The Blacksheep Homestead



My pup has a lot of drive and just doesn???t listen . . . now what?!

Posted by Tish Toren on January 15, 2016 at 7:10 PM



It’s been my observation that when a pup behaves as though he doesn’t care what you think, that he is not sufficiently bonded to you. He may have bonded to someone else, and often this someone else can be your other dog or dogs. This is why it is important to separate dogs for training when you have more than one, and why it is better for everyone concerned not to raise two pups together. In my experience, when pups have someone more fun than you to play with, it’s hard to convince them that your rules or opinions about what they are doing matter.



I’d put that willful, out of control pup on a long line and keep her there for a while. Tie it off to your waist if you need both hands free. Those plastic coated cables with a snap at each end are handy for this, and clean up easier than a web lead or length of clothesline after being dragged thru a barnyard. When you’re doing something that makes this too difficult or dangerous, tie her off to a post or tree where she can watch until you’re finished. Make sure the other dogs are put up so she isn’t distracted and doesn’t feel like getting away from you would be rewarding. Make yourself and what you’re doing the only interesting things going on, and she’ll get interested. When you get tired of dragging her around with you, put her in her kennel. If her options are limited to being on a line with you or being in “cold storage”, she’ll start looking forward to being with you. Substitute romping with other dogs or roaming at large for exercise like long walks or games of fetch with you. Deny her any contact whatsoever with other dogs or anyone who will spoil and make over her, give her food or treats, (making you look like the bad guy) until you start seeing some results, and even then, limit her free-with-the-pack time to brief romps for exercise (and only when she’s been very good!) until you have her completely under control. Be advised, this could take months, but the end result will be worth it. Later, when she’s doing well and will call off, the next step is to drop the line and let her drag it. Be ready to grab or step on the line if she gets overexcited and is not taking direction from you. When she gets to a point where you think you can trust her without the line, go for it, but be ready to take two steps back if she needs a “refresher”.



NILIF (nothing in life is free training) is a good way to establish a better bond and relationship with your working dog. It encourages her to focus on you by limiting her choices and making it clear that you control the resources and she must follow your rules in order to get things she wants. No food unless it comes from your hand. No fun unless it’s initiated by you. No petting unless it’s a reward for good behavior. Make her earn whatever she gets. The hardest part of all of this is getting your family and anyone else who comes around to get with the program and not undermine you because they “feel sorry for the poor little puppy”. Your pup has been “the leader of her own pack of one” , making her own rules, and this is not an acceptable or productive relationship. Now she needs boot camp in order to learn to respect you and your rules. This is for her own good because she will not have a home with you or anyone else if she cannot be trained. The trickle-down from a good leader/follower bond with your dog is extensive. Once you make this breakthrough, everything will get easier.



With any dog, or any living thing, lessons are not lessons unless they make an impression. A soft-natured pup may need only a gruff word or an “aangkh” to extinguish an unwanted or dangerous behavior. And I know this will be an unpopular statement, but there ARE some dogs, not all but some, at the opposite end of the spectrum or so convinced by previous triumphs they can get away from you and go right back to having inappropriate “fun” with your livestock that they need strong, attention-grabbing, corrections at key moments in order to get through to them. You will need to find a level that makes an impression on your pup, neither too weak nor too overwhelming. You may need to make her believe that if she fails to take you seriously and follow your rules her life with you is in jeopardy. Think of how frightening wild canines or even a mother dog can be when correcting a rude pup, and then, if nothing else has worked, give her a real attitude adjustment the next time she does something you KNOW she knows is wrong. In my experience, strong, clear corrections seldom have to be repeated. Here’s where it becomes critical that you are hand feeding and controlling all other resources, all the GOOD STUFF, too. IF you aren’t necessary to her existence, she’ll just avoid you.



Being allowed to work is a reward for high-drive dogs, not a chore. She’ll associate the joy of working with obeying you and being a good pack member, and will learn that if she’s naughty that joy is denied her. That’s a strong bargaining chip! I know what it’s like to work a strong-minded dog that loves to boss and herd so much it makes them deaf. There are times I had to grab one of my dogs by the scruff to get her to stop, and once, had to hurl an empty plastic bucket between her and the sheep to snap her out of it so I could get her to stop working too fast and rough (she apparently couldn’t “hear” me and I couldn’t catch her!). It landed on the ground right in front of her with a *BONK!*, which got her to stop and look at me again. I even had to chase that dog out of the pen with a rake once, but heck, after that when I said “out”, she’d disengage and get on outta there! She was very a grippy dog, too, unnecessarily so, and needed a lot of work on the “easy” command. This dog could have been a nightmare for someone that wasn’t prepared to dig in and get stubborn about doing whatever it took to get her to respect the rules. She was extremely powerful and could be extremely hardheaded at times. But, if you have the patience, determination and stamina to take that boldness, drive, and strong resolve and teach the dog to apply them appropriately, you’ll have yourself an awesome working partner, the kind of dog that will take on a charging ram to protect your back… Your girl could BE that kind of dog someday. Please don’t give up on her!


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