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Now that my little girl is six months old, she was formally evaluated and passed her HIC eval last week. :D Let the journey begin....

Her written critique was pretty darn exciting (if I do say so myself), and probably the best part is that she shows "Medium Eye", which isn't terribly common in GSD's - most are loose-eyed. My other GSD works loose-eyed, so this is very exciting to me. Readily corrected, works silently (no nonsense barking), and other really promising comments. This week we're starting real lessons, and I couldn't be happier.





Since she's young, we'll be training formally once a week. On off-days, we'll be continuing work on livestock manners, at home and at friends' properties. Her poultry manners are improving, though she isn't calm enough to go into the coop and collect eggs yet (that one takes a while, but we're getting closer). The goal is for her to watch me, which is a pretty big feat when feathery lunches are squawking around you. It's a good sign when the birds settle down and start to eat when the dog in the pen - they can tell when a dog is bonkers, and when the dog is under control.



We also started the slow, patient process of acclimating her to our LGD (livestock guardian donkey). It's a two-way street - the donkey needs to learn that she's an "acceptable" canine, not a coyote or stray dog. She needs to learn that the donkey is un-herdable, and must be left alone. This isn't something to rush, so right now the goal is calm sniffing through the fence.



This will be the second GSD I've trained for herding work. It's 90% exciting, but 10% daunting when I think that we're starting from square one, especially when I look back at all of the obstacles and struggles I went through with my first dog (pictured below).... who is now sensible and trustworthy around all creatures great and small. I'm very proud of what I did with my first dog, but I have much bigger hopes and goals for Ayla.... wish us luck. :wub:

 

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I have no idea what "medium and loose eye" is. :confused: ;)

But love the pics, love to see GSDs doing the herding work.

Congrats on a very promising start!
 

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I have no idea what "medium and loose eye" is. :confused: ;)
In a nutshell, it's a measure of how intensely the dog stares at the sheep - exerting pressure with their eyes, to make them move or cooperate. The best example of a strong-eyed breed is a working border collie.

The other end of the spectrum, loose-eyed breeds ("upright workers") use body pressure, barking, gripping (or ankle/hock nipping like a cattle dog). They don't stare down the stock, and tend to be more physical. They can be significantly more challenging to work with small groups of livestock and/or in small spaces, like pens, or sorting.

So a GSD that is showing some intense "eye" is really nice, since it means that the dog has that instinct as a tool to use. You can't train "eye" into a dog, it's either there or it isn't. The more tools they have in their toolbox (so to speak), the more adaptable and useful they may be, in a variety of situations. Sometimes eye is enough. Sometimes it's not. But adaptability is awesome when you're dealing with livestock, where every animal can be a wildcard.

~~~

Thank you guys for the nice comments, it's really nice to have some people to share our stories with. When I get excited about working sheep, most people think I'm nuts. :)
 

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Progress continues, even in the recent crud weather we're enjoying in the Midwest. :)

Like every dog I've ever owned, she has decided that the straw shed & hay bale piles are simply the best thing in the world. Obviously, I buy them just for her.





This morning I was so happy, she did her first "Real Work". By my definition, that means she helped me get something done, and made it easier than me doing it alone. The geese do not belong in the garage, but they try to sneak in when it's cold so they can steal corn, poop on the floor, and cause other mischief. We were able to group them into an orderly cluster and push them into the back of the building, so I could open the door and evict them back outdoors where they belong. If you look closely, you can see that her lead is loose. Not by much - but I'll take it. She's just starting to develop the confidence to stand still (quietly) and maintain eye contact, without freaking out the birds.

Trials and precise maneuvers are wonderful, but sometimes it's the simple day-to-day help that means the most. How I love this little dog.

 

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I'm also enjoying your posts!I can't think of any better life for our dogs than to be our helpers and companions.
 

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Workin' Woolies in the snow, just shy of 8 months old. :)

Two primary goals right now.... 1. Learning self control, and 2. Building calm confidence.

It's wonderful to watch a 40lb puppy come into her own, and understand that she can control large animals that are 3-4 times her size. You can literally see the "Aha!" moments when instinct and obedience combine, and good things happen.

Off the stock, we're working on the all-important 'Stand' around distractions, and giving commands in a quiet voice to encourage her to listen closely for all verbal cues.



 

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This week, we made some major progress in poultry manners. Now we're starting to practice self control, off-leash and outside of the pens. :)

 

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Wonderful!She's really doing great:)Coincidentally,I let Samson outside off leash even though there were several turkeys out back in the field.He was pretty geeked up since he'd been watching them from inside.He started running but stopped on command and didn't follow when the turkeys ran.We can both be proud today:)
 

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Wonderful!She's really doing great
Coincidentally,I let Samson outside off leash even though there were several turkeys out back in the field.He was pretty geeked up since he'd been watching them from inside.He started running but stopped on command and didn't follow when the turkeys ran.We can both be proud today
That's is great I don't think mine would ever hear me unless I had a bull horn but maybe then not. There is someone that does sheep herding close by when we are closer to being ready would love to try it.
 

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Wonderful!She's really doing great:)Coincidentally,I let Samson outside off leash even though there were several turkeys out back in the field.He was pretty geeked up since he'd been watching them from inside.He started running but stopped on command and didn't follow when the turkeys ran.We can both be proud today:)
Nice. Recall off wildlife is hard. Good Boy!

That's is great I don't think mine would ever hear me unless I had a bull horn but maybe then not. There is someone that does sheep herding close by when we are closer to being ready would love to try it.
Give it a try, for sure. We need more GSDs out there. :)
 

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Looking forward to more of Ayla's adventures and training!
 

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I'm so glad I found this thread! I have a million questions. We no longer have a herding person (for lessons) around here, so I'm on my own. I have a 11 month old GSD, who was introduced to sheep at 5 months, but then nothing. I got her after our meat goats all went to fair, so she never got to meet them as a pup. We just got our spring goats, and will be keeping two of the females permanently. I'd like to train her to help me move them to and from an electric pen a few times a week. I'll train one of the female goats to lead, but would like Mina to help, and stay near them while they are in the electrified moveable pen.

On lead, she has been allowed to come near them in their pen and sniff. One of the whethers (4.5 months) lowered his head and stomped at her and she backed off right away. She did not show any predatory inclination, and just seemed interested in sniffing around.

Any "next steps" ideas would be welcome. For now, since they are still little, the four goats are in a 1/3 acre contained pasture with a shed.
Should I bring her in the pasture with me on a long lead, sit calmly watching and have her sit with me until it is not a big deal and she is calm? OR???

Last bit of information is that i have a Border collie/Anatolian mix 4 year old who has been trained to run the deer out of the vineyard. Mina has helped him twice. I'm worried that the goats act too much like deer, so have only let him sniff the goat through the fence, for fear of him chasing them. Suggestions?

I realize that I clearly need to train one dog at a time, and might as well start with my big goofy GSD puppy, but thought I'd ask about the other dog, too.

Thanks for any help you can give. Dawn
 

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@dldolan - I would make the trip to see Debbie Pollard in Vacaville. She is experienced with German Shepherds and would be much better at getting you started than trying out advice online.
 

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Hi Dawn, I agree 100% with mspiker's recommendation to work through foundation (and beyond) with a qualified trainer that has experience with multiple types of livestock.

There are two things that are almost always needed, to reach the goal you described.

1. You need "dog-broke" sheep (or goats) in order to train a new dog. They're calmer, aren't spooky, and are as predictable as possible. These are animals that respect a working dog, generally don't challenge the dog at every turn, but aren't terrified of the dog.

2. You need a solid, predictable dog to "dog break" your own animals. Your instructor can give you more feedback/input on this. Your goats have to learn to respect dogs, and the best teacher is a confident stockdog that can train them, using only as much force as necessary.

After both of those pieces of the puzzle come together, you should be able to safely begin working your own dog on your own livestock. Green dog + wild goats = chaos at best, likely injuries or worse, unless the handler is very savvy with lots of experience and has FAST reflexes. I (personally) do not allow my dog to move our goats during later stages of pregnancy, or after kidding, until the kids are 100% weaned. Even the typically mild does can act erratically/aggressively if the dog enters the pen with their kid. If they need to be moved, I put the dog inside and bribe the goats with a grain bucket. (Note - plenty of farmers use their dogs during lambing/kidding, but since I only have a few animals and my dogs are not impeccably trained, the stress and risk aren't worth it, to me). Some individual goats can be stubborn or aggressive (as I'm sure you're well aware). I sold an otherwise nice quality buck because he was moody and unpredictable during certain seasons. Too risky, too annoying.

RE: Chasing deer, I don't allow it. It has the potential to confuse the ironclad "NO CHASING" rules that pertain to chickens, cats, etc. I give a pretty firm leash correction for deer chasing attempts, they are absolutely thick in the parks around here and we encounter them regularly.

Do keep us posted if you're able to connect with the trainer recommended, I'd love to hear updates! There aren't enough goat keepers in the world, they're such interesting critters.....
 

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Thanks to you both! I wrote Debbie this morning, but it says she is not accepting new clients on her website. Hopefully she'll email back, and if she isn't taking clients, maybe she knows someone up near me. If not, I'll need advice, for sure!

Totally makes sense about the young dog, trained stock, and than an experienced dog to work my young goats. They are 4.5 months old, and not super goofy due to the good job of the farmer down the road I got them from. They are used to his big blocky lab and rat terrier being near them, so aren't too fearful of my dogs, and came right over to the fence where they were to see them.

I need the dogs to keep the deer & turkeys out of the vineyard, which is actually the #1 priority for me. They also keep the raccoons and opossum away, and deter other predators from my Marans breeding operation, so they are working dogs in that sense. As for the goats, at a very minimum, I need the dogs to respect them. I will train the goats to lead so I can move them into hot fencing during a few hours per day. Preferably, the dogs would help guard while the goats are in the electric fencing during the day (back into their main pasture at night). Best case, Mina would help me move them!

I need to think in baby steps, I know.
 

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BTW, I grew up in Waunakee and Stoughton! Left WI after college at UW-Madison, but still love it when I go.
 
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