Saturday, April 11, 2009

How much is too much?

So, one of my faithful readers recently brought up a good question about working a young sheepdog. Now, I am novice too, but I have learned so much, I do feel like I can maybe add a bit. By the way, too many people feel intimidated on boards to say anything- but they should not. Discussion is a good thing- and it's like a lab group- everyone can help others to see things different ways. Anyway, back to what my southern friend asked- basically- can you do too much wearing and circling? Yeah, I think so. I did too much of that with Lucy- because, in my situation, I didn't know anything else ;) AND these FREAKIN' sheep always ran by me, so that meant my dog had to cover. OY VEY.

Anyway, here's my noob advice... for what it's worth. If the dog is keen, and he is, then take every advantage you can think of to allow him to have to use what he was born with, to cover, and intersperse that with good flank work. Lucy really excelled when I would allow the sheep to drift up toward the draw, and send her to fetch. She took a "get out" command really well- took it on the fly. And, if there was a mess- as in she didn't cover, we used that scenario to show her that she had to bring every single sheep- even if it meant facing up sheep on the fence. Basically, a "you made the mess, you clean it up" scenario. It didn't take more than once or twice for her to realize that she really did want them together.

I think it's really important for lessons on sheepdogs, that the dogs are trained almost without knowing it. Be evident to correct the dog, but fade away when the dog is right. Encourage when you can see they are worried, and don't over drill anything. Dogs who have to repeatedly do the same thing over and over, will often times think up new, and interesting ways to do the same thing...

A big thing is to trust your dog. Remember- they are born with that innate need to keep sheep together and bring them. Don't put them in over their heads, and keep the lessons short. Go out there with a positive attitude, with no pre-conceived notions about what will go wrong. Each dog has strengths and weaknesses. It's our job to encourage those strengths and fade out the weaknesses. Fade out is good way of saying it. You can't fix issues in one day or week, you have to work to see them less and less.

This is not meant to be a tutorial, or preachy post, it's just the methodology that has worked for Lucy and I. Too many of us forget that these dogs can do a whole lot on their own, and if we allow them to see what happens if they screw up (as in scattered sheep), they will GET that they have to do things certain ways. If we micro manage everything they do, how will they ever know that not listening can result in deleterious results?

So, that's my feeling on the matter. Take it for what it's worth.

No comments: