Starting a non-starter (2 of 2)

Ways to spark the dog’s interest in working sheep if it doesn’t want to!

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You need to spark the dog's interest in sheep before it will work

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Video Highlights

If the dog looks at the sheep, sooner or later, it will work them

Typical signs suggesting your dog will work sheep or cattle.
Only let young dogs near livestock once you’re close enough to protect the dog.
If an older dog is not interested in working livestock, there’s no time to lose.
Ways to trigger the dog’s hunting instinct.
The method to use ONLY if you’re prepared to (possibly) be bitten by your dog.
SAFETY: Training on cattle. Until the trainee dog’s competent, ensure it pushes stock AWAY from you.

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Find the reason, then apply the remedy

Part 2: If your dog doesn’t seem to want to work sheep or cattle, it’s quite likely it does want to really, but for some reason the dog thinks it shouldn’t. It might be a confidence issue. Often the dog shows signs that it will work under the correct circumstances – so we show you what to look for.

There are many ‘tricks’ you can try to spark your dog’s interest in working livestock, and ultimately one which very often works, but may involve some risk on the trainer’s part!

Calm But Firm


5 responses to “Starting a non-starter (2 of 2)”

  1. Derek Egan avatar
    Derek Egan

    Hello Andy, Thank you for your prompt and full reply. As it happens the lady I was referring to came to train today so we took the opportunity to try some of your suggestions and I am happy to say that the dog definitely showed interest and in fact became quite aggressive at times, so I think that working on confidence and ensuring I don’t give mixed messages is in order. She really seemed to enjoy the session so I am looking forward to next time. Lots of time and patience. Thank you again. Derek

    1. That’s good news, let us know how you get on, Derek. It would be great to know!

  2. Derek Egan avatar
    Derek Egan

    Having done extensive reading and now having viewed your videos I am concerned that I may have inadvertently subdued the dogs natural instincts by encouraging her to ignore the sheep and perhaps trained her not to chase. I am not obsessed with her becoming a first class herder, though I must admit I find it and the training very interesting and an enjoyable activity to share with her, but I want her to have as challenging, natural and fulfilling life as possible. My question is whether attempting to revive her instinct I might cause her stress, confusion, and a further loss of confidence.

    1. It’s very unlikely you will decrease the dog’s confidence if you try to encourage her to take an interest in sheep. In my experience it will increase it!
      If you’ve watched both of the “Starting a non-starter” videos, you will have a pretty good idea of how to go about arousing the dog’s interest, but I strongly suggest you watch them both again, at least once more.
      At sixteen months, the ‘not-working’ habit might be pretty-well established, but there’s no real reason why you can’t reverse it. When we begin training a sheepdog we drum it into the dog that it MUST bring the sheep to us, and then when we begin teaching it to drive, we tell the dog to push the sheep away! Some get the idea with no problem – others take time to work it out.
      It MAY take a lot of time (and patience) to arouse your dog’s interest in sheep, but on the other hand, she may respond quickly.
      The critical thing to look out for is whether the dog actually LOOKS at the sheep. You may need to study her to find out, but take her near the sheep (very casually – no closer than she wants to go) and watch her. This is not as straightforward as it seems. If the dog is sensitive, and senses that you’re watching her, she won’t relax. If this is the case try to make her think you’re preoccupied with something else! (I told you it might take patience)!
      If she even glances at the sheep, that’s a really positive sign. Watch her closely. If you try to push her too much at first, you’ll put her off even more. I think some dogs think we’re trying to get them to do something they’re not allowed to do. This seems to make some them even more determined not to take any interest in sheep.
      If she looks at them though – you’re halfway there.
      If I were you, I would ask the woman who trains her dog on your sheep, if you can join in one of the sessions. If she’s happy with that, go along with your dog, and then act as though you were helping the visiting dog. Move the sheep around, get in the way, chatter to the dog (or just chatter). Clap your hands (unless your dog doesn’t like it). Get in close, and see whether your dog takes any interest at all, but try not to let her know you’re watching her! (Even if she just watches, that’s great).
      The two “Starting a non-starter” videos have plenty of ideas in them for you to try. Please let us know if we can be of further help.
      Reading this through – you said you want a challenge for your dog – this is a challenge for you!
      I’d love to know how you get on with this…

  3. Derek Egan avatar
    Derek Egan

    I have a 16 month old border collie bitch whose lineage is working dog though her parents, both farm dogs were probably less so. She is a lovely dog and very obedient with a strong recall and stop. We live on a small acreage and have kept a small flock of Black Welsh mountain sheep for many years, but have never worked any of our dogs ( this is our third border collie) with them. Recently, a lady who is training her dog to herd ask me if she could train on my sheep which of course I allowed. As a consequence I have become interested in training my dog also. Having done extensive reading and no

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