How to slow a sheepdog down

How to slow a sheepdog down. Ways to calm your trainee herding dog, and make it work more steadily.

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Video Highlights


The consistent use of patience, confidence, and quiet authority will then result in a calmer dog.
Get the dog going around the sheep first, and worry about other training details later!
Pack behaviour and hunting instinct.
There’s no ‘quick-fix’ to slow a dog down.
Novelty or excitement excite the dog, so try to be calm at all times.
Repetitive sounds excite the dog, so it makes sense to avoid them if you want to slow it down.
Rapid movement of sheep excites the dog, so avoid these too.
Restrict the size of the training area because that way you’ll have more control, and hopefully be calmer.
Fear, or lack of confidence excites the dog, so it’s wise to avoid situations where the dog works close to the sheep, such as in tight-corners or pens.
Situations posing actual danger of injury.
Which is the best tutorial for slowing the dog down?

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Slow that sheepdog down!

How to slow a sheepdog down and get it to work more steadily is a frequent sheep dog training question. There’s no “quick fix” for getting a keen dog to work at a steadier pace. The number of things which speed it up is surprising!

Young dogs are excited when first introduced to sheep, cattle or other livestock, because it’s part of their natural instinct. Excitement shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, because dogs which are not motivated by the close presence of livestock and don’t have this ‘working instinct‘, cannot be trained to work them successfully. Treated correctly our excited dog will be more relaxed, and this will result in the standard of the dog’s work improving dramatically.

Many of the factors which speed the trainee dog up are caused by the trainer, and unfortunately the trainer is usually completely unaware that the problem lies with them.

This video tutorial takes an in-depth look at the reasons why herding dogs often work very fast, and suggests ways of slowing a sheepdog down. You’re well on the way to getting your dog trained to herd livestock, once you can get it to calm down, so it’s well worth the effort. The stock will be more relaxed and work better for a dog which appears calm and under control, than one which is excited and erratic.

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5 responses to “How to slow a sheepdog down”

  1. Robann Mateja avatar
    Robann Mateja

    Just a general comment… these tutorials are great! I train my own dogs and take advantage of many on line resources, and I have to say… your tutorials have helped more than any other resource. The reason, I believe… is because you talk about the problems and you illustrate with real life situations, not dogs that are already “perfect”. Not only does this help me learn how to deal with real problems, but also gives me confidence that I’m not alone because my dogs aren’t perfect out of the gate. But… they have improved tremendously. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for the great feedback Robann. It’s important for us to know the tutorials are working for you, and very kind of you to take the time to tell us.
      It’s not always easy to include things going wrong but of course, it’s just what beginners need to see – along with how to put them right again.
      Please accept my apologies for the late reply! My fault entirely. Because you were not asking a question, I decided to reply later – and then got distracted (sorry).
      Good luck with training your dogs. I hope they continue to make good progress!

  2. Sarah Hemming avatar
    Sarah Hemming

    Thank you for this – very informative. I find that my dog will listen well when slow and steady, but the moment they get close to a fast pace they won’t listen or if they realise they can make a run for it to the sheep at full pelt will dart off and again ignore me. I can control in a circle, and feel like we need to start working outside a ring. I think backwards is the way forwards will help, but find that the dog starts at a pace, scattering the sheep and ruining any practice on this steady aspect behind sheep. I can normally see the pace explosion coming, but cannot stop it, welcome any input/advice. Thank you.

    1. It’s good to know you find the tutorials useful Sarah, thanks for the feedback!
      We have a tutorial to help you get the sheep and the dog out into the open field with the minimum of fuss – “Moving Out“. The secret is to get the dog working nicely inside the ring, and then (ideally) have someone open the gate while you then “Waltz” them out (find out about what I call “waltzing” in “Get Off The Fence“).
      If you don’t have an assistant, get the dog working nicely, and then catch it, (or better still call it to you) and then keep the dog with you while you open the gate. Then, set the dog up, and send it to gather the sheep and bring them out. While the dog is on its way to gather the sheep, you quickly move outside the ring – and as dog and sheep come out (probably at high speed) encourage the dog to go round them.
      Whatever you do at this stage, don’t try to stop the dog. Just keep commanding it in a normal voice. If control is totally lost, only then should you try to stop the dog.
      Yet another variation on this is to open the gate yourself, but keep the dog working inside the ring (avoiding the open gate, of course) so that you can get the dog working really calmly before you attempt to “waltz” them out.
      DO watch the tutorials though – they’ll help you a lot.

  3. Regine Crutain avatar
    Regine Crutain

    Good Evening Andy and Gillian, well I must congratulate you both on the hard work that you borth have put into these excellent videos! !!!! The honesty and commen sense that you apply will be an enormous help to us!!! We have a small goat farm with thirty goats that we take out to graze freely every afternoon, we have two Kangal dogs for protection ,but when the goats stray the Kangal follow and laugh at us running around!!! Six months ago we decided that enough was enough and decided to take on a sheepdog,we where given a year old Border Collie called Nilka who was completely out of control!!!! Luckily we have quite a lot of experience with animals and their behaviour and after doing a lot of research on YouTube, Ted Hope’s advice was the best we have managed to get her to a reasonable stage in her apprenticeship. After having watched several of your videos I am convinced that I will know be able to continue her education correctly. Thank you very much !!! Regards Régine

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