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Puppy wants to herd everything he sees.

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Hi Everyone,

I have a 6 month old BC that I want to start training to herd and I will shortly. My problem is he wants to herd every animal he sees. We have a lot of ducks and birds by us and every time he sees them he starts trying to herd them. I think it's amazing and I want to start him on sheep soon but I don't know what to do when he starts doing this. I don't want to discourage him and tell him no but it's also hard when he focuses on every critter he sees. I usually can distract him away with a toy but I'm not sure what the right thing to do is as I don't want to kill his drive. 

Any advice? Thank you.

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First of all, when you say your dog tries to "herd" ducks and other birds, what is he actually doing? If he's just chasing them, that isn't herding.  That's just chasing.  Herding involves controlling where the stock moves and at what rate of speed it moves (other than moving away from the dog as fast as it can).   Dogs can actually truly herd poultry, so it's not inconceivable to me that your pup is attempting true herding behavior, as opposed to allegedly "herding" cats, cars, bicycles, people, and all the other things that owners think are being "herded" when they are really just being chased and harassed.  This misconception about herding comes up a lot on these boards, so please don't be offended that some of us get a bit strident about the distinction. 

Anyhoo, if your dog is just chasing animals, don't let him do it.  I assure you, people who actually work livestock with their dogs, don't allow their dog to chase bicycles, chickens, children....  Don't rain down fire and brimstone on your dog for chasing, but prevent it as best you can, and when you slip up and he takes off after a bird or some other animal,  your strategy of distracting him with a toy, and redirecting him to an appropriate activity is exactly what you should be doing.  And don't worry that this will discourage him from actually working livestock appropriately when the time comes.  I have free ranging domestic ducks and sometimes chickens and sometimes turkeys and every pup I've ever had has initially chased them if given the opportunity.  When I start teaching them to work stock, I do indeed use the dog to help me move ducks and turkeys around in a controlled fashion.  Interestingly, once my dogs have learned how to appropriately move poultry they lose interest in chasing them.  The only time I've ever had a poultry caught and killed by one of my dogs was by a dog who was absolutely worthless as a stockdog (he had other endearing qualities, but talent with livestock management wasn't one of them). 

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Thank you for your response - I take no offense, I'm here to learn :) . I don't know what else to call it but I'll include a video, he becomes real focused and serious. This is a bird about 40-50 yards away. If there are a bunch of ducks he'll do the same thing but lay down when they stop moving. I called him off and he stopped but I think this is herding behavior. I will continue to keep redirecting him and hope that he turns out good. Let me know your thoughts on the video.

 

Here's the link to the clip

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It's a little hard to interpret what your dog is doing in the video because I can't see what the birds are doing and how they are reacting to your dog's approach.  But it looks to me like he's showing a little bit of "eye" as he approaches the birds.  "Eye" refers to the sort of stalking behavior that border collies exhibit as they approach livestock, and their use of their intense stare to control how and where livestock moves. Border collies vary in how much eye they show when working livestock, and handlers vary in their preference for intense "strong eyed" dogs vs "loose eyed" dogs that show a much less extreme stalking approach.   And "eye" is only one of many components of working livestock. 

Anyhoo, back to your original question...  What your dog is doing is showing a component of herding behavior.   If it's interfering with you taking your dog for a walk, distract and redirect him, as you have been doing.  That won't discourage him from using that tool appropriately if/when he's actually working livestock.   I hope you get the opportunity to work with someone who can introduce you and your dog to working livestock if you are interested.  It can be an endlessly fascinating activity if you and your dog have an aptitude for it.

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Thank you. He definitely shows eye when approaching them. I will continue to redirect this behavior when it isn't proper to do. I actually have a herding instinct test/introduction with some very well broken sheep next week so I am definitely looking forward to it!

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If your Border Collie wants to herd something (ducks, birds, horses, children, even sheep if you are not asking it to herd sheep at the time), then you need to teach it not to herd anything unless you tell it to herd.

That sounds obvious, and easy, but it's neither. Border Collies instinctively will try to control anything that moves. In the beginning this is just chase behavior. With training, it becomes herding. If left alone, it results in undesirable behavior. Things you don't want herded (birds, ducks at the park, deer, children) end up getting bitten because the dog can't control them. Dogs who try to herd horses get injured when the horse stomps or kicks them (or the horse/rider gets injured). Sheep get run into fences or bitten or chased.

Keep the dog leashed around other animals. Teach a recall (here) and a "leave it" command (I use "leave it") to teach them to ignore what ever it is they want to engage with. 

A good dog obedience club in your area is the best way to learn how to do this if you aren't familiar with dog training methods.

It takes work but even the best sheep herding dogs are actually trained not to work livestock unless given permission to (yes they will try to cheat but they can be called off). It's an important skill for herding dogs to learn and those who don't are generally a nuisance.

Even trained dogs are not allowed around livestock or wildlife unattended and off leash. Young working Border Collies are always kept on leash until the handler is certain that they can be called off stock reliably.

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12 hours ago, Pearse said:

Even trained dogs are not allowed around livestock or wildlife unattended and off leash. Young working Border Collies are always kept on leash until the handler is certain that they can be called off stock reliably.

Any Scottish shepherd will tell you that the worst dog for worrying sheep is a border collie left to its own devices.

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Yes.  

What everyone has said.  Don't allow random chasing. 

 

This guy is only a little more than half BC, but he's also ACD so he's not exactly disinclined to chase and. 

 

It can be done.  Really.  Prevent self-rewarding via chasing/worrying things, and build value and understanding that the goal is working with YOU.  It will pay off in the long run. (Those stupid geese followed us around hoping for food.   They're annoying but pretty easy going for freaking geese, as long as there isnt' food and there are no nests, so.  We got on with it).

 

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Thank you everyone. He had his first herding lesson/instinct test and loved it, slept like a baby for hours after it, he's a little young still but we are going to start back up when he's 10/11 months and can take some more pressure. I spoke to the instructor there too and she was suggesting what everyone else has been. I have just been telling him to leave it or down and he will pretty reliably. I don't try to recall him yet off anything because I'm not 100% sure he will come but we're working on it. When we take him for walks people always tell me about the crazy border collie at the dog park trying to herd all the other dogs, I don't want him to be that dog.

I'm pretty confident with obedience training but not so much on stockdog training so I've been reading a lot and have a subscription to the workingsheepdog lessons. 

When we hike or what not he is always leashed or dragging a long line so I have control. Just this morning he saw a bunny run across the trail, thought about it but left it when I told him to leave it so he's making progress. 

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15 hours ago, CptJack said:

 

It can be done.  Really.  Prevent self-rewarding via chasing/worrying things, and build value and understanding that the goal is working with YOU.  It will pay off in the long run. (Those stupid geese followed us around hoping for food.   They're annoying but pretty easy going for freaking geese, as long as there isnt' food and there are no nests, so.  We got on with it).

 

Totally off any type of dog topic at all, but I accidentally right clicked on the video and up came a little window with several bits of information that mean nothing to me. However, the very last item read, "Stats for nerds". had to share that with you all. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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5 hours ago, urge to herd said:

Totally off any type of dog topic at all, but I accidentally right clicked on the video and up came a little window with several bits of information that mean nothing to me. However, the very last item read, "Stats for nerds". had to share that with you all. 

Ruth & Gibbs

That is hysterical and I love it and thank you.

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