The New Dog
by, 06-13-2013 at 05:51 AM (795 Views)
Training the new dog.
Nelly the sheepdog is now 11 and has a swollen joint on her back leg – she is starting to slow down. This is a good thing in many ways because a steady dog often does its job better than an excitable one – and Nelly has been very excitable over the years (let's be kind and call it enthusiasm). Now at last I can gather sheep with her in a nice controlled manner instead of a mad rush –just like One Man and his Dog on the telly.
It's reminded me though that she can't go on forever, retirement is looming, and so a possible replacement has arrived.
Meg is a fully trained 3 year old, that has gone wrong – she has been under used and has spent too long shut up in a barn. Who can say what goes on in a dogs head, but the problems she has manifest themselves by her running unstoppably and very wide round and round the sheep, ignoring all commands as she goes. I mean VERY wide, sometimes not even in the same field. The farmer I got her off agreed that I should try her for a month or two and see if I can mek' owt ov 'er.
I've never trained a sheepdog that wasn't a pup before, so I'm not confident I'll be keeping Meg, but I'm hoping that the relaxed regime I run here will allow her to overcome her demons.
So far all I've done is take her for walks and try to get her to relax – and to get her to “Lie down” when told to – a command she must know, but seems to panic her – she thinks it is an admonishment for wrong doing at the moment. However there is some progress, she seems to be bonding with me, and is starting to listen.
I tried her with some sheep last night. She runs around them in fine style and comes on to them well, but as soon as I give any command after that, she turns and runs off and starts her wide circling.
I think the problem may lie with her previous superior training.
She has been professionally trained by a good trainer and has been taught the “Look Back”move where the dog must leave the sheep she has gathered and go off to find some more. This is the last and most difficult thing a dog learns, it is about the only thing a sheepdog has to do that is contrary to her natural urges – her instinct is to remain fixed on the sheep she has in front of her. It is also contrary to everything she will have been trained to do previously.
I never bother with it, if Nelly misses any sheep I call her back and set her out again, but sheepdog men set great store by this skill.
I imagine as a young dog she would've practised and practised the Look Back move over and over and it has become a default setting when she has sheep in front of her. She isn't listening to the next command but assuming it is going to be “Look Back” and so that is what she hears.
It's a theory anyway.