When I sell puppies I send along instructions for the new owner to make the puppy a large pen next to the livestock. They should only allow the pup in with the livestock when they can supervise it. I ask them to use praise and correction to
guide the puppy as to what behaviors are appropriate. Only as the puppy clearly understands what is expected of it is it allowed unsupervised time with the livestock.
If you are present the first couple of times the puppy attempts to instigate play with its stock and you make a gruff startle correction i.e., a sharp buzzer sound "Ehh!", that behavior would probably be extinguished after a correction or two. If you continue this training with praise and correction until the puppy is about 6 months old and you are pretty sure that the puppy understands what is expected of it, then and only then can you allow it greater unsupervised freedom with its livestock.
Keep in mind however, that anytime the dynamics of the flock changes, like putting in new animals or during birthing, the dog needs to be confined and supervised once again until you are comfortable with the dog’s response to the changes.
Some people follow my instruction to a T, and they have a relatively easy time getting their pup livestock safe and reliable. But usually the desire to get that pup in with the stock is so great that people fudge a little and leave the puppy unsupervised sooner than they should.
Even I have trusted pups with stock too soon. Things appear to go alright for a while but especially as adolescents approaches, it is not unusual for some play chase behaviors to begin. If this happens this tells me that the puppy really didn’t fully understand my earlier training.
Besides, It is natural for the pup to want to play at times, and if there aren’t other dogs to direct this play to, who does he play with but his livestock buddies. Dogs usually try to play as they would with another dog, with grabbing and mouthing and the out come can be quite damaging to the livestock.
Ear shredding, tearing skin on limbs, Pulling wool, sometimes even picking up, shaking or even inadvertently killing livestock can occur. So it is important that this livestock directed play be stopped as soon as possible. If you correct this behavior the first time it happens, the behavior can easily be extinguished.
Let the dog get away with the behavior a second or third time with out correction and the rough play behavior is reinforced by the fun the dog has, and a bad habit is developing that may take months and months to break...
Now that the pup is older, larger, not underfoot any more and ranging farther into the pasture. How do you make that" in the act" well timed correction so that the dog understands he is misbehaving? You can’t if they are out in a large pasture.
Yelling from a distance will often distract the dog, but does not really correct him.
By the time you run out to the dog that is chasing stock, usually the dog sees you and stops the behavior and any correction will not be understood as associated with the misdeed.
Putting a drag on the dog will slow the dog down and help prevent injury to the livestock, but it doesn’t teach the dog not to chase.
So, the first thing to do is to bring the dog back up to his puppy pen when you can’t supervise him. Then you need to bring a few sheep up close and into a small area where you can strictly supervise the dog. The key in training is to shape his behavior by correcting bad actions and praising good actions.
This means having the dog close enough to you so that you can praise appropriate behavior and you can make corrections each and every time the Akbash Dog even thinks about any rough play or chase behavior. Usually if you spend a number of sessions over a months time supervising the dog and are able to get in opportunities to shape his behavior, the dog will understand what is expected of it and the play chase behavior will be extinguished.
So, carefully observe your dog. You can generally see in the dogs body language when they are thinking of initiating play. The ideal time to make a verbal correction is when you see the dog "thinking" about initiating the play, and before the dog is in action. I will say it again, continually reinforce good behaviors with verbal praise and correct any wrong behaviors with a good sharp "Ehh" startle correction.
Dogs by nature really do want to please us, but they have difficulty understanding our inept attempts at communication. Our consistent use of words, like "good dog" and "ehhh", for praise and correction is how he figures out your meaning and thus learns right from wrong.
As an aid to your supervision and verbal training, you might also consider the use of an electronic training collar for play chasing behaviors.
A properly used electronic training collar can shorten up the training time and usually gets the dog back in with the livestock quicker.
If you have a training collar you still need to work with the dog under supervision close up when you can ,but you are now also able to let the dog out in a larger area and still be able to get in that well timed correction. Often the dogs are more likely to play chase in a larger area where lambs or young stock may be more likely to run, and the big advantage of the electronic collar is that you can get that well timed ,"while in the act" correction from a distance. You really can’t make a good correction from a distance any other way.
Some dogs are also smart enough to know not to play chase while people are around so the electronic collar allows you to watch the dog from a distance, seemingly out of sight of the dog.
So, a well timed correction with a training collar effectively gets the correction in while the dog is actually "in the act" of the behavior and that’s what gives a well understood correction. The dog doesn’t necessarily associate the correction with you being present, and believe me, a correction from and invisible power is a pretty convincing correction.
A well timed correction means that you apply the proper stimulus at the proper time. This means correct him only if you can tell that the dog’s intention is to initiate chase. This can be identified by a play bow towards the stock. Or if is in active pursuit meaning running behind sheep faster than a walk, or certainly if it has its body or mouth on the sheep in clear rough play. Do not correct the dog for appropriate contact like licking rear ends or faces and other nurturing behaviors.
Often if a dog has just started play chase behavior towards stock, and the habit is not well ingrained yet, it may only take one training collar correction to extinguish the behavior, especially if it’s a sensitive dog.
Dogs who have been getting away with the behavior for longer periods may need to be caught in the act and corrected a half a dozen times before they are fully convinced to stop the rough play. But the problem can be extinguished, usually with in a month, if you are consistent with your supervision and well timed corrections.
It is important that during this retraining period that the dog never gets the chance to get away with play chase behaviors uncorrected, so he does need to be penned when you can’t watch him. He needs to be out with stock in a bog area only with the collar on and with you somewhere where you can keep and eye on the dog.
As a training device the electronic collar can be a great tool for play chasing behaviors, but use it correctly and humanely. A misused or poorly timed Electronic collar correction can be misunderstood by the dog and can cause problems in the relationship with you or with the stock. If you are going to lose your temper and take it out on the dog, the electronic collar is a cruel device. If you abuse the use of a collar with an Akbash Dog you are going to have a very untrusting and likely problematic dog as a result of the confusion. Used correctly the electronic collar is a valuable tool in the retraining of the livestock guardian dog.
I like the Innotec Collar and most usually use setting 4 or 5 for correction level. If you get an Innotec collars call them and ask for a set of contacts for a thick hair and they will send you a set. Two sets of contacts come with the collar one each for long and short coats but they have ones for thick coats as well which works best on dogs like ours with well insulated undercoats.