Bronwen and Scylla (Part 8)

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When a dog's proving slow to train, it's particularly important to be able to recognise the areas where progress is being made, and to communicate approval and encouragement to the dog when it's work is improved, even if it's not fully up to the standard you aspire to.

It's through such guidance that the dog learns more quickly what pleases the handler and what doesn't.

Part eight of the Bronwen and Scylla training comparison focuses on Scylla and points out the areas of her work which deserve praise and encouragement, as well as those which are still a long way below par.

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3 Replies to “Bronwen and Scylla (Part 8)”

  1. Hello there, we have 2, 7 month old working collie pups. 1 of the pups is a wee gem and is very loyal to us, walks with us, looks at us for instruction, listens etc etc. Rhum however is a very strong pup. I have had her in a training ring and she moves well. I can get her going come by very well however when I send her out she always cuts back in front of me. It’s very hard to keep her going round continuously as she is determined to hold the sheep to the edge and not let them out of her sight!!
    My biggest problem is getting her to listen to me. I am finding it near impossible to get her trained on the lead to stop pulling and walk to heel. I use the, minute she pulls I stop and take a few steps back method but it takes a lot to get her attention on me and when she does she sits. I can get her to lie down using my hand in front of her nose and
    guiding her down but can’t get her to move on from there. As for stopping and lying down in the training ring its just not happening. She can be sticky, and takes absolutely no notice of me walking up to her with the training stick to push her forward. She doesn’t seem to even see me or the stick.

    I have had her in the open field but I think she is doing her own thing and I am just saying the commands when she moves in those directions and stopping comes only when she is exhausted. She does grip here and there but I’m sure its when she tires and is possibly a bit confused.

    I’m beginning to doubt my ability to train her and I’m sure she’s picking up on that. How can I get her to be more interested in me?? I’ve even started thinking about using food treats as she is not interested in the praise I give her verbally and when I do praise her at that brief second she is walking on the lead without pulling it just makes her pull again. I try to do lead training everyday with her even if it’s just a few minutes but time is difficult as we have a busy farm with 2 retired working dogs, 2 working dogs (1 who won’t come near us when the pups are with us) and a pet dog all of whom need exercise!! HELP!!

    JEnny

    1. You’re painting a very similar picture to that of the Bronwen and Scylla videos Jenny, but at seven months of age you’re expecting an awful lot!

      I would concentrate on getting a good bond with that Rhum pup. She sounds very much like Scylla (who went on to become a fine sheepdog, although I must admit she wasn’t as good as Bronwen).

      Your first mistake was buying two pups. Read the blog to find out more about this.

      Remember: Every dog is different. Just because one is very quick to learn and “biddable” doesn’t mean the other will be the same. Don’t worry too much about her work with stock at the moment, get the foundations of your relationship right first. Take Rhum to the sheep occasionally (once a month would be OK for now) just to keep her interested and to see whether she’s matured in her approach to them (and to you). This will give you more time to get her bonded with you properly.

      You say the biggest problem is getting her to listen to you. If the dog’s not listening, it’s because something else is more important to it. You need to spend as much (one-to-one) time with her as you can spare, and limit (or even stop) her fun from other sources until she responds.

      Don’t use food treats – that’s not the way herding dogs work.

      The lead training is very important, and clearly you’re making progress because you say that when you praise her for not pulling, she pulls again! That’s how dogs are! If you manage to get the dog to do something it doesn’t want to do, the moment you praise the dog, it takes your praise as a signal that it’s OK to carry on the way it wants to. Training dogs isn’t progress, progress every time. Often, it’s one step forward, and the next step is back. Correct her again – and again – and again, until she walks with the lead slack. It won’t take long unless you allow her to “beat you” and get her way. The fact that she occasionally walks without pulling is proof that it’s beginning to work.

      Be FIRM, FAIR and CONSISTENT.

      Lastly, if you can’t get the dog to flank both ways in the training ring, you’re probably not getting yourself into the right position. You said she goes clockwise “very well” but when you try to change her direction, she cuts back. Just about every keen dog will do that. The exception is your other dog, presumably flanking both ways??

      Keep the dog going clockwise until you can get yourself into a position where, as she comes round between the sheep and the fence, you can block her (if she ignores your blocking, you’re not being threatening enough with it). If you get it right, the dog has no choice but to go back the other way because she’s blocked by you, the sheep, and the fence. It’s not easy, but if you time it right, the dog will go back the other way. If you frighten her, and she turns away from the sheep, you need to back-off and not be so aggressive with the blocking.

      If you can get her to flank the sheep clockwise (reliably) in the open field or a larger training area, start walking backwards with her. If she wants to keep the sheep close to you, she’ll have to flank both ways to do it. Once again, this takes time though – be patient. Walking backwards is great for controlling the dog’s pace and curing “stickyness”. Watch the Walking Backwards tutorials.

      Training a dog like Rhum is not easy, but persevere and it will be well worth the effort. I hope you’ll let us know how you progress with this.

    2. Hi I’m a french farmer. Your Rhum sounds like my “Mo”. He’s now 14 months old and still a tough cookie. Andy is so wise about sheepdogs that i don’t dare to say more. Only one thing : trust your dog, as Mo, Rhum will be a great sheepdog!
      Thanks Andy and Gill for your work.

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