Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stock Doggin' Saturday and Oppositional Reflexes

Reese and I went herding yesterday. It was a beautiful day. We did some farmwork first. Helped trim sheep hooves and vaccinate. Then a great lunch of enchilladas and pork sandwiches.

Everyone did well with their respective charges. Zephyr continues to do well as does the other young pups now at about 5-6 months of age. A lot of which is due to the handlers having increased their knowledge and being more experienced after a summer of herding.

Reese and I started out like others to work on not having her be so excited that she runs to the stock and scatters the sheep instead of just peeling them from the fence and then working them.

We were trying not to engage her oppositional reflex. When a dog is pulled by their collar they have a natural reflex to pull in the opposite direction. This is why so many dogs have problems walking nicely on a lead. The dog starts to pull and the owner pulls them back with the leash and so the dog pulls harder. It works the other way too. Have you ever tried to get a dog to go somewhere it doesn't want to. Pull them towards something often they will put the brakes on and pull backwards.

So we walked out towards the stock and I had her lie down when she started to pull towards the stock. I talked to her calmly and let her calm down, then we moved a little closer and then did it again. When we were close enough to the stock I layed her down and talked to her calmly and unclipped her line and softly sent her.

When things started to go haywire I had to pick Reese up again. So I told her to lie down and she did, I picked her up and we started again, walking towards the sheep etc. However, this time I didn't use her lead I hung onto her collar, sent her but it didn't go so well. Did it again, and again, the same thing was happening.

I was told to put her line on and leave it on. This confused me a bit because each time I had told her to lie down she did and I could collect her without problem. But I did it because my trainer told me to. I was having a hard time getting her to work the sheep off the fence, because for one when I held onto her collar I had to bend over. It was explained that the sheep didn't think I was strong enough in that position and so they weren't going to move from the fence for me or my dog. Well, that made sense so we worked some more with the line on. But because we had done it a number of times, I was getting tired and frustrated and so was Reese but she was also losing confidence in herself - not a good thing.

She has pulled stock off fences before so I knew she could do it. However, I know it is an area where we sometimes have trouble so I tend to tense up when it starts to happen. I realized I was doing this and told myself to take a breath and just work it. I could tell that helped Reese also as she was reading my nerves and when I relaxed she did too.

We pursued the fence bound sheep and were able to get them off. My trainer would not let us fail by stopping. She made us keep at it until we had success. After we were successful then we stopped. Reese was very happy about her success and so was I.

Thinking over the day last night I also realized that when I led Reese by her coller to position her behind the sheep at the fence I was employing her oppositional reflex again, something we had been trying to avoid. So that, coupled with my bending over did not work - lesson learned.

What else went well. Reese stopped working and followed all of my lie down commands when I gave them. Whoo hoo, this is something we have been working on away from stock but with other distractions and it has carried over. Also, Reese was quiet while others were working -another great stride for her. Good girl!

A good trainer once told me that your dog will do what you expect them to do. If you expect them to have a problem with a recall, or a contact in agility or in our case taking stock off the fence they will. If on the other hand you expect them to do it - providing they know how of course they will. I expected Reese to lie down when I told her and I wasn't going to accept anything less. She layed down. Next week when the sheep are on the fence I will expect her to take them off. I won't accept anything less. Tune in next week to see if it works.

Here a few pictures of dogs working yesterday.

Hello Goat. I think you should get a move on...

I said,"Move It''

That's better.

Look at the concentration and focus.

These last two are my favorites.

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