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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Still Working At It

Moss LookingI think I have a perfect example of a herding dog with lots of instinct, but no talent.

I’ve been trying for six months or more to teach Moss to bring the sheep to me. He wants desperately to get to the sheep, but will just run circles around them unless I stop him.  He has no clue that he’s supposed to move them to me.

I just recently discovered that if I bring the sheep to the fence I can keep Moss on the outside. He likes to push and dive along the fence but I can block him so that he has to either turn or slow down. Sometimes he’s even walking.

We’ve also started letting that group out of the pen when he’s done. That way he can see there’s a purpose in moving the sheep and I can praise him for doing a good job.

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Moss, the Goat Dog

We went to meet a couple who train border collies as sort of an interview for a farm-sitting job. They allowed Moss a turn on their preferred stock for starting young dogs – goats.

They had three brown goats in a medium sized pen and used them for lessons and young dog training. Goats, unlike sheep, tend to stay right by the handler. Goats  don’t run much anyway and really “dog-broke” goats will cling to the human. I had to be careful backing up since there was usually a goat or two right behind me.

Moss did his usual attempt at an outrun, but soon slowed down. He even was walking for most of the time and, most amazingly, he lay down every single time I told him to. He got a another turn later and he was just as good as the first time. I was very proud of the boy.

Thinking About It

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ImageWe went to work sheep yesterday after almost a week off. Moss was horrible. He wasn’t listening at all. It was like he took four steps back. He ignored commands and just ran out of control circles around the sheep with a lot of diving in.

I was so frustrated with him. My friend even took him in and he sometimes responds better to her than to me. He ignored her too.

I tried to figure out what was different about yesterday from previous days when he was so good. I came up with one theory.

Yesterday, there were a lot of people there, including two of his favorite people. There were a passel of dogs including a new dog he doesn’t know well. My friend was working sheep outside the pen and using her whistle. Moss gets really revved up when he hears a whistle. There was a lot going on.

When he made the most progress was when we were farm sitting and there was no one else there. He got to work at least once a day. Sometimes twice a day. He became a real farm dog.

He will need to overcome his reactivity to all the confusion, but I can’t expect him to do it all at once. When there is a lot going on, I will keep/put him back on the long line and do some calming exercises. We’ll walk up quietly and practice doing lie downs until he is listening. No out of control running. My friend is much slower and quieter than I am. I need to slow down too.

I took him back today and he was much better. He was listening. I could talk quietly to him and he was responding. There were no other dogs right around and only one person riding in the arena.

I also learned a good reason NOT to include the ram in our working group. He’s a nice boy and almost a pet, but he is a big boy. He almost ran into me a couple of times when Moss was pushing too hard. It would really hurt to get hit by him, even if it was accidental.