Do not discipline your dog unless it completely understands the command and still does not respond. Firm control does not mean physical discipline. Control is giving a command and working with the dog until it executes the command immediately no matter where the command is given—in the house or in a mud puddle. Each dog must be disciplined according to its personality. A soft, easy- tempered dog will respond to a slight tug on the choke chain or a firmly raised voice (not yelling) when discipline is needed.
Use physical discipline only on a bold and aggressive, “hardheaded” dog that understands the command, but after being reprimanded once by normal discipline, returns to make the same severe mistake. Physical force should be applied by the human hand, never with a material object. Physical discipline rarely is used, but often misused. If the dog is consistently making the same mistake, return the dog to the leash and retrain the command. Many times, this reinforcement can be invaluable training. Sometimes, it’s an indication the dog did not originally understand the com- mand. The hardheaded dog is the most difficult to train. However, once well-trained,
a hardheaded dog will be able to withstand very difficult situations without being intimidated.
The 4-H sub-novice and novice obedience can be very helpful and will not harm a working dog. It’s important to keep all training short (10–15 minutes per day) and fun. Add tricks and lots of praise, not food. Be patient. Train one com- mand at a time and do not allow the dog to be bored. If you find the dog acting lazy or uninterested, stop training it for a week or two. It can be helpful during a serious period of training to keep the dog tied and allow it off the lead only for training, followed by play time. This can instill a “let’s get to work” attitude in a dog not showing a strong dedica- tion or willingness to work.
Try to have the dog be a con- stant companion, but when you’re gone, confine the dog to prevent it from working on its own. If the dog is a family pet, designate one person to train, feed, and care for it, especially during the initial training period. Once the family dog is working, it normally will obey anyone in the family, but will perform best for the original handler.
Likewise, unless a handler with two dogs can work them independently from each other as a brace, each dog he or she owns should work alone. The handler must separately train each dog, never allow- ing the old dog to teach the young one. A dog must take orders from the handler, not another dog.
Jealousy is common in the two-dog household. Because of the hen- pecking order found in dogs, a younger dog entering the territory of an older one can cause a great deal of strain between handler and dogs. Extra companionship, individually given, and patience usually will allow the dogs to live and work in relative peace.
Remember, you are training the dog to be your employee and friend. As an employer, the better you train your employee, the better it will work. Thus, do not expect immediate results. Take time and patience and your “friendship” will last longer with less frustration!
A puppy should be allowed to become a mature dog before going to work. Puppies with strong instinct can try to work as early as 8 weeks, and should be given ducks to move. Don’t allow the puppy to work large livestock, as it does not have the leg power, confidence, instinct, or maturity to handle the charging animals. You’ll find it much more difficult to train the pup to forget a bad experience than to prevent the experience in the first place. Even when a dog is 2 years old, allow it to test any situation and be prepared to assist so the dog won’t lose confidence.
The handler’s knowledge of the livestock being worked is often a forgotten necessity. You must know how the livestock will react in any given situation, and when to give assistance or correct your dog. Successful handlers strive to understand at least half of what their dogs know.