QUESTION: My dog is very enthusiastic and eager to work but she’s a bit timid and runs away from aggressive sheep. Are we spoiling her by keeping her in the house?
ANSWER: Living in the house shouldn’t affect the dog’s confidence when it works sheep, as such.
A more likely problem is that family members might ‘spoil’ the dog by making too much ‘fuss’ of it. Even this, isn’t bad though, as long as the dog knows that what goes on in and around the house, is totally different to what happens on the farm or around livestock.
When the dog’s on the farm, it must be keen and obedient.
Confidence could be an issue
If the dog gets a lot of play and ‘pampering’ around the house, it’s confidence in the face of livestock may suffer but there are plenty of things you can do to help build its confidence. You need to anticipate the situations where the dog will have difficulty with the stock, and make sure you’re as close as you possibly can be to it at those times.
The dog’s confidence with be considerably greater if it knows you’re close alongside it.
If the sheep are really stuborn, move them yourself – and if the dog dives-in and nips the sheep’s coat while you’re doing it, as long as the dog’s not being too aggressive, PRAISE it!
Your dog should be assertive with the stock
In other words, teach your dog to be more assertive with the sheep (when you tell it to). That way the dog’s confidence will grow, and once it’s moving the sheep reliably by itself, you can GRADUALLY increase the distance that you work it at.
It would also help if you could get rid of the sheep which stand up to the dog – but of course, that’s not always an option.
We have a Sheepdog Training Tutorial called “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough!” which specifically covers sheep which are lacking confidence.
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