Ok, that's a bold claim to make. AFter all for a lot of border collies sheep = life - so how could Tsuki be the happiest sheepdog? I dunno - he's mine so he just is. He isn't the best sheepdog but he is competent. And he does have a work ethic, but he also has a grin that just can't be beat. Its fun and intersting to watch him go through various emotions.
No one who is serious about working sheep likes to see a dog with its tail cranking - it means the dog is having fun, not working. And its true. When Tsuki has his tail cranking he is quite obviously NOT thinking about controlling the sheep - he's just having a good time. Fortunatly for all of us even in tha mode he does seem to pay attention to things like an upcoming fence. If he isn't going to be able to turn the sheep off the fence he peels off in the opposite direction and gives the sheep plenty of room to stop.
As he gets better and more mature he is saving his tail cranking runs for "that'll do" which means we are done with the sheep, - where upon he takes off full blast tail cranking wildly - not chasing anything at all but making wild big loop-de-loops everywhere BUT where the sheep are. Yesterday he tried a regression and did a tail cranking out run which rather alarmed the sheep. It was muddy and slippery and the field has a pretty good slope to it and I wasn't having any of it. At least we now have a STOP so cutting off his fun wasn't a problem.

I put his leash on and we practiced driving the sheep. One loop aroud the field and the sheep began to trust I actually had control of my dog and they settled down. And I ended up not actually using the leash (i.e. he did what he was told) So I dropped the leash and he settled admirably into working sheepdog mode.
Best of all he settled into THINKING sheep dog mode and covered his sheep without coming in too close and without me telling him what to do. (Covering the sheep means changing his position to adjust the sheep's direction of travel - and keep them from bolting.) In working / thinking mode the whole body language and demeanor is different. He doesn't have a lot of Border Collie eye, but there is still an obvious focus to his attention. When he is in working mode he always starts with a head drop then when he's covering as we walk the field he will stop and stand very uright, watch his sheep, then move again.
He moves more slowly when he is working. When hes working I feel he is very satisfied, very fulfilled, but not necessarily joyful. But give him the "that'll do" and the joy bursts out of him. I'm always amazed and amused at how quickly he can shift from one mode to another.
I've learned a lot from working with him on sheep. I've come to appreciate, for example, exactly how big a handicap it is for a novice shepherd to try to train a green dog. I understand why if you really want to learn to handle you learn to handle on a trained dog first. I haven't done that because as a sport I just don't take it that seriously. I also grok the importance of innate desire/drive/whatever you want to call it. In sheep herding you are really handicapped if the dog is merely being obedient.

The ideal sheepdog is actually aware of how it affects the sheep and will adjust speed, position and body posture as necessary to attain the goal. A good sheepdog, for example, will take pressure off the sheep just by turning its head away. Taking pressure off is good because it keeps the sheep from going into panic mode. They do this without being told anything. One of the things Tsuki does consistently well is penning. Why? WEll despite his desire to work closer to the sheep than he should when fetching or driving he seems to have a really good feel for when to stop when we are pushing the sheep into a pen.

Push too hard and the sheep don't go int the pen, they scatter in all directions. He stops pretty far back and just stands there. When he does that the sheep all tend to settle in front of the gate. Then a single step forward on his part pushes them through.
I have some mysteries I haven't really solved like why real work is different for a dog than trialing or practice at trialing. I'm not mystified that they can tell the difference - but why should they care and behave differently? But they often do. Tsuki certainly does. He never goes into tail cranking mode when we set out to do a specific real task. He's not alone in that.
Diane, great post! Great read! Thanks for posting about Tsuki and his sheep adventures. I love reading these posts. They are quite modivating.
I've learned a lot from working with him on sheep. I've come to appreciate, for example, exactly how big a ... I understand why if you really want to learn to handle you learn to handle on a trained dog first.

I would think the above could be true in any dog sport. Schutzhund definitely comes to mind with the above
I have some mysteries I haven't really solved like why real work is different for a dog than trialing or ... goes into tail cranking mode when we set out to do a specific real task. He's not alone in that.

Indeed I have certainly seen and experience the above.

Thanks so much for this detailed and fabulous post.

Gwen
As he gets better and more mature he is saving his tail cranking runs for "that'll do" which means we are done with the sheep, - where upon he takes off full blast tail cranking wildly - not chasing anything at all but making wild big loop-de-loops everywhere BUT where the sheep are.

Don't you just love that?
I put his leash on and we practiced driving the sheep.

A really really long line can be good for this. We've been doing a lot of driving with Solo on a 50-foot line to guard against his impulse control problems. He likes to drive. It calms him down and makes him think.

I have some mysteries I haven't really solved like why real work is different for a dog than trialing or practice at trialing. I'm not mystified that they can tell the difference - but why should they care and behave differently? But they often do. Tsuki certainly does. He never goes into tail cranking mode when we set out to do a specific real task. He's not alone in that.
Solo is exactly like that; Fly, not so much but that's because she's a better sheepdog than Solo and doesn't have the same issues with impulse control (I just love that term, "impulse control" it's so useful in so many different arenas). I think it's because when we are working on a specific chore, -I- am much clearer in my body language and better at communicating what I need from him. This not only gives him better cues, but, I believe, increases his confidence.

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
Cool post! Thanks for telling us about Tsuki and his sheepherding. Dogs working sheep has always fascinated me and I've always enjoyed watching it so it was fun to read about you and Tsuki. I never really knew much about the training aspect, although I know it is involved. It's also interesting to me how much of herding is ingrained in the dog naturally.
Ok, that's a bold claim to make.

Diane,
Thanks for this post and the one on Oso the therapy dog. They put a big smile on my face.
I appreciate it.
Chad

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Ok, that's a bold claim to make.

Diane, Thanks for this post and the one on Oso the therapy dog. They put a big smile on my face. I appreciate it. Chad

They were such great posts I was kind of struck dumb. Doesn't happen often.

BethF, Anchorage, AK
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