Use a reward to get training on board

How to get your dog to ride in a tractor, car or other farm vehicle!

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How to use a reward to get your dog to ride in a vehicle!

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Video Highlights

How to get your dog to ride in a car or truck

Odo is a young sheepdog who was returned to us, because he wouldn’t get in a car.
Our target is to get Odo to jump into a car, or at least to not mind riding in one.
The dog’s reward for riding in the car, will be that at the end of the journey, he gets to work sheep.
Many good dogs are seriously injured or killed while running near vehicles.
When a vehicle is moving on the farm, it’s safer for the dog to ride inside it.
Riding in the vehicle can save the dog’s energy, if the stock are far from the farm.
Insisting the dog rides in a vehicle with you, strengthens the bond between you.
1st attempt at loading Odo into the car – he’s not happy!
Until it gets used to it, every sound and every movement, will probably frighten the dog.
Yawning is a sure sign that a dog is not happy.
Keep the dog in place, until you’re ready for it to jump out of the vehicle.
Odo’s first reward for his (very short) car journey.

Cut some slack for the dog’s stress level

Having just got out of a ‘scary’ vehicle, the dog’s work might not be good at first.
A sheep jumps out of the training ring.
Ending the session – time to put Odo back in the car!
2nd attempt at loading Odo.
Odo sits in the (stationary) car for a few moments, and then goes back to the sheep.
Odo’s tail shows he’s nervous as he get sheep away from the hurdles.
It’s time for Odo to go back to the car again.
3rd attempt at loading Odo into the car – and he jumps in!
Once again, after a few moments in the car, Odo goes back to the sheep.
Once Odo settles down with the sheep, it’s time to go back to the car again.
4th attempt to load Odo into the car – he jumps in enthusiastically.
Odo goes for a little drive in the field.
After being driven a short way, Odo goes to the sheep again.
5th attempt to load Odo into the car.
6th attempt at loading Odo (without the lead this time).
It took 18.5 minutes to get Odo to jump into the car unaided!
Leadership and a reward, can help get a dog to do something it doesn’t want to do.
So what happened the next time Odo was asked to get in the car?
Watch all 7 attempts to get Odo into the car!

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Rejected because he wouldn’t get in the car!

Poor Odo went to a sheep farm, but his new owner brought him back to us a few days later, because he couldn’t get the dog into his car to go to work! That was a pity because Odo was working really well, and how to get your dog to ride in a vehicle is a very simple matter – if you know what to do!

Working dogs have a huge capacity for learning, but in order to learn things that we want them to do, there must be some reward in it for them. Fortunately, one of the greatest rewards you can give a sheep or cattle dog is to allow it to work the stock.

This is obviously a great help when we train a dog to work livestock, but in this tutorial Andy uses the reward of working sheep to get Odo, who is terrified of going in a vehicle, to jump in and go for a ride!

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10 responses to “Use a reward to get training on board”

  1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
    Deborah Hoggar

    I watched this video with interest.
    Nell great ‘sheepdog in training g’ 18 months old, loves to work. She is happy to get in any vehicle except for our absolute workhorse / run around vehicle. It is a gaitor, it’s relatively noisy. We have other noisy vehicles, she’s fine with them.
    Presumably she’s had a bad experience with it, no one is aware of one.
    She’ll go in it when it’s switched off, in fact she’ll choose to. As soon as it starts up she literally flees in terror, it has often meant literally fleeing over a boundary fence onto a road.
    Even if she’s indoors if she hears it start she is panic stricken.
    If you reassuringly hold her when it’s running, she writhes around in a bid to get free.
    Should I follow the suggested method with a cage in the back and the reward of working ? My fear is if I let her out to work she’d disappear onto the horizon ? Beyond the pale ? Get rid of the gaitor ? Any advice very welcome.
    RecAll normally great – not when she’s fleeing.
    Thank you, Deborah

    1. Now please don’t take this wrongly (I’m learning from this too) but I’ve spent a good portion of today writing replies to you, before I finally realised that the answer is very simple. Basically, your dog’s just like Odo, but she’s not as strongly bonded with you, as Odo was to me. Notice how careful I am when I put Odo in the car and close the door. I’m EXPECTING him to attempt to jump out (but he doesn’t).
      You’re worried that if you lift your dog into the Gator and take her to the sheep, she’ll run off. As far as I can tell from what you say, the BOND between you is what you need to work on.
      Watch the video again, carefully. Notice how frightened Odo is, but he respects me as his leader, and makes no attempt to run away. If your dog really, strongly respected your leadership, she might be frightened when the Gator starts up – she might run and hide nearby, but I don’t think she’d panic and run away.
      Work on the bond. Spend TIME with the dog and give her CALM, FIRM LEADERSHIP. Watch “Starting a non-starter” and then “Stopping the dog” Part 1 for some useful information on bonding with your dog.
      The lead training test isn’t conclusive, but it’s a good guide to the strength of bond between you. A better test might be how the dog responds when it’s doing something it REALLY enjoys, when you call it away – particularly when it’s working sheep or cattle.
      Please let me know if you think I’ve got this wrong. I only have your description to go by, and you don’t necessarily know what I need to know, to get a true picture. If you suspect the bond is very strong (and not the issue) there are plenty of things to work on, and I’m certian you can get the dog jumping into the Gator at every opportunity.
      I think you need to work on the bond – and then take the steps in this tutorial (whilst adapting them to your own circumstances).

      1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
        Deborah Hoggar

        This is a really interesting reply, not the one I was expecting. I’m the only one who works our sheep with her and we’re beginners together. She loves her work but it has taken me a long time to establish the commands and for instance, getting her to wait by me until I’m ready to start and to come away when I’ve decided we’ve finished.
        I think very recently we’ve made big progress. I’ve put this down to her maturity and me beginning to properly understand what we’re trying to achieve but I think you may be right, it might be that we’re only just beginning to bond and she’s only just beginning to trust me as a leader.
        We’ve always had dogs but she’s my first collie and I’ve found her quite a challenge, I feel real affection for her but perhaps that’s not the same as having a working relationship!
        I’ll revisit the videos you’ve suggested and try to really think about developing our bond. I’m looking forward to it. Then I’ll go back to the gator!
        Thank you very much for your considered advice.

        1. It’s great to know you’ve thought about my reply, and are going to incorporate it into your training, Deborah. Often, I tell people what I think is the real problem with their training, and never hear from them again!

          You just need to be the boss, and the dog needs to respect you. A good example is going through gates or doors. Does the dog charge through as soon as you open it a crack, or does it wait for you to go through first? Teach the dog manners, and you’ll gain its respect, but don’t forget the dog needs some fun, too!

          When you go back to the Gator issue, make it as simple as you possibly can for the dog to make progress.

          If it were my dog, I think I would put some sheep in the training ring, and park the Gator close to it – not tight against it, but a few yards away. Then I’d take the dog to work sheep in the ring. If I thought it was likely I could get the dog to walk past the Gator with its engine running, I’d try that, but otherwise do it with the engine switched off, and then a friend would arrive and start it up (very quietly – no revving) while the dog was working in the ring. The friend would then go off and leave you to work the dog.

          How far away from the ring the vehicle should be parked depends on what you expect the dog’s reaction to be.
          If you’re able to work the dog in the ring with the Gator engine running, (GRADUALLY) try working the dog a bit closer to it (dog and sheep in the ring – Gator still outside).

          The permutations are endless – someone quietly moves the Gator around while you continue training the dog – or maybe just park the Gator closer next time. Basically, you just need to make the dog realise the Gator is not only harmless, but it improves the dog’s chances of going to sheep. Start off with the absolute easiest way for the dog, and gradually move on.

          When I ran training courses years ago, we got the occasional dog which was so excited by the event (and sheep) that it wouldn’t stop barking. I told the owners to take the dog far enough away that it didn’t bark – and then after a few minutes of silence, move a little closer. If the dog barked, they moved away again. If it didn’t bark, they moved a little bit closer, and so on.

          One man didn’t like the idea. After moving some distance away his dog went quiet, but he walked to his car and drove off!

          Otherwise, it worked without exception though. If there’s one thing sheepdogs are good at, it’s learning. The dogs quickly learned that to get close to the sheep (which is what they wanted) they had to be quiet.

          The quickest way to get your dog on the Gator though, is to do what I do with Odo in the video above, but you need to be sure the dog won’t run away. Only you can judge this.

          1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
            Deborah Hoggar

            Thank you Andy,
            It may seem like a strange thing to say but your opening comment in your original reply, regarding my bond with my dog not being strong enough, has had a profound affect on our work ! I felt a bit gutted when I read it but Psychologically it has had a really significant affect, it struck a cord I think, I’ve needed to change into the leader in our relationship, rather than just someone trying to get her to obey commands when we’re with sheep.
            The advice about insisting on manners has made me feel I have permission to take control of her exuberance and energy, rather than just thinking of her as ‘a bit of a handful’.
            I make it sound as if I didn’t have control of her, which isn’t true, it’s a much more subtle shift in psychology. I’m going to cement this new relationship before working on the gator.
            Thanks again, an important step forward for both Nell and I !

  2. Saskia Sowers avatar
    Saskia Sowers

    To also say , when these “episodes” occur, she seems very brave as she will take alpacas off the fence or in behind them out of a corner, and turn them or the goats , completely undaunted by their challenges. she has even been kicked by the alpaca and seems to simply learn not to get in quite so close. but never fear, never aggression , just if there is such a look in dog…A big fat grin on her face the whole time, She is so trying but so fun to watch I think shes going to be great IF she doesnt out smart me!

  3. Maciej Wiosna avatar
    Maciej Wiosna

    That is how you teach dogs a proper lesson. Calm, assertive and patient leadership + reward. Thank you for this slightly different video of sheepdog training.

    1. Saskia Sowers avatar
      Saskia Sowers

      Hi Andy , I have 2 bc girls, one of which ‘Bella’ 7 months, is always by our side and very obedient . The other Lexi at 8 months and half months is just starting on herding , but on her own every chance she gets, Sneaky little girl runs off an her recall is now terrible .I do what you say to do and go out and make it an improvised lesson and last time she seemed to really get the balance point down. BUT she will not come to us . she doesn’t want to quit and seems to know we cant stop her . or she will go off on her own on our walks she will totally ignore us ,or turn look at me say heck with you and continue on her way which makes me totally relate to your : “must have patients ” even though you want to strangle them tutorials! she has always had an “I dont follow the pack” mentality, she is completely non aggressive with the goats or alpacas but is very good at the same time , as she is totally loving it . I cant keep her always on a leash she needs to get out and run with the pack. ( we exersise our dogs 2x a day we have 2 great danes too) but I dont know what to do with her. shes such a wonderful girl but she makes me crazy with the I beat to my own drum thing. but I dont scold her or yell at her cause when she does come I have to praise her .I wouldn’t want to come to an angry nut. any advice to get a stop button would be great

      1. I think you need to sort out the basics before you go any further with your Lexi dog, Saskia. The dog clearly has no respect for you. It’s learned that it can have just as much, or even more fun, whether it does what you want or not, and until you change this perception, the dog’s going to continue to run rings around you.

        Keep the dog under control when it’s not being trained, and don’t allow it to go and do its own thing. If it escapes and goes to the stock, by all means turn that into a very brief lesson but be sure you can catch the dog and take it away quickly.

        There are two things to address before this is possible.

        First. The recall.
        The recall is very important – and unless you’re an expert, it should really be put in place before you begin training. The puppy stage is the best time to do this. I guess you didn’t spend much time bonding with the dog when it was a pup?

        The dog should WANT to come to you when it’s away from stock. If it doesn’t want to come to you when there’s nothing exciting going on, how do you expect it to stop and come to you when it’s chasing animals?

        Remember. If the dog doesn’t want to come to you, it hasn’t yet bonded with you fully. It doesn’t regard you as its leader. It doesn’t respect you. You must demonstrate to the dog that you ARE its leader, and you must gain its respect. The best short cut I know to this is PROPER lead training. By proper, I mean with the dog walking on a slack lead (away from stock).

        Watch the Bronwen and Scylla tutorials – particularly the early ones. Your dog is much like Scylla in those, but I quickly sorted out the recall with lead training.

        When our dogs are on their twice-daily run, I make a point of calling the youngsters to me from time to time. It’s not unusual for an adolescent to decide they’re not going to come to me, so when that happens, if I can’t catch the dog, they ALL go back to the yard. The errant youngster will go back to the yard as well, because the rest of the pack is going, and they don’t want to be left out.

        Once in the yard, I will catch the youngster and either take it out on a lead for the remainder of the run, or bundle it into its pen and leave it there for the rest of the run. I favour the lead though. Nothing concentrates the dog’s mind quite like being confined to walking PROPERLY on a lead when all the rest of the pack is running around chasing frisbee’s and having a great time. Youngsters hate it, and they learn very fast.

        All our dogs know that if they don’t come straight to me in the field (or anywhere else) they’ll be walking on the lead for a day or so. It has worked with every breed we’ve had.

        Catching the dog.
        If you’ve got a good recall it will make it much easier to catch the dog when it’s working. Usually, I position myself between the stock and the dog, then I crouch down and call the dog to me. If it “sells me a dummy” (comes towards me but dodges off to the stock at the last second) I repeat the proceedure, but get closer to the dog before I crouch down the next time.

        If this still doesn’t work after two or three attempts, I’ll open up a pen or move some hurdles to make somewhere to temporarily pen the sheep, then I’ll continue to work the dog around them until they’re confined (maybe even in a tight corner). Once the sheep can no longer run away, the dog will stay close, and I can catch it.

        I hope this helps – please let me know how you get on.

        1. Saskia Sowers avatar
          Saskia Sowers

          Thank you for your response , I did spend 24/7 with her as a pup , but I did not do much proper training . I think I misunderstood your video , ( the come by and away ..or first steps dvd). when you said you didn’t do much obedience with them as pups . I totally can see she has no respect I’ll back up and get the recall and proper training done first . Ill let you know as I progress. Thanks again .

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