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Willow's Herding Story

Participating in what the breed was originally bred for? This is where you want to be.
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Christie M
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Willow's Herding Story

Post by Christie M » Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:58 pm

I've told this story on other lists, but haven't shared it here yet.

I took Willow to a herding seminar when she was 2-3 years old. By this time, she was well on her way in bite work training and competition. I was VERY honest with the instructor of what we had trained for, and she was enthusiastic because she had never seen a Dutch before.

The set up was basically that the handler walked the dog to the arena and then stepped out while the instructor worked the dog. The first time in the arena, most of the dogs were very hesitant and weren't sure what to do. Willow wasn't nervous at all. She didn't get the game at first, but picked it up quickly, backed off when told and all-in-all looked awesome. :D

The instructor made a HUGE deal out of her. She talked about how this was evidence that it truly is instinctive. Here was a dog that had been trained by "man" to bite. But had been created by nature to herd. I was on cloud nine and so very proud of my very versatile dog.

We broke for lunch...and Willow sat in the truck. I swear she sat there thinking.....

After lunch, we all got a second turn. The other dogs worked more confidently. Since confidence wasn't an issue for Willow the first go around, she came in flat out cocky. Her drive was significantly higher this time. She was getting dangerously close to the sheep.....and she wasn't backing off when told. I started to step in, but was hushed.

The instructor felt that Willow needed to be backed down in drive. And on that point, I agree. However, her technique was less than appropriate for a bite dog. She gathered the sheep behind her (the prey) and then physically presented herself to the dog in a very defensive way. She had the paddle across her body, was completely frontal to Willow and was trying to use her body to physically back her down.

Bad idea. Essentially, she had taken my bite dog who was clearly very high in Prey Drive and put her right into defense instead of lowering her drive. I could see things going bad and Willow grabbed the paddle. I stepped in and yelled at Willow to Out and Down. The instructor yelled back at me "I'm working your dog. Get out of my ring." :eek:

Mind you, this was before I learned to have confidence in myself with my dog. So I stepped back, covered my mouth and tried not to cry. I was sure the instructor was going to get bit. You can probably back down a herding dog using physical presence. But for a bite dog - this was the perfect picture from a decoy.

Somehow, the instructor's assistant misunderstood what was being asked of him. He stepped behind the instructor and pushed the sheep out from behind her and right into Willow. All of that frustration suddenly had a release, and Willow had a poor critter by the leg in a millisecond. :shock: The assistant leapt on her, put her in a head lock and I was there immediately. I asked him to let go of my dog. He said he wouldn't let go until she let go of the sheep. I explained, in an ever so controlled voice, that she was never going to let go of that sheep in a head lock. He let go, I told her to out and she did so immediately. Truly, you could see that she had no idea what the problem was. She won the game.

I put her up and cried like a baby. :oops:

The instructor then explained that dogs that are taught to bite are not good herding dog. :D

To this day, I believe that if I had been allowed to participate and control her drive, I think we could have been successful. Capping her drive is a constant part of working her. But we never did try herding again. And I have never tried with another dog :(
Christie Meyer
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Be proud of the things that you have taught your dog. Be humbled and grateful for all of the things that your dog has taught you. - Unknown

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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by leih merigian » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:16 am

What a great story to illustrate the importance of trusting yourself and your knowledge of your own dog.

I only tried herding once, but found it pretty boring. I guess if you have the herding gene, it can be great fun (like anything else), but lacking that gene, it doesn't do much for me.
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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by vneerland » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:56 am

OMG. You have me rolling!
What a bunch of idiots, to assume that all dogs can be backed down by a person?
Wished I had been there to see it. I personally believe that our working bred brindles can indeed be taught to herd. There is a catch though, and that is early exposure, IMHO. I have had ducks floaring around my pond for several years now, and the ones that grew up around it know what is off limits and despite their high prey drive, they -for the most part- leave it alone when told to do so. Like a dog that grows up around cats will be much more likely to be tolerant of them than a dog that has only seen them run and never been told not to attempt to have Felix for lunch. Some old pro's though, that had not had the early pleasure, had a lot more trouble with the concept.
Anyhow. I do think that Willow might have had a good chance to have learned, if she had been given the opportunity. :yeah:
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Kristie E
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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by Kristie E » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:14 am

Fantastic story, thanks for sharing...they are very lucky Willow did not decide that they (the instructor/assistant) were edible. My GSD in his later years ate the neighbor who tried to intimidate him and put his arm out like he had a sleeve on it. Luckily Lonnie showed some self control and did not break the skin... :o
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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by GSDNanny » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:26 pm

Christie, hence the term 'millisecond'!! Yes indeed the DS is the ultimate agility machine, quick as lightening. Coupled by the intense prey drive and you see what I was talking about earlier. I can totally relate to the scenario you encountered. Glad no blood was shed!!! Both my DS and 2 GSDs were trained in bitework but contrary to what the instructor that you had said, they are actually more easily controlled with a proper aus/out. Most herding instructors are BC folks and any bite trained dog intimidates and scares them because they havent a clue how to react.

I find that it is the intensity in prey drive that is hard to deal with, especially in a large adult dog who has not yet learned to control it on actual prey. And the stock reads this as soon as the dog enters the arena. I have seen sheep flip off dogs with no intensity and keep grazing or eating. Then I have also seen dogs step across the gate line and the sheep go spastic in fear, running everywhere. A friend barely entered the arena with her GSD, the sheep went freaking running in all directions, flying in the air and one flipped, caught in the fence, hit its head on a post and broke its neck. All in a millisecond. Needless to say, she bought the sheep. She hadnt even unleashed her dog. The dog just stood there like, what the he**!! She paid and the dog didnt even get the thrill. Personally, I dont have the extra $$ when working someone else's stock to pay top dollar if injury or death occurs.

My little Cattledog and Aussie were raised on my farm so they know the drill. It makes training much easier because they learn real quick 'no bite' or 'get outta there.' Herding is an art and it takes being stock saavy and dog saavy on the handler's part, reading both at the same time and being able to make quick decisions or it can all go bad real fast. I enjoy it and boring isnt something I would call it, I guess because I use it in a functional sense.
Now, there are some showline GSDs that have nothing between the ears and even less in the heart and they dont give a rats about stock. Dont know a sheep from their own hiney. That is so pitiful to see what human exploitation has done to that breed. Now to me that IS boring to watch.

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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by turnnburn52984 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:34 am

Wow~~~ Thanks for sharing that Christie!

I"m going to have Koenig do a herding instinct test later this year (May)... Now I am WAAYYYY nervous! Luckily, the instructor is very familiar with working/SchH dogs, and dogs being taught to bite. I'm not sure if they've had a DS out before or not, Koenig has an abundance of prey drive, it will be entertaining to say the least I'm sure. I'll be sure to report back with lots of photos!
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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by leih merigian » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:37 pm

GSDNanny wrote: Herding is an art and it takes being stock saavy and dog saavy on the handler's part, reading both at the same time and being able to make quick decisions or it can all go bad real fast. I enjoy it and boring isnt something I would call it, I guess because I use it in a functional sense.
Now see, Denise, this is the thing. I am totally ignorant of stock, have none that require me to have the functionality of this skill, and so am totally artless in this regard :lol: .

I think anything one does with a dog, when the handler and dog make a wonderfully functional team, is a joy to behold and very much worth of respect (and this is whether it's for compeition or actual work). I'm just the first (and second and third) to acknowledge that I have none of this when it comes to herding :mrgreen: .

I sure do love reading your descriptions and stories about it, tho!
leih merigian
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Re: Willow's Herding Story

Post by Marjolein » Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:55 pm

what a great story! Whahaa :lol:
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