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Categories: Sheep Herding

Q. My young bitch will not release the grip, what should I do? I don’t want to kill her drive to herd.
Dear Ed,

I wrote to you before sometime ago about herding GSDs. I have a very young bitch who is quite promising in herding with strong schutzhund lines and herding lines in her pedigree. She is working a two sided border rather independently on a long line, but from time to time she is still breaking in on the sheep. In herding, it is acceptable for a grip on the sheep when appropriate, the problem we have is, Janna our girl has a great grip and in the proper places on the sheep. She is a very intense dog and works quite independently. We don't have a schutzhund background ourselves, but we do obedience and herding -- what I thought you might be able to advise us on is how to get a dog to release the grip. Is it just a matter of obedience training? I know in schutzhund you use the sleeve for protection work and how do you train the dog to drop the sleeve? Any reading material recommendations for this work or advice.

We also do the two hose game where you throw one hose and then the other and she is great at it. She listens very well. We can have her drop the hose and lie down in a split second while she waits for the other hose to be thrown, but when we ask her to bring the stick to us and let it go -- it is a struggle. She is willing to bring the stick back to us and let us grab it, but she does not want to let go. I wish I had some schutzhund knowledge to help with this --- I know part of training is being able to read your dog well and also using drive to control her, but we don't have allot of experience with the schutzhund background and would like to know more. It may help in her training because she has a strong schutzhund influence in her pedigree. She has such potential and I don't want to break her intense drive -- she could be a great herding dog one day if her drives are directed properly. Any advice???


A. Sandy,

This problem is an obedience problem and not a biting problem. People often confuse the "OUT" as a bite work exercise. They are 100% wrong. The "OUT" is an obedience exercise. So with this said, it's time to get an electric collar and go to work with your dog.

The work begins by learning how to determine what level of stimulation fits your dogs temperament. If you are not familiar with this, get the Tritronics videos that I sell they are excellent tapes. Once that is determined this collar work is started with the hoses not the sheep. Train the dog to drop the hose when it brings the hose back to you. Use an "OUT" command. One needs to be sure not to go to high to fast in the level of stimulation or you could hurt the drive to play. When in doubt go low and not high.

Once the dog will spit the hose with an OUT command then its time to teach the CALL BACK from a tossed hose. This means the dog gets stimulation just after the recall and the second it gets back to you the second hose is tossed. So the dog figures out that its in its best interest to come when called and when it does come it gets drive satisfaction.

Once the dog is doing this, it can be moved on to the sheep. It can get stimulation for not OUTING, it can also get automatic stimulation when it bites where it should not bite.

A collar is the best training tool ever invented. When used properly its a long leash that allows you to reach out and touch the dog. If you can afford it get one of the collars that offer momentary and continuous stimulation. Once the dog has learned the exercise, the momentary (called a NICK) is a very very effective tool to reinforce correct behavior. I don't take my dogs out without a collar on.

Ed Frawley

PS: If anyone has other suggestions, send them to me and I will add them to this section.
Recommended Products
Training Sheep Herding Dogs with Karl Fuller
Training Sheep Herding Dogs with Karl Fuller
2 Hours
In 1985, I saw my first HGH nationals in Europe. This is the type of sheep herding German Shepherd Dogs do the best. It is also the style of training the AKC has based their herding instinct testing and course "C" on. I originally felt that the dogs did this work so naturally that they had to be doing it from instinct and not training. I was wrong. Since then I have collected enough information from Karl Fuller of Kirschental Kennels in West Germany to produce this tape.


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