Shedding or separating the sheep

Useful on the farm, essential for sheepdog trials, learn shedding or separating the sheep!

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Photo of a sheepdog shedding sheep

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Video Highlights

How to train your dog to ‘shed(or separate) sheep, in an open area.
Example of a failed attempt to shed!
Reasons why you should teach your dog to shed sheep.
Another example of a failed attempt to shed.
See an example of a good ‘shed’.
What to do with your training stick when you call the dog through the sheep (and why)! Don’t dispense with the training stick though – it’s an important tool for shedding.
Why dogs are often reluctant to shed sheep.
How to position the dog, and create a good gap for the dog to come through the sheep.
Essential points to keep in mind, when training a dog to shed sheep.

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Make a wide gap before you call the dog through

Shedding sheep means separating a bunch of sheep into two or even more, smaller groups. It’s one of those operations that contradicts the basic rules we’ve taught the dog so far. Previously, we’ve insisted the dog keeps the sheep together, but to shed them, we must teach the dog to part them again (in a controlled manner). Many dogs take readily to shedding, but it’s understandable if a young dog’s confused or worried by it. As with most sheepdog training, the key to success is to make the task as easy as possible when we start.

This tutorial shows how to teach a dog to shed sheep by making it as easy as possible for the dog to come through them. Featuring footage from actual training sessions, this tutorial has a running commentary throughout.

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Comments

7 responses to “Shedding or separating the sheep”

  1. Carl McCosker avatar
    Carl McCosker

    Dear Andy and Gill,

    Just wanted to tell you about me and Captain’s shedding training. I watched your sheep dog trials videos on my DVDs. As I watched the shedding part, I thought “What would I ever use that for when I have perfectly good sorting pens”. Kind of like skydivers who jump out of a perfectly good airplane! But, since I’m always keen to give Captain a new challenge, I watched your shedding training video and we started working on it.

    We had three or four training sessions in the field and although he won’t be winning any stock dog trials, he is progressing nicely. A few days ago, I was starting my winter hoof trimming with my Boer goat herd here in Northern California. I use my goats for targeted grazing and get paid to keep vegetation under control in our wildfire prone state. The does have just kidded, so I can put them in the squeeze and roll them around safely. We got part of the group done, but other duties called and I had to stop for the day. I had four does left to trim, so I marked them and put them back with their kids and other does who were already hoof trimmed.

    The next day, Captain and I got them into my sorting pens, but I didn’t want to drive them into the chute and have does that had already been hoof trimmed mixed up with the four I had to work on screaming for their kids, butting the other goats, and stressing out. So, you guessed it! We started shedding. It worked like a charm! Captian is quite comfortable working in the pens with me and because we had been practicing shedding, he caught on to what we were trying to accomplish immediately. We cut out the does that had been done two or three at a time. I was very proud of Captain, as he would walk right through the little gap I made and completely ignored the does we left behind. I used the “Stay Close” command as we pushed the goats toward the out gate. Captain would hold them in the corner near the gate that would take the does back to their kids as I opened it, then he would push them through the gate. In no time we had our four left to trim heading down the chute and the finished does back with their kids.

    I’m constantly surprised at the cumulative way the Border Collie learns. They will take a skill learned in one setting and be able to apply it in a completly different setting as long as it gets the job done. The way I’ve been learning is to watch your training section, take Captain out and try it. Screw up the exercise, go back and watch the section a couple more times and see how I messed up, and try again. So far, that method is working, as both Captain and I are progressing.

    Thanks for all your help. I’m really grateful for the sheep dog trials section, because it explains how they are judged and gives me a goal to work towards as Captain and I train together.

    Carl McCosker

    1. Thank you for the great feedback on your shedding experience with Captain!
      I think it’s the first time we’ve had feedback on shedding. That’s a pity because shedding can be very useful at times.
      I sometimes use it as a lazy way of restricting how many sheep go into the training ring!

      It’s astonishing what Border Collies are capable of when the circumstances arise, and it’s good to know that you and Captain work as a team.

  2. Merin Ap Martin avatar
    Merin Ap Martin

    Hi Andy,Ive started the shed with my 14month old sheepdog.When i call her through the middle she’ll go around the sheep and then sit by me.How do i get her to go through the middle?

    1. That’s very typical when you’re teaching a dog to drive.
      As long as the dog has all the basics – fair outrun, flanking well, stopping reasonably well and STAYING IN PLACE WHEN YOU TELL IT TO, you’ll be able to teach it to shed the sheep.
      The most common mistake is expecting the dog to come through too narrow a gap. It’s up to you to ‘shoo’ the sheep away while keeping the dog in place. Then you crouch down and call the dog to you. If it tries to go around the sheep, stop the dog and move closer, then call it through again. Be REALLY nice to the dog. Don’t be gruff or cross with it.
      But DON’T let the dog come all the way around the sheep to you. Send it back!
      If you really can’t get the dog to come through the sheep even though the gap is wide, try penning the two (small) bunches of sheep in some hurdle pens – plenty wide enough apart – then call the dog through that. You may be surprised to find the dog still won’t come through. If that happens, try leading the dog between the pens, stopping at the narrowest point and talking to the dog, to build its confidence.
      If the dog does come through OK, you can call it through a few times, then move one pen a little closer. If the dog comes through well enough, move the pens a little closer-still – and so on.
      The rule is, if the dog won’t come through, the gap’s not wide enough.
      Try stopping the dog in the gap between the pens, then call it to you again.
      The idea is to build the dog’s confidence by taking away all the pressure, and then very GRADUALLY narrowing the gap again.
      When you try shedding with the sheep loose in the field again, make the gap WIDER than you think you need. “Success breeds success!”

  3. Andrea Principi avatar
    Andrea Principi

    Could you please learn more about the shedding training techinique?

    1. I am not sure what you mean, Andrea. If you mean you would like to see a more detailed video about shedding (or if any part of this video is not clear) please let me know.

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

    Thanks for advice given. I needed a few reminders.
    Yvonne H.

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