I had a conversation with a couple of students about a dog that was keen as long as we were working on “action oriented” tasks (fast flanks, fast walk – ups, etc) but seem to lose focus and intensity if things became settled. This dog also did agility and I brought this up … wondering if living on “the edge” and the “adrenaline high” was causing some of the problems.
However, just letting a dog work hard/fast all the time will also encourage him to become “addicted” to frenzy work instead of goal oriented work.
Working stock correctly takes a thoughtful approach. It isn’t suppose to be video game with fast action and reactions. What should you be looking for when you are working stock? It’s not how quickly the job gets done but rather is the job done calmly, correctly and with purpose. If the only thing a dog is thinking about is how fast he can run to the next spot then he’s running on adrenaline not thought.
Some dogs only enjoy the “thrill” and become bored when asked to think instead of react. It takes a special dog to be able to react quickly when needed but quick with no thought can get you in more trouble than a dog that is slower but thoughtful.
Quick dogs often try to control the sheep with their body not their mind. In young dogs … sometimes you have to make his body do something and then let his mind “catch up” but the ultimate goal is to get the body and mind in sync.
Watch how he’s running … is his body tense … if so the mind will usually follow. You need to learn to read the signs that tell you he’s getting tense so you can stop it before he’s “over the edge” and into his adrenaline high. Timing is everything in order to “catch him” before he’s over the edge – not waiting until he’s in a running frenzied and then trying to “rein him back”.
Work takes thought not just action. Think about when you are at your job and all you are doing is physically running around. Would you accomplish as much as you would if you thoughts were quiet and calm? A dog can’t work properly if his mind is in turmoil. Running on adrenaline may accomplish the job quicker but not correctly.