Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rake Training

Today I cut out of work early which meant there was enough daylight to work with Brees and the rake. In herding, a small thin rake is used as a 'crook'. Because the tynes are made of plastic, its a harmless 'bonker' in case a dog gets a little to heavy on the sheep and is also used to train the dog to slow down, stop and 'get around' Herding is about toning down the prey drive to get the dog to think, the reward being that the dog can chase livestock. But a dog has to be trained and in the burbs its hard to keep livestock hanging around, so creativity is needed. To try to simulate 'ducks' I had my husband walk Gimli and Liam about 1/2 block ahead of us. With Brees on a 4 ft lead in my left hand, and the rake tucked under my right arm we started toward them. As my instructor suggested, I swung rake like a pendulum in front of us. As predicted, Brees lurched forward, but backed off quickly as the rake blocked his path. When he looked up at me, I smiled and rewarded him with a treat. I kept this routine for about a block, then started to add 'stops' and plunked the rake in front of him (tynes always away from the face) as my husband would continue to walk ahead. We then added an occasional down. Always rewarding for walking calmly next to me, and occasionally walking in a tight circle with a treat at my side. I worked both sides of my body, but I am better with him on my left side than right. So we have more work to do, especially on 'get around' where the rake is used to start turning the dog in the opposite direction and to keep distance from the handler. Its a weird motion and takes practice ( I am trying to practice with out the dog to get the muscle memory) By the end of our walk, I only needed to flash the rake slightly at my side for Brees to slow down. Our next lesson is in February and It will be interesting to see if he generalized the work we will do in the neighborhood to the barn.

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