Herding is like playing golf...except the golf balls are sheep and the club is your dog. OK so maybe it's a stretch to compare the two, but when you watch a PGA player calmly putting the ball where they want on course there is a similarity between that and herding. Neither happen by chance, for the PGA player they must choose which club to use, how hard to hit and what angle to make that contact. In herding, the handler has specific places they want the sheep on course....to acheive this you need to have different "clubs" or "commands" in your bag to get the job done. One of the most important commands you need is a stop. This is different for each dog and each stock, some stock will require the dog to take the pressure off completely by lying down while others are constantly looking for an "out" and a down would cause create undesireable movement. In addition, its important to know your particular dog so your timing is perfect. A German Shepherd is not built to do a sliding stop like a Border Collie, so they need that command a few seconds early in order to adjust for the extra strides they take.We will get into how to read stock in a later blog, but this time we are going to discuss the different types of "stops" and what each one looks like.
Remember you can’t change genetics….
If you are 5’ tall the likelihood is low that you will play basketball the exact same way that someone who is 7' will. You can still play basketball with great results but you will have a different style of getting it done.
Here are some common commands for a stop:
Stand: Stopping on all 4 feet on contact and ready to move. I use “stand”, other terms might be wait, stop or stay. A stand keeps a steady pressure on the stock, which eliminates your stock from stopping or running on course. If your dog is slow, soft or weak a stand is a better position for them and you.
Down: Full stop with belly touching the ground. This is used to take the utmost pressure off the stock you are working. Some use Lie Down were others use just use Down or maybe Lie.there is a time that your dog will need to take all the pressure off his stock, this is where the down on your belly plays a part.
Sit: This is where the dog sits his butt on the ground but the front end is straight up, not to be confused with the vulture stop. Some use Sit down or just sit. This command is great for a dog that may be slow to get up from a down but doesnt reliably stand-stop...it keeps adequate pressure on the stock, but also allows the dog to be ready to move when asked.
Vulture stop: I love this term as some dogs look like a vulture on a fence ready to swoop down on their prey. This move is common in the Bigger Breeds who have a harder time getting up and down. I have a few BC that do this also. If I find this position ruins my dogs down then I don’t allow it. All in all it is a stop on stock so I let it go. This occurs when you ask for a down and the dog goes down further then a sit but not as far as the down (elbows up). The pros and cons on this is it gives the dog the best advantage to get up quicker. Faster isn't always better.
In the video below make a quick mental note about the following:
1) Libby’s down...it might be a little slow but it's rock solid and reliable.
2) Trace has a dream down and sliding stand. Your timing better be spot on with this type of dog.
3) Jersey, the German Shepherd has a great down for her breed. She is a big girl so I don’t ask her to down unless I really need it. Note that she also has a reliable stand that works for her.
4) Brock prefers the stand to a down, when he is asked to stand he freezes in some of the funniest positions. It makes me laugh, and thats important too ;)
5)Rin, great down but if you notice he likes to get up fast. This can cause undesired movement in your stock. This topic will be covered in a later blog about teaching your dog how to pace. Rin also has a sliding stop, which is my favorite to watch....how cool is it to see the dirt fly up behind as they slide to a stop :)
Let me know what type of stop your dog already knows. This is a great activity you can play with your dog away from stock...play with a ball, their favorite toy, or even food. Getting your dog to listen to your commands while they are aroused by their favorite things will help when you put them on stock as they know how to respond even when excited :)