Occasionally, a Beardie that has been progressing well in training will suddently go off track, either refusing to accept training, reverting to untrained behaviors, or quitting altogether. Although the immediate causes are legion, there is, in fact, one single underlying cause – excess pressure on the dog. Whether from pushing for progress too fast or unrealistic expectations or not allowing for immaturity; once the Beardie’s problem surfaces, the trainer must first discern whether the problem is “My Way or No Way” (Rebellion) or “Been There – Done That” (Boredom). This column will deal with retraining the rebellious Beardie.
The rebellious dog reverts to old behaviors (e.g., chasing, snagging woll) and runs with a huge grin on her face. She suddenly has no flanks, runs at or through the stock and is easily distracted. The cure is twofold.
First, go back to basics. Retrain the sides, stop and walkup as if the dog has had no training, but with minimal performance pressure. Second, make the session very relaxed. Don’t react to the silliness by fighting the dog; rather, stand with the sheep (in effect taking them away) until the dog stops playing, then start again. On those days when the dog is tstill playing after a few minutes, quietly take the sheep away, leaving the dog in the field without her “toys”. Take her away, then go back half an hour later and try again.
DO relax, remain calm, and be very patient. DO assume it will take a long time to get back to where you were. DO NOT GET ANGRY OR IMPATIENT: either response tells the dog you are not in control, she is!
Happy Herding! © 1997 by Ann Witte.
This article originally appeared in “Bagpipes”, the Bearded Collie Club of America’s monthly newsletter. Reprinted with permission of the author.