Saturday, April 5, 2014

More Dogs - This is GREAT STUFF

WHOA - Check this out. Thanks Squirrelgurl!

Night Watch

Oh my goodness, am I in love with this blog.

Ozhorse, who occasionally is lured away from her life working on a sheep and cattle ranch with dogs  to talk with us, turned me on to the idea that Brockle is a "boundary dog."

If you are interested, she sent me a series of links describing this type of herding dog. You can find them in the comments section of the previous post.

He works a boundary around his charges, which for him,when we are outside, are me, Charlie, and whoever might be walking, hiking with me. In the house, it includes all regular residents, human, dog, tortoise, whatever, if there are outliers present, but only me when its just us.

The more I'm reading, the truer he runs to this type of dog.

I am clearly his primary focus. I am a job he takes on 24/7 and although I've felt there was a need to help him relax, only now am I becoming aware of how exhausting his self appointed task is.

It clearly explains his inconsistency during his protection training.

His defense is awesome, perfect, a little scary. His prey (where he runs after the intruder) is not. He has shown little interest in going after the bad guy once he is running away. Once he has him running, he sniffs the ground, looks around and comes back to me. Why run him down and bite him if he has left the boundary?

Can't wait to talk about this at practice.


This gives me a direction and some goals to clarify things between Brockle and I.

I need control over his perimeter. He needs to know he is allowed to guard within a perimeter I set, not him. Which means he has to ignore other dogs, people, whatever, that pass us, show interest in us, etc. as long as they are outside the perimeter I have chosen.

He has to stay within the perimeter I set.

He has to allow people, dogs etc.into the perimeter when I say so.

I have to set our new guidelines without worrying him and respect his need to watch over me.

Typical Scene: Charlie- "Man, I'm whipped, gonna nap while I can." Brockle- "So... tired...must...keep...eyes...on...Janet..."

I need to give him a place where he is off duty. This was a really good tip. At the barn, he is not allowed to run loose, my BO is terrified of him, even though he has always behaved and has no interest in harassing stock or people. He has his own space in my car. It's in the back, with a gate, so he can't jump in the seat with Charlie and eat his head.

When we're at the barn, I open the hatch, and tie him. He can jump out and in, but that's it. He has a bed and water. He loves the back of the car. When it's open and he's tied, he is calm and content. He watches the activity, but doesn't whine or try to follow. When he's nervous (he's afraid of horses-another post another day) he will retreat to his place in the car. Click! goes my brain, he needs one in the house too.

He needs to be encouraged to hold his line (my perimeter) but not necessarily disciplined for breaking it. Brockle spends his life torn between two worlds, trying to do what I want, and trying to manipulate me into giving him what he wants (his ball). This gives me an entirely different way of looking at his down/stay...I think, if I learn to use the line I'll be honoring his instincts, but gaining control at the same time, and our issues will fade. He obeys 100% when it makes sense.

He works much better with well timed praise in a low, gentle voice, and an occasional ball toss than with excitement, rapid fire commands, or a high, squeaky pitch. Anything squeaky worries and excites him. I've always thought he equates it to injured or baby animals.

How do I get these things? Hell, I just don't know. The primary decoy I work with at Schutzhund (a very wise and thoughtful man) has put a lot of thought into getting him working prey. He has made it a game, and we work in increments. Right now, all he has to do is hit the end of his leash (he refuses to hit hard enough to unbalance me, and Decoy Jim has accepted that) and bark with authority. This drives away the bad guy (decoy), he receives high praise and we end it. This new information should add a bunch to our work. Lucky for me Brockle is an interesting study for these guys. They enjoy working with a dog who thinks so far out of their Schutzhund box and acknowledge his heart and bravery, even if he doesn't have traditional reactions. They still call him "Mama's boy," but now it's making much more sense.

Where I could still use some suggestions...

How do I teach him to guard the boundary I decide on, instead of him?

Should I teach a specific command for allowing people and dogs in his boundary? If so, how? What degree of watchfulness do I accept from him? Alert without tension would be ideal.

From your suggestions and my thoughts, tell me if I'm off, I need:

A specific command to "Guard." - which would set the boundary.

A specific command (help me find one) to allow who I want to break the boundary.

A specific command to bring him back to the boundary line, (again, any suggestions for a word?).

If I start with these I think it will go a long way towards getting my boy under control--by creating a clearly understood working relationship.

He also needs to quit treating Charlie like a sheep and respect his position as an elder dog who is doing his work, hunting and flushing out vermin.

This is absolutely fascinating to me. I can feel my trainer brain revving up, which for me, has always been, unlocking and understanding the instinctive response and the thinking mind of the animal I'm working with, and shaping the behavior I need from it.

This is also why I love a healthy mixed breed dog. I love discovering who they are and how to utilize what I find. It's a matter of keeping an open mind and knowing the type of dog I'm looking for. With Brockle, I was looking for a protective, intelligent dog. I knew how to spot it and found it. The rest has been an incredible, albeit exhausting, gift.

This road to discovery will only increase my ability with all dogs, including purebreds who may cross my path. It will keep me open to the possibilities within the breed itself. Look at the GSD--protection, therapy, companion, stock dog--what I'm learning here will teach me so much about what I could find within one breed. Funny, conformation doesn't even come into this conversation, except for needing a dog sound enough to keep up with where his instinct takes him.



zebradreams07 said...

What about "friend" to allow someone in?

mugwump said...

That could work...

CG said...

Interesting stuff! Shortly after we brought our old dog Bella home from the pound I had left a laundry basket full of shoes out on the porch. The dogs had a dog door and could go in and out. We drove up one night to find a ring of shoes all the way around a small fir tree, all sticking toe- up out of the ground. It was a little unsettling to see. She never did anything like that again though.

Ozhose said...

I am glad to have found something of interest. Now lots more to think about.

mugwump said...

Oh yeah Ozhorse -- great things to keep my old brain whirring.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, isn't it, how we always find an animal that we need, (or is it that we find a need for the animal we have?) As far as commands go, I have always done best with the first thing (verbal or otherwise) that comes naturally to me as the situation develops.

MichelleL said...

Great closing photo. Enjoying the discovery process you are sharing with Brockle. Love how he showed up exactly when you needed him in your life.

He is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I think you could use a visual line or something simple like a doorway or similar threshold at first to teach him the word/cue to guard your boundary line. After he learns your cue then you could go outside and scuff a line in the dirt and try that. If he's confused, I would go work the simpler version and build from there. Maybe use "Line" to mark your boundary and then "Guard". Good luck.

Ozhorse said...

I have a lot on in the next few weeks but I will sneak a few not very developed thoughts in here.

An idea I keep playing with that might be up the wrong tree but here goes:
Working a working dog has many parallels with cutting on a cutting horse. Maybe its the wrong question "What cue do I give the horse to tell it where to hold the line on the cow?" Im a newbie (neonate, sans trainer) at cutting and I still working on the idea of holding a line on a cow but how "the line" can move, or be curved. I suspect the answer is similar but equally zen for a border dog.

There is a command I use probably more than any other to get a heading dog to drive stock in front of it (against instinct), and that is a "working stop". It means (do the same as a cutting horse) keep working but don't move up on the stock but if they come at you block them, which is in effect, "hold a line."

This line is not really a line on the ground, and it moves, what it is in relation to is ME. It is where the handlers focus and energy is going, and moves with me. Brockle moves his line already when your group goes for a walk.

(I use "stay there" but anything really - whistles are the best commands for dogs - easier for them and louder with no emotional content which a word command has).

One common way I block the dog from the stock is the "come behind" command, which might seem like "heel" but means "dont get in front of me". So if I want to stop the dog heading the stock and drive them and I go to the side of the stock and say "come behind" the dog can work stock behind my line. So the herding is really all about ME which I suspect is going to be great for you because Brockle is so focused on you anyway.

That was a "working stop" - next is a shut down command. I use lie down or sit fairly self evident. All these commands can have different versions. The well trained dogs I have purchased have a verbal or whistle or hand signal for each command. They can learn a new handler fairly quickly. So it is the idea behind what is wanted that is important, not the cue as that can be fairly quickly swapped.

Something tells me to use your cutting horse training approach in manuipulating the herding/guarding side of your dog. And that in the long run you are going to have a high level of finesse and control over an animal that is so committed to you.

I could be quite wrong here and border dogs might be quite different. If you can find some german shepherding trials on youtube watch the handler, and also read what you can find on it of course.

Must get back to work.

PS. Given Brockle is only 2, teenage-ish still, I suspect any unwanted or misplaced agression will reduce the more confident he is in his job in life, which is looking after you.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

For you! Just going around Facebook!


mugwump said...

Ozhorse...good insights, very...I think my first step is to put him on a long line, a few feet longer than he gets to be away from me. He has a natural one he maintains at about 15 feet. Most dogs explore and hunt when turned loose, he stays within his set perimeter, watching me and gripping Charlie's head when he breaks the boundary. When he breaks his perimeter, it's to confront another dog. Hard. That's when I get the bolt. So, you can probably guess where we are starting our work.
Just a tiny tip on the cutting...yes the line changes,but if you let them curve, either in, or out, you are creating a situation where you are either being pushed or are pushing the cow, rather than blocking them. It leaves you open for the cow to duck around you. Almost all back fence penalties are the result of a curved line.

Half Dozen Farm said...

As far as letting a "friend" into your perimeter, I would just use your release word that you already use for your obedience/shutzhund work, or something similar.

I just use "it's ok". i.e. the dogs are allowed to greet people at the door and give them the once over sniff, but when I say "It's ok" they relax and go lay down. Sometimes, if they are over zealous I have to tell them "go lay down", but usually the release works just fine (especially if it's someone who they know well, like my mother visiting). If it's a stranger at the door, I don't give the release word and they stay right next to me the whole time (very intimidating to most people). :) You should have seen the look on the church people's face when they rattled my gate latch and the dogs came barreling around the corner! LOL! I was in the yard at the time, and spoke to the church people over the fence, but didn't invite them in, and didn't release my dogs - so they stayed right there in between the gate and I.

I use "it's ok" for a lot of things. It just means "relax - I've got this". But I think it works well because I'm bossy and take control of situations. I'm not one of those wishy washy owners who think their dogs are babies or something (as seen on TV - gag!). Not saying you are like this at all Mugs. Just saying that my dogs are used to me being the boss, so when I say it's ok, it really is. I think you are similarly bossy. :)

Yesterday I had taken my dogs out to my mom's house and I loaded up a bunch of wood fenceposts and potted plants in the back of the truck. I left a space in the bed up by the cab for the dogs with their blankets, but you couldn't see it from the tailgate. My big (smart) dog loaded up first and stopped on the tailgate because she didn't know where to go, I could see she was very anxious. I just guided her with my hand and said "it's ok" and I could visually see her relax and start thinking and she carefully picked her way up to her spot and laid down (the truck has a canopy, so I had to verbally guide her from the tailgate).

Well, that was the long way of saying that Brockle just needs a release word that you can use for many situations. I think this would go along with what you are wanting for Brockle - relaxed but alert.

Robin said...

You might want to look for someone who teaches herding in your area. you would be looking for someone who could work with a boundry dog as opposed to one who fetches (think traditional Border Collie stype herding). Not easy to find since fetching style dogs are more common than boundry style. Maybe look for books? Good luck!

Lori said...

I used "TAKE FIVE" with my very hurdy VERY intelligent working sheltie. I didn't know there was a difference until I got him. He was always on, guarding the perimeter. He seldom barked but would do the border collie walk at intruders which freaked people out. I would holler (at first, then got so I could whisper it) take five and he would go lay in the shade and chill until I told him he could "go to work" again. This was the only way I could get some control of the intense concentration he would give his job. It worked for us anyways.

MARYDVM said...

I was wondering if Brockle's "pedigree" might include a Central Asian Shepherd, rather than GSD. Seems farfetched for such a rare breed to be in the mix, but there are actually two CAS breeders in CO. The CAS could provide the heavy jaw and large teeth and the very high defense drive. Also the intense personality. Someone might even have intentionally bred their CAS to a collie type trying to produce a dual purpose herder/livestock guard.
Whatever his actual ancestry, you've got a wonderful dog there.

Ozhorse said...

Possible ancestry for Brockle?

Whywudyabreedit said...

What you are talking about with Brockle and boundaries kind of reminds me of an exercise in French Ring Sport.

Check this out at 7min and 25 seconds,

I really like that Brockle doesn't chase someone that is leaving, that makes him so much less of a liability as a personal protection dog =) Although perhaps not as much fun as a sport dog ;)

I love hearing about your journey with this dog. I am also interested in a comment that you made regarding what you expect from your dogs. In a previous post ou stated that you expect them to be where you can easily find them. I have a cattle dog that I got from the local shelter, she had been living on the street long enough to be covered in ticks. She has a tendency to wonder off exploring if I do not keep a close eye on her, so I have to keep her on a leash unless she is my primary focus. Do you have any suggestions for developing the trait of sticking closer the handler? Do you choose a specific distance, or just within eye shot? I have 17 acres, but it is not fenced, and I can't trust her to tick close enough when I am busy with horses or other chores.

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.



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