Mike CHS

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I introduced them to sheep starting at around 6 months but this was in a small round pen with the dog outside and the human in the pen with the sheep. You keep the sheep moving in the pen so the dog has to constantly change direction to stay on them. As they stop to change direction, you just say the command for the direction they are turning to. That's where they start to get the idea about the Away and Go By commands for direction. You keep the sessions short and stop as soon as they don't do what they are told. You have to have the lie down command down before they get on sheep or you will have a bunch of one step forward and two backwards every time. I originally taught all of my herding dogs the Lie Down command while throwing them a rubber ball. The Stay command is taught at the same time. We also lived in a subdivision at the time so their walks was on a lead and they constantly got the sit and stay commands as I changed direction of walking. One thing that works really fast is to have them on a lead and give the Sit. Have the lead pulled out toward you and if they don't immediately respond, step on the lead forcing them down. It doesn't hurt them but they don't like it and will respond immediately after a time or two. You need them to sit immediately when they are working since it's a fine line between herding and chasing so you have to have control. I had 100% positive response from them on the sit and stay long before they ever saw a sheep.

The way our paddocks are set up I rarely let the dogs in on the sheep unless I want to separate a ram, but Lance (Border Collie) gets to work every time I let the sheep out of the fence to graze on our driveway lane or the bordering neighbors two acres that isn't fenced. That doesn't happen often since I obviously have to be with them the whole time they are out of the fence. He is super aware of what I'm doing and responds to hand signals for directional movement. I just keep sending him either behind the flock to keep them moving or send him past them to stay ahead of them to keep them contained away from the exit to the road.

I'm not sure how much experience you have but from your posts, I know you have quite a bit. There are some good videos going from the first day of training to almost ready to work by a senior gentleman (now deceased) in England that I really enjoyed when I was learning. Those started me but we also had some super mentors for a couple of years that made it easier for us.

I just checked and the videos are on Youtube and a search for Ted Hope Sheep and youtube went right to them. He had a really easy manner and was easy to listen to plus if you don't need any basics, you can go to a video that is more in line with what you need info on.

Another edit - most people that we know won't work a young dog on open fields until they are over a minimum of a year old which is why they get so much time in the training pens.
 
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Beekissed

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I'm not sure how much experience you have but from your posts, I know you have quite a bit. There are some good videos going from the first day of training to almost ready to work by a senior gentleman (now deceased) in England that I really enjoyed when I was learning. Those started me but we also had some super mentors for a couple of years that made it easier for us.

I just checked and the videos are on Youtube and a search for Ted Hope Sheep and youtube went right to them. He had a really easy manner and was easy to listen to plus if you don't need any basics, you can go to a video that is more in line with what you need info on.

Another edit - most people that we know won't work a young dog on open fields until they are over a minimum of a year old which is why they get so much time in the training pens
Thank you so much for the reply!! I have ZIP experience with herding dogs and their training, some years of experience with teaching basic obedience and such, though I've never taken it too far....just enough to have control over the dogs in most situations.

I'll look up Mr. Hope....I think I may have caught one of his vids already and stored it on my "sheep stuff" vids on YT. I'll soak up all I can of his. I won't be able to afford any training or clinics and most are very far away from me, so I'll have to do this very DIY...but I do want to do this well.

It's going to be hard to keep Dooley away from sheep in our situation, as part of their grazing is right down the middle of our place~the yard~and that's where Dooley will be living and working with the chickens. He also is starting to follow me on chores....tonight was his first close contact with the sheep. He was pretty scared of them, as they all were curious and wanted to sniff at him. I had to call him back to me several times~he was smart enough to exit the fencing when he felt threatened~ and monitor the interaction...I showed him that I protect him from the sheep and that the sheep move when I approach them, hence they also move if he is with me when I approach them. At first, Blue our Anatolian, went after a sheep that scared Dooley...not hard, but just got after the sheep, bumping him with his body. I thought that was kind of neat. Blue is a real nurturer of small animals.

I'd like to start basic obedience with him soon...have already started some, but he needs a daily work on the leash and on basic commands right now. I've just been a bit too busy to tend to that this past week. After he's responding to me well on all things, I'd like to start some soft herding training on just the chickens and ducks, after I teach him the down, of course. I think that may give him a little practice and a little confidence, while teaching him the chickens can only be herded while I'm around. That's going to be tough to teach.

Thank you so much, Mike, for taking the time to reply and help me! I really need this to work. This dog is an investment in some much needed help here and I hope I don't mess him up in my inexperience. He truly is a very smart, very enjoyable dog to have around....it's been many a long year since I enjoyed a pup so much. It's pretty unanimous here, everyone is in love with this Dooley dog~he's already showing some very admirable traits.

He'll be hitting 6 mo. long about the time we separate the sheep into breeding groups, so while we have them in the sorting pens, it would be a good time to let him work a little on the whethers we will be butchering thereafter. By that time I should have him well established on commands, particularly the down. I'll study on every vid I can until then and try to practice what I've learned with Dooley on the runner ducks in the garden before then. If I can get him to work easy and soft on the ducks, it shouldn't be too hard to get him to do some of the same work on the sheep. I want a dog with a soft, quick style that doesn't enjoy running them too much....with high tensile fencing, we can't risk running them through the fencing every time he works them.
 

Ridgetop

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You must train Dooley on basic obedience first. He should do a long sit and long down at a distance. That is basic obedience. My dogs were obedience trained and they would obey the "stop", "sit", and "down" from a long distance with hand signals. In Open A, B, and Utillity obedience trials the dogs have to work from a distance. We use hand signals as well as verbal commands. Field trial dogs hunt and have to be steady on their obedience too before they can hunt birds, Their handlers often use whistles since the trial dogs can be half a mile away. The judges are on horseback. In herding trials shepherds also use whistles in short blasts to give the dogs the commands from far away.

Without complete obedience to your commands you can't start the dog on sheep. Working sheep will be very exciting for him since he will be "chasing" them. Excitement can cause young dogs to forget their training. Just watch young dogs at their first obedience trial! LOL Dooley must be completely steady on his obedience and distance commands before trying to use him on sheep. Don't try to go too fast until his obedience work is steady. You need to be able to call him away from the sheep and put him on a steady sit or down stay.

When you start working Dooley on the sheep, I suggest you pen your LGD up. To the LGD the way a herding dog moves sheep looks like a predator and some LGDs will go after the herding dog, Also, you will have to train the sheep to be herded quietly as well. Sheep that don't understand herding often scatter when first herded with a dog. Inexperienced sheep with an inexperienced dog can make for a lot more work for you and a lot of confusion for the young dog. You don't want that since it can ruin his training.
 

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You must train Dooley on basic obedience first. He should do a long sit and long down at a distance. That is basic obedience. My dogs were obedience trained and they would obey the "stop", "sit", and "down" from a long distance with hand signals. In Open A, B, and Utillity obedience trials the dogs have to work from a distance. We use hand signals as well as verbal commands. Field trial dogs hunt and have to be steady on their obedience too before they can hunt birds, Their handlers often use whistles since the trial dogs can be half a mile away. The judges are on horseback. In herding trials shepherds also use whistles in short blasts to give the dogs the commands from far away.

Without complete obedience to your commands you can't start the dog on sheep. Working sheep will be very exciting for him since he will be "chasing" them. Excitement can cause young dogs to forget their training. Just watch young dogs at their first obedience trial! LOL Dooley must be completely steady on his obedience and distance commands before trying to use him on sheep. Don't try to go too fast until his obedience work is steady. You need to be able to call him away from the sheep and put him on a steady sit or down stay.

When you start working Dooley on the sheep, I suggest you pen your LGD up. To the LGD the way a herding dog moves sheep looks like a predator and some LGDs will go after the herding dog, Also, you will have to train the sheep to be herded quietly as well. Sheep that don't understand herding often scatter when first herded with a dog. Inexperienced sheep with an inexperienced dog can make for a lot more work for you and a lot of confusion for the young dog. You don't want that since it can ruin his training.
Duly noted....Dooley noted also! :D =D I will definitely work hard on a solid down and stay at a distance....we have 4 mo. to get this right before I introduce him formally to the sheep in a pen situation. Today he got shocked on the high tensile, so it's not likely he'll be going anywhere near the paddocks anymore without being on a lead.

Started him officially on his leash training today....had a few short sessions when he first arrived but haven't gotten back to it. Didn't take him long to learn the drill but I'll be putting him through his paces as close to daily as I can get. I'm watching Ted Hope on YT right now and I was right....I HAD watched him before here and there, but will store his whole series of training sessions I can find onto my sheep stuff so I can go over and over them.

He's good on recall right now but must get better, especially under exciting situations. I've been using "that'll do" instead of "good boy"....just getting us both used to the lingo.

Will definitely tie up the LGDs while using Dooley until I can train him/them to also lie down and stay down while we move or work the sheep. Starting to tie them to the water wagon for moves now anyway, as Blue likes to avoid moving to a new paddock....for some reason these dogs hate to move way more then the sheep do.

Right now if Dooley were to chase the sheep, the LGDs would likely just join him and have all kinds of fun....they too are still in training. :rolleyes: Had to yell at both of them just this morning....Charlie for chasing the sheep and Blue for letting her.

My dogs are trained on hand signals but I've never done any of their obedience at a distance...that will be my biggest challenge. How do you stop them from coming to you over and over unless you get someone else to hold them in place while you walk off? I've worn myself out several times trying to get dogs to lay down and stay down until I come back to them, but they all run to meet me. I've watched vids on it but none show how to accomplish this one thing....they always show the dogs already staying down at a distance. I've tried the short walk off and tried to lengthen that, but past a certain point they always follow me or come to me. None will chase a ball....just not that kind of dog. Even this pup has no interest in toys or balls or fetching of any kind. The only time I've gotten my dogs to lay down and stay down for any length of time was if there was food in the vicinity as a reward...as in their feed bowls.

Do you incorporate the whistle after they've learned all the verbal and hand signals or along with as you go?

Sorry for all the questions but I tried asking a few on a herding dog FB page and was treated with much condescension by the few that answered. Quite the elite group, those trial folks. Guess I was lucky a few even bothered to answer.
 

Beekissed

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Scratch that....just heard Ted say he does the lie down/stop whistle but none of the other commands by whistle until the dog is fully trained on those commands verbally. Got it.
 

Ridgetop

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If your dogs are not solid on the long stay, you may be rushing it. First, don't worry abut the LGDs doing any of this since they are not genetically geared to it. Just tie them up or kennel them during the obedience lessons and later while working Dooley on sheep. We use a large chain link kennel run to lock up our LGDs when strangers are on the property. They are used to staying where we put them now, and we have switched over to putting them in the barn pen with the ewes and lambs. The pen fences in the barn are only 3'-4' high but the LGDs stay just fine because they have been trained to it and are with some of the sheep.

I recommend everyone with dogs teach them to be either kenneled, crated, or penned in some way since one day it will be necessary to do it and you want them to know that being penned or crated is ok. I would start Dooley on some crate training too.

When teaching the long stay, use a 20 foot line like you use on the recall. Be strict when returning him to the exact position he was in when he broke the stay. You have to be consistent and ALWAYS end the lessons when he is successful, not when he breaks and you want to give up. Success comes day by day, and week by week. You can't rush this part of his training. Once he masters staying in one spot, move farther away just by inches since you need to be close enough to correct him with a voice command if he starts to break. Do NOT rush this step since the dog's entire future training depends on it, Most "obedience trained" dogs are trained just enough to make living them as a family dog bearable. A properly trained obedience dog (which is what a sheep dog is only with more training) should heel off leash, stay for long periods of time while you are out of sight, come on command instantly, and drop to a down or sit signal in the middle of the field. This requires lots of time training the dog. Without the time spent on this training you will not have the sheep herding tool you want. And remember that a herding dog is a tool to lessen your workload just like your chutes, scale, tractor, LGD, etc. Without that intensive training, you wilI have an unreliable farm dog that can scatter the sheep as fast as he can gather them. I used to train my obedience dogs a solid hour every day, usually often more. Our Aussie was properly obedience trained, but never became a great herding dog because I did not put in the same amount of work on her herding training as I did on her obedience.

The basics are the key. You can't become a great mathematician without basic arithmetic, or a great author without basic spelling and grammar. Absolute obedience is the basis before herding or any other specialized skills can be taught. Don't skimp due to "lack of time". Turning Dooley into a good sheep herder will require great dedication and work. Eventually I would like to have a herding dog, but I know my physical and age limitations now will not allow me to put in the time required so I will buy a finished herding dog.

I applaud your desire to train this dog yourself. Concentrate on the obedience work first, and you will see great success.
 

Mike CHS

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The farm owners where we first started training our dogs are super nice people but no-nonsense when it came to the working dogs. More than a few times I saw them take a look at how dogs behaved when they were introduced to sheep and then tell the dog owners that they need to have the dog "ready' to train before they came back again. She got paid for each dog that was there but she wouldn't waste the time if a dog wasn't ready to start and that meant a solid down and stay at a minimum. Add to that a dog that can't be controlled can do a lot of damage to sheep in their excitement and she wouldn't tolerate that. They didn't make a lot of $ but they loved training the folks to train their dogs.
 

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So much good information. A new gate latch allowed our herding novice unlimited access to the flock. Nothing bad happened. He doesn’t know what to do but stops when I need him to. He chased chickens with a closed mouth no grabbing. A start? Yep but not with a thorough bred so results may vary.
 

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Bee, what a nice puppy. I know you will give him your all, your very best. If anybody can do this, it is you. I will be following along on this journey. I have nothing to add as I have no experience with herding dogs, but I will applaud your efforts. Dooley will become a great dog under your training.

I have never heard of a Hanging Tree Cowdog, it was interesting reading about them. Truly a utility breed.
 

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Ooo okay I will deffiently be interested in this one. Stella needs a buddy. Our goat panda has hurt her confidence. Panda will go after her of she in a 10-20 feet of panda personal space. I have to hold panda to get her to work and little lady has also be come somewhat of a handful as soon as it cools we going to be working stella harder to get her back up to par. I hope he works out and I be looking for one around here. I had thought o get a healer.
Have you considered a Texas Blue Lacy?


 

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