training blog

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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training blog

Postby denice » Tue Sep 06, 2016 2:28 pm

I am not one for self promoting but I have started a blog that some might find enjoyable. It is going to focus on stockdogs - training and use. Surprise - Hopefully it will be a way to stimulate great conversation.

I find when I have a dog that is just not getting it that it helps to discuss it and maybe see things differently or have a suggestion that might be a different approach.
Would love anyone participate who might be interested.
clearfieldstockdogsheepblog.wordpress.com

Not a computer guru so might be some glitches - email me if you see any denice.r@lycos.com

high plainsman
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Re: training blog

Postby high plainsman » Tue Sep 06, 2016 8:06 pm

That is a great idea. I won't be able to contribute much, but will surely have plenty of questions I am sure.

denice
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Re: training blog

Postby denice » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:40 am

Ask away...I love questions. They make me rethink everything in detail. It can be tough to take such a visual experience and transform it into words...but I tend to be long winded anyway :roll:
I hear you recently witnessed Cora in action at Linda's. Love to hear your first impressions.

high plainsman
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Re: training blog

Postby high plainsman » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:57 am

I did get the opportunity to watch Cora in action. I was very impressed with the way she worked and how well she and Linda communicated. Linda would ask or tell Cora a command in a voice as if she was asking someone to pass potatoes at dinner and Cora responded immediately. It was fun to watch the two of them work together.

I will start the questions for this blog: If a command is given to the dog i.e. come bye, but instead the dog goes the direction of way to me, should the dog be corrected even if either way accomplishes the task to be completed? Where do we draw the line between making the dog follow the command versus letting the dog figure out the best way to do the job? I don't want to develop a so called push button dog that only does what is commanded and only when it is commanded. I need a dog smarter and faster than I.

denice
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Re: training blog

Postby denice » Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:55 pm

Ok well Why not just jump in with both feet and start with a really tough one :shock:
I hate the IT DEPENDS answers so I will close my eyes and type - it depends. My life before sheep and border collies was in the vet world dealing with pets. We had so much time to get things done and better behaved the dog was the easier on everyone. So I came from do it cause I say. I stared like that in training bc also. I have evolved into looking at the entire situation and taking everything into account- sheep, dog, age, how much training and experience, where do the sheep want to go, where does the dog want to go,is a hill or fence or tall grass in the way, what command do I ask for, do I even ask a command or specify a direction...Then it gets more complicated - what type of dog do I have - natural /easy good to his stock, or a yippee yahoo loose its head and react kind. With the first I feel you can let things slide with no ill effects. if you ask for something and do not get it while doing chores but the chores get done nicely I will take time to have a training session to work on it later. If you are in a bigger area, slow like me and no way you are going to fix it now then best let go till you Set up the situation later. If the younger/inexperienced, getting confused or frustrated I will tend to let it slide. You have to have them Trying and wanting to work and some take corrections personally so they need to be keener before corrected. Others are like teenage boys with their first car and friends watching so it is pedal to the floor- lots of hormones little thought. Those types I like to have more structure - smaller more controlled space since I do not want bed habits forming.
You have to be in a position to correct or stop the behavior or it does you no good to even try. You do not want to teach the dog they can ignore you and if you are correcting without results that what they are learning.
Older dogs with experience that take the wrong flank and I actually said the direction I wanted them to go and I do not see a need for it to go the way it wants - I will stop it, call it back and ask again. Most dogs have a favorite side like people are right and left handed, that can come into play.
I have learned with the right kind of dog I can get a lot done with out it knowing its sides. I am stickler for stopping and coming to me when asked- all the time every time. The more confident I have become in my ability and the more I trust the dog the less commands I find myself using. I might not ask for a flank for the first six months a dog is working because other things are more important. I want them thinking, gaining knowledge about how stock move and what effect they have on the stock - Feeling the sheep. If you are always talking I do not see them thinking as much. Their body language changes when they have a question or need help then I talk.
when bcs do anything 3 times they got it so if you ask for a flank and can not help them go the right way if they are wrong then you better not ask for a flank and just send them. Keep in mind where you are standing will/may affect the way they choose to go also. One step from you up, back or to the side can have a huge effect on the dog - even from several feet away.
I think a dog like Cora is just so excited and happy to work she just goes off like a rocket but is generally thoughtful enough to get the job done well. If you would be on her about doing it your way she would be one to take it personally, like her mamma Meg and like me :) you kinda have to pick your battles. So instead of asking for a direction when it did not matter I would be behind that type of dog and simply sshhhh them so they can choose. Most dogs walking out to sheep have in their head already the way they want to go. You can see it by the way they move sometimes.

you will have to see if the comment form on the blog works also... no one has tried to use it yet that I know of

high plainsman
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Re: training blog

Postby high plainsman » Fri Sep 09, 2016 5:11 am

Thanks for the good guidance. My dog Molly is pretty thoughtful most of the time and isn't overly sensitive. I do wish she would do a wider out run when I send her to gather the sheep and bring them in from the paddock though.

denice
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Re: training blog

Postby denice » Fri Sep 09, 2016 5:56 am

the way a dog outruns is incredibly genetic, some wide some not some swing out when they see sheep. There are some things you can do to help her go wider. If she is not buggering the sheep and they are ok with her close - some dogs can be closer than others , usually the dogs with less eye - it is harder for her to see the need so to speak. If she is leaving sheep I would have suggestions. There comes a time when they are what they are for the most part. A 3 year dog usually tweeks lots easier than an 8 yr old

Try stepping away from her when you send her. If sending to the left step right as you ask. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but the dogs feel it. If you step in to send then you are pressing on them and some press back.( Think of a young horse- you teach them to give, dogs are similar) If you step away you release them. Try that a for several days if that doesn't do it, try one step in front of her shoulder and off the opposite side. If she is slicing in at the top doubt either of those things will work but if she tight the whole way they might start to make a difference.

high plainsman
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Re: training blog

Postby high plainsman » Fri Sep 09, 2016 6:12 am

Ok I will try that. Molly does not have much eye, being an Australian Shepherd. The sheep for the most part do not mind her coming in close, so it does work ok. I am just envious of how Cora works for Linda.

Linda Poole
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Re: training blog

Postby Linda Poole » Fri Sep 09, 2016 7:08 am

This is so helpful to read. Thanks, Mike and Denice.

Something I admire and don't understand about Cora is that she can apparently adjust the "range" of her "eye". By that I mean that she can sometimes move sheep off from quite a distance -- like when she is fetching sheep in a big pasture. At other times, she can literally brush by a sheep without them moving off. I don't know exactly how she does it. Seems like when her head goes down below the level of her shoulders, the sheep recognize she means them to get moving now. It's like she's got laser eyes and the sheep know precisely what that red dot on them means.

But when her head is higher it seems like her muscles are all looser and her focus is softer. She can work right in with the sheep in a crowding pen or alley then without them stressing out.

One of the most marvelous things about her is that though she is ALWAYS up for working sheep, she only turns on when I ask her to. I've been working on my corrals and the other day I suddenly realized Cora wasn't beside the lumber stack where she had been hunting mice. I looked and found Cora sleeping in the shade amongst a cluster of bum lambs and old ewes. Cora has an instinctual "feel" for sheep that I'll never be able to match -- and since I have her, and since I've learned to let her use her instincts, luckily I don't have to have that ability within myself. Ha -- whoever said you can't buy happiness didn't spend money on a dog like Cora!

It sounds like you've got a good bond with your dog Molly, Mike. Seems like herding dogs can make all sorts of modifications to please a shepherd they love. That's why newbies like you and me need trainers like Denice -- our dogs want to please us if we can just get some help with knowing how to help our dogs help us.

denice
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Re: training blog

Postby denice » Sat Sep 10, 2016 1:31 pm

Linda it is very cool how some dogs seem to have a power control and simply dial it down when they don't need it. Honestly I have not seen many really have that figured out but maybe I do not see many dogs work in close for chores but mine. Gem - which would be Cora's grandmother did that well. She also had a way of just turning her head off sheep a bit when she worked, not really changing the level more the focus, when she needed to release pressure and put the sheep more at ease. Problem with her was she worked the way she wanted regardless of what I said. She was one strong minded bitch!! Took her to a Aled Owen clinic figured if anyone could help me get through to her he could. I think he liked her since he worked her for a long time but his comment to me was "She will sure work all day, you might have to adjust to her". I think translated that meant Good Luck.

Mike - HA should have asked the breed Being an aussie answers lots. They do not have the built in gather that BCs do. If you read about the original aussies they were dogs that were asked to drive quite a bit and work in corrals and up closer to stock. Some have a nice amount of eye others have very little and work more upright. The ones I have worked have been Straightforward dogs in personality and working style- what you see is what you got. Most needed to be taught to bend out when they contacted sheep. They do not seem to 'Feel' stock the same way a bc does and due to lack of eye the sheep do not respond to them like a bc. They move stock with their movement unless taught to use eye.
If you put pressure on her shoulder she should bend out a bit. You have to release pressure immediately when she does bend to let her know that is what you wanted. I have taught dogs to bendout using a long line walking with them and using sheep in a small corral like 4 -6ft panels with the dog working on the outside. I will have to see if I can take a video of my young girl to show you. The older dogs do it so fast it is hard to catch.

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Re: training blog

Postby BlusteryKnollFarm » Sat Sep 10, 2016 10:20 pm

Thanks for posting this. I like what I see at the blog. I am determined to get my border collie Clyde trained more this fall and winter once crop harvest is over. Currently I don't NEED a dog to get sheep chores done, but can see a time in the near future where it will be very valuable to have a good enough dog to move sheep through unfenced fields to get to other pastures.

high plainsman
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Re: training blog

Postby high plainsman » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:04 pm

Hi Denice, I would love to watch a video of you working your dog and training the dog to do a wider out bend. I think it would be very helpful.

denice
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Re: training blog

Postby denice » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:01 pm

Mike - my videos are at you tube deniceCS and I made a new site Clearfield stockdogs - working border collies . I have uploaded anything of the new pups yet. It is hard to do and work the dog at the same time. I will say the videos are simply training/working videos. They are not edited since I want to see the good and the not so good so you can see what needs to be worked on. You have to be able to see both - you need to know what good is before you can see what is not and figure out how to get things better.

I did tape one for Linda when she asked about getting a dog to bend out. It would have a vid of Scott last spring. He goes fast but it might help. Hope they help.

Tomas
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Re: training blog

Postby Tomas » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:52 pm

Linda remarked- "Something I admire and don't understand about Cora is that she can apparently adjust the "range" of her "eye". By that I mean that she can sometimes move sheep off from quite a distance -- like when she is fetching sheep in a big pasture. At other times, she can literally brush by a sheep without them moving off. I don't know exactly how she does it. Seems like when her head goes down below the level of her shoulders, the sheep recognize she means them to get moving now. It's like she's got laser eyes and the sheep know precisely what that red dot on them means." (bold added)

Denice replied - "Gem - which would be Cora's grandmother did that well. She also had a way of just turning her head off sheep a bit when she worked, not really changing the level more the focus, when she needed to release pressure and put the sheep more at ease." (bold added)

Recognize the above-mentioned traits in my Josie. She works upright, has medium eye and can move most stock, but what surprises me is how herding animals recognize when she is for the moment off-duty. Something about dog's demeanor tells sheep/cattle that they can continue to graze/relax as she moves within feet of them. Also, as Denice said, my little dog can turn her head a bit to left or right to reduce eye when in-close, thereby getting better results than had she continued with hard pressure.

I don't know that you can teach those things. Perhaps they can be coached. I didn't. OTOH, I sometimes have to help Josie with "one-more-step" commands to get her to slowly/steadily apply pressure. She often naturally wants to walk-up overly assertively. I stop her at an appropriate distance, and help her with "one-more-step" to move her onto the stock at a correct pace.That little trick has been huge for us. I just haven't had the time to correctly fix that particular glitch. Do not mean to "hi-jack" this thread, but any ideas to train an automatic (no reminders needed) paced walk-up to get stock moving, and to keep them steadily moving at proper speed, would be appreciated. In training, a series of stop-type commands has not worked very well. Same with lots of "Steadies". She stops or slows as cued, but in practical situations does not seem to transfer the concept over from training, always needing the verbal reminders, or other times I have to take precision control (as mentioned above) of virtually her every step. Apparently she does not have a natural "feel". PM, if you wish.

That little sheep dog, who normally in a month got no more than a couple hours on stock (in small increments, exclusively sheep), recently with my own 3-session train-up on cattle, has become a good cow dog. Who knows, perhaps not taking out her "push", enabled transition to cattle more easily? I thought she might run the other way upon seeing 1500 lb. Angus cattle for the first time. Nope. Evidently, if they are a grazing animal, she wants control. Pushed large herds in a orderly manner, scraped stock out of fence-corners, and shed groups off to another part of pasture. Big help sorting apart cow-calf pairs; no equipment other than a gate. Love that dog.

Thanks, Denice, for starting the blog. I'll check it out.
Last edited by Tomas on Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:18 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Linda Poole
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Re: training blog

Postby Linda Poole » Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:18 am

Tomas-

Very interesting post from you and others in this thread.

Low-stress stockmen Bud Williams and also Lynn Locatelli teach that when we humans go to move livestock, our gaze is of prime importance. Bud told a story about moving a herd of several hundred cow/calf pairs. They absolutely did not want to go through a gate (can't remember why) and most handlers would have gone to ramming and jamming and whooping to apply pressure to the back of the herd to get them to press up to the gate. Bud waited until the lead cow -- the one clear in the front of the herd, standing sideways nearest the gate -- turned and gave him both eyes. And Bud gave her the "eye" back, and made a small forward and back rocking motion toward her and the gate. When she turned her head toward the gate, he backed off. When she turned toward him, he rocked toward her. All this across the backs of hundreds of other cattle, you understand. She gave to the pressure, walked through the gate. Bud stepped back away from the herd and they all followed the lead cow through the gate. Pure poetry is this level of stockmanship.

This whole thing about "eye" seems to be about pressure and the intent of the "predator" be that human or stockdog.

Makes me think about mule deer when they have fawns. At times, a tough old doe will totally ignore coyotes as they go mousing around in the vicinity of baby fawns. But other times, the same old doe will pin her ears like a mad mule, snake her head down and chase the coyote, trying to bayonet the canid with her front hooves. Something in the behavior of the coyote must say "DANGER!" at times, but not always.

I'm learning a lot from my dog about stockmanship. Once I got over the goofy idea that Cora was like a machine for which I needed to control every move, it opened up the opportunity for me to see in action so many of the principles that Bud Williams and Whit Hibbard and Curt Pate and others have tried to explain to me. For instance, when Cora and I were learning to become a team, I used to get really frustrated when I asked her to walk up to help me push "stuck" ewes through a gate. She would be alongside me pushing but then she'd dash up a flank toward the front like she was trying to cheat and bring the front of the flock back to me -- not at all what I wanted. So I'd bring her back to me and we'd keep trying to shove the sheep from the back. What on earth was I thinking? Sheesh. One day I was slow enough in "correcting" Cora's dash toward the front of the flock to see what she was doing: she was reshaping the flock from a "coldfront" of resistance -- all the sheep in a line parallel to the gate but facing me at the back -- into a "stream" of movement to and through the gate. She had run to the front of the flock and then turned toward the sheep and came back toward me, narrowing the flock and directing them into a moving line through the gate. Okay, I knew that the way to move sheep forward is to walk against their flow, but somehow I hadn't realized that this was what Cora was trying to do. Good little dog, much humbled and thankful shepherd.


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