As I sit here grazing sheep, I think I will write my thoughts from the earlier training sessions this morning. I started my day working 5 very different dogs (thought they all are related) ranging from 1 year to 5 years in agility.
These dogs remind me that no two dogs or people learn equally from the same methods, or at the same time. Different things are perceived as corrections, and all respond to various rewards differently. And by corrections, I would refer to anything a particular dog would react to as a negative. Could be as simple as withholding a treat, a look, repetition, a verbal. Now, I feel these are part of training, up to the point that they start to shut a dog down. This threshold obviously varies quite a bit.
For example, the 2 dogs who are helping me as I graze sheep. On stock, Dari (the younger) responds very well to verbal corrections, while my corrections to Dari hurt Tommy’s feelings and worry him… Which makes me realize that I need at times to work dogs individually.
When I started playing with Dari on agility equipment, she had a strong aversion to the movement of the puppy teeter board. Instead of forcing the issue, I just did other things with her, then one day had her out in the agility field while working with Tommy. She followed him over all the equipment and did the teeter. Its amazing when not training can help with such progress. She needed more confidence, which is coming with maturity.
Bug and Rango (my youngest) are 1 month apart in age. Rango turns a year old tomorrow (June 28). To say that they are different would be an understatement. Though both are very happy and bouncy. Bug in many ways is easier, willing to experiment, works well offering behaviors for the clicker, food motivated, responds easily to pressure on stock. Though she does not have the play drive I would like, I think it would be easy to build.
Rango is much more sensitive. His default when unsure is to come for attention, stand and wiggle. However he is rather fearless, with no concern about the rocker board, even learning to balance it! He loves affection, and is driven to play ball. Food is not so much of a draw when he gets tired. He also is very pressure sensitive on stock, and like his mother, wants to control those heads. Being a goofy male (and Lizzy’s pup) I am expecting a slow maturing boy. Patience I say…
Tommy is watching the sheep while I type, making sure they do not go out of bounds. It is fascinating to watch dogs learn the job of tending, the willingness of some to take initiative and “fix” the sheep, others just become anxious until given permission. The patience learned while grazing is invaluable. Stock handling does not mean constant motion, running around, or even information as to what to do.
I have been taking Tommy, Dari, and Lin with me to do chores in the morning. One thing I ask them to do (and correct them when they do not) is watch the gates when I put the grain down for the sheep. Dari places herself in a down front of the gate, with a “you better not come here look,” normally Tommy just stands and stares. This morning all 3 were lying down, blocking the sheep, until I put the grain down, and asked them to “get around.”