Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

Chapters 1 & 2 from the DVD set 'First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training'.

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

This is a very important tutorial! It's packed with essential information to help you to understand, and look after your dog. It includes choice of breed, choice of dog or puppy, housing - and what dogs to avoid. There's a wealth of information on how to prepare your pup or young dog for herding sheep, cattle and other livestock.

For a long time now we've wanted to update our "First Steps" DVD set because our training techniques and understanding of sheepdogs have improved immensely since the DVD's release.

This video presents most of chapters one (the introduction) and two, from the DVD set. It's fairly heavily modified and now nearly 30 minutes long! We're sure those of you who've seen the old version won't be disappointed.

Eliminate the Toilet Break

Discourage your dog from taking a toilet break while it's working.

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Not only is it not professional, but dog which has stopped to relieve itself can easily lose control of its sheep because it's no longer concentrating on them. If this happens in a sheepdog trial, you will lose a lot of points. Learn how easy it is to teach your dog to toilet on command, so that you can make sure it's fully comfortable before it begins work.

Bronwen and Scylla (Parts 1-8)

Eight tutorial videos comparing the training of two very different sisters.

Watch the Bronwen and Scylla tutorials with ENGLISH SUBTITLES.
Select chapters from thumbnails below.

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Part 1: Comparing the training of very different sisters

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla part one

We're going to follow the progress of two litter sisters - Bronwen and Scylla - as they learn to become sheepdogs. They might have the same parents, but their temperaments are very different and the same goes for their attitude to working sheep.
In this first part we learn about the two young dogs. We see one of them working nicely in the field, while the other's approach seems to be "the best form of defence is attack"!

Part 2: Scylla's turn now - she's not so nice!

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla part two

In part one we saw how good Bronwen's sheep control can be, and we caught a glimpse of Scylla's antics too. In this tutorial, we find out just how difficult Scylla can be when she encounters sheep. When Scylla gets into the training ring she's very trying at first, but soon, with a little help from Kay, the youngster begins to show her natural talent. There's still a long way to go, but Scylla's definitely got what it takes!

Part 3: Bronwen gets the sheep in, but Scylla's still horrible

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Stopping the Dog part one

The third tutorial in our Bronwen and Scylla series sees Bronwen struggle to get the sheep into the ring. Once the sheep are in, we watch both Bronwen and Scylla's individual training sessions in the ring on the same day. Bronwen is keen and confident, but she's often over-keen and misguided, while Scylla's tail (and her attitude to the sheep) demonstrate just how nervous she really is.

Part 4: Bronwen's no angel, but Scylla's improving slowly

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla part four

In tutorial number four, Bronwen proves she's by no means perfect, but she continues to be a long way ahead of Scylla in terms of her reliability and sheep control. Scylla's working much too close to the sheep. Her tail is still flying like a flag and she's far too aggressive with them. Tiresome though she can be at times, there are signs of improvement, and even one brief moment that shows great promise!

Part 5: Scylla's still pretty awful - Bronwen's erratic

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla part five

Scylla takes an almighty charge, and scatters the sheep in all directions. Four of the sheep leave the ring but, once under control, Scylla was impressive at times - particularly at keeping the sheep off the hurdles. Unfortunately Scylla's lesson was brought to an early end when a sheep collapsed with stress exhaustion. Once left in peace, the sheep was soon up and about again.
Bronwen's performance was erratic - largely because she was distracted by the close proximity of some inquisitive cattle.

Part 6: Is Scylla ready to work outside the ring?

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla (Part 6)

Part six of our series comparing the training of litter sisters, Bronwen and Scylla, sees Scylla continuing to make slow progress in the ring. Andy's hoping to get her out into the field, but she's not ready so he concentrates on getting her to flank smoothly and keep back off the sheep.
Bronwen begins by diving into the sheep and gripping, but she quickly settles down so Andy works on her flank commands. They take the sheep out of the ring, but the dog rushes at the sheep and they run away.
Bronwen isn't flanking properly; she's just chasing the sheep. The sheep have run far across the field before Andy can get close enough to the action to get Bronwen under control again.

Part 7: Bronwen's flanking far too wide

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla Part seven

In part seven, of our Bronwen and Scylla comparison, we focus entirely on Bronwen. Although she's far more advanced and reliable than her sister, Scylla, she's developed the all-too common problem of running much too wide when she goes round the stock.
When a dog works too far back from sheep or cattle the stock quickly learn that the dog's not in a position to control them, and they're likely to run away.
The video shows that being firm, but patient, with the errant dog, and using practical work to show the dog that it needs to be in control, will help to stop the dog casting out too wide.

Part 8: Scylla makes good progress!

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Bronwen and Scylla part eight

When a dog's proving slow to train, it's particularly important to be able to recognise the areas where progress is being made, and to communicate approval and encouragement to the dog when it's work is improved, even if it's not fully up to the standard you aspire to.
It's through such guidance that the dog learns more quickly what pleases the handler and what doesn't.
Part eight of the Bronwen and Scylla training comparison focuses on Scylla and points out the areas of her work which deserve praise and encouragement, as well as those which are still a long way below par.

What Shall I Do Next?

Follow our suggested order for training your sheepdog.

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: What Shall I Do NEXT

When you start to train a sheepdog there are so many issues that need attention, it can be quite daunting. You can't possibly address them all at once, and while there's no simple rule for the order of training, we suggest a logical pattern that we follow, and explain the reasons why.

Once the dog's making good progress and controlling its sheep well, the sequence of events, locations and if possible, sheep, should be varied to keep the dogs interest and attention.

Puppy Training Essentials

Important points to remember when bringing up a puppy.

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Tempting though it may be to try your puppy with stock at a very early age, you should beware. Unless you can be absolutely certain you're in a position to protect the youngster from attack or even the threat of it, there's a very real danger that sheep or cattle will will frighten the young dog and damage its confidence - possibly permanently.

On the other hand, if you frequently walk a pup or young dog around stock (on a lead) to familiarise it with them, unless you allow the youngster to chase the stock from time-to-time, there's a strong chance the young dog will learn that it's not allowed to run after the animals.

Sheepdog Trials – Getting Started (Parts 1 & 2)

Information for would-be sheepdog trials competitors.

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Getting Started in Sheepdog Trials

Two-part tutorial for those people who hope to take part in sheepdog trials.
Preparing your dog and yourself for your first sheepdog trial is not a simple task. There are so many things to remember. Where do you go when you arrive at the field? What happens during the competition? What should I avoid? Who can I ask for help?

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial part two

These two tutorials delve quite deeply into competitive sheep herding in the UK and many other parts of the world. They'll give you a great understanding of how a sheepdog trial is run, how to prepare for your first trial, what to do, and what to avoid.

An Insight into Pack Behaviour

A tutorial to help you get a better understand your dog.

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: An Insight Into Pack Behaviour

This tutorial's a little different from usual as we're looking at dog behaviour, rather than training. "An Insight into Pack Behaviour" was originally a chapter on our "Still Off Duty" DVD, and is 33 minutes of our thoughts about what we see when we're out and about with our dogs.

We're not suggesting that it's the definitive guide to dog behaviour, but it illustrates much that we've seen and found useful when training a sheepdog. We're hoping you'll find it entertaining, as well as interesting, and we're also hoping it will stimulate some debate about what we see. All of us are learning, and none of us knows all the answers (except, perhaps our dogs).

Starting a Young Puppy (Parts 1 & 2)

We take two eleven week old puppies to sheep for the first time.

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How to start training a young puppy to work sheep and other livestock

Part 1. The usual age for starting a pup on sheep is between six and twelve months, but if you have the right sort of sheep and know what you're doing, you can start a pup at a much younger age. Starting a dog early makes it much easier to get the youngster under control in the presence of sheep. In "Starting a Young Puppy" Andy shows what to do and what to avoid when he takes litter-mates Ezra and Carew to the sheep - at just eleven weeks old.

How to start training a young puppy to work sheep - part two

In Part 2, we take young Ezra to the sheep again, but this time, give him a little more guidance and lots of encouragement. We also see signs of Ezra's confidence growing and learn that nine sheep is too many for this early stage of a dog's training.