Calm but firm

It’s not easy when things are going wrong, but stay calm when training your sheepdog if you can! Find out how you can be a cool sheep dog trainer!

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



It's important to stay calm when training your sheepdog

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Video Highlights

Keeping calm makes training quicker.

Loud, rapidly-repeated commands excite trainee sheepdogs.
Keeping calm can dramatically reduce the time it takes to train a sheepdog.
Corrections from a normally quiet voice, have more impact on the dog.
Over-sharp correction of a sensitive dog can harm its confidence.
Watch a slow-motion training session with a sensitive, but aggressive dog.
After a stern command, the dog leaves the training ring.
A flank command often brings the dog back, better than a recall command.
Aggressive dogs which run off when corrected, can be the hardest to train.
Balancing the flanks of a sensitive dog which is ‘one-sided’ (left or right handed).
Gentle reassurance and tension relief during training.

A shout in time…

The dog lunges at the sheep, but a sharp shout changes her mind.
A sharp shout before the dog grips, usually works.
The dog’s body-language shows her intentions.
A sharp correction warns the dog off again. Now she feels guilty.
The dog seems undecided whether to leave the training ring again.
The dog leaves the training ring again.
Encouraging the dog to work while protecting the sheep.
A good indication the dog is mentally tired. (Time to stop the session).
Watch a training session at normal speed – a few days later.
Setting the dog up, for an outrun.
The dog sets off on her outrun early!
The dog lunges at the sheep, but a well-timed warning changes her mind.
Trusting the dog to work sheep around you with no commands, can relieve stress.

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The most difficult dogs to train.

A dog which is aggressive with the sheep, but runs away as soon as the trainer attempts to correct it, is among the most difficult dogs to train. Audrey not only fits this description perfectly, but just for good measure, refuses to go “Away” around the sheep too. The Calm but Firm tutorial will show you how to cope with these difficult dogs and stay calm when training your sheepdog. Featuring footage from actual training sessions.

Being ‘cool’ or even-tempered can make sheepdog training easier. It also makes it more pleasing for all concerned, including the dog and the sheep, or other farm livestock

Backwards Is The Way Forward!


6 responses to “Calm but firm”

  1. Barney Mead avatar
    Barney Mead

    Hi Andy, I have a two-year-old Border Collie when flanking her tail is quite high in the sky How long by your experience does it take for their tail to start to come down? Thanks, Barney.

    1. That’s a difficult question, Barney. Every dog is different – and the circumstances they work in (such as how aggressive or stubborn the sheep are) make a big difference, too.
      If I have a trainee dog which works with its tail in the air, I try to make the work easier and less stressful for the dog. Then as its confidence grows, the tail will come down.
      Watch the Bronwen and Scylla tutorials to see Scylla working with her tail in the air for quite a long time. We got there in the end though – and so will you, I’m sure!
      Try not to worry about the tail, but be aware of it. Try to reduce stressful situations – go along and help the dog if necessary – and try to give it more assurance in a calm voice.

  2. June Ritchhart avatar
    June Ritchhart

    I would like to know how to get my dog to slow down. He only seems to know stop and then very fast, running at the sheep. What would you suggest? Is there a video that addresses this more?

    1. That’s a very popular question, June. Slowing the dog down won’t happen quickly. It’s caused by the ‘thrill of the chase’ and the novelty of being close to sheep. The more you work the dog on stock, provided you show good, calm leadership and praise the dog when it’s working steadily, its pace will slow down.

      We’re aiming to do a tutorial on it in the near future, but there are several which cover the topic already look at the Categories and you’ll find it. I also wrote a blog about training your dog to slow down.

  3. Helena Barrio avatar
    Helena Barrio

    Great video, I’ve now progressed from dog holding sheep to any fence/corner to only getting them off in comebye direction, so this is perfect, thank you! ( day 6).

    1. Glad to hear the videos are working for you, Helena – keep up the good work!

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