June 6, 2021 at 2:11 pm #4376PatriciaKeymaster
An Academy member wrote:
My dog tends to wear back and forth behind the sheep and they often start to graze. It’s almost as though he makes sheep heavy. Is that possible and if so, how can I correct it?
Wearing is often the result of the dog not having enough effect on the sheep or inherent directness, so he shifts the sheep with his body movement. When a dog wears by definition, he’s flanking out to the sides and thus he’s not directly behind the sheep. Wearing works for some dogs not so bad, if, as the dog moves from one side to the other, the sheep become nervous for the period the dog is out of their sight. However, many dogs over flank when they wear. When this happens the sheep will begin to shutdown and become quite numb to the dog.
To give you an example, you’ll find if a person stands directly behind you and you can’t see them (or their intentions), you’ll be much more wary of them than if you can see that person (their expression, what they’re doing) in your peripheral vision—the same is true for sheep and dogs.
When the sheep can see the dog (because he’s out to the side), and he does not present a threat, it desensitizes the sheep to the dog. Additionally, if the dog is in front of the sheep’s eye, it deters the sheep from going forward. Because of this, when many dogs wear the sheep become heavy and prone to grazing.
We can absolutely give you an exercise to help your dog become more direct. You will benefit from using lighter sheep that are new to your dog in doing the exercise. Combining training to improve your dog’s directness, along with sheep that move more willingly off of him, will increase his confidence, which will in itself help to mediate the need to wear.
Conversely, if you continue to work him on the sheep that already are numb to him and are heavy, it will likely undermine his confidence and the problem will persist and may worsen. Even if you dedicate just 5 or 6 lighter sheep for him, it can make a big difference. Dogs can be brave and have courage but if the sheep are too heavy for his particular amount of presence it can create the problem you describe.
By executing the exercise below correctly, your dog will connect that applying pressure to sheep eliminates the uncomfortable feeling of the sheep resisting him. This will reduce his need to wear and his confidence will grow. He will look forward to doing it and be happier in his work. In addition to the video you’ll find this lesson has a printable workbook with homework challenges.
THE PRESSURE PATH – AN EXERCISE FOR TEACHING YOUR DOG TO BE MORE DIRECT, PUSH AND ENJOY APPLYING PRESSURE TO SHEEP
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