No excuses! Don’t ignore your sheepdog’s bad work

Take a realistic look while you train, and do not ignore your sheepdog’s bad work

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Photo of a dog biting some sheep as they go into a pen

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Video Highlights

Is the dog REALLY working that well?

Don’t fall into the trap, of thinking your dog’s work is better than it really is.
Most outrun problems happen because the dog’s not confident, working at that distance.
Most sheepdog herding problems, are caused by handlers expecting too much, too soon.
It’s good to give the dog new challenges, but expect them to go wrong at first.
Any problem you don’t correct, is assumed by the dog, to be the right way to work.
The longer we allow bad work to go uncorrected, the harder it ‘ll be to correct later.
Video is a great way to find out how well or badly your dog is working.
Our herding checklist, to help you judge your dog’s performance level.
If your dog’s not working well, it’s down to you to put it right.
Once you can work out why the dog’s doing something wrong, it’s relatively easy to fix.
A brief summary of this tutorial.

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Take a close look as you train

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking your sheepdog’s work is better than it really is. Novice trainers are often eager to move our dog’s training on, and can overlook shortcuts and bad habits which the dog will sometimes adopt in the interest of getting the job done quickly.

Do not ignore your sheepdog’s bad work. Find out how and why you should accurately and reasonably assess the dog’s skill level.

Eve At The Pen


11 responses to “No excuses! Don’t ignore your sheepdog’s bad work”

  1. saira renny avatar
    saira renny

    Hi Andy ,. Ive been training for almost 10 weeks using your tutorials which have been great .My dog is doing well and can gather our hill park and inbye fields nicely . But when i take her to a new environment (a big part of her future farm work will be hill gathers )she tends to go a bit wild and single out and grip a ewe . My Problem is knowing when to make the correction when she is not to hand . I growl at her to let go which she does but wont let it away . She know that she is in trouble and doesnt want to come back to me or leave the ewe (she has usually got a good recall), so then i speak gently to get her to come back to me and then lead her way ,but i feel that i am then giving her mixed messages .what would you advice?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Saira, I’m glad you find the tutorials useful!
      What your dog is doing is perfectly normal. A trainee dog which is working well at home, will very often run slightly amok when it goes somewhere new. This is the reason I say in the Sheepdog Trials tutorials that you should give your dog experience of working in as many new and different situations as possible before taking it to a trial.
      All you need to do is drastically shorten the distance that the dog is working from you until you have good control in that new location, and then as the dog improves, GRADUALLY increase the distance again. Then when you go to yet another location, shorten it again.
      Remember: The Closer You Are to the Trainee Dog, the more control you have over it.
      Your dog will be fine!

  2. Nigel Borresen avatar
    Nigel Borresen

    Hello Andy, I have a 5 month old Kelpie, She is working well in the pen, flanking both ways, stopping, still working on the walk up command.
    The red mist decends when we go out into the paddock. I can’t even call her back. Is she too young ? How do I improve the recall at a distance?


    1. Five months is very young. You might be trying to progress too quickly. If you can’t control the dog in a paddock, that paddock might be too large – but if you watch the “Moving Out” tutorial, it will show you how to keep control of the sheep when you move out of the training ring.
      That way, you can get the dog working nicely inside the ring, and then move out into a larger area – it’s not easy, but works well if the dog’s ready, and if you do it right.

  3. Jane Hart avatar
    Jane Hart

    Hello, my dog is nearly a year old. She has been training for about 6 months. She knows her sides and can do outruns to about 100m away and sometimes more. If you try her on something new eg sheep in a different field, she can go daft and ignore my commands, making her seem like she isn’t trained at all. Is this common?
    Best wishes,

    1. It’s very common,Jane. That’s why several of our tutorials mention giving the dog many different tasks and experiences to broaden its mind. When you go to a new location, go back a couple of stages in the dog’s training (get closer to the stock before you send it off etc) to make tasks easier for it and then increase the difficulty gradually.

      1. Jane Hart avatar
        Jane Hart

        Thanks a lot!

  4. Andrea Cobler avatar
    Andrea Cobler

    I have a question. I am brand new to herding and training my first herding dog- a 15 month old Border Collie. Your videos have been an amazing resource for me and I am trying to learn as much as I can. In the video when you told the dog “Away” and she wanted to go “Come Bye”. You stopped and said that you had made a mistake and that the dog was right and you were wrong. Why was the “Come Bye” right in that situation? And what do you do when you make that mistake or a similar one?

    1. Watch carefully, Andrea. In the video, I gave Gwen the “Away” command and she instantly obeyed, but (thinking she’d gone the wrong way) I very quickly, but mistakenly “corrected” her, so she changed direction (and went “Come bye”).
      Errors like these can only confuse the dog. There’s no way to put the error right other than making certain you learn your commands thoroughly, and trying not to get them confused.
      I’d say I know my commands very thoroughly, but occasionally, I get it wrong. We all make mistakes!

      1. Andrea Cobler avatar
        Andrea Cobler

        OK. Now I see it. Thank you!!! I love these tutorials!!! Thanks for putting them out here!

  5. Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak avatar
    Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak

    Something to think about. I realise that I also make excuses. We have to be a team and work accurately, I shall keep this in mind. Yvonne

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