The Sheepdog Handler

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Chapter five from the First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training DVD set

Picture of a sheepdog handler, with the title of our sheepdog training video The Sheepdog Handler

It's all very well learning about the dog, the sheep, and the training area, but it's just as important to think about some of the qualities required in a sheepdog handler (or trainer) and how to make improvements.

Topics covered in this video tutorial include the importance of moving around to encourage the dog to go in the direction you want it to, and a brief look at some of the traditional commands in common use, and a more in-depth look, at some of the tools we can use to make training much easier.

Starting a reluctant dog

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Help boost your dog's confidence to start working sheep

Close up photo of Maisie, the dog used in this herding sheepdog training tutorial

Most dogs are over-excited when they first encounter sheep and it's up to the trainer to do their best to protect the stock. Occasionally though the dog takes no interest in the stock at all.

In this tutorial, Maisie shows no interest in sheep at first, but once the hunting instinct kicks-in, despite being a sensitive dog, she's aggressive with them.

Our video demonstrates how to limit the pressure applied by your control measures, while at the same time encouraging the dog to work.

It also shows a good example of how to get a dog to flank both ways around the sheep when the dog prefers to flank in one direction only.

Training Max – the Gripper (Parts 1-3)

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Part 1 - A compulsive gripper can be a big problem to train
Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Training Max the Gripper - part one

Not for the faint-hearted, this tutorial deals with one of the most difficult aspects of sheepdog training, how to cope with a very strong-willed dog which persists in violently attacking the sheep. In the first part of the video, you'll see Max at his worst despite his trainer being vigilant. Later on, Max's training becomes easier and far more rewarding. Watch the video to find out how it's done.

Part 2 - Max is making progress

After a quick recap of Max's colourful start to his training, this tutorial shows him making good progress in the training ring and even starting to bring the sheep up to the handler but he's difficult to stop.

Andy's careful to start the training session correctly to give Max the best chance of going around the sheep rather than gripping or splitting them - but can Max keep up the good work?

Part 3 - Max is almost trustworthy now!

The third and final part of our "Training Max the Gripper" tutorials sees Max working well in the training ring but then Andy decides to move the action out into the open field.

Find out how Max copes with taking the sheep out of the training ring, and whether or not he manages to get them back into it before the session ends.

Max had no training of any kind, at any time in between the lessons shown above.

Sending the Dog the Wrong Way!

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A very useful technique to widen your dog's flanks

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Sending the Dog the Wrong Way

One of the best ways to get a dog to give the sheep space when it's flanking is to use a technique we call "sending the dog the wrong way". Once you can achieve this, you and your dog are well on the way to producing quality work - but it's not easy.

As with so many other aspects of sheepdog training, once you understand why the dog is reluctant to go "the wrong way" it becomes much easier to train it to do just that, and the dog's flanks will widen out.

Educating Gloria!

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Watch a complete training session, full of valuable lessons!

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Educating Gloria

This tutorial shows nine-month old Gloria, a bright, enthusiastic young dog, and her fourth training session with some well-dogged sheep. As well as showing a typical dog in training, warts and all, the tutorial demonstrates some of the techniques that we've talked about in other tutorials, such as making use of the training ring; effective use of the training stick; reinforcing the stop, and flank commands; widening the flanks; taking the sheep out of the ring (whoops - the wrong way!) and dealing with gripping.

Backwards is the way forward

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Our most useful exercise once you have control of the dog

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Backwards is the Way Forward

It's boring - and it might appear pointless to the novice, but walking backwards with the dog bringing the sheep up to you is the single most important exercise you can do once your dog has basic control of the sheep. It improves pace, working distance, the stop, sheep control, and much more.

As well as clearly demonstrating how to get a strong dog to bring the sheep up quietly - this tutorial provides a valuable tip on how to read your sheep.

Starting a Strong Dog

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Is your dog hard to control around sheep?

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Starting a Strong Dog

In part one of the 'Starting a Young Puppy' tutorials, we saw that with care, it's possible to begin a puppy's training at a very early age, but if you didn't have the luxury of well-dogged docile sheep for your puppy to learn with, then you've had to wait before you can start training - and you may find you have a tougher dog than you bargained for when it comes to training it on sheep.

Rather like Tess in this tutorial, there's a good chance your young dog will have its own ideas about how to go about tackling sheep!

The Outrun (Part 1)

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A good outrun is essential if a sheepdog is to work efficiently.

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: The Outrun part one

Fortunately, it's not difficult to train a dog to do an outrun, and the training process itself improves other aspects of the dog's work, such as flanking and the stop, so we use short outruns very early in training to improve the dog's all-round performance.

The Outrun Part 1 features Jed, a large, headstrong male collie with far more enthusiasm than skill. We filmed an actual training session, warts and all, to show how to start teaching the outrun, and how to make the best of it when things go wrong (as things, inevitably, will).