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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Moss and His Head Halter

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ImageI’ve had this head halter, (the Kumalong version) for about 20 years. I’ve never really used it on any of my dogs. It seemed like too much of a bother to get the dog accustomed to wearing it. I never really had a pulling problem with any of my dogs that I couldn’t control by other means, that is, until Moss came along.



I tried everything with Moss. He started out on a choke collar when pulling began to be a problem. He just ignored it and I didn’t want to really jerk hard and cause throat damage.

We tried clicker trained. He’d jump for the treat (usually grabbing my fingers too) and lunge forward again. It just wasn’t working.

So we went to a pinch collar. Now I’ve never had a dog that would lean into a pinch collar, not my own or any that were in my obedience classes. Moss did. I was getting frustrated.

I tried a no-pull harness. It did nothing for the pulling and chaffed skin under his front legs.

Then I came across my old head halter that I had bought as a demonstration item for my obedience classes. It fit Moss perfectly. He really didn’t object to it and accepted it within a couple of days (with the help of a clicker and some treats). It works like a dream. If he feels the slightest pressure, he backs right up without my saying anything. It’s a joy to walk the dogs now.

The only down side is that other people don’t know what it is. I was asked by a neighbor if Moss was wearing a muzzle because he was getting nippy. Um, no, it’s not a muzzle and he’s not getting nippy. He just pulls on the leash or, at least, he used to.

I don’t really care for the way the head halters look, but I can learn to live with it. The relaxed walks we are taking now makes it all worthwhile.

The Pressure Sensitive Dog

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I have a book I bought years ago by Vergil Holland entitled Herding Dogs – Progressive Training. I know it’s pretty impossible to train herding dogs out of a book, but there is some really good information in this one.

I was browsing through it the other day and found a section describing types of herding dogs – the talented dog, the not-so-talented dog, the sensitive dog, the overly aggressive dog and especially the pressure-sensitive dog.

The section on the pressure-sensitive dog described Moss perfectly. This type of dog wants to work desperately, but over-reacts if the sheep move or even if the handler moves. If I even turned my head Moss would take off in a flash. It has taken months to get him past this.

He sometimes will not obey and fight the handler if he tries to force him.That is a big issue with Moss. I tried to work with the lie-down and he’d blow past me to get to the sheep. It got to the point that I was totally discouraged and wanted just to give up training him.

He works too close to the sheep and won’t stay off of them – another issue with Moss. He has slowed down enough that the sheep don’t panic when Moss gets too close. It’s fine for farm work with these sheep but may not work in other situations.

He may be the most difficult type of dog to train. I do feel somewhat vindicated that Moss is, in fact, a very difficult dog to train for herding. He is very smart and learns fast as he has demonstrated by learning tricks almost instantly, but when he gets near sheep he’s just too reactive. I have seen a real change in the past couple of weeks so I’m feeling encouraged.

Wild Man No Longer

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It occurred to me last evening that Moss can no longer be called “The Wild Man.” He has settled down and is working nice and slow. The only time he really opens up is on a long outrun in the big field. He is walking the sheep in nice and quietly. In the little pen he’s going around the sheep instead of crashing in and chasing and lying down when told to and letting the sheep exit the pen. I never thought I’d see the day.

Of course he’s still slicing in and pushing too fast and sometimes cutting some sheep out. He still won’t go too far away from me on a big outrun. I have to walk at least half-way to the flock. There’s more work to do but I’m ecstatic with his progress this spring.Yesterday he even focused on taking two at a time out of the pen and walking to the gate to let them out. Then, (gasp) even one sheep.


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Friday, May 23
Moss has been doing so good with a large flock of sheep, I thought I’d see how he did with only one. It was a disaster. He totally blew it. He acted as though he wasn’t interested in one lone sheep. We quicly gave up on that idea.
But today I thought we’d try just two or three. He was great with three. He seemed to be back to his old self. Two was a little harder. This morning, when all the sheep were in the back pen, I’d have him sort out just two and we’d drive them to the main gate and out to pasture. Naturally, the first two at the end of the line were crazy lambs. Moss couldn’t drive them to the gate so I had Doc come in and help. Moss got better after a few tries and I think I got better at handling him. I was pleased to see that he wasn’t flipping back and forth so much with only two sheep.

Dog Steps

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Moss is doing great at bringing the sheep in from the big pasture. He still is afraid to run the whole length of the field, and, if he is too far away, he gets into circling mode. So I have to walk all the way out to the sheep to keep things under control. Yesterday he held his lie down while I walked the rest of the way. He was so far away, he didn’t hear me send him the first time. But he got a great long outrun. With me right there to keep him from pushing too fast, he really does a nice job walking the sheep around into their pen.

He has also finally gotten the hang of going into the small pen and bringing the sheep out instead of diving in and causing chaos. I’m trying to get him to take over Doc’s jobs for the day when Doc can’t or won’t do them anymore. I still let Doc help but I’m more careful now to not overdo it.


I think I have made a fantastic accidental discovery. Last summer Doc’s back got so bad that the infection spread into his ear. I’m convinced it’s a yeast infection.  I found a homemade remedy that worked great. It was recommended by breeders of cocker spaniels, dogs plagued with ear infections. The solution cleared up Doc’s ear infection in a couple of days and didn’t come back.

This spring Doc has already chewed a bloody patch on his back. I did the usual tea tree oil application. It does help it heal and smells so bad he won’t touch it. But I could feel bumps and see red skin all the way up his back to the back of his head. I’d have to get tea tree oil by the gallon to cover those bumps.

It occurred to me that I could use the blue solution that I had put in his ear. Yesterday I soaked his whole back. Today his skin looks almost normal. I applied the solution again this morning. So far, today, I have yet to see him do his “running upside down” routine. (That’s rolling over on his back and pedaling his legs in the air to scratch his itchy back.) I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ve finally found something that works.

He is still rubbing his face on everything though. I’m afraid to put anything on his muzzle that he could lick. He has a couple of spots on his legs that he is chewing too. Those still get tea tree oil.


(I spoke too soon. He just rolled over and started with the running upside down. Well, at least his skin looks better. Maybe once it really heals…….)

The Blue Powder solution is detailed here

The alcohol is somehow neutralized by the boric acid so it does not sting. I proved this to myself by putting some on a fresh cut on my hand. I did try the dilute apple cider vinegar on Doc’s ear before using the blue solution. He really reacted to it. Apparently it does sting – even a very weak solution.

Moss, the Working Man

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Moss Waits

Moss is actually approaching the point of becoming a useful dog.

We are house-sitting where there are two groups of sheep that need to be separated for feeding but go out and graze together during the day. Doc handles the sorting stage and Moss does everything else. This morning, I fed the horses and then let the sheep out to graze. As I’m looking out the window I see the flock headed toward the small barn where they make pests of themselves trying to get into the horses grain buckets and hay racks. I was pretty sure that the horses hadn’t had time to finish their breakfast. I took Moss out to drive them away and he did a great job. It’s out of his normal training routine so he was watching me for direction. It wasn’t perfectly controlled but he did a pretty nice short drive. The sheep decided to head out to the front pasture.