Close work (1 of 2)

Close work in yards pens and sorting races with a young dog can be difficult, particularly if the area is crowded or small. Learn about sheepdog work in tight spaces.

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Training a dog for close work in yards pens and sorting races

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Working in yards pens and sorting races

Sheepdog work in tight spaces can be stressful for a trainee dog
Moving a flock of sheep into a confined yard.
Penning sheep is a common task for a sheepdog, but it requires a high level of skill.
How to get sheep into a pen, when using a partly-trained sheepdog.
Reasons why not many people get their sheep into pens, by going into the pen first.
Ideally, man and dog will work as a team to be sure of getting sheep into a yard or pen.
Penning sheep is good training for a dog, but don’t start with a small pen in a big field.
Pens at sheepdog trials are deliberately designed to be difficult.
Sheep can dodge around a pen in a field, but not so easily if it’s tight against a fence – ANIMATION.
For trainee dogs, make difficult tasks easy, then gradually more difficult.
Ways to make penning sheep easier for the trainee dog.
Moving sheep through a gateway, into another field – ANIMATION.
A handler goes through a gateway while the dog brings the sheep along behind – ANIMATION.
A trainee dog bringing sheep through a gateway behind the handler.
We got the sheep into the next field, but how are we going to get them back again?
Showing how sheep might avoid going through a gate – ANIMATION.
Planning how to help the dog to get the sheep through a difficult gateway.
Trainee sheepdog Pip, bringing the sheep towards the gate.
Trainee sheepdog Carew, brings the sheep to the gate.
Two of the sheep are hanging back, but Carew ignores them.
Encouraging Carew to keep her sheep together, and bring them all.
The two difficult sheep are staying back, and Carew would leave them there.
Teaching Carew to ‘Look Back‘, for the missing sheep.

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Much more just than gathering sheep

Part 1: Teaching a dog to bring the sheep to you in the open field, is a good first step in sheepdog training. Your dog’s capable of doing very much more to help you run a flock efficiently though.

Moving sheep around at close quarters, putting them into and bringing them out of tightly packed or restricted yards, pens and sorting races are just a few of the regular jobs a sheep dog or ranch dog needs to do. Taking cattle or sheep to fresh pasture would seem simple enough for the working farm dog, but even that has its difficulties.

We begin to train our dogs for close work in yards and pens by teaching them to move sheep through a gateway into another field and then being them out again. After that, we move on to more difficult tasks. Learn about sheepdog work in tight spaces.

Close Work part 2 | (top ⇧)


17 responses to “Close work (1 of 2)”

  1. Rachelle Bennett avatar
    Rachelle Bennett

    Love all your tutorials I have watched so far. I have an Australian Shepherd, they are a “loose-eyed” dog. Tend to work a lot closer to the sheep. He has a good stand and stay, but he still likes to get too close. His presence really pushes the sheep fast! Faster than my border collie. My border collie can walk right up on their rears and have to nip their heels to get them to move. My Aussie just jogs up and they run for the hills.
    However, in a small pen they sheep are calm with him.
    Trying to teach him to back off, trying the walking backwards, it does take some skill and muscles. We will keep at it! :) Thanks!!!

  2. Saskia Sowers avatar
    Saskia Sowers

    Hi Andy, I have been practicing moving the sheep from one field to another.
    Ian consistently wants to run through and gather them up and bring them back .also wants to rush in behind them in a penning situation. but he did herd them in the small shed, an held them by being still and staring at them while I doctored ones foot. and then “that’ll do ” came away with me. but he seems to fear they are going to escape or something… how can I help him not to rush at them when we are done and the should go?

    1. In an ideal world, you’d have a good enough “stop” on the dog to make it stay back, but it’s expecting a lot. Ian’s only following his instinct, Saskia. As the sheep go through the gate into the new field, the dog fears they’re escaping so it tries to bring them back.

      The secret of successful sheepdog training is to break each new task into smaller stages and teach the dog one stage at a time.

      Watch the “Close Work Tutorials” and you’ll see that if you go through the gate first with the dog bringing the sheep along behind you, the dog won’t run after the sheep because (as the dog sees it) the sheep are still under control.

      The next step is to only go two or three paces through the gate into the new field, and make the dog stay behind the sheep as they go through. Then you can go a stage further and stop next to either gatepost (obviously out of the way of the sheep’s path) and get the dog to bring the sheep through. Stop the dog in the gateway and keep it there as the sheep to drift away. Wait until the sheep are far enough away to give the dog a decent outrun (one it can do easily) and send it to gather them. Dogs love outruns, and soon the dog will learn that if it waits in the gateway, there’s a good chance it’ll be rewarded with an outrun. Assuming this goes well, on the next occasion, try staying back a couple of metres inside the old field, and once again, stopping the dog in the gateway.

      It’s similar with putting the sheep into a pen. Stay close to the entrance until the dog gets the idea…

      1. Saskia Sowers avatar
        Saskia Sowers

        Thanks Andy , will let you know how it goes!

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