Too much freedom?

I was told yesterday that it was okay to let your dogs do what they wanted to do; that if you had the dogs’ respect, they would still be willing to work when you wanted them to. That may very well be true, but I think there’s a fine line between how much free time a dog has to do what it wants and time where it has to do what you want.

I have no doubt my dogs respect me, yet I feel I need to limit the amount of time they have to do what they want to do. I believe my dogs lead a very good life, but I keep it structured: I run a tight ship.

This morning I had some things I really wanted to get done. I brought the dogs for a long walk, then let them run around while I got a few things done outside. Then when I came in, I put them both up in their crates. In general, Gel can be loose in the house, but if the sheep are loose outside, as they were this morning, he has the tendency to “work” them from inside the house. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Most herding trainers keep their dogs out of sight of sheep or other stock, otherwise, they will “work” them 24/7.

Because I had things to do, I didn’t want to keep an eye on Gel’s in-the-house sheep monitoring so he was crated as well.

Fern protested. She’s usually very quiet in the crate, but this morning, she was extremely vocal. I have been letting her have more freedom in the house when I’m around to supervise her and I think she was most unhappy about having her freedom taken away. I can see the same pattern that Gel got into when I first got him: he spent a lot of time playing with toys, he had toys all over the place, I was a ball/toy throwing machine. When I finally realized the err of my ways and put a stop to it, Gel became very sulky and on several occasions, quit working for me. It took us a long time to repair our relationship. Fern is an awful lot like Gel, which is probably why I like her so much, so I need to be diligent to be sure she doesn’t follow the same path Gel did.

Gel is a really, really nice dog, he gets compliments where ever we go. I firmly believe he is such a nice dog because I keep such tight tabs on him. It is a lot of work maintaining animals who are as intelligent and hard-wired to work as Border Collies are. If you can direct them in an appropriate manner, they are absolutely exquisite animals to be around. If not, well, they are obnoxious, sulky when you ask them to do something they really don’t want to do, hyper, etc. Not my cup of tea.

I did work with Fern last night on targeting to a piece of clear plexiglass. I discovered I need to take a step back and work more on targeting to my hand and then go to targeting to the plexiglass. She’s fond of using her front feet to slap at toys, me, etc. and that’s what she was doing with the plexiglass rather than touching it with her nose.