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The Ducks Made Me Do It, A Dog Training Refresher Course!

I have a dog, his name is Tuxcitto. Tuxcitto is a Border Collie who is always on the look out for an opportunity to use his herding skills. It doesnít matter if the intended group of animals need or want herding, if they wander into the herding zone they get herded.

Tuxcitto is a pretty smart dog and is very easy to train for the most part. But if you are trying to train a dog against their natural instincts, it is an uphill battle. Tuxcitto and I have an agreement that if he wonít run around harassing other people and animals, he gets a treat. This system works about 95% of the time. But there is one big exception, so if you show up with several animals that look like they need a little direction, treats quickly lose their power.

This type of event occurs twice a day in our neighborhood. We live about 100 yards from a bay. Which means we have a lot of aquatic birds that frequent our area. Add to that fact that several people feed these birds and it guarantees they will continue to show up. Two particular types of birds that show up every day are ducks and geese. The ducks are year around but the geese just come in the winter.

The ducks in our neighborhood are pretty brazen. If they are crossing the street, they donít care if a car or other vehicle (we have a lot of golf carts running around too) is coming, they just saunter across the road taking their sweet time. Thereís a steady group of about 15 ducks but on any given day there can be more or less. And these fellows may take 5 or more minutes to walk the 15 feet to cross the road since they often go in a single line.

This group of ducks is really looking for some direction, itís plain to see from Tuxcittoís perspective. One of the major duck crossings is about 100 yards away from our house. There is a fishing dock and boat launch that the ducks like to frequent. They actually land right in front of the boat launch and swim until they can walk right out of the water as easy as can be.

This has probably being going on ever since the first person showed up to feed the ducks. And many in the neighborhood come down and either leave some food or actually stay and dole it out to the ducks on a regular basis. These ducks can barely fly they are so well feed. They also have quite an ďattitudeĒ and if they feel tired will just site down and go to sleep. And if you would like to use the boat launch, or maybe drive down the frontage road, well thatís your tough luck.

In Tuxcittoís first few weeks here he would often get out of the yard or off his tether and go wander the neighborhood. We have since overcome this little problem and he generally stays in our yard or may go over and visit the neighbor dogs. But on occasion, when the ducks are especially noisy when they arrive, Tuxcitto canít resist and wants to go herd the ducks.

Now as I mentioned earlier, these ducks are pretty independent. To say they donít want any crazy dog trying to make them go or do something they donít want to is putty it mildly. But they have little choice when Tuxcitto arrives. The only problem is Tuxcitto has no idea where to take them. So he just groups them together and then moves them up and down the area.

To many this is better than just feeding the ducks, but others who have not seen this activity before think that Tuxcitto may eat one. Thereís a whole lot of barking and honking going on and some of the ducks take flight, which adds to the circus. The ducks are not going to be denied their free meal and Tuxcitto rarely moves them toward the food.

I usually hear the ruckus, or someone calls, or Tuxcitto brings the herd of ducks home. Yep, some days we have a heard of ducks sitting right in our front yard. Tuxcitto seems to be pacified when he brings them home and as long as they stay in the yard he just sits and watches. And some days the ducks buy into this little circus.

So what kind of magic dog training do you perform to overcome inbred behavior? Iím not sure there is any way to stop these natural tendencies in this case. Border Collies were bred to do this type of activity. Tuxcitto is going to herd, thatís just part of his make up.

I have been working on trying to give him the opportunity to exercise this skill in the proper setting. I have a friend close by that has a goat farm. I take him down there often, and that is a real challenge since goats have quite a rude disposition. If Tuxcitto wasnít as fast and agile, he would have been butted right in the head more than once. But an hour spent with the goats gives Tuxcitto quite a workout.

Heís pretty good for about a week after. That seems to help but I havenít found any permanent solution and Iím not sure I ever will. Itís well to consider your dogís breed and natural characteristics when ever training your dog. Try to work within the known limitations and not go against natural instincts. Dog training is both an art and a science sometimes.

Many dogs can adapt to new training, when Tuxcitto is within ten feet of me he wonít disobey a direct order. But if Iím not there to say no, heís going herding come what may. So around duck feeding time I try to remember to bring him in or distract him. But in all fairness, I do have to agree those darn ducks do need some training. 

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John Dow owns, a website that provides free information on dog training. John gets to test his dog training skills daily with his new dog Tuxcitto. You can learn more here:

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