I’m working with a young pup that tends to be a bit hard/soft. Meaning that if I get on her hard she tries to “shut down” but if I don’t get on her she ”ends up” in the middle of her sheep.
This “type” can be tough to train sometimes so I will take it slow and easy. She started out by not wanting to go around the sheep and being totally one-sided. With all these “strikes” one could think Yikes! But all pups have issues - some are easier to deal with than others but “one way or another” you will have to “deal” with something. Always remember it’s not how they start out but how they finish that counts.
The first few times I took her to sheep all she wanted to do was stay close to me and follow them. She did it with very nice feel and pace – hitting balance and holding that pressure spot to just keep them moving. I would follow her at an angle – trying to put pressure on her shoulder to “kick her around” to the other side of the sheep. I couldn’t say anything or she would come back to me … so I just quietly followed her trying to put enough pressure to make her go but not so much she would look at me.
When I decided I wasn’t getting anywhere I switched “tactics” and brought a trained dog in with her. At first she chased the other dog BUT that got her to the other side of the sheep. Then she would look up see the sheep and start working … so we were getting somewhere. It was a bit “chasey” when she was on the other side — nothing as smooth and controlled as when she was on the same side I was. The chase didn’t bother me (since I knew all that ”feel and balance” was still in there … just a matter of letting it develope). I made sure I kept my corrections very ”low-key” because the first step was to make sure she wanted to work enough to take corrections.
Normally with dogs that dog don’t naturally “cast around” … I put enough pressure to push them around to the opposite side. However, she couldn’t take any “people” pressure (she took sheep pressure fine) so I needed to work within her parameters - not mine.
That’s one of the keys to training a lot of different types of dogs. You need to have the desire to “figure out” what works with each individual dog – not what worked with the last dog you trained. I’ve always found that the most enjoyable thing about training dogs - trying to come up with ideas that allow me to show a dog how to work sheep correctly. I’m always looking for something that will engage a young dogs mind and body and bring out their natural talent.
She had pace and feel when she was on the same side as me and it will re-appear once she allows me to guide her – all it will take is time and patience.
Not all soft dogs are “created equal” :@). Some are soft with their stock … others with people. Then sometimes they come in a combination of both (and that’s a hard one). The dogs I’m writing about are “people soft” NOT “stock soft” (both have enough in that department :@)
Soft dogs need to be handled with “kid gloves” (OK, “lamb gloves”). However, they can be trained to just a high of standard as a harder dog.
The KEY is to teach them how to take corrections gradually. It’s a bit like the old adage of how to cook a lobster … you don’t throw them in boiling water … you bring the water to a boil gradually. Even the soft ones can and will take pressure/correction and training – just in a different “format” than a harder dog.
I have a couple of “soft dogs” I’m working with now that DO NOT want to be wrong and are hesitant to try something if they’re not sure it’s what I want.
So, how do you handle it … “by degrees”. One is not *set* on her flanks and will hesitate to move either direction “just in case” she’s wrong. With a hard dog I would give a *intense* correction and make sure they understood they were wrong and I wasn’t happy about it! With a soft dog (that already is fearful to move) a hard correction would freeze them up even more. So, I will still correct them but not in an obvious way.
If they take a wrong flank I will lie them down … wait (allowing them to relax)… then quietly giving the flank again. If they’re still wrong – I will repeat this but give a quiet correction (listen) AND move my body to communicate physically what I want. Then the second they are right… I will change my tone and encourage them on to let them know they’re correct (either repeating the flank in an *calming* tone (if they are just running) or just *ssshing* them on (if they are hesitant) … to reassure them they’re right and yes that’s what I wanted. I WOULD not correct them for running to fast or slow (that’s why the calming or encouraging tone). They can’t take 2 corrections at once (YET :@)
.This builds a bond letting them know I’m “on their side”. When they’re confused I will “help them out” and encourage them when they’re right (which these “sort” seem to need). Trusting me is the “building block” that will allow me to use firmer corrections as their training progress. Once they learn that I will “let them know” when they’re right … they can allow themselves to take a chance on being wrong.
So, in essence the fire is turned on (they got a correction) but the water is still cool enough they’re comfortable with it. This level I will stay with for quite awhile and report back after our corrections are “ramped up”.