Breaking the bubble

I’m working with a dog now that will not push through the bubble. When you are loading stock into a trailer you need enough push and flank to keep the stock going forward. If a dog flanks off and gives too much ground,  the stock start going sideways and it stops the forward movement.

Sometimes, it’s “just” the way the dog is but often it’s because they’ve never really learned how to push, hold and flank all at the same time.

So, that’s what we are working on. We started up against a fence trying to have him push until they split. When we first started he would only walk up to a certain point and then lie down because he knew if he pushed any farther they would break. I needed to teach him that’s precisely what I want (hard with dogs that have a lot of feel to keep the sheep together).

He would flank easily but not put enough pressure on the sheep to MAKE them go into a pen they didn’t want in. He needed walk up until they almost split (taking up the slack), then flank sideways, tuck and hold (not giving up the ground he just “won”).  Not all sheep need this but when you need it … it’s very frustrating to have a dog that doesn’t how to push through that bubble.

He slowly began to understand what I was asking for. But, at first, if he broke through “his comfort zone” he would grip … and I fussed but didn’t really get “on him”. A hard correction would have meant everything he did was wrong. So, I let him know that gripping wasn’t what I wanted while making sure that it didn’t take the “drive” out of him. A quiet “hey – hey” to let him know I didn’t like that “part” of what he did (if he gripped and “hung on” … I was much firmer with my correction.)

Once he’s enjoying “pushing on” then I will refine it down so he learns to push and then flank to tuck right before they break and then push again. All the pretty flanks in the world won’t push sheep into a dark hole they don’t want to go into but “at the same time” he needs to learn how to do it without gripping.

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