The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Pets & Working Animals => Dogs => Topic started by: CCGambit on October 31, 2020, 05:06:51 pm

Title: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: CCGambit on October 31, 2020, 05:06:51 pm
Hi there,

Hoping someone might be able to help me. I bought a young Border Collie as pup over a year and a half ago. She showed some potential as a working dog so I got her sent to get trained and got her back a few months ago.

Now she was no prize winning dog but she did the basics which is all I required. However, she was given back to me with a warning that she has a habit of catching hold of sheep and that she may eventually grow out of it. She seems to have gotten worse in the last few weeks and has even now stopped listening to my commands.

Has anyone got any ideas what I can do to get her back in check and responding to me? I don't want to discipline her to the extent where she will just stop working altogether.

Any help will be appreciated.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 02, 2020, 02:39:49 pm
I don't know where you are but if you are in or near Cumbria and can get yourself to one of Derek Scrimgeour / Raise Lodge's training days, they will assess the situation and set you right.

Have you worked collies with sheep before?  (Asking before I do a whole load of telling you how to suck eggs!)
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: doganjo on November 02, 2020, 03:27:35 pm
If you're near the Borders, Julie Hill is the best, but I know she's always extremely busy.  Is there not a local farmer who could help.  I've never sent a gundog for training so I don't feel qualified to say anything about sending a sheepdog away - I always thought they were one person dogs?
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: Fleecewife on November 02, 2020, 05:21:20 pm
I know nothing about training sheepdogs but I do know something about dogs in generaL and I find it strange that a dog would be trained separately from the owner.  Surely it's about training you both as a couple?  Meanwhile, while you are waiting for someone to help you, how about going right back to basics with your dog.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: harmony on November 02, 2020, 07:25:10 pm
As mentioned above you need to find someone who will take you and the dog so it would be helpful to say where you are.


Very often dogs run in and catch hold (grip) because they are confused or pressured so basically a communication issue between dog and handler. Hence you need to both have some lessons together.


I understand that many dogs are sent for training and often too far away for handlers to participate in the sessions.  I would have expected the trainer to have given you some advice on prevention and watched you and the dog working together.


You really need someone who has a round pen and sensible sheep who can show you how to position yourself and how to give the dog some confidence. And how to deal with gripping in an enclosed space.


You can't discipline the dog until you know why she is doing what she is doing and you can't discipline her if you are setting her up wrong in the first place. It's no good thinking she might grow out of it.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: Kiran on November 03, 2020, 12:01:33 am
I cant comment on training sheep dogs as it's something I've never done. I have trained working gun dogs and one thing I know to be true with them is whilst they can obey a command from anyone they only have 1 master. You need to establish that relationship again. It's probably even more important with something as strong willed as  a collie. As mentioned above it's also about training you as a pair.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 03, 2020, 11:30:07 am
It's different with working collies.  Yes it's of course optimal for the handler and collie to be trained together but it's often not practical, so it's extremely common for farmers to send their young dogs away for training.

Yes collies bond with their handlers, but it's unusual for a young collie to refuse to work at all for a person, especially a professional trainer.  They just work much better with you, as a team, when they bond with you. (And an older dog that's only ever had one handler may simply not even register that another person is even giving them commands / advice!  But a young dog won't be in that situation.) 

"Discipline" is something you would only do if every other possibility has failed, and only then if you are very experienced and know exactly what to do and when.  Disciplining a collie while it's working is more likely to make one of two things happen; most likely is that it simply won't work again, possibly ever, and second most likely is that it increases its anxiety so much that it grips harder and more frequently.

Derek did give Skip some correction for me, exactly one time and exactly as it was needed.  But Skip was already 2 years old, had had a number of jobs and handlers, had developed some habits which needed to be changed, and my verbal, "I mean it, listen to me now" noise wasn't strong enough, so Derek reinforced it for me just that one time. 

You shouldn't ever need to do that with a young dog, correctly trained.



Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 03, 2020, 11:38:09 am
In general when a collie grips it is because the dog fears that it cannot control the sheep.  It should never develop that fear if correctly trained, because you train it initially with sheep who won't face up to it, and you make damn sure that you are there to back the dog up if if needs it.

Long before it is in a position to have sheep face up to it, you will have trained it to do lovely wide flanks and develop its eye, so that it knows that sheep are easier to control the further away from them you are, and that turning a sheep is easier if you run wide and get well ahead of it, and has supreme confidence in its own abilities - and knows that you will support it if it needs it.

Having said which, life happens and most young dogs will have a situation - that wasn't planned - where there are too many sheep for its current skill level, or sheep that are too strong for its current confidence and power, and or you are too far away and can't support it, and it gets into a pickle.  You rescue the dog, you do not berate the dog : they are always trying to do their best; and you do more training with it to rebuild its confidence, skill and power.

Derek always says it takes "a year for each paw" to fully train a working sheepdog. 
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: harmony on November 03, 2020, 11:43:49 am
I cant comment on training sheep dogs as it's something I've never done. I have trained working gun dogs and one thing I know to be true with them is whilst they can obey a command from anyone they only have 1 master. You need to establish that relationship again. It's probably even more important with something as strong willed as  a collie. As mentioned above it's also about training you as a pair.
Often with collies it isn't being strong willed but being too sensitive that can cause problems. In fact that can be the case with training any dog. The sensitive dog can often be more work than a strong willed dog.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: doganjo on November 03, 2020, 01:07:12 pm
Original poster appears to have disappeared and seemingly only joined with this one query. I hope tehy come back and see all these excellent responses
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: Fleecewife on November 03, 2020, 01:14:01 pm
So what do you think of replies so far @CCGambit ?  Have they proved helpful in dealing with your problem?
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: sheeponthebrain on November 04, 2020, 08:25:11 pm
my initial gut reaction  would be work her 3 times as often as you are now. 
trained dogs need work/training/practice. The more you take her out among the sheep the more she'll listen to you.   
As for the gripping, work her in the sheep pens witb a big bunch of sheep when shes right praise her when she bites make yourself big and intimidating. (intimidating not swearing and yelling )
Like humans, every collie can work just some are easier to work with and more able. 
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: harmony on November 04, 2020, 11:04:15 pm
my initial gut reaction  would be work her 3 times as often as you are now. 
trained dogs need work/training/practice. The more you take her out among the sheep the more she'll listen to you.   
As for the gripping, work her in the sheep pens witb a big bunch of sheep when shes right praise her when she bites make yourself big and intimidating. (intimidating not swearing and yelling )
Like humans, every collie can work just some are easier to work with and more able.
My gut reaction to this suggestion is a "no". There is no point doing more of the same and reinforcing the negative stage the op has reached.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: SallyintNorth on November 05, 2020, 12:05:04 am
my initial gut reaction  would be work her 3 times as often as you are now. 
trained dogs need work/training/practice. The more you take her out among the sheep the more she'll listen to you.   
As for the gripping, work her in the sheep pens witb a big bunch of sheep when shes right praise her when she bites make yourself big and intimidating. (intimidating not swearing and yelling )
Like humans, every collie can work just some are easier to work with and more able.

If you've read my posts on this thread, you can't fail to be aware of how vehemently I think this outdated and counterproductive advice.

If the dog doesn't yet have the confidence or skill to manage the sheep from a distance, using its eye, then putting it in inescapable close proximity to sheep is likely to lead to more close work and more gripping.  Or it will be too frightened of the likely reaction from the handler to be able to work at all.

If the dog is gripping because it's anxious, the handler making him or herself big and intimidating can only make that anxiety worse.  Often the collie will think it must have not gripped hard enough or soon enough, so it will go in harder and sooner next time.  (And yes, collies do think, and make plans to try something different next time.)

And it is being taught that, far from coming to support the dog if it needs it, the handler will join forces with the sheep to attack the dog when it is at its most vulnerable.

Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: harmony on November 05, 2020, 09:33:37 am
As well as the points Sally makes the other major factor in this situation is the handler. And in my opinion until you make sure the handler knows what they are doing then you can't correct the dog.


Yes, you need to control the situation in a smaller space but you want to set the dog up so you can prevent a grip before it happens.
Title: Re: Young Working Dog help required
Post by: sheeponthebrain on November 05, 2020, 07:40:15 pm
appologies for outdated advice.  just passing on what an old experienced friend told me 18 year ago when i was having the same issues with floss my young pup at the time.  she went on to run sheep with me pretty much everyday for the next 12 year.  the exact advice was. 'u should never have to shout at a collie  for doing wrong they should know by your body language. and you should always gave the dog with you. (we've all seem plenty farm collies that have gripped sheep then the farmer shuts them away to never get a chance again. )   however i admit this may be outdated advice as he would now be in his ninetys if alive