Starting a strong or aggressive dog

How to go about starting a strong or aggressive dog on sheep or other farm livestock?

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).



Photo of a sheep dog having lessons

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Starting a strong or aggressive dog can be tough, but it’s worth it!


The technique required to control a strong dog.
To control a strong dog, you must be very assertive.
Introducing Tess to sheep for the first time.
Try to set the dog up to collect the sheep cleanly.
Attempting to block the dog – too late.
Blocking the dog – successfully!
Running to keep up, and waving the dog out at the same time.
Getting too far ahead of the dog makes it go the other way.
Blocking the dog, to stop it.
Making the dog go wider, by whacking the stick on the ground in front of it.
Too far ahead – and the dog goes the other way again.
Tess is going wider around the sheep now.
Getting too far ahead of the dog again…
Look for patterns in the dog’s behaviour.
The sheep are running off – time to run closer to the action and wave the dog out.
Moving further and further back to block the dog and send her the other way.
Tess lunges at the sheep.
Getting the balance right when blocking the dog.
Keep your eyes on the dog ALL the time!
Tess lunges at the sheep, then gathers them together again.
A good stop!
Be prepared for the dog to ‘sell you a dummy’!
What happens when you look away for a moment.
Don’t put as much pressure on a sensitive dog.
Running back to get dog and sheep on the point of balance.
Ending the lesson on a high point.
Watch the full session at normal speed.

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A far cry from starting a puppy on sheep!

In part one of the ‘Starting a Young Puppy’ tutorials, we saw that with care, it’s possible to begin a puppy’s training at a very early age, but if you didn’t have the luxury of well-dogged docile sheep for your puppy to learn with, then you’ve had to wait before you can start training – and you may find you have a tougher dog than you bargained for when it comes to training it on sheep.

Rather like Tess in this tutorial, there’s a good chance your young dog will have its own ideas about how to go about tackling sheep! If the dog’s as tough as Tess, you’ll need to be assertive and patient.

We watch Tess’s training session at half-speed with an in-depth description of the action by Andy Nickless. Then we watch again at normal speed to give you a more accurate picture of starting a strong or aggressive dog on sheep or other farm livestock.

An Insight Into Pack Behaviour | (top ⇧)


25 responses to “Starting a strong or aggressive dog”

  1. David Buckley avatar
    David Buckley

    Hi Andy & Gill

    This Video is 100% ‘Flynn’. You will remember him better as ‘Roger’ who we collected from you nearly a year ago.
    The most important tip is ‘keep your eyes on the dog’. Thanks for emphasising that, as I did have to take time out to sit down while the field, the sheep and my life whirled around!
    With me in charge he’ll never be quite like his Dad, but he’s loving every second.

    He’s like Tess, in that a stop is not part of his vocabulary in the first few minutes. When the initial exhilaration has worn off, he can do a more than passable ‘walk-up’ without taking matters into his own hands. (glad of a breather probably).

    A lovely dog in spite of being incredibly strong willed.

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