Ups and downs of training

Things don’t always go as they should when you are dealing with another living being (vs. a machine). Sometimes the dog doesn’t do what you ask him to. In general, Gel is very compliant and works to the best of his ability. Sometimes, however, be completely bombs out, like he did this morning.

I sent him to pick up the sheep who were in an open field 300-400 yards away up by my neighbor’s house. I watched as he got around behind the sheep, one of the neighbor’s dogs came out into the field with him. Gel forgot the sheep and started to play with the neighbor’s dog. Then, to make matters worst, he went over to visit the neighbor, completely blowing off the sheep and me. Oh, was I mad. He’s lucky I didn’t go up there after him.

Instead, I calmly called Fern and she and I went out into the field and picked up the sheep. It wasn’t pretty, but we got them back and put them up. Gel still hadn’t returned so I brought Fern into the house. When Gel did return, I promptly brought him in and put him in his crate. I made it a point to play with Fern right in front of Gel, then took Fern into the bathroom and finished getting ready for work.

When I was ready for work, I asked Fern if she wanted to go out and put up the sheep. Gel knows the term “put up the sheep.” The sheep were already up, but Gel didn’t know that. We went out and played for a while, then I put Fern up. I came back in for Gel and promptly put him in his run.

This is not the first time Gel has left sheep to go and visit. It probably won’t be the last, but after this time, he’s going to learn that there are consequences for his actions that do not involve my yelling at him. He isn’t going to get any work for the next couple of days and he’s going to watch me work/play with Fern. This will actually be a good thing because I’ve been focusing almost entirely on Gel’s training. It’s Fern’s turn now. I expect the next time I ask Gel to pick up sheep, nothing is going to prevent him from the task at hand.

A lot of people would look at a dog who left his sheep as one that should be immediately culled. That may very well be true, but I know the holes in my training abilities are what contributed to Gel’s occasional lapses in work ethic. Gel is a party boy, he always will be. Perhaps there is a limit to the amount of socialization you do with a dog and Gel just likes people just a bit too much. The neighbor very much feeds into Gel’s people obsession. I try to limit how much Gel is exposed to him for that reason.

It’s all a learning experience and as long as I can remain open to learning, everything will move along as it should.