Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Working Dog Info

Click the read more link below for an article on "introducing your new Akbash dog to livestock" by Diane Spisak

                       Introducing the new Akbash Dog

It is important to understand that most of the Akbash Dogs that come into rescue are dogs that were poorly placed by their breeders in homes not very well suited to the breed,  and with people that had  little idea of what an Akbash Dog is about. Thus, many of the dogs in rescue missed out on some important training and socialization  early on and have some behavioral  issues that need to be worked with.
      Most of the dogs come with very little accurate history and most are unknowns as far as what livestock experience they have had.
 Escaping, barking, livestock rough play behavior, and disrespect for humans are commonly seen in rescues.The good thing is that unless the dogs have developed strong chase behaviors, most dogs can, with a few months of  supervision and training, become well mannered and good livestock guardians and companions if they get handled by people with good canine behavioral skills. 
  When the dog comes to your home:  Akbash Dogs are highly intelligent and very emotionally sensitive and require a few weeks to feel comfortable in a new setting.
   If you have other dogs it is important that the new and old dogs meet on neutral territory for both dogs.  That means 2 people each walking a dog down the road , (neutral place),  on loose leads and people  keeping their energy low & happy,  each walking a distance apart and as the dogs get used to one another gradually walking closer. Tight leads relay to the dog tension and will actually cause dogs to aggress, so loose leads and happy demeanor is important.
 Always pair opposite sexed neutered/spayed dogs together. Akbash Dogs are generally dog aggressive to similar sized same sexed dogs as adults .
     Keep in mind even if they were  livestock safe on another farm, they may not necessarily be livestock safe  on a different farm with different owners and livestock..

 So most rescues require a period of  introductions,  shaping and training in their new home similar to what you would have to do with a puppy. Though the training period is usually accelerated due to the dog’s maturity.
  If you are introducing your rescue dog to livestock, do it gradually. On a leash walk the dog up to the fence and get a feel for how the dog reacts to seeing and smelling the livestock .  At first you will primarily use two commands to shape their behavior.  You will give the dog a verbal “good dog” for all good responses,  ( Good responses can be: casual interest, submitting with a lay down or roll over, or looking away,  lowering the head  or soft wagging of tail ).  If the dog is unfamiliar with stock it may growl, but it is likely a worry  based growl and not an aggressive growl. So neither reward or correct that behavior and remember we don’t say to dogs “Its Ok”to comfort them  if its not Ok. They are not people and you saying its OK to comfort the dog is in reality  agreeing with the dog. You don’t want to be saying it’s good to growl for instance. 
 Correct all undesirable behavior with a startle correction., The best  startle correction being a gruff sounding “ Ehh”. (Undesirable behaviors may be things like : play bowing, lurching towards an animal, chasing, keen interest, head held high and tail stiff  or aggressive barking). Correct those behaviors with a “Ehh” and as soon as the dog stops that behavior  then be sure to reward the dogs response with a “ Good dog”.
  ( What you are doing in every experience is shaping its behavior  in easy terms to the dog , basically saying Rover Yes and Rover No)
   Ok, so the dog seems comfortable after a day or so near the livestock. Then repeat the same routine with the dog on a leash in the corral with the livestock. Only after you feel comfortable with the dog’s response to your praises and corrections ON leash do you progress to off leash. New dogs of any age should only be in with livestock  only under your direct supervision until you absolute feel like the dog understands the farm rules. This may take a week, or a couple of months depending on your training skills and what  bad habits the dog arrived with.

  If the dog gets away with play chasing, shredding an ear or biting  a leg once, its shame on the dog, if you allow it to happen a second time its shame on you. It takes around  6-8 weeks of consistent supervision  to extinguish a bad habit . That can only happen if you can do “set ups” with the dog  and consistently make effective corrections for that behavior  over that entire period.    Keep in mind that every time the dog gets away with an undesirable behavior  that  is not corrected you go back to day one in your training.
 Timing is probably the thing people have most difficulty with. Unless  you correct the dog when it’s thinking about acting or is actively doing the behavior, the dog won’t associate the behavior with the correction. So if you see the dog out in the field chasing a lamb, by the time you yell and run out to the dog the dog has stopped the behavior, a correction is worthless,  and probably counter productive, as it will only confuse the dog and perhaps make it afraid of you.
So patience and consistency is what will make this rescue dog become a valued addition to your home and farm. If you have any questions please contact ADI rescue for advice.
Two valuable books to read are:
The livestock Guardians, Storey publication
Livestock Protection dogs, Alpine Publications

No comments: