Activities For Croatian Sheepdogs

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Introduction

The Croatian Sheepdog is a herding dog that was developed in Croatia as far back as the fourteenth century. They are an alert and agile breed with strong herding instincts and a keen mind which requires a great deal of both physical and mental exercise to keep from becoming bored, noisy, and destructive. These dogs are happiest with a job to do, and if training is neglected, these dogs have a tendency to become overly vocal and strong-willed. 

Flyball

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 60 min
Items needed
Hurdles
Flyball Box
Tennis Ball
Activity description

Flyball is a fast-paced dog sport that was developed in the 1950s and 60s which takes fetch to an all new level. Teams of four dogs race relay-style down the flyball track, jumping over hurdles, then they activate a box that pops a tennis ball out for them to retrieve. While herding dogs, like the Croatian Sheepdog, and retrieving dogs are often viewed as the stars of the show, small dogs can also be valuable to the team as the height of the hurdles is based on the height of the shortest member of the team. Croatian Sheepdogs are quick dogs who often show a talent for jumping, making them excellent candidates for this activity. 

Step
1
Check your dog's health
This is a fast-paced and strenuous dog sport and should only be undertaken by dogs that are deemed healthy enough to participate by a veterinary professional who will evaluate their respiratory and cardiovascular health. Dogs who have not yet matured should not participate in this sport as the speed and jumping can cause irreversible damage to their bones and joints.
Step
2
Train
While the traditional game of fetch usually requires minimal training, this variation requires your Croatian Sheepdog to learn some new skills. Many trainers wait to train the dog how to use the flyball box and will instead start by teaching the dog to jump the hurdles in reverse so that they are running in the direction of the beginning of the track rather than towards the end.
Step
3
Register to compete
These competitions are typically judged using a digital or electronic scoring system. Those who choose to compete in tournaments put on by the U-Fli organization will need to register on their website while teams that are competing in competitions recorded by the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) are required to obtain a Competition Racing Number, which is good for the life of the dog.
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Herding

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Sunny Day
Expensive
Normal
30 - 90 min
Items needed
Leash
Sheep
Activity description

Croatian Sheepdogs were developed as herding dogs and they tend to retain a strong herding instinct. While they were originally developed to herd sheep specifically they will find another target if not given an outlet, resorting to herding other household pets, stuffed animals, and sometimes even the kids that live in the house or neighborhood. Many pet parents do not have herds of sheep or goats in their backyard for these dogs to herd, but fortunately there are now ranches and farms that specialize in raising animals such as sheep, cattle, ducks, and geese, in order to properly train herding dogs to herd who would otherwise not have access to this kind of livestock.

Step
1
Health verification
While Croatian Sheepdogs are typically healthy canines, they are somewhat prone to patellar luxation and arthritis, disorders which can be made worse by this intensive sport. If your dog has not had a recent check-up to assess the health of their bones, joints, heart, and lungs, they should attain one before attempting to participate in herding activities. This is particularly important when dealing with both very young dogs, to ensure that their bones and joints have matured, as well as when dealing with senior dogs.
Step
2
Find a facility
The number of ranches and farms that provide this service is growing and you may find several options available to take your dog to, although most of them require a bit of a drive. It is important to research the facility that you are going to be working with to check online reviews to ensure that they are reputable, see how they handle both the dogs and the sheep to ensure that their style is likely to work well with the personality of your Croatian Sheepdog, and to get recommendations from previous customers and other people that you trust.
Step
3
Evaluation
When you first work with a herding facility, they will evaluate your dog’s initial herding instinct by introducing them to just a small number of the animals that they are going to herd. Once the trainers have determined that your dog has the instinct and drive to herd the animals rather than just chase them, they will make recommendations for what kind of training they can offer for you and your dog. Many pet parents are content to keep it as a casual outlet for their dogs, while others will prefer to compete with other like-minded canines.
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Pick Up Toys

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Toys
Toy Bin
Activity description

Many beloved pets amass a large quantity of fetch toys, chew toys, stuffed animals designed for canines, and rope toys which they generally leave scattered around the house and yard for you to step on and even trip over. While we love our pets we may not love the stubbed toes and twisted ankles that are left in the wake of their toys. Like most herding dogs, Croatian Sheepdogs have a natural desire to gather things together; this trait, combined with the intelligence of this breed, can often be put to good use by teaching your dog how to pick up after themselves and gather their toys to a specified box or bin. 

Step
1
Using a clicker
A clicker is a commonly used training tool that creates a single, sharp clicking noise when it is pressed. This tool helps your dog to immediately know when they have done something right and that they will shortly receive a reward. This can be established by clicking the clicker and immediately following it with a high-value treat. Do this at least ten times and your dog will begin to expect a treat whenever the clicker clicks.
Step
2
Fetch and drop
Begin by starting a game of fetch with your dog. When they are focused on retrieving the items for you, you should introduce the box or bin that you want them to gather their toys in. Position yourself on the side of the box away from your dog, which will force the dog to reach over the box to try and give you the toy. When your dog has their head positioned over the box click the clicker. Your dog will typically drop the toy in anticipation of a treat, then give your command word (i.e. drop, box, put away) and click the clicker again when they drop the toy, immediately following it with a reward. Continue until you can give the command without having to click the clicker first.
Step
3
Distance and independence
In most cases, your Croatian Sheepdog will pick up on the idea of dropping the toy in the box with the command fairly quickly. Once they are consistently dropping the toy in the box whenever you give the command while standing on the other side of the box, you can start moving away from the box, giving the command while you are in another part of the room. Ensure that you can either see or hear the dog drop the item in the box and when they do drop the toy in the box while you are in another area, click the clicker again and give them a reward.
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More Fun Ideas...

Fetch by Name

Croatian Sheepdogs are highly intelligent dogs that are typically capable of learning several specific nouns for their toys so that they can bring you whichever specific toy you are looking for. This activity can be paired with picking up their toys.

Treibball

Treibball is a fun and competitive alternative to actual herding in which your canine companion is instructed to herd inflated balls to a specific area of the playing field.

Conclusion

It is important to ensure that you give your Croatian Shepherd enough physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis in order to avoid problematic behaviors from developing, such as excessive barking and destructive chewing. Fortunately, these dogs are both agile and intelligent which makes them great candidates for many different types of dog sports and activities.