit to keep it fun for her.

For most of the downs I asked she would comply almost immediately. I clearly was holding her back and confusing her last time. I'm glad I found out quickly.
The shepherd's crook was an immense help as well. It made it a lot easier for me to help Molly understand what I wanted from her. I noticed she is quite sensitive and really wants to understand and do the right thing. She will start sniffing around and eating sheep poop when I am asking too much or the session is too long. I realised she tends to do this when we play fetch as well, she pretends she can't find the ball to signal it has been enough. I'm getting better at reading her.

I feel like we made a lot of progress. Especially me, this is so different from obedience training. I absolutely love it. 
I think I was maybe the one that started insisting on all those lie downs and the trainer let me fumble about a bit. There was a lot more talking involved today which was really good for me. Very different session because I approached it differently. Definitely doesn't only exercise Molly's brain, but mine as well!  

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This is fantastic! It sounds like you are applying what you’re learning from the experienced folks as well as reading your dog and being sensitive to what she is telling you. I love reading these sorts of posts.

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Thanks for your report of today's session, Flora, and it's great that both you and Molly are enjoying training more.  Keep up the good work!

nancy

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