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Thread: Need help with training!!!

  1. #1

    Default Need help with training!!!

    Hi, I'm new here and desperately need some help!!

    I have a 1yo female working bred kelpie. I have a few issues with her that I cant get around. First off I live in a secluded area and have no access to obedience training or trainers to come and help me so everything I can do with her has to be learnt from either the internet or in a book.

    She has the basic obedience training down pat. Sit, drop and stay, although her stay could be better. Her recall is not 100% proof and will only come when she wants. This is my first problem. She has no recall at all if there is something that has caught her attention. If there is something to chase e.g. kangaroo, bird, any other animal she will completely turn off from me and just focus her attention on chasing this animal. She will recall perfectly if she is on a long lead but when off the lead it all goes out the window.

    My main problem with her is that she is dog obsessed. If she spots another dog or even hears a dog barking so will totally loose all focus on me and want to get to this dog. I have no hope in hell on getting her under control and basically have to drag her past the dog until it is way out of sight before she will focus back on me. What I want to do with her is get her to keep her focus on me and realise that I am better to be with than the dog. After reading alot on the net I am thinking that she thinks her job is to "round" up the other dogs. Although she technically doesnt work the other dogs but will play all day with them if I allow it.

    Basically what I am looking for is how to train her to be a good dog. I want her to keep her attention on me. I try to play the "look at that" game but if something has caught her attention I have no hope in hell on getting it back. Also what "jobs" can I do with her to let her release all her energy? She goes either goes for a 1-2hr walk morning/night, plays with a ball etc but she needs more mentally stimulating things but I need ideas on what to do with her.

  2. #2


    First thing you need to do is make yourself more rewarding than it is to ignore you. Start by feeding her meals by the spoon full. Make her work for each spoon - sits, drops, stays, spins, hand shake, beg, high five etc. Every time you are outsside with her, make her work for a reward all the time.

    Rewards need to high value - roast chicken/lamb/pork/steak/sausage/vienna etc. Size of each piece no bigger than your little finger nail.

    Secondly you need to teach her her name. As part of the feeding regimen start calling her name. When she looks at you reward immediately. If you have a clicker use it to mark the look, if not use a short sharp yes. Any time you are working or just walking with her, call her name and reward the look.

    It may take a while but ultimately she will understand that when you call her name she needs to focus on you, and once you have the focus you can reinforce the recall.
    Nev Allen
    Border River Pet Resort

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Rural Victoria


    Yep, what Nev said.
    It may help to send for the book "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt to give you more understanding of the process. Perserverance and absolute consistency is the key.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2009



    You are asking your dog to solve level 10 problems and overcome level 10 distractions, with only level 1 pass.

    Ie for your dog there will be a list of distractions eg dogs and wildlife and food and children or whatever, and there will be a rank order, from easily ignored to really impossible to ignore (without the right training).

    Same with rewards - different rewards have different value - eg what is your dog's $10,000 reward vs could care less reward. These can also be used as distractions and reward for ignoring distraction with a higher value reward...

    And then there is the enviroment or habitat. Ie each time you change something - you have to train again. Hopefully having reliably learned to sit inside, your dog may learn to sit in the back yard a bit quicker and then again with a distraction - in the distance, and then the distraction a bit closer - that's four different environments. You really can't expect your dog to manage the same task in a new environment with a really high level distraction.

    You are skipping in your training - from easy to really incredibly hard with no inbetween.

    Get some inbetween work.

    And you know what will set her off, so don't give her the opportunity until she is reliably succeeding in a fairly hard task eg can she recall past a lump of hot roast chicken breast. Without looking at it? If she can't do that, you're not going to be able to get her to ignore another dog or whatever either.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Southern NSW


    And plus all this other good advise you have been given, I also believe in doing a lot of recall in environments where you know she will come, even if it is inside or in a controlled environment....And let her go again...recall-free, recall-free and so on forever..i truly believe in what some people call muscle memory. Some things become habit, so if you can get it done lots of times in a reliable way, eventually it becomes habit of the dog to just do it......
    And keep doing it. Even though my dogs have great recall, I will still go out with treats...i will recall several times during our fun walks when there are lots of distractions. I will recall and let them go "free" and we do this all the time. they just keep coming, forever hopeful of some goodie and if not this time, maybe next time. I have found that it has become habit to them, so now even when chasing the inevitable bunny or fox, they do recall. Old habits die hard with dogs.....

    Some people teach a recall and let it go...i keep at it,every walk I do recall training...i might not do anything else, but I do recall training.......No dog has 100% recall, but we are very close. To them coming back is a game and now also a habit
    Pets are forever

  6. #6


    Thanks for all your replies.

    Nev, she already knows her name. I do clicker training with her to teach her "look" where I get her to make eye contact and click and treat when she does. Anytime we are together and I say her name and she looks, she gets rewarded for looking at me. Her reward will be either a treat/praise/ear scratch or a belly rub.

    Hyacinth, thank you. You have given me some ideas on using some distractions while training recall. The problem is exactly what you have said, I am skipping the in betweens. I have no inbetweens available but using the idea of putting down food etc as a distraction will be a great start!!

    I had a bit of a break through with her tonight. I took her out to toilet on a lead (we have no fence which makes all this even harder) and the neighbours dog was running loose (as it always is!!) and she spotted it but instead of jumping around trying to get to it to play and whining like she always does, she stopped and had a look then came back to me without me asking!! Usually I can not get her attention at all, even when on a lead. So I think this is a bit of a break through!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    I took her out to toilet on a lead (we have no fence which makes all this even harder) and the neighbours dog was running loose (as it always is!!) and she spotted it but instead of jumping around trying to get to it to play and whining like she always does, she stopped and had a look then came back to me without me asking!!
    This is what you want to get with the LAT (Look at that) training. Sometimes you think your dog just doesn't get it and then they make a break through - praise like hell and do something else. One of my old training mistakes was to overwork things ie get it right once, and instead of stopping and having some play - I'd see if I could get her to do it again... and then I think she'd think she'd done it wrong and do something different... argh.

    With the food distractions - start with a food that is not very interesting to her... and if that's too interesting - move it (or the dog) further away. Sometimes you need to play this game with two people - one to prevent the dog from stealing rewards. Some people I know use a food container with a lid - so they can throw this to where they want to reward the dog - but the dog can't get the treat until the boss opens the container for them. My dog is particularily evil for stealing treats. So I have to be very sure she's got the message that she will get something great for ignoring or holding the stay before I risk her being able to steal the food.

    She is very embarrassed if I have to stop her eating dinner because she's started without permission... so she does work that one out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    melbourne australia


    Have you thought of this:
    Herding with Ducks
    I have been raising and leasing ducks for herding trials for about 6 years. Most judges and exhibitors say “They are the best ducks they have ever seen.” This does take some work. My ducks work well in groups of 5. If a duck gets split off by a dog it will look for the other ducks and regroup easily. They move easily off a dog, do not run or flap, unless a dog is too fast or close. They will only go thru an obstacle if the dog is right and makes them. They are not course trained and are very honest and will show the good and bad points in your dog training.
    I prefer the Call Ducks because they flock well, move slowly without flapping, they must be pushed to move and their smaller size allows me to haul 10-13 ducks in a large Vari-Kennel Crate while traveling. My Calls are larger than the show Calls, they are hardier, have more bone, more plumage and do not need extra heat during the winter.
    I hatch my babies in an incubator or under a broody hen. When the ducklings are hatched they are placed in a tub with a heat lamp for 2-4 weeks. I hand feed them hard boiled duck eggs and handle them daily. They are fed a Poultry 20% Starter formulated for ducks and chickens (some chicken feeds are medicated and not good for ducks) Depending on the weather at about 3-4 weeks they are put outside in an X-pen lined with poultry netting with a crate in it. At about 6 weeks they are given small pans of water to swim in and about 8-10 weeks they should be completely feathered and ready to start working.

    Because of the handling, my ducks are used to people, so will fetch as well as drive. I break any extra laid eggs for them in the arena, so they follow me around every morning as I pick them up. I trim the flight feathers on one wing to prevent them from flying away. This needs to be done every time they molt and put on new plumage.
    I put colored plastic poultry leg bands on them. One color designates the group hatched together. This is very important since ducks are known for imprinting and do so on their hatchlings. Let’s say I have a group of 12 babies. I will band them with green bands when they are old enough to start working. I will try to match them into groups of 5. I usually have 3 males and 2 females or 3 females with 2 males. I also try to match them by plumage color (ducks are prejudiced and prefer to be with like– colored ducks).
    I take 5 ducks and work them with an experienced dog. If one consistently splits off, I add a different duck or two to that group until I get a compatible group of 5. They are then banded with a second band of another color. Let’s say green and orange. I take another group of 5 and work them together and if compatible give them a second band color of brown. The two left-over ducks remain greens and hopefully can be fill-ins if one of the ducks in the other groups gets injured.

    When the ducks mature the next year and start to lay eggs, they may start to pair off and I might have to resort the groups.
    During the day all the mature ducks are kept together in a 48 x48 arena made of hog panels. I observe them in the arena and they will sort themselves off in their banded groups. They are fed 15% Grower/Finisher and Scratch Grain, have water pans and kiddy pools with a concrete block for them to get in and out. Some are kept in X-pens with crates that I can move around the yard. At night the ducks are herded across the yard by the dogs to an overnight enclosure, where there is no food or water. This keeps the overnight pen clean and dry. The ones in the X-pens are crated over night with pine shavings as bedding and crate covers to keep them protected from the weather. The only time they are not moved to the arena is when it is snowing hard. They do not like the snow and will walk a little then sit down and tuck their feet to warm them up.
    When heading for the trials the ducks are hauled in Vari-Kennel crates with pine bedding in my minivan. They are usually quiet while driving and the girls start to quack when I slow down or stop. This makes things interesting at gas stations.

    I usually plan to arrive at the trial site the day before and turn the ducks out into the A Course arena with food and water to get them used to the fencing and let them graze. I will herd the ducks through all the obstacles, especially when there are different ones, like a foot bath or wagon used in AHBA trials.
    I bring my own small X-pens that I fold out to make the holding pens, with each having a door in front. I use a larger X-pen to make an exhaust pen then add 2 more X-pens to make an alley way back to the holding pens. I always set the holding pens at least 16 ft (large X-pen size) from the arena fencing, to cut down on the draw to the other ducks. The exhaust gate is tarped and some of the arena fencing.
    For the set out, I use a round wire cage basket made of rabbit fencing with small squares to keep legs and heads from getting caught. This also makes the ducks visible for the trialing dog. The ducks are carried out and placed in the basket. I carry 3 and an assistant carries 2 (I supply aprons for my duck wranglers.) The ducks are used to being handled and seem to stay calmer being carried rather than being wheeled out in a crate and turning it on its side to get the ducks out.
    I stand on the exhaust side of the basket leaving room when lifted so the dog can take control of the ducks. I lift the basket when the dog gets to the #4 or #5 marker, in a sweeping forward motion towards the handlers post and high enough in the air so the dog can come through to take control of the ducks. This pushes the ducks forward and helps keep them from cutting back to the exhaust. Once the dog controls them past the centerline panels, I slowly walk off the field with the basket.
    When the run is over and the exhibitor exhausts the ducks, they run down the alleyway back into their holding pens. The holding pens have clothespins with matching band colors and individual water buckets in them. Ducks love and need water. When the trial runs are over I turn the ducks back out into the arena to relax, eat and drink the rest of the day. Before dark they are sorted back into their crates to spend the night safely.

    For B Course the ducks are carried out to the set out basket. I lift the basket with the same sweeping motion when the dog crosses by the drive panels. After the hold or shed, we walk out onto the field with a crate and the ducks are directed into it and then carried back to the set out pens.
    I have tried running the ducks back into the freestanding pen to crate them, but this caused the ducks to either not want to come out of the pen for the shed/hold or they would keep circling the pen. I have tried exhausting them back to the set out with a dog, but this taught the ducks where the exhaust was and increased the draw to the holding pens.
    I never dreamed that I would be leasing ducks all over the US for herding trials. Good trial ducks are hard to find and people will travel a long distance to get a chance to trial on my ducks. Folks to not realize the work it takes to keep over 100 ducks trial ready and willing to work.
    Ducks are becoming popular and the nice thing about ducks is they show no preference to a particular breed of dog like sheep can do. They slow everything down for the dog and handler to learn about herding. I train my dogs on ducks mainly and everything taught has transferred to working sheep and cattle. Working ducks takes a lot of finesse. They are greatly affected by movements of the handler also. They will show any weakness in your training program.
    Hope this will help others to understand what it takes to develop good, workable ducks for herding trials.

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