What causes tension in a dog?

Tension can come from either the dog, the sheep, the handler or a combination of all the above.

Some dogs just work with a lot of tension.

In some cases … it’s “in the genes” and you can trace some lines to this trait. That’s not to say its all bad as there are some top dogs that run with tension in them. It all depends on how the dog handles it (if it makes them grip off … that’s usually not a good thing :@).

Just to make in more confusing a dog can be relaxed off stock and still be tense when working.

Some handlers build tension.

Sometimes it’s not in the dogs “nature” but it’s “handler made” tension. If someone handles a dog and their timing is “off” it can cause a dog to work with tension even if he’s not “normally” a tense dog.

When a good trainer is working a dog … their timing is correct and it allows the dog to feel comfortable doing what is asked of him (because the handler is “in-sync” with the sheep and dog). So it all FEELS right to the dog. Which allows a dog to relax and think about “the job at hand”.

However, “on a different page” … there are tense handlers that pass this on to the dog – and the dog “thrives” on it (usually it’s the “non-tense” calmer ones that respond). It seems to encourage the dog to “step up a notch” and focus better.

Sometimes sheep build tension.

For different dogs it can be different types of sheep. Some dogs don’t mind wild sheep and will react by flanking off and backing off. They seem to view it as exciting and “makes them read their sheep better”.

For other dogs wild sheep make them feel they are losing control. They like to be in “contact” with their sheep at all times and panic when they can’t find that contact point – causing tension.

Some dogs get so tense working heavy sheep they can revert to gripping. To others it “makes their day”  and will just put their “head down and power on”.

So you see … it’s not if the dog has tension or not … but what “the team” does with that tension that “counts”.

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