by Michelle Weese
Lock-Eye Border Collies
Rt. 1, Box 603 Westville, OK
You have decided you would like to have a stock dog puppy. Now what do you do? It is extremely important that you find a puppy whoís Sire and Dam are actually working dogs. Just because a dog will look at, Bark at, and run around stock doesnít mean that it is a true working dog. Acceptable parents should be able to do the kind of work you will be using your puppy for when heís old enough. Ask to see the parents work stock. When you see them work, ask yourself if you would like to own that dog. Never buy a puppy from someone who doesnít have any stock. The phrase "working lines" does not mean quality. People who just breed pets commonly use it. If you are going to be using your dog to work cattle, and the parents arenít even strong sheepdogs, the chances are good that a year later it will still be you, not the dog, fetching the cows. Stockdogs vary greatly in ability, so do some research before you buy. When you go to pick out your pup, choose a pup you like. It isnít advisable to pick the shyest or the most dominant pup. Donít take a pup that yelps when you pick it up. (It may have too low of a pain tolerance, or it might not have been handled enough.) Choose one with even temperament.
The first year in a puppyís life will mold its mind. If raised correctly, a puppy will grow up to be easier to train. If it is raised wrong, there will be bad habits to overcome. Some of these bad habits could totally ruin a dogís chance at a productive work-life!
During this stage, basically the Bitch does all the work. The breeder needs to monitor each pup for weight gain and general health. At 3 weeks of age, they need to be wormed with a wormer safe for young pups. I also start to offer them puppy food. You need to moisten the food with warm water. Mix it with enough liquid so they can lap it, as they donít have teeth yet. They will still need to stay with their Mother, even though they are starting to eat.
At this age the pups need more human contact. When you feed the puppies, talk to them. When I place the food in front of them, I Start teaching them to come to me. I say "Puppy Here" as I put the food down. You can pet them as they eat. Let them eat a little, and then pick up the dish of food and walk away a step or two. Put it down again and say "Puppy, Here". When they start eating, repeat "Puppy, Here". As they get older, you can walk further away before you set the dish down again. What you are doing is imprinting them on the Recall Command. It will be a Reflex to come when called. When you feed them, be sure and put the Mother dog out of sight. You need to start taking each of the pups out of the pen to spend some time with you away from itís littermates At this age, five to ten minutes is long enough. Make this "Quality Time". I like to put the pup on a picnic table and do what I call "Body Positioning. " I GENTLY place the pup in a sitting position. Donít push down on its rump to make it sit. I put one hand on its chest and my other hand midway down itís tail and SCOOP its rump into a sit. (If you push down on a dogís rump, it naturally pushes against you) As the pup is sitting, say "Sit" Praise and pet the pup. Repeat about ten times, and keep everything VERY POSITIVE!
I also work on the "Down" at this age. From a sitting position, place one hand on its back, near its shoulder blades, and with your other hand, carefully pull both front feet forward. Keep gentle pressure on the pupís back. As the pup lays down, Say "Down" and praise the pup. It helps to scratch the pup on the back or behind itís ears and make a fuss over it while you have it down. Keep it Down for a count of six or so. It is important to keep things light. Have short sessions! The pup probably wonít actually learn to sit or down on command at this young age. He WILL learn to accept control and "Body Positioning". This makes it easier to train the pup, when heís mentally more mature.
I worm my pups again at 5, 7, and nine weeks of age. At six weeks, their Vaccinations need to be started. Shots need to be given at 6,9,12, and 15 weeks old. Heartworm Prevention needs to be started around 12 weeks of age. There are also products on the market now that are multi-purpose. They prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms in one monthly application. Rabies is usually given at 3-4 months old. If you usually give vaccinations yourself, be sure and have a Veterinarian administer the Rabies shot. In most states it is the law. If your dog ever bites anyone or is bitten by a wild animal, it is money well spent. Some states require you to quarantine or euphenize the animal if it hasnít been given a rabies shot by a Veterinarian.
Usually, the Breeder will send the pups to their new homes at six weeks. Itís better if you can allow the pup to stay with its littermates for seven weeks. The reason is that usually the Mother is removed and Shots are given at six weeks old. Thatís a lot of stress on a pup. Stress sometimes compromises the immune system and could leave the pup vulnerable to disease. So itís best not to stress the pup even more by changing homes.
Be careful what you allow your pup to do when heís little. Whatís cute at six weeks wonít necessarily be so cute at sixteen months! Some examples: Jumping up on you, play biting, playing "keep away" with a toy and biting your feet while walking. I have a friend whose pup would jump up to grab a toy out of her hand. Later, when it was bigger, and she was building a fence, the pup would not stop jumping up and biting the steel t-posts! I have seen pups that were allowed to be "water crazy" grow up to be neurotic about a bowl of water. They use the water to satisfy their herding instinct. Some dogs will spill their water on purpose just to see the movement of the water flowing. Some stick their paws in the water, flip it and chase the drops of water in the air. I know all of this sounds strange, but I have seen it. When you see this behavior begin, you need to take steps to ensure it doesnít become compulsive! You can try taking the water out of the pen and offer him supervised drinks of water 4 or 5 times a day. Correct him if he starts playing with his water. Be very careful about limiting his water in the summer!! They can dehydrate and/ or have heat stroke if they arenít allowed access to water. I would rather have a neurotic dog than a dead one. Use common sense. Then there are the dirt flingers. These dogs can be creative. Some "Pounce" like a Coyote and dig for moles. Others flip the dirt with their noses straight up, then jump up and bite the dirt in the air. I have seen dogs kick dirt out the back end and twirl around to catch it. Letís seeÖ another is scooting the dirt along the ground. I call this one "snorting dirt". Stop this behavior as soon as you see it by giving the dog more productive things to do with his time. Dogs that develop strange behavior are bored. Itís your job as the owner to steer its behavior in other directions.
Before you go and pick up your new puppy, make sure that you have a pen already built. The pen is necessary for several reasons. If you are new to the world of Stockdogs, you might not know that you CANíT just allow them to run free. Iím forever amazed at how many Breeders fail to tell their Novice puppy buyers this fact!!! Perhaps they were told, but just couldnít bear to be so cruel to their new pup. It isnít cruel to keep the pup in a pen when you canít supervise it. It will help keep the pup alive and mentally healthy. If you allow a Stockdog puppy to run free:
***He will often form undesirable habits.
***He might start to chase cars and be run over.
***He could start to work livestock on his own and when you try to train him he will resent it, because (in his mind) he has already learned this "Game" and HE made the rules. When he works livestock on his own, there is no human in the equation, so he doesnít learn HOW to work them to you, only to circle or keep them bunched in a corner. A pup needs to learn that humans call the shots when itís with livestock, and a pup allowed to run free learns humans just "get in the way and spoil all their fun!"
***If you see him chase your stock through a fence, you arenít going to be very pleased with him and when you yell at him, (or whip him) he will learn that you DONíT WANT him to work stock at all. Then, when you go to train him, you canít figure out why he wonít work stock! What you didnít realize is that YOU taught him not to!! ***If he wanders off of your place and chases cattle, he could be shot, and/or you will have pay for injury to cattle or fences.
***Someone might find a nice "Stray" dog and decide to keep it.
Your puppy needs to be exposed to the world outside of its pen also. (But not stock) Donít just leave him in his pen for days on end. He needs to bond with you and get plenty of exercise. Always stay with him when heís loose. When raising a puppy the best way is the natural way. I try to pattern my actions after wolf packs. Puppies arenít left to fend for themselves. An adult wolf is always left behind to "baby-sit" Teach him to mind your commands. Use the pen to prevent problems, but donít abuse it!!
The ideal pen for your stockdog is one he canít:
1) See out of,
2) Get out of, (climb over or under)
3) Chew his way out of,
4) See other dogs or animals.
The pen needs a weather-proof dog house in it.
Chew toys and rawhide chews. (Dogs have a physical need to chew)
WHAT you make your pen out of DOES make a difference! The best thing to
use is Concrete Blocks. They canít see out, and when they jump against it, it
makes no sound. Most folks canít afford a pen made out of these, however.
The second best thing is Sheet Metal. You have to be careful not to leave ANY sharp edges for the dogs to cut themselves on. If the Sheet Metal is tied on with wire instead of nailed, the dogs learn to slam up against it and make noise.
Stock dogs tend to EAT through wood, so that doesnít work very well.
Many people make dog pens out of chain link, or welded wire fence. This doesnít work well for several reasons. 1) They can see out. 2) Stockdogs can be very destructive to a fence, especially welded wire or cheap chain link. Iíve seen them want out and get frustrated. The first thing they do is grab a hold of it with their teeth and start pulling. They will eventually spread a hole big enough to get through! They could get their heads or collar caught, panic and strangle to death. I had a pen made out of 4 x 4-inch stock panels. (Placed out of sight of stock) One dog I put in it got up on his doghouse and put his head through and got it stuck! Remember that he was on top of his dog house, if he had fallen off, heíd be dead.
If you can afford to, it is a good idea to pour a concrete floor for your pen. Itís easier to keep clean and helps cut down on fleas and ticks. You can also monitor your dogís stools for tapeworms and diarrhea. The dogs canít dig their way out either.
If your pup is at least Four months old, you could chain him somewhere
away from the sight of stock. Be aware that you need to start tying the pup
up in short sessions Donít just stick him on a chain and leave him. Watch
him awhile and monitor his reaction. Some will fight it. Donít chain him at
first with a long chain, because he could hurt himself if he takes off running
and comes to the end quickly. If you chain your pup, make sure itís a snap he
canít get undone, and it MUST have a SWIVEL on it. It is important that you
use a chain, not a rope. Dogs learn very quickly to chew through a rope or leash.
Donít tie the pup where he can become tangled in ANYTHING! You donít
want the pup to choke to death. I like to tie a pup up for the first time against
an empty side of the house and do some yard work. By being against a wall, the
pup can only go in one direction.
One reason you donít want your dog to see out of its pen is because when it sees movement it will want to chase it. It will often start barking. Quite frequently the dog will start to run a pattern in its pen. Kind of like you see a wolf do in the Zoo. Why is it not good for a Stockdog to get into this habit, and what does it have to do with working stock? Later, when you start to train it, the dog might not understand that it CAN go around the Stock. I had a dog sent to me for training that ran out near Stock but would not cross itís "imaginary line". I never could get the dog to circle the stock. When I took it home and saw itís pen, I knew why. The pen was in plain view of a pasture filled with cows. When I put the dog back in, it started to run from side to side and bark.
Another reason you donít want the dog to see stock, is that some dogs become "Sticky", that is, just lay down and stare at the stock all day. When you go to train it, the dog might refuse to move. I once had a sticky dog over for training that had been allowed to watch stock all the time. I tried everything to get the dog to move!! The dog was so bad about "freezing" that while we were working cattle, I got thirsty and went in the house for a drink, when I came back out, the dog was still just laying there staring at the stock. (Which had moved off to graze)
Some dogs go the opposite way---they get Crazy. They just want to attack the stock, not work it. There is a big difference in a dog that wants to fetch the stock and one who is in such a frenzy, killing the stock is itís goal. Barking is another problem with a dog seeing out of its pen. Some dogs will bark at the stock. If barking gets a reaction from the stock, the dog will remember that. Stockdogs crave movement and since barking made the stock run, the dog is learning to bark while working stock. Barking isnít an acceptable way to move stock.
Now what do you do with your puppy? Place a collar on your pup. Allow him to get used to it for a few days before you attach a leash. Continue to train the pup on a table as I instructed before. You can add treats to the sessions. Use a chewy type of treat, so the pup can eat it fast. Only give it a tiny piece as a reward. I keep the treats in a plastic bag in my pocket. I have several pieces hidden in the palm of my hand. You donít want to use the treats as a bribe, only to reinforce the praise. Donít give him a treat each time he obeys. Every third time or so is fine. Keep him guessing. Always praise the dog for correct behavior. Later, when you work stock with the dog, he should want to work so much, that the stock itself is the reward. However, some dogs still need a "Good Doggie" to help keep them on the right track.
At this age, (2-4 months old) I start taking the pup for walks. If you walk in an area where there is no stock or traffic, you can walk the pup without a leash. At 2 months old, he will naturally want to follow you, like he did his Mom. I use this to my advantage to reinforce the recall command. I will start walking with the pup following along behind me. When the pup starts to sniff at something, or he wanders away a little, I will hide behind a tree and wait until he starts frantically looking for me. Itís then I jump out from behind the tree and as the pup starts running toward me, I say the puppyís name and then "Here", "Good Puppy!" If you have traffic around, you can use a leash and do the same thing. It is BEST if you donít expose a pup to stock until it is old enough to train, so take the pup for a walk where there is no stock in sight. If a pup is bred to work, it will not mater if the pup has been exposed to stock before, when heís old enough to train, he will have the instinct to work.
During this critical period (2-4 months) you need to socialize the pup with as many different people and places as you possibly can. I keep a crate in my truck and even if Iím just going to the store and back, Iíll take a pup. Donít put him in a vehicle just after a meal, because he might get carsick. Even if he does get carsick the first few times, keep taking him, as travel is the only cure for it. He will get used to riding in a vehicle. Sometimes Iíll feed the pup in the crate while itís in the truck, and not drive anywhere. This helps the pup associate the truck and crate with something positive. If the only time the pup gets to go for a ride is when it goes to the vet for shots, Itís no wonder it gets a bad impression! DO NOT ALLOW YOUR DOG TO RIDE LOOSE IN THE BACK OF A TRUCK! They may be trained to stay in, but they can (and do) fall out. Many former owners wish they hadnít let their dog ride loose!!
***Other things to be aware of: If you tie your dog in the back of your truck, (I donít recommend that, but many people do it) make 150 percent certain that he canít jump out and hang himself!!! Or fall out!!! The way to test the length is tie the dog, and then lift him and see if you can reach Either side with the dog. (See if his rear can reach) The best way to haul your dog is in a crate. Be careful to super glue the bolts on. They tend to vibrate loose. Secure the crate in the truck, so it doesnít tip over on turns.
I canít stress enough how important it is to Socialize your pup with the world!! A fearful stockdog is no fun to be around, and often an unreliable working partner. Take the pup to places where there are crowds. Playgrounds are great places, as are High School football games. Usually there are plenty of people wanting to pet the pup.
When you return from your walk or trip with your pup always put it back in its pen. If you go into the house and leave the pup loose, sooner or later something bad will happen. Someone could drive up and run over the pup. No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but it can and does. Play it safe and put your pup in its pen, so it will live long enough to be trained.
At some point, when you go to put your pup in its pen, it will decide it doesnít want to go in!! This is sometimes a shock, when, the day before he went right in! They start to develop their own minds. Stockdogs are smart. They are just like a kid who suddenly thinks, "Well, why should I Go to my Room?" "Whoís Gonna Make Me?" Itís just lucky, I suppose that pups canít speak! Your first impulse might be to get angry and demand he go into his pen. You could try that, but since the dog is loose, he will just run away and dodge you when you try to catch him. Believe me, its very aggravating when they start this. Instead of playing the "Catch me if you can" game, try walking away from the pen. Have a leash in your pocket, and a few treats. Walk away and ignore the pup for awhile. When he does come to you, give him a treat and put the leash on. Take him for a short walk. Return to the pen and give him the command "Get in", Go into the pen with him, close the gate and give him another treat. Pet and make a fuss over him. Tell him what a good dog he is. For quite a while after this I will have a leash on him before I take him to his pen. Donít always put the leash on and take him to the pen. They will learn that pattern and run from the leash. Sometimes go out walking again, or do something else fun. If your dog plays ball, try putting him on a long line and throw the ball in his pen and let him fetch it out of the pen to you. This is a great way to give him an attitude adjustment in a positive way! Sometimes, go to the pen, put the leash on and stay near the pen and work on the command "Get in". You can do this with its meals also. Donít leave the food out free choice, instead, take the pup out of the pen, put his food in and command "Get in". Your pup will soon learn what you require of it.
There is some controversy as to whether or not itís OK to teach a pup to play ball, Frisbee, etc. I can only tell you of my experiences. I personally have a few dogs that play fetch. I donít go out of my way to teach a pup to fetch, but I enjoy playing with the ones who do. I also find that it is a good way to warm a dog up before a trial. It helps get rid of some of that nervous energy of both parties. I had a client bring a dog to me for training that she had put side commands on using a ball. When the dog ran after the ball she would say "go bye" or "way to me". It totally ruined the dog. When I started to give it commands, it would quit working the stock and look for a ball. They can become so obsessive/compulsive about playing ball that they think of nothing else. If you allow your dog to play ball, also teach it NOT to play ball when you say, "LEAVE IT!"
It is at this age when folks tend to do the most mental damage to their stockdogs. Most stockdog pups get "KEEN TO WORK" around this time. It is very tempting to start training a keen pup on stock. It is, however, the WRONG thing to do. He isnít fast enough to get to the head of running stock. This will result in the pup learning to fall in behind the stock AND CHASE THEM AWAY, instead of learning that he can go around and stop them. The ultimate goal with most stockdogs is to have them bring the stock to you.
A four to six month old pup is not old enough to handle the pressures connected with working stock. Even if you donít realize it, the pup is under a lot of pressure just being in the pen with stock. Some pups will just chase and grip the stock. While it is good to see a pup with this much desire to work, it teaches the pup to use his teeth instead of his brain. I want a dog to think first, then bite if he needs to when working cattle. Allow your pup to grow up before you start its stock training. A good time to start is one year of age. Most dogs have grown out of the puppy stage by then. Another thing that is commonly done is to take a young dog with you when you check cattle. Since this isnít actually formal stock training you might think that itís OK. It isnít! Say you have a dairy and you take the pup with you to drive the cattle to the dairy barn. When the pup starts showing interest in the cows and he runs to the front, you will more than likely call him back. You might even yell at him. Wonder what the heck heís doing! Doesnít he understand that you want the cows to go THAT WAY! No, he doesnít. If heís bred to be a gathering dog, heís "hard wired" to circle to the front and bring the stock back to you. If you do succeed in keeping him behind the cows, you might very well ruin him. What if the pup doesnít chase your cows at all, is it OK to take him then? No, still isnít. Even if the dog shows no desire to work yet, he will still be learning to stay on the wrong side of stock. Once I had a dog in for training that was made to heel while the owner walked through the cattle. The dog would not leave my side, because he had been so severely corrected for breaking the "heel" command. Take your pups for walks away from stock. You will be preventing problems from ever starting.
Sometime around the fifth to seventh month your puppy will start to act like a confused teenager. He may suddenly have an "attitude" about things, or he may go through a time when heís suddenly afraid of everything! The experts in dog development call this "The Fear Period" He suddenly discovers that heís not invincible! He may cower away from strangers, new situations, or even you! Donít shoot the dog!! Just be patient and keep training the pup; he will come out of it in a few months. It is a good idea to try to work through whatever he seems afraid of. If heís afraid of strangers, let them give him treats. Donít over stress him at this time, but do try to desensitize him to whatever heís afraid of. Donít baby him when he acts scared, that just reinforces that there is something wrong. Instead act like there isnít a thing wrong with the world. Happy attitudes are contagious to dogs also. Treats or toys help a lot here. Distract him with positive obedience that he already knows.
You need to gradually increase the time you spend training the pup. With a stockdog, I donít like a formal type of Obedience. The pup canít be afraid to walk on one side or the other. Nor can it be afraid to leave your side. If you "Down" it too much, it could think itís supposed to lay down a lot when working stock. Teach the pup to come to you on command. Train the pup around distractions. It is important to work with the pup, and insist he obey commands even when his mind is elsewhere. When he starts to work stock, you can be sure his mind will be on them at first, and not you!! Dogs can be taught to listen for your commands. Only give the dog ONE command. If the dog doesnít obey, simply place it in the desired position and then praise. Dogs learn by repetition and praise and also with corrections. Teach the dog what the command means before you add corrections. A dog knows the meaning of a command when he obeys it several days in a row. SIT- Have a leash and collar on your pup. Put your right hand in the collar, and run your left hand down the dogs back, then down to the back of his kneeís. Use your forearm to "Scoop" up his rump, and place him in a sitting position. As he sits, say his name and sit. ("Spot, Sit") Then praise him and tell him heís a good boy. Repeat this exercise several times, But only give the Command "Spot, Sit" ONCE. Even if you have a hard time getting the dog to sit, only command once. Dogs will learn to count and remember that you tell it a few times before you make it obey. As the dog learns the meaning of the command, you can pause for 3-4 seconds and give the dog the opportunity to sit before you position it. When you are sure the dog understands the Sit command, you can add a correction. . If the dog doesnít sit in a few seconds, give the leash a quick jerk. If the dog sits, lay on the praise. You donít want to be negative, especially after the dog has done as desired. If the dog does not sit after the correction, simply place it in a sit as you did before. The correction is used as an added incentive to obey. RECALL- This is one of the most important commands to teach your dog. It could save your dogís life. Always teach this command while your dog is on a leash or a long line. Allow the dog to walk away from you. Say itís Name and the recall command you want to use. ("Here", "Come" or "Thatíll Do") Now, reel the line in towards you and when the dog gets to you, praise it. (You can also give treats) Donít allow the dog to run past you, as that isnít coming TO YOU, its going BY YOU. I also have my dog Sit when it gets to me. I find itís just good manners to have a dog Sit automatically when it comes to you.
Start to use things to distract your dog while training. Have someone throw a ball or run by as you call it.
The dog needs to learn to obey when there are distractions while on leash FIRST.
****NEVER call the dog to you and do something unpleasant. If you do, you are training the dog NOT to come to you!!
DOWN- This is an important command also, but frequently over used. You want the dog to obey the command to Down, but not down because heís afraid of you. If you just look at your dog and it Downs, youíve overdone it. Teach the dog to respond to the words, not the Sequence given. For example: If you call your dog, make it sit, then ask him to down every time, pretty soon the dog will just come and lay down by your side. He is anticipating the sequence of events. I usually start to teach the down from a sitting position, but when the dog starts to understand the command; I will ask it to down from a stand, or in the middle of a recall. The down can be taught in many different ways. I use "The path of least resistance". Whatever way works best for the dog Iím training. Some dogs resist lying down; others just "Fall Down" when you touch them. 1) Donít forget the leash and collar. Have the dog Sit. The dog is on your left side. Reach over the dogís back with your left hand and pick up the dogís left FRONT leg. Slide your right hand down its right leg and pick it up. Lay both front legs on the ground and give the Command "Spot, Down". You might need to press your left forearm against the dogís back to keep it from popping up. Praise the dog when it is down. Then give it a Release command. I say "O.K." If the dog doesnít get up when you release it, Walk forward. This will encourage the dog to get up.
2) Another method to teach the down: (works well on very sensitive dogs) Take two fingers and gently press down under their shoulder blades. Some dogs are "Goosey" and just plop down. Say the dogís name and Down.
3) If you have a very hard dog, try one of the above methods first, he may just not understand and be resisting because he is afraid. If they donít work, try holding the leash out a few feet from the ground and stepping down quickly on it. You have to pull with your hand to keep slack out of the leash. As the dog downs, say his name, give the command and use lots of Praise. Be careful with this method. It can cause a dog to be afraid. Always Praise.
***When your dog has learned down, if he doesnít obey, use your leash and give a jerk downward. Donít pull up, Jerk down. Praise if the dog downs. Position him if he doesnít. Donít give a second command!!
SIT FROM A DOWN- This is a good command to help teach the dog to react to the commands. Not just a Sequence. Give the dog a down command. Let the dog lay there a little while. Give the dog a Sit command. Gently, and quickly pull the dog up into a sit.
Praise and give a Treat. Repeat a few times then practice something else. Another way is to give the dog a sit command from a down position and then run forward and sit the dog. You can alternate the two methods.
STAND- 1) To teach the dog to stand on command from a sit, place your left hand under the dog. Lift up and say "Spot, Stand". Praise him and Scratch his belly. (This will relax the dog) Hold him in place a few seconds and release him with an "OK" and run forward with him. Repeat the exercise several times in a row and alternate it with the other commands. 2) From a Sit, give the dog a Stand command and walk forward 3 steps, stop and give a treat. If the dog sits, just walk forward again. Repeat until the dog Stands for the treat.
STAY- The leash and collar is on the dog. Command the dog to "Stay"; step directly in front of the dog. You can expect the dog to get up from whatever position it was in when you said, "Stay". When it does get up, simply place it back in the position it was in. It is important that you place the dog back in the same SPOT he was in. Donít let the dog walk off ten feet. Donít show anger when you put the dog back. Remember that he doesnít know what you want of him yet. It may take awhile before he does. Just be patient with him and keep practicing. Gradually increase the distance you walk away and the length of time you ask him to stay. DONíT make the dog so afraid to get up that it wonít get up later when a cow charges it. They have to understand that they can move if they NEED to. Do not over do this command in a stockdog, especially if he will be working cattle.
WALKING ON A LEASH- I donít like to teach a "Heel" command to a stockdog
before it is trained to work stock. If you do, the dog may never leave your
side to work, or he may be more difficult to train to drive on the right side
if you insist he stay on the left. I wait until the dog is trained, then I teach
it to stay by my side, but not necessarily a formal heel. I do, however
teach all my pups to be polite when on a leash. That means NO PULLING me. I
donít like my arm jerked off and I wonít allow a pup to get away with it. When
I take my pup for a walk and he races ahead of me, I give him a sharp jerk on
the leash, and when he turns back toward me I praise him. Since he quit pulling,
he needs to know heís doing the right thing now. So smile and say "Good Boy".
****Stockdog pups who tend to be strong head dogs may try to "Head" you as you walk. They will circle Ďround in front of you and try to stop you from moving. Some will get frustrated and bite your pant legs. If you try to shake them loose, they like it and try even harder. Pups in the wild practice hunting techniques on each other and on any available adults. This is what your pup is doing. His littermates will play along and fight back. Adults on the other hand, might let them play this game a little and when they grow tired of it, bite the pup on the Muzzle, Scruff of the neck or whatever is handy. Take the Adult dogs approach to this behavior. You donít want to totally squash all the pupsí incentive, but you do want him to understand that you are The Alpha Dog in his life and you will only tolerate so much nonsense. When he circles in front of you, donít veer from a straight course to accommodate him. Instead, walk forward and if he gets underfoot, Gently step on his feet, and keep walking. Do this every time he tries to stop your movement. Do the same thing if he bites your leg.
****Another problem that I see with strong head dogs, is a desire to jump
up and bite you in the face. This isnít much fun for you at all. I will grab
the pup mid-jump by the scruff of the neck and place it in a sit, then I praise
it. Replace an unwanted behavior with an acceptable one.
****When a "Heel" dog bites you on the back of the leg or the ankle, just raise your leg quickly and rap him under the chin. Keep walking a few steps and then have the pup sit. Donít forget to praise good behavior.
If you are raising large numbers of puppies up at one time, there are some considerations to be made. Will you have the time to properly socialize each pup? Or will you stick them all in a pen together and just put out food and water? When you raise up many pups at the same time, they need to be kept in separate pens and not be able to see each other. If they see a pup in the next pen, they will start to bark and run back and forth to invite play. Sometimes the pups will start to "work" each other. This creates as many bad habits as working stock through a fence does. If it is wire between the two pens, they will start to pull at it with their teeth, and usually create an opening big enough to get through. If the pups are kept together, they will bond with each other, not you. If you keep the pups in separate pens, and take each one out by itself, you will create a bond with the pup. I probably donít need to tell you that this helps makes it easier to train the pup later.
Another reason itís important not to let the pups all run together is pecking order. There will be an Omega pup in the litter. (One who is submissive to all) If left in the pen with the other more dominant pups he will become paranoid!! He wonít get to eat very often and will be in constant fear of being attacked! This pup will be worthless later on stock (generally). Keeping the pups separate or at least in pairs helps prevent this situation. If you have to keep the pups in pairs, rotate who is together. Always take them out to play separate and for obedience training. Later, as they mature (usually past 4 months) itís important for them to be around other dogs to learn K-9 Etiquette. Not penned with other dogs, just have some "Play Time" with them.
Hire someone to come over and help socialize your pups. They need to become accustomed to both Male and Females. Allow children to play with them. (Supervised! Some kids do more harm than good)
Raise them up with plenty of attention and socializing and they should grow up to be productive members of the K-9 community.
Michelle lives in eastern Oklahoma, just North of Westville. She is married and has a nine year old daughter. She has been training dogs since she was 12 years old in one form or another. For the past 10 years Michelle has been training and selling Border Collies. For five years now it has been her full time occupation. After initial training on broke cattle she "stair steps" the dogs up to working cow/calf pairs using local farmer's cattle. She lives in an area where there is an abundance. Realizing that beginners need a realistic view of what happens when they start their young dogs on stock, Michelle has produced a 2 hour video entitled "Border Collie Basics For Beginners" ( $38.00 ppd)
Lock-Eye Border Collies
Rt 1 Box 603 Westville, OK 74965