No matter how many I work with I feel I will always be impressed with the learning capabilities of Cattle Dogs. I recall working with a 9 year old Heeler who had never had any training and had spent months at the Lawrence Humane Society. She picked up basic commands in just a few short lessons and went from being overly agitated in the presence of other dogs to tolerating their presence amicably.
I am equally as impressed with our friend Cowboy. He had his first few lessons today with his electronic collar. For a few minutes he was, understandably, confused about the sensation but very quickly was able to put two and two together that the sensation happened whenever he heard me use the word "NO" in a specific tone of voice. He also figured out that when he did certain actions, like sitting down when I stopped, he got some petting and a soft voice saying "good boy." By the end of the day he did not have a training leash on and was able to Heel/Autosit, he has Down almost 100%, his recall (the Come command) pretty good but lacks enthusiasm.
But this is not entirely new to him. He has had some previous obedience training. Though not to the extent, I think, that I am taking him. But he has also started to show some slight signs of self restraint and deference to me, the handler.
For instance, on our long walk today he decided he was done listening to me and began trotting up the driveway back to the house. I called to him "Cowboy, No!" and he stopped and gave me an appraising look. Then, convinced that I could not get him, turned and walked up the drive way. I gave him a buzz with the vibration setting on his collar and repeated "Cowboy, No!" and told him to come back. Again, he stopped turned and stared at me. I gave him 3 seconds to stare at me and decide to obey the command and when he did it I gave him a Tap (a low level electronic stimulation) with the collar and when he felt it he sighed and dragged his feet as he walked back to me and sat down nicely.
He also worked around Angela the garage kitty today. He was very interested in her yesterday and he invaded her personal space, nipped at her and muzzle punched her. Today, with a few taps from the collar, he tolerated her nicely even allowed her to rub her shoulder on him while he was in a Down Stay.
I doubt he will ever be like the stereotypical fawning Labradors. He will likely offer a challenge here and there to the person who is handling him but he is willing to work with people and has been very affectionate and even cuddly with me. We will challenge him even more tomorrow by tossing a toy around while he works and also, if all goes well, by having a "cocktail party" which is when we have a small group of people mill around him chatting to each other and making strange movements while I ask him to work.