Help with a herding dog?
I just recently got a 4y/o Collie/Heeler mix (the Collie part of the mix is a guess, but you can definitely see the Heeler in her), Maggie, and she has a *huge* drive to herd. She 'herds' small children, my cat, and my other smaller dog (never with any nipping or barking, just circling and 'pushing' them gently in the direction she wants), and tries to herd my horses and the cattle.
Now, my horses are all really tolerant of dogs, and pretty much just ignore her, (though sometimes the younger two play along for awhile), but I know not all horses are that tolerant. And I don't mind her herding the cattle, but I'd like for her to herd them when I ask her to, rather than just go nuts when she sees a cow and try to chase it.
She's got a very good recall (I call her name and she's right back at my side. Sometimes, for cattle/horses, she'll try to sneak off again once or twice, but always comes back as soon as I call; we're working on 'stay' for that very reason.) and will usually follow me off-leash (not staying by my side, but she'll only wander a few feet away).
My question is, how can I train her to only herd the livestock that I want her to, when and where I want her to? I sort of accidentally trained her to 'herd' my other dog back to me (Moco is a sometimes-runner when she gets outside, and Maggie has taken to 'fetching' her when I call.), but I'm pretty sure that's not quite the same as working with cattle and horses.
I'd be happy even if I could just call her off the horses/cattle, but I've never worked with a dog that had quite so strong a herding instinct, and it just seems like it'd be unhealthy to completely squash it.
(Yet another reason we oughta get a sheep! :D)
Any opinions? Tips? Help in general?
I know this was posted ages ago, but no one replied, and I figured I'll have a go.
I would contact someone who trains these kind of dogs or knows a lot about young dogs of this sort and can give you some pointers. Or maybe find a book or a good online article.
Pictures of the doggy might help ;D
Maybe try teaching the leave it command when she is doing/herding things you don't like. It doesn't matter whether you have sheep or cattle, they are both going to move when she wants them to, and she can easily learn to herd both, it's all the same command. You can teach her to herd the horses too, if you wanted, but she's have to learn to be more forceful and persistent.
Picture of both the dogs. The herder, Maggie, is the darker one, and Moco is my Basenji-mix puppy.
I'm starting to think that a trainer is going to be my best option. She seems to have learned the "leave it", but it doesn't stick -- she'll "leave it" for awhile, and then try to go back. :-P
At least she'd given up on herding the horses. haha
The problem with herding dogs is that no matter how much you work with them, they will constantly be at the mercy of their drive. The best you can do is teach her to not herd unless you direct her to, which it sounds like you are already doing pretty well. There will always be times when you have to call her back when her drive gets the better of her.
We've raised and trained border collies for over 20 years and that's one thing I've found. The instant they see cattle, their drive will peak and they will be focused and want nothing more than the command to go gather. It is only their consistent training that keeps them from bolting after the cattle the second they see them. That drive is the thing that makes them a perfect working partner and such a pain for someone who just wants a pet or a calm farm dog.
I completely agree with smrobs.
Training and focusing that energy/drive on something. If you don't focus that energy and drive you may end up with a frustrated and neurotic dog.
Since you have cattle you have opportunity to give her a job which is great! You just need to put more training on her so she knows when it is work time and when it is not. And just like with horses, consistency is key. You have to stay on top of them.
If my dogs don't get to work, I try to let them do something else that will help release the energy. Play, trick training, let them work goats or sheep....but only with your command.
Just a little side story...
My husband(way before we were together) had a blue heeler. His girlfriend at the time would use the heeler to bring the horses up. Hubby and girlfriend go to help some friend gather cattle and hubby goes to put the dog on some cows that brushed up. Heeler was so used to running horses that he bit his horse instead and got him bucked off. I never let dogs even think that working a horse is ok....not an option.
We had just finished unloading trucks and were fixing to start pushing the cattle to their own individual pastures when Dad told me to turn the dogs out of the trailer. I did and the first thing Bill did was run over to Pokey and go to nipping at his heels:?. Well, that got Dad bucked off and Pokey headed for the hills. I was so God-blessed mad that I'd have shot the **** dog if I'd had a gun but alas, I didn't.
Anyway, with enough time and having Bill get tuned on a couple of times by a horse that wouldn't run, he is now our A+, #1 dog and has been for a few years. Super loyal and obedient but doesn't mess with horses anymore.
Just be consistent and you'll get there :)
I taught my English Shepherd that if she doesn't pay attention to me around the other animals she goes back inside and I finish chores without her. It worked wonders. In general around the barn I expect her to respond to any command I give her without hesitation. I only ask for things she understands, but if she doesn't listen she gets corrected.
If you ever decide to try some real herding lessons with your dog be very careful who you choose.
I don't know of anyone around here who herds with dogs anymore -- cattle are the major livestock in this area, and seems like most every farm just moves them with ATVs and on foot.
What worries me is when she gets after the cattle. Only contact our cattle have with dogs is the feral pack and coyotes that take out the calves, and the random stray; most of them haven't really bothered with her much, but a few of the older heifers are leftovers from when our herd used to be "wilder" and aren't exactly sane sometimes. :p And I'm not sure if she's cow-smart enough to avoid a charging heifer.
With that being the case.... I'm not sure our herd is a good one to even attempt training her on.
As for the horses... I have a mare that's injured now and kept in a pen near the house; Tanner, of all my horses, cares the least about dogs - he's even had one nip her and she just sidestepped away from it. I take Maggie out with me everytime I visit her, and just recently started taking her to check on the rest of the horses; she seems to have gotten bored with chasing them and is now more interested in eating whatever they're eating. o.O
(Now if I can teach her to stay near the trailer like she stays in the yard, I could even take her to the horse shows. xD)
Any suggestions for teaching her the difference between "leave that [insert animal here] alone" and "OK, you can chase it"?
Just keep telling her to "leave it" everytime she runs after whatever she's herding? She does leave it alone long enough to come sit at my side for a little bit, then 'it' moves and she goes after it again.
I have no more help, I think everyone else here pretty much has it;)
Both your dogs are so cute ^_^
Everyone trains dogs differently but I teach my dogs to stay with me until I give a command to do therwise. And I always have a release command like "that'll do". Or if she allowed to wander off and I release her from staying by me, then I tell her "run off". Use commands that work for you that you can remember. So basically she is at my side at all times. I give the command to work and I give the command to release her from work. She is not allowed to work on her own. And I tell her when to quit. This takes time and sometimes using a long line is helpful. Young, eager dogs can be very hard to call back off a steer. You never want them to think they are out of your reach and can get away with murder. If you are comfortable and know how to use one properly, a shock collar can be a great training tool as well.
I will not tolerate a dog that works a horse period. Don't ever let them do it. Its kinda like killing chickens or getting in the trash, once they get a taste for it, it is pretty **** hard to break. The best way to break a bad habit is to never let it start.
Paying attention to what she is doing at all times, correcting the behaviour before it escalates and consistency is the key.
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