The lie down we need for herding has several elements:
+ we want it on a hand signal as well as on a verbal cue
+ we want the dog to be able to do it at a distance from us
+ we want the dog to be able to not just lie down and pop up, but hold his down until released
These are just three rough elements – each one can be further broken down and analyzed. In my last lie down video, Mick and I worked on lying down in the presence of distractions (sheep). However, I didn’t ask for either distance or duration.
Today, we focused on distance. In order to set Mick up for success, I removed the distraction: no sheep! However, I did work him outside the round pen – right where I’ll eventually need him to be able to lie down in the presence of sheep.
I tethered him to a fence post to get to the other side of the pen without him following me. The round pen itself kept him from coming in to lie down at my feet rather than where he happened to be when hearing the cue.
I’m gradually increasing the distance, starting out with Mick right in front of me. I don’t care whether he responds to the verbal cue or to my hand motion in this session – as long as he responds, I’ll mark with my marker word “Good!” “Good!” means: hold your position; I’ll deliver a treat right into your mouth. I mark while at a distance, and then walk over to feed him through the fence. I’ll get up, and mark “Good!” a second time to reinforce his choice of holding the down rather than popping right up. Then, I’ll mark with my marker cue “Get it!” “Get it!” means: I’ll throw a treat for you to chase.
As Mick searches for the thrown treat, I can increase the distance again, setting up for the next rep of cueing Mick’s lie down: “Easy!”
(The part of the video that I cut out is just Mick getting tangled in the leash and me needing to free him.)
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.