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Herding Insights

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the chance to glean insights about Lilly’s recent herding lesson where (at least in my mind) things didn’t go so well. This slow-motion herding pressure video shows some of what I’ve learned.

Lilly may have seemed to possess a stronger constitution when working stock (as our trainer told a friend after her instinct test), but our first real lesson may have proved otherwise. Lilly can take some pressure, but she gets discouraged enough to disengage and wander off and/or sniff around.

Many thanks to Dog-Geek for the detailed email, outlining where Lilly broke down. This video shows the scenario, where over the course of 15 (real-time) seconds … Lilly felt too much pressure and gave up.

I tried to narrate the shift with text in the video, but everything happens quickly, so I made a little audio narration for it instead … and added a slow-motion overlay so that you can see her reaction to pressure … step by step.

The other new insights come from our behaviorist (Jennie Willis). I had the chance to chat with her informally about how things went, and Jennie’s feedback included that:

  • Lilly probably cannot learn to herd by watching or working with Ben/more experienced herding dogs. There is some evidence that puppies from working dog lines do pick up some information from watching their parents, but none in a situation like this.
  • Rather than give up, I need to re-embrace the basic fear work we’ve done and continually build Lilly up and help her reset emotionally so that she DOESN’T get overwhelmed or quit.

Next Herding Lesson

It’ll take me time to sort through everything, but we had another herding lesson yesterday. So, stay tuned for that update.

Other behavior and dog training things are also afoot … like I’ve weaned Lilly off the xanax, but the (possible) results of that will have to wait for another day and another post (or series of posts).


If you’ve come to our herding stories already in progress, you can catch up via these posts:

Lilly’s Big Year

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 1

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 2

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 3

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Reflections

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 1

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 2

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 3

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 4

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 5

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Reflections

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Pamela - February 19, 2011

Thank you for posting the slow-mo video with commentary. I am amazed at what very experienced dog people can pick up.

I find dog body language is so complex that I only see the biggest gestures. Your video is helpful those of us who will never try herding.

It appears that you and Lilly are entering a place that will strengthen your bond and knowledge of each other in a profound way.

Aly - February 18, 2011

Awesome observation from your friend!!! And glad to hear that you are sticking with seems like she does enjoy it!

Amy@GoPetFriendly - February 18, 2011

Yea! I’m glad to hear you and Lilly are sticking with it. It may take a little longer for her to learn, but so what? It’s not a race – it’s an opportunity for you and Lilly to have some fun together. Enjoy!

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