Back to forwards

Improve control of your working sheepdog once you and the dog have mastered “Backwards is the Way Forward“.

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).



Back to forwards is a great lesson to improve control of your dog

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Improve control of your working sheepdog

The natural next step in sheepdog training once it perfects ‘Walking Backwards‘.
‘Walking Backwards’ teaches self-discipline, flanking, working distance, sheep control, pace and more.
When your dog can bring the sheep steadily, turn around and go ‘back to forwards’!
An example of a trainee herding dog working too close and erratically.
The dog lunges at the sheep when your back is turned.
Two days later the dog’s flanks are noticeably wider.
Testing the dog’s trustworthiness when you turn your back on it.
Dogs love silly voices because they reassure the dog that all is well.
Allowing the dog to work on trust, will often be respected by the dog.

Controlling sheep without a dog

Moving placid sheep without a dog.
Watch a trainee dog bringing the same bunch of sheep up the field.
ANIMATION: Showing why the sheepdog being too close, causes the sheep to separate.
Make it ‘uncomfortable’ for the dog to come in close when it’s flanking sheep.
Keep your eyes fixed on the dog as it flanks round sheep, to avoid going ‘dizzy‘.
Keep the dog moving to reduce its ‘stickyness‘, and keep ‘pushing’ it out wider.
Over-aggressive use of the training stick upsets the sensitive dog.
An ideal opportunity to start ‘walking backwards‘.
Testing whether the trainee dog’s ready for walking forwards.
Keeping the dog in place while you take the sheep away for an outrun.
Walking towards the dog will usually make it stay in place.
Setting-up the outrun.
‘Back to forwards’ again!
Raising both arms to make the dog stay in place.
Setting-up another outrun.
Trainee sheepdog Kay demonstrates a good outrun.
Kay demonstrates a great example of the ‘walking forwards’ exercise.
An excellent example of a short ‘look back‘!
Walking backwards, then forwards like this, creates a solid foundation for farm work.

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A matter of trust

Walking backwards, with the dog steadily bringing the sheep up to you at the pace you choose to move back at, is one of the best exercises we know. It’s a particularly useful lesson for trainee dogs. That’s because it will improve the dog’s stop, its control of sheep, its working pace and the distance that the dog works from the sheep. In this tutorial, we go a stage further by turning our back on the dog and walking forwards.

Once you can trust the dog to bring the sheep steadily up behind you as you walk forwards, your training will have moved onto a new level. Watch ‘Backwards is the way forward‘ it’s such a good training session, it’s worth watching several times.

Sticky Dogs | (top ⇧)


15 responses to “Back to forwards”

  1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
    Deborah Hoggar

    Nell is 18 months and I’m a beginner. She’s great, loves to work and understands the basic commands. She tends more to ‘sticky’. We have limited space, our biggest paddock is 7acres and a small flock. I’m finding that I shout a lot compared to your videos !
    I feel as if it’s necessary in order to get her to respond but should I consciously stop and change my voice or will she just need less voice as she gains knowledge and experience?
    Thank you

    1. It sounds as though you might be working the dog too far away from you, Deborah. The closer you are to the dog, the more control you have over it, so it’s best to work the dog close to you initially, then as the dog improves, increase the distance.
      Of course, that’s not always possible when you rely on the dog to handle the sheep for you, but if you’re prepared to get that bit closer before you send the dog off, it will help a lot.
      If the dog’s not listening when you’re close to it though, you need to go back to basics with it. Get it into a training ring or small paddock, and MAKE it lie down when you tell it.
      I have a dog called Portia, who’s got huge potential, but she would only stop quickly if I yelled at her. I spent some time with her back in the training ring, and instead of shouting, I sort of shouted quietly (stifling the shout). That has helped a lot, and might be worth trying.
      There are loads of things you can try – and I intend to do an FAQ about it soon, so look out for that on the website.

  2. Nancy Barrows avatar
    Nancy Barrows

    This has been a complete game changer for us. I was really struggling with how to slow my dog down and get her to give the sheep more space and was getting really frustrated. It’s done wonders for our working relationship. We’re beginning to trust each other. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Nancy – it’s great to know the training has helped you and your dog!

  3. Catherine Galbraith avatar
    Catherine Galbraith

    Hi Andy, I’m a bit puzzled about the lie down command. Is it meant to get the dog to stop and just stand still, or that the dog should lie on the ground …… or both?!! Thanks

    1. Well, it’s a bit of a miss-mash really, Catherine!
      Watch the Stopping the Dog (Part 2) for a (sort of) proper explanation.

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