Bronwen's lesson in tackling sheep in tight corners
I tore myself away from editing sheepdog training videos this morning, to take Bronwen to the sheep. Our poor dogs don't get nearly as much training as they should do at the moment because we're so busy making videos (and fulfilling DVD orders - and it was such a lovely sunny morning, I couldn't resist it.
To be honest, I think the first thing that went wrong was my concentrating too hard on getting photographs, and not controlling Bronwen with quite the discipline I should have. She brought the sheep to me very nicely, but when I knelt down to get a low viewpoint it meant my attention was off her. So she took advantage of the opportunity to add some "artistic licence" to her performance.
As a result, she got pretty well "wound-up" and when I asked her to get the sheep out of a particularly tight corner we have, she didn't want to go round them - and who can blame a young dog in this position? There's nowhere for the dog to go between the sheep and the hedge. Instead, she split a handful of them away, then when they raced off down the field, Bronwen was determined to bring them back.
I was equally determined that she would ignore the runaway sheep and concentrate on finishing the job I'd given her - getting the sheep out of the corner. I still had the camera in my hands, and because of this I didn't have the training stick with me, so we stopped training and returned to the house to swap the camera for the training stick.
By the time we returned, the sheep were back together in the corner, so I asked Bronwen to get them out and just as before, she split them, rather than bringing them out cleanly. Things improved immediately though, because blocking her with the stick gave Bronwen a stronger signal to go the way I wanted - and quickly she began to learn that if she approaches the sheep wide and steadily, they will move. It's when dogs dart at the sheep that they freeze - or panic and scatter in all directions.
By sending her to bring them out of the corner before they were too tightly rooted in there, Bronwen's confidence built up quickly and soon she was moving the sheep out of the corner in a controlled fashion, even if they were quite tightly packed in there. I was pleased with her.