new working dog wanna be

For discussion of the training and use of sheepdogs on the farm or ranch. Please try to avoid discussion of training for trials or other competition; there are plenty of other groups for that purpose.
denice
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new working dog wanna be

Postby denice » Fri Mar 31, 2017 3:22 pm

I have been using Border Collies to assist me in managing my flock for 17 years. I have worked both cattle and sheep with dogs, mostly sheep. Learned a ton in that time. There are days I am still reminded I have more to learn but more often than not heading to the pasture with a couple dogs is a very pleasant experience. I love it all - sheep, good dogs, training the young ones, working with the experienced dogs that read my mind...

I have learned working bcs is not about obedience, it is a combination of great genetics and awesome relationship that makes it look effortless. In reality LOTs of work goes into the training and building that trust and confidence in each other. I enjoy dogs so even when we are not working or training they are with me inside and out. I feel this only adds to our relationship. I feel it is working and being with their person that is the most important things to them.

My problem is in trying to get across to livestock owners just how complicated, how many small details are involved in training and learning to work the dogs. All the things matter to them - tone, position, gestures, intent... it is not simple like just asking a dog to sit. People seem to assume buying a bc is the END POINT, They just need to take the dog to stock when there is work to do and the dog will do it then go back to the kennel or yard. They do not consider the training that it will take FOR THEM to learn how to use a bc or time daily for simple activity and building that relationship. Some are willing to spend the money for an older trained dog but when I tell them that is only part of the solution I do not think they believe me. They still seem to expect to treat the dog like a tractor, put it in the kennel get it out when needed.

I have been around plenty bc to have experience with those that spend the majority of their time alone and confined - they develop odd behaviors at best. Livestock folks often have full time jobs off the farm, family ect does a working bc really fit into that lifestyle? I can always tell spring is here when I get calls from people weekly about working dog and using a dog for their stock. I would not be without one but I have a hard time selling one ( or helping them find a dog) to those who say they are so busy, have 2 full time jobs, have full time job and 3 young kids and the dog will be in a kennel....

As I type my 5 mo old is zooming around the house with a toy playing with himself after being in the yard playing for hours. This of course is after I have taken 3 shoes, and a sock and paper towel from him. Right choices are tough to make:) He would go crazy confined all day and night.

This is rather long winded way of asking how do you convince people of the commitment of time and training and money involved in having a good working bc, even After one is purchased?

high plainsman
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby high plainsman » Sat Apr 01, 2017 11:37 am

It would be a challenge to convince those people with that type of situation of what it requires to get a dog to the point of being really good, and then to keep the dog at that level. They would need to understand the character of the BCs and their workaholic personality.

Probably the best way would to be able to show them a great dog working, and then one that hadn't had the commitment of the handler to do it right.

I regard it as something akin to doing maintenance on equipment. If you don't keep up on it, it will not perform to the expected standard.

Tomas
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby Tomas » Sun Apr 02, 2017 1:14 pm

I do not know what the answer is. I see the same indifference to training/learning where I live, and have similar feelings about absence of concern.

Eastern Washington (Go Zags!), IMO, is chiefly cattle and wheat country...potatoes as well. Sheep producers, with few exceptions, have small flocks. We have highly qualified dog handlers/instructors who do well at the Finals every year, but they are spread thinly throughout vast square miles of farms/ranches on the Palouse, in the Basin and mountains.

As has been mentioned, ranchers who have decided to acquire/use herding dogs (many have not) frequently do not have motivation to improve the dogs' and handler skills. I do not know how to change that mindset. If/when an untrained dog does not work-out for them, it becomes just a pet, or pickup bed companion. Many of the dogs I see working stock are, in my estimation, under-utilized. Sometimes too little is expected of them.

Among several factors that prevent busy ranchers from getting training for both themselves and their dogs is simply time and distance. They believe they do not have time to devote to driving hours one-way, several sessions per month, to attend training/clinics, and to have an instructor come to them is thought to be prohibitively expensive. Qualified ranch workers who have learned/practiced their handling skills in the feedlots, lambing sheds, and fields/hills (augmented with books/videos/clinics) often unjustifiably do not believe they have ability to help get other's dogs started along the way to becoming strong stockdogs, and they are not encouraged to do so.

Dog owners (and potential handlers) do not seem to understand that, when it comes to training, the benefit-effort ratio is tipped heavily in favor of benefit.

Perhaps USBCHA and ABCA, as organizations, could try to get the word out. Personally, I do not think slick advertising campaigns would work. Speakers at farm halls and fairs, along with demonstration of practical work, might swing thinking in the right direction; education of ag universities (like WSU) and county extension agents. Top down, along with grass roots education/familiarizaton will be needed.

It's a multi-faceted issue, and answers will be equally complex. Interesting thread, this one, and I will follow to learn and discuss.
Last edited by Tomas on Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:59 am, edited 7 times in total.

Linda Poole
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby Linda Poole » Sun Apr 02, 2017 6:30 pm

I'm less than two years into the Border collie-dependent community, so my take on this is probably not worth much.

I think I get what you're asking, Denice, about how to communicate with prospective BC owners about the commitment necessary to have a top-notch dog. Please don't be offended, but not all of us want or need a high-powered Einstein canine. Part of the reason I stuck with ranch-raised blue heelers for decades of canine companionship was that those dogs mostly just wanted to be with me, sharing and helping with whatever I was doing. They are easy and fun dogs for the type of life I live, and I feared that a BC would be more a risk or even a burden than having another heeler who might not be the best help with sheep, but a good partner the other 23/6.

You helped me a lot, Denice, when you matched me up with Cora. Again no offense intended, but she's not the gd working dog described in that Rich Hall song you posted about BCs. I'm so glad that she's got a heeler-like attitude: happy to work stock when asked but just as happy to go for a walk, ride in the pickup, play ball in the house, hunt mice in the haystack, or snooze on my feet when I'm in the office. I'm grateful to have a skilled dog to help me get some respect and cooperation from my sheep, and as time goes on we learn how to do more and better as a team.

I am surely one of those people who under-utilize the capabilities of their dog, and who does not put enough time into training. (Glad I bought a started dog as I don't have the skills or time to start a pup.) But my dog is happy and we get the sheep worked without undue stress or effort to anyone. I'm grateful that there are at least some more laid-back BCs for those of us who want first and foremost to have a great canine pal, and all the better if we can have the fun of working sheep as a team.

I've never met a truly happy and vibrant dog that spent most of its time kennel-bound. Probably the main reason Cora works so well in my world is that we're together most all the time. Because we like and respect each other, Cora applies her good genetics and professional training to figure out how to accomplish whatever task I come up with. Her eagerness to serve makes up for my ineptness and our lack of rigorous training. It's her great warm heart that makes our partnership work, and I think kennel life would break that heart.

denice
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby denice » Mon Apr 03, 2017 5:37 am

I have had super intense dogs, some wanted to be a partner others not so much. I think most bcs express that intensity while working. They love it. Maybe to the point of hoping that is where they spend most of the time. Because of their desire to be with their person overrides everything most are very content to go and do with us, no matter what that is. Walks, nap on the couch, clean the barn...

It is not their ability to switch from work to having time off work each day that concerns me. Few of the 365 days am I actually working sheep all day. Like you Linda, my dogs are with me a majority of their time, our time. Yes they go in kennels or crates accepting that is part of life. Do they like it NO but they get lots or time, attention, interaction and play...

The border collies I have seen that develop odd compulsive behaviors, the ones I question how stable they are do not get the interaction and time spent with them that our dogs do. I think learning skills and to use a dog is a journey, it takes a lifetime. That slow steady progress is fine but I think we all need someone to go to, call get advise from. Things can get bad fast and many just muddle through or stop using the dog or worse when they do not seek help.

My concern lies in the assumption that these dogs will work well if used when needed and then returned to a kennel. Very few young families are on the farm full time these days, more true in the east I think. Time is spent at work , with family but often the working dog is not involved in that interaction. Possibly to anthropomorphic of me but dogs have thoughts and emotions, more than most believe in my experience, being alone is not good for us or them. I think it will and does make a difference to their work. I have not lived with other working breeds so do not know about them. My impression is their outlook on Life in general is different. More suited to alone time? Not sure

denice
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby denice » Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:01 am

I am hoping others who have working dogs will add their thoughts and experience. I am specifically looking forward to hearing from people who choose to keep their dogs not inside the house. The friends I have who Kennel their dogs make it work by spending a large majority of their day with them working stock or other activities.

I would like to think there are options for people wanting a dog for stock work that are not full time ranchers/farmers. I did it when working full time but the dogs were with me 90% of the time I was not working

IowaDave
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby IowaDave » Mon Apr 10, 2017 6:40 am

I'm in the camp of thinking where the best working dogs I've had were also constant companions. We've had BC's and Australian Shepherds here but not at the same time. Aussies tended to be better problem solvers, and the BC's were better gatherer/herders, but that was expected. I tried to find something for them to do, livestock-wise, every day - even if it was moving stock from one pen or pasture or another then back again a few hours later. This seemed to do two things, first the stock got used to being moved by a dog, they understood that an open gate and pressure from the dog meant "go through the damn thing". Second, it seemed to keep the dog content - it got to do what it WANTED to do! I rarely went more than 2 days without putting the dog on livestock, and when I didn't, tried to make time to have some intense interaction, hard run, playing fetch, whatever it was.

You're right in that when you get to the point where the dog seems to intuitively know what your next move is, you've done it right. As a handler, I've spent more time watching the dogs' instincts and trying to find out how their brain works than anything else. Figure that out, and you're 90% done.

My dogs haven't always been with me in the house but from the time I step outside, to the time I quit at night, you can find them right there with me.
Dave Walton
Walton Farms
Wilton, IA
@waltonagseed

Tomas
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby Tomas » Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:25 pm

My border collie, age 12, I've had since a puppy. She is with me virtually every hour of the day, and almost everywhere that allows dogs, and some places that do not. She sleeps nights in a wire crate at the foot of my bed.

We get odd sheep and cattle jobs on farms/ranches from time to time. Nothing to speak of. She's mainly a companion, and protector who alerts me to problems, and might help in more direct ways, if necessary. A good worker, she is not affectionate, is brave, and knows how to be lazy. I trained her to hop-up on my lap for a moment of face time, but she is happiest when all four paws are back on the floor. I think she secretly likes brief togetherness, but is quick to remind me that she has her job to do, and cannot be distracted.

I personally have no issue with handlers who kennel their dog(s) (or keep out of house) at night and/or part of the time. After working with dogs and animals for much of the day, you may need a dog-free zone, and dog-free hours. Helps both dog and owner/handler to be refreshed and engaged when together.

Polypays4U
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby Polypays4U » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:39 pm

I don't believe you have to have a trial Border Collie to have an excellent helper when working sheep nor do they need to be with you 24/7. One does need to spend as much time with with your Border Collie as possible. You also need to have them work as often as you can. The time spent with and working with your Border Collie will pay great dividends. Given half a chance a Border Collie out of proven working parents will be a great help and can teach it's handler a lot. I got my first Border Collie pup about 30 years ago. He was a Jack Knox pup. We learned a lot as we worked together. Only one of my Border Collies was/is a hyper-active dog that needs to run a mile before he settles down to working sheep. He is improving and I couldn't do without him.
Bill Hardman
Uncompahgre Polypay Farm
Delta, Colorado
The western home of productive Polypays.

OogieM
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Re: new working dog wanna be

Postby OogieM » Thu May 11, 2017 7:34 am

As a lone voice about why we DON'T have any herding dogs this is exactly why.

I do not want a dog in the house. I would not want to take a dog with me everywhere and we only need one to herd a few times a year. It's far faster/easier to teach the sheep to come when called and to use temporary fencing to move them if I have to than to take on the commitment of a herding dog that would need constant work and training.

The problem is that so many people think you have to have a herding dog if you have sheep.

Maybe the better option is to point out that it is perfectly possible to work a flock of sheep without a herding dog but you need to do it differently.

That way those that will enjoy the dog and put the time in can use that tool for working their sheep while the other people can use different tools.
Oogie McGuire
Black Sheep Shepherdess


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