Adventures in Herding #5: More Round Pens

Two more round pen sessions today. Before starting our sessions, I asked for a brief lie down, which I rewarded by opening the door. The lie down reminders have helped: Mick can do it again, sometimes on a verbal cue alone. He only holds it for a split second because he’s excited about what’s about to happen, but that’s okay for now.

When I’m able to tell whether Mick will go “Come by” (clockwise) or “Away” (counterclockwise) around the pen, I cue that respective flank before letting go of the leash.

For both our sessions today, I started easy, then made it more difficult, and ended with easy: I first just stayed on the side of the round pen opposite the gate and let him find balance there. This is easiest for Mick because he’s drawn to the gate, hoping for it to open.

Then, I started moving to see if he’d be able to find balance (his 12 o’clock to my 6 o’clock) somewhere else. He struggled with this, but I feel like we’re getting there.

I ended both sessions on an easy note, moving myself to a position that would allow him to find balance at the gate again.

When Mick rans around the pen and all the way back to me in the difficult parts of the session, I’ve started cueing either “Come by” or “Away” and insisting on it rather than just naming what he does naturally. When I say insisting on it, I mean that I’ll step on the leash if he takes the other direction, or guide him with my body language or by means of picking up the leash and walking a few steps in the desired position together with him.

Today’s first session:

Today’s second session:

I feel like our time outside the round pen will soon come to an end: Mick has started to figure out that he can make the sheep move by means of putting his front paws up on the fence and giving a bark. That’s not exactly what I want him to learn!

Chrissi runs Chrissi’s Dog Training in Antigua, Guatemala. She also teaches online at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, and for the Pet Professionals Program. Her September workshop Walk with Me! Leash Skills for Pet Dogs is currently open for registration.

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