This is a very important and fundamental concept in the MacRae Way system, but what exactly does it mean?
Dogs should enjoy working and be ‘hooked’ before we try to shape their behavior.
This applies to dogs just starting, understanding when your dog is actually working sheep versus just chasing, and also in older dogs, making certain they are enjoying new concepts before making them difficult.
Problems often arise when trainers get lost distinguishing when this is, and they apply pressure or expectations before their dog is ready.
Pressure isn’t limited to a gruff voice or spending long durations training. It may also include, pushing your dog off the sheep, not allowing him to get to balance, insisting on a walk, drilling, and the list goes on.
For a young dog, not yet committed to working, any negative association that your dog may have with sheep, can have unintended consequences, such as over controlling or correcting your pup as they walk to the sheep, shouting at your dog when they are running a fence line with sheep on other side, or too much correction for nipping or running through the sheep.
Later in your dogs training pressure may include, asking for precision too soon, correcting him for something your dog doesn’t understand, and many other examples.
One the keys to successful training is instilling desire of the work, before asking for discipline from your dog.
You’ll find when your dog enjoys the work, you can shape his training more effectively. When your dog has enthusiasm for work, he’s quite happy to accept your control because he wants the ultimate reward, working sheep!
An analogy is moulding clay, the more clay you start with, the more shaping you can do. The less clay you have, the more limited you are, the more careful you have to be and the fewer mistakes you can afford.
For us, our system is based on our dogs natural instinct to want to get to balance point. With dogs that are keen on balance point we reinforce it, and for those that aren’t naturally inclined, we develop their desire to seek it. It’s a method rooted in making a connection with our dog, instead of an approach based on correction.
This is in contrast to dogs that have been pressured applied before enjoying their work, many of whom are regarded as ”never keen enough to train” or get trained early, but lose desire for working by the time they are 7 years old; they may lose their sharpness, get sluggish, start stopping short on their outruns, not cover sheep properly, no enthusiasm at the shed, to run out blind, etc. If you have a strong or excitable dog, he may well need and flower through discipline, this is because his desire and or maturity is well established. It’s important for you to adjust your dogs individual characteristics.
Getting a dog to work the way you’re asking isn’t remarkable. Getting a dog to WANT to work the way you’re asking is the key.