Don’t outdrive your headlights!

OH NO … downs again.

When novices first start out they tend to use the down just because they don’t know what else to do. So, I tell them don’t use down as a crutch … have a specific reason before you lie your dog down.

So, as they advance they do start trying to fix problems instead of just stopping their dogs and what happens … they lose the down. So, they really become confused when I say your dog is running through your down.

You have to have a down … and yes, you don’t use it to fix everything that goes wrong BUT you also don’t let the dog ignore it. Brakes on a car are good … driving around hitting the brakes every time you see something that looks like it might be an issue is bad. However, not being able to stop (because you burned your brakes out from overusing them :@) is even worse.

You can’t fix a flank IF you can’t stop the dog before he’s too close to the sheep. The same goes for an outrun or any other issues. It’s better to fix the problem not just down the dog but you HAVE to be able to down the dog in order to fix the problem. Confusing for Novices I know … but it does make sense once you get the “feel” for it.

Think of how dogs correct pups … they give a growl (warning correction) if ignored they will snarl and show teeth (stronger warning correction) if still ignored they will “nail” the pup (physical correction). That’s how pups learn that following that seemingly innocent growl comes teeth. So, WHEN they hear the growl … they self correct (knowing what comes next will not be a “suggestion” but a physical reality that bites).

So, use that analogy … give your growl (correction) before you down them (bite them). But never let them think you don’t have teeth to back it up. So, in other words DON’T lose your “real” down.

To make it even more confusing for novices is they see open handlers saying lie down, lie down and the dog really isn’t lying down … so they come to the conclusion –  it’s OK to just let the dog “do it’s own thing” because “after all” he reads sheep better than they do. BUT believe me those handlers DO have a down and they and their dogs are on the same page as to WHAT it means. A soft lie down might not mean REALLY lie down but only “don’t put so much pressure on your sheep” where a sharp, hard lie down means “hit the dirt” now! But the point is they do have a down it’s not just the word but the tone the handler is using and the dog is reading.

Downs allow you to get in a position to correct a dog. If you have to repeat the down 3 or 4 times … think how much closer that dog will be to his sheep by the time he actually DOES down. So, if he’s cutting a flank and you need to walk out to correct him … the correction will NOT be that effective because he didn’t down WHERE he NEEDED the correction. It’s too late for a “correct” correction if he’s 10 feet closer to his sheep than where the actual correction SHOULD have taken place.

So, remember the down is a “piece of the puzzle” it’s not the whole picture but if you don’t have it you will never get all those puzzle pieces to fit.

P.S. It’s NOT just novices —  as I was just reminded recently that my dog was running through his down :@) So, cheer up … it’s something we all need to work on.

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