Important points to remember when introducing a young dog to sheep
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Introducing a young dog to sheep is a great idea.
Done correctly, it can make training far easier – but you need to take care!
It’s natural to be keen to introduce your dog to sheep.
But are you able to recognise danger signs and act quickly enough to protect the dog?
By leading a puppy around sheep, you may be teaching it not to work.
Reasons why leading a dog around sheep can discourage it from working.
How to familiarise your dog with sheep and preserve it’s instinct to work.
Add verbal encouragement to boost the dog’s confidence.
Unless you’re sure you can recognise danger signs, and are in a position to quickly prevent them, keep the pup well clear of sheep, until it’s at least eight (8) or nine (9) months old.
Then, only allow access if you’re in a position to assist it when required.
REMEMBER: By repeatedly restraining a dog or puppy from rushing at sheep, the puppy may be learning that it’s not allowed to work sheep.
Lead walking has consequences
The more familiar your dog is with stock before it begins training, the easier it will be to train the dog. This is because the hunting instinct is not as strong in pups as it is in adult dogs. It’s the powerful hunting instinct, combined with the intense excitement and novelty of being introduced to sheep for the first time, that makes many older dogs difficult to control or aggressive in the early stages of herding.
The more exposure the young dog has to sheep or other stock, the less excited it will be when we begin teaching it to herd stock.
For this reason it’s tempting to try your puppy or young dog with stock at a very early age. Beware of this! If the youngster is frightened, back-off! Allow the dog’s natural curiosity to develop. Trying to force the dog to take an interest will probably have the reverse effect, so wait until you can see that the dog’s keen to get closer.
If the young dog’s keen to get to the sheep or cattle, unless you can be absolutely certain you’re in a position to protect it from attack (or even the threat of it) there’s a very real danger that sheep or cattle 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 very strong chance the young dog will learn (from being restrained) that it’s not allowed to run after the animals. Find out how to introduce a young dog to sheep