Dorice Stancher (c)2014
They may seem cuddly and counting them may be great for sleeping, but make no mistake herding sheep is challenging and some of them are downright ornery!
I live in a condo without a fenced backyard so I look for out-of-the-box, left of center ways to train my dogs to be obedient good little canine citizens. I recently took a lesson with Carolyn Wilki, owner of the Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who has been herding since 1987 and studied at both Cornell and Bryn Mawr. If you are a fan of NY Times writer John Katz, you may recall that his highly successful “Dogs of Bedlam Farm” series mentions his experiences training with Carolyn and how he found not only a way to reach his dogs on another level but to also find a sense of inner peace http://www.bedlamfarm.com/?s=carolyn+wilki
And so here are a few of the things both my dogs and I learned. It is not a crime to slow down and appreciate the world around you. The bleating of the lambs is almost hypnotic. and for a North Jersey caffeinated girl this was a welcome respite after a tough week. As our emotions influence our dogs, it was better for them too. “Control is an illusion,” remarked Carolyn as I attempted to call my alpha female Wheaten Terrier off of the three prancing sheep she was chasing. Obviously I was not as fun as they were. It was suggested I move my feet and catch her as she turned and remarkably when I asked her to “Lay Down” she hit the dirt, and then when I called her she came trotting back to me. As a professional dog trainer I always advise my students when training in public to make themselves more interesting than the object of attraction. While teaching a “Leave It” command is a nice idea, when something so fantastically tempting catches a dog’s eye, a backup plan and execution is even better.
There were so many temptations in the pen: sheep poop, sheep hair, sheep, smells of other animals in the distance like ducks and goats. And little by little they were of secondary importance as Krista and I learned the dance of two, and becoming united in our purpose to drive those three ornery sheep in our chosen direction following Carolyn’s instructions. She is one of only two sheepherding instructors in the entire country that uses positive reinforcement I learned, and in attendance in my little class were people from California, Brooklyn and Long Island.
I don’t think our condo association allows sheep although my dogs do have a resemblance so I think our next attempt at herding will be with the Canadian Geese that frequent our local park, remembering the goal is to night frighten them into flight, but to keep them together, to have them march toward a pre-determined direction, respecting their personal space. In my head is the perfect vision of our teacher and her Border Collie driving the sheep effortlessly and zen-like across the field and into their pens with a “That’l Do” as the final note-a peaceful ending to a great day.
It’s all fun until someone gets hurt. Remember when your Mom would say that to you. Well it’s not that different with pushy dogs. Take a hard look at your pet’s behavior with you. Does he paw you to initiate play? Barks for attention? Gets the best of everything including sleeping with you, the couch, food and cuddles simply for being so darn adorable? Sigh. It’s time for a little “tough love” of your own.
Start by some simple everyday obedience and limit setting. From today forward your dog must so the equivalent of “please” before getting all those wonderful things you lavish him with. And “please” means earning that reward by doing something. You can ask for a basic sit, down or touch, or kick it up a notch with a trick. Time for dinner? Make him wait until you put that bowl down and then release with “okay”. Time for a walk? How about a nice sit and wait before venturing out. By doing these behaviors we are “demoting” his rank in the family. It is also advisable to work on attention control. I like playing the Name Game and the Rebound Recall. If you have been following my posts you know what this is. But if you need me to explain I can re-post.
Part two of getting control is taking that attention that you have worked so hard to build at home outside. How about doing some obedience exercise outside the dog run at a distance for control before going inside? And I never let my dogs in the dog run unless I have trained for a Recall and a Gotcha that is, getting my dog to leave the distraction and return and letting me grasp his collar. Ian Dunbar has some nice training information on this at Dog Star Daily. Remember before things get out of hand it’s time to go home. After all, there should always be consequences for actions-even your dog’s.
If you live in NJ I am available for training consultations on this topics and others. If you live elsewhere please consult your local trainer and make certain they are a nationally certified CPDT-KA and positive reinforcement professional.
This young trainer keeps her dogs busy and mentally stimulated despite the cold February weather. Here she is warming them up with the “Name Game”.
This may just look like a pretty pose but it took training to get that stand “just right”. Krista likes all eyes on her as a show dog but she also likes to learn new things like all dogs do. I have taught her to swim, pull me while cross country skiing, dance, swim and paddleboard and do about 50 tricks. Dogs really “can do” and so can yours!
Feeling sluggish from too much holiday excess? Clothes a little pinchy? Feeling ho- hum and a bit pale? Try these five secret tips we dog trainers use for looking and feeling great! After all you never know when someone will need a new show on Animal Planet! It all starts simply with taking a walk!
1. When you WALK your dog use your five senses to really take in your environment. Turn off that cell phone and give yourself at least 30 minutes of bliss listening to the birds, taking in those luscious aromas coming from the bakery that is driving your dog mad, watch for cute doggies to say hello to and guess their names before you meet them. By engaging your mind in this way you will relax and reduce those worry lines. And by walking on a regular basis you will shed yucky pounds and feel great. Check with your doctor and vet before starting your regimen and you are off! Make n appointment with yourself to walk so that no one steals valuable “me” time. You are not selfish. You are taking care of your health. No guilt here please.
2. Before venturing out use a good MOISTURIZER with sunscreen. many dog trainers have found the Jergen’s brand of self-tanning daily moisturizer imparts just a hint of healthy non-flakey color. Others swear by Clinique and my personal choice is Luminesce with vitamin C from CVS plus sunscreen. Whatever you choose remember to protect the kin you are in.
3. Learn to SMILE even when you are feeling pfffffft. Yes what your mom said is lines using the muscles for smiling can trick you into feeling better. Practice in front of a mirror if you need help deciding between natural not creepy. Smiling makes you attractive and feel confident. A nice combo to add to the increase in endorphins while walking.
4. Practice GRATITUDE and give thanks for your dog. He or she has loved you through thick and thin, the ups and downs and all the way around. Look at your walk as an opportunity to connect with your adorable living creature, fur child, who is utterly and shamelessly in love with you even if you feel fat and blue. Say thank you with some uninterrupted bliss together. And then say “thank you” for your life, your health and the ability to get outside and enjoy life. Think about paying it forward by helping someone.You will feel calmer, happier and more connect5. Expect great things and dare to DREAM. Some say that you age and are old when you forget to dream. Don’t let anyone destroy your ability
to imagine great things for you and your dog. Yes there are realistic goals. But we are talking about big stuff here. You can get all practical and lay the foundation at home. We are talking the big Hollywood picture here starring you and your dog. Think about travel plans for the two of you, fabulous fun like planning a party or dressing up and dining at a local bistro.
Wishing you big, juicy, healthy, fat-free and mind blowing fun with your clever canine.
Dorice Stancher, CPDT-KA