Sticky dogs (too much eye)

If your sheepdog stares at the sheep and won’t move you may be told it’s got ‘too much eye’. The dog simply lacks confidence.

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



Photo of a sheepdog which gets stuck and won't move during training

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Video Highlights

‘Too much eye’ is not a term we like to use, because stickiness in trainee sheepdogs is simply an easily-cured confidence problem.
If the sheepdog is staring at sheep and won’t move, we should do our best to keep it moving. Moving dogs don’t get stuck!
Hunting instinct.
ANIMATION: Showing a dog on the point of balance. The handler then moves, and the point of balance changes.
With the stick in the correct hand, walk round the sheep towards the dog.
If the dog moves, try to keep it going around the sheep.
With hindsight, the whoosh of the stick wasn’t a good idea!
When the dog stops, try to get it moving before it settles.
Sometimes walking towards the dog isn’t enough to move it.
Balance the severity of corrections with the sensitivity of the dog.
Embarrassing though it might be, dogs react really well to silly talk.
The dog doesn’t understand the words, but it will understand the tone of our voice.
Only apply enough pressure to keep the ‘sticky’ dog moving.
If your dog loses interest or becomes distracted, reduce the pressure immediately.
Attempting to get sheep away from the hurdles.
Keeping the dog moving around the sheep.

Stop the dog and send it off again

Trying to catch the dog.
How to tell when the dog has submitted and you can catch it.
Attempting to get sheep off the fence again.
Watch the same dog getting sheep off the fence a couple of sessions later.
Stopping the dog between the sheep and the hurdles.
The same dog is now getting up, to follow the sheep.
Walk away from a sticky dog (and sheep) when the dog stops, it’s a good way to get the dog to move.
Making the dog go the way you send it.
Watch the dog get up and follow the sheep, and then she flanks better too.
As the dog’s confidence improves, you can be more pro-active with the training stick.
Watch how ‘shushing’ makes the dog go wider, and see what happens when the dog stops.
Walking away with the sheep, rarely fails.
What happens if you stop working the dog?
Watch Mab working in the sheep handling pens.
Watch the previously ‘sticky’ Mab training in the open field.

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‘Too much eye’ is not a term we like to use

That dog’s got too much eye!” You’ll sometimes hear this when a sheepdog, invariably a Border collie, appears mesmerised by the sheep, and reluctant to move. Dogs which show intense concentration are also known as ‘strong-eyed’ or ‘eye’ dogs. It’s not a permanent problem though.

‘Strong eyed’ is a better description

The “Sticky Dogs!” tutorial demonstrates that you don’t have to live with this start-stop style. What’s mistakenly referred to as too much eye is simply a confidence problem. Andy works with Mab in an assertive, but kind, and encouraging way, with the emphasis always on keeping the dog moving as much as possible.

Training Max – The Gripper 1


25 responses to “Sticky dogs (too much eye)”

  1. Hi Andy. My dog Louis is an 18 month old Border Collie. He had a rough start in life as he had Osteochondrosis and had an operation which has fortunately been very successful. Poor fellow missed a lot of his puppyhood stuck in a crate for months (before/after) but he was perfectly behaved and cheerful, and we wanted to give the operation the best shot we could to work. He has been working now for about 6 months and is going very well.

    He is very calm and beautifully balanced. His outrun is good, but when he picks up his sheep, he will stop and eye (if the sheep stand still) and I have a little trouble encouraging him to walk up. He is good in the round pen, and in a small paddock it is only when he casts more than about 100 metres in a bigger paddock that he is sticky. He is bold (in a small paddock and is happy to push gently through on a fence).

    I have started getting closer to the sheep (but in the bigger paddock) and he will keep the sheep coming pretty well once they are following me (as in the sticky dog video). I am not in a rush, and he is improving and the sticky dog video has helped me a lot. My main concern I suppose is that he sometimes gets stuck about 40 metres off the sheep and will only walk up a couple of steps at a time. I can often free him up with a come-bye or away, but what would you suggest? Thanks so much for your videos they have helped me a lot.

    1. It sounds as though you’re doing really well with Louis, Ian. But like so many of us when we’re training dogs, you’re trying to move on too quickly.
      As I stress over and over in the tutorials, the closer you are to the dog, the more control you have over it, because the closer you are, the more confidence the dog will have.
      You need to work the dog close enough to you that it feels confident in what it’s doing, and then increase the working distance very slightly. If the dog’s sticky at that level, reduce the distance to a comfortable level again, before trying to increase it again. If you can free him up with flanking commands, all well and good (we do it) but don’t rely on it. Reduce the distance a little.
      In the bigger training area, have you tried simply walking away when the dog stops? It works with many dogs because the dog wants to bring the sheep close to you, but if you walk away, they’re no longer close, so it needs to do it again. Don’t be afraid to walk a good distance away (as long as the dog and sheep will be OK, of course). Of course, like most dog training techniques, it doesn’t work with all dogs, but it’s well worth a try.
      Another video which might help is “Sometimes nice is not enough“.
      Great to know you find the videos useful – thanks for the feedback!

      1. Thanks for your reply Andy. I had a great session today. Walking away worked well, when I was close enough to the sheep. I think you are right and I have not been supporting Louie enough.

        He seems so confident when eyeing but in fact he is uncertain. I will be patient and increase distance gradually. We are in Australia, so it is always a treat to see how fat your sheep are in your green and lush paddocks.

        Regards, Ian

  2. Marie Helene Jorand avatar
    Marie Helene Jorand

    Hello Andy, thanks for your video they helps me really ;-))

    I have a border, she is 4,5 year old but she work with sheep until 2 years, she has a very good drive and stop, but she have a lot of problem with outrun and she don’t bring the sheep back to me when the sheep run fast away. She run but she stay on the side of the sheep and don t try to stop it. And when they (sheep and my dog) are to far away of me she lie down and show the sheep go away.
    It is the same with the work near to the sheep, if the sheeps are in a corner and go fast away she don t move or try to stop, she lie down and show the sheep go away from me. Do you think that is a confidence problem ? How can I help her ? Thanks a lot for your answer and sorry for my bad english ;.)

    1. My apologies for the delay in replying, Marie…
      You need to teach the dog to bring the sheep to you. This may take a little longer than normal because of the dog’s age, but it should not be difficult.
      I suggest you get the dog and 3 or 4 sheep into a correctly-sized training ring. If you are unable to get her to go to the opposite side of the sheep from you, then you must do the work! (At first).
      Make the dog stop in a suitable position and then YOU move the sheep so that they are between the dog and yourself. Once you can get the dog to stay on the opposite side of the sheep from you, you have nearly succeeded.
      Move around the sheep, and encourage the dog to move around them too – but staying on the far side of them. Use the commands you want to use for the direction the dog is going, and then try to encourage the dog to circle the sheep on command. Keep working on this until the dog naturally wants to go around the sheep.
      Once you achieve this (and assuming you can stop the dog on the opposite side of the sheep from where you are) you need to either make the training ring longer, or get you dog controlling the sheep in the open field. I suspect the longer training ring would be the easier option, but you may be lucky!
      I recommend you begin the exercise we call walking backwards. Watch “Backwards is the way forward” – and once the dog will do this reasonably, you can begin to teach the dog to do outruns. Watch the “Outrun” tutorials.
      There is a possibility your dog already knows how to do outruns, but has stopped doing them for some reason. I would be very interested to know how the training works out.

  3. unai urkia avatar
    unai urkia

    first of all very nice and helpful vid!

    I have a 15 month bitch which I try to train. Its my second dog and the first one was an easy calm dog but this was so wild.

    She use to scape and chase the sheep and grip them from so early stage (4 or 5 month old) that i probably have been quite tough (loud recall screem…) and may afect her confident as i didnt allow her to reach the sheep to herd… I had no time till couple month a go when i started a bit to train her and I found out this sticky behavior…

    She lays down and whatch at the sheep and I could see the anxiety was building that when I encourage her to move she went very hard to grip the sheep (always from the back)… I put her the last 5 days in a round pen (2 or 3 sheep) as you show in the vid and she really improved. She is even following the sheep a bit but I have to keep fast and change directions that she keeps following. She keeps griping when she gets close to the sheep but she looses as soon as I say a bit louder EH! for the rest of the time I encourage her with nice words and smooth tone. I use to do 3 or 4 rounds a day of 5 min and try once a day in a bigger pen with more sheep (12-15 sheep).

    She becames more sticky as soon as she gets tired and starts to take more distance and become slower in the round pen so after 4 or 5 minutes I stop as i dont want to ruin the good behavior of the beginning of the trainning. I also use to go with her in a narrow ways and make her follow the sheep. She feels more confident than in open field and it makes easier for me to make her move forward.

    I had lost my hope to get something of her as I just read bad things about the too much eye dog… but now i have recovered my hope and understood it may have been my mistake at early stage… Do you thing this could have been the mistake?

    Sorry for that long text and I hope you can understand my bad english…

    By the way, I would like to ask if there is anything you would add to the trainning to keep going a head and build up her confidence again.

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments – and for subscribing to our sheepdog training tutorials. It’s good to know you like the “Sticky Dogs” tutorial, and that it has restored you faith in your dog. She sounds fine – she just needs training.

      I do not think shouting at her when she was younger has caused her to be ‘sticky’.

      I don’t really understand why the dog gets tired after just a few minutes… I’m surprised she gets tired so soon, but a lack of confidence means the dog is frightened – and that is VERY tiring. She should not be getting tired so quickly though. Please can you explain what is happening? Also, what you mean when you say that she behaves well at the beginning of the training session and then gets worse as she gets tired… What is she doing?

      You do not say what the size of your training ring is, but at the stage (of training) the dog is at the moment, I don’t recommend you train with more than four sheep.

      As for building her confidence, that it what we encourage in nearly all of the tutorials, so I recommend you watch more of them but be sure to watch the tutorials in the “Where to Start” category first.

      1. unai urkia avatar
        unai urkia

        HI Andy,
        thanks for your answer. Maybe tired was not the right word… first of all, the trainning ring I´m using may have 6 or 7 meters diameter. I train only with 2 sheep there. And some times try with 12 sheep in a 2000m2 field.

        What happends is, that the dog enters with energy and chases close the sheep. She even keep the balance with me (changing directions) without laying down. This looks nice because she really goes from 11 to 1 and back as I move my self. With getting tired and changing behavior I probably mean bored or something… don´t know…

        After a while (firs minutes) she starts getting more distance from the sheeps and laying down easily… when I see this, I just take her and bring her back home. I reward her with nice words and touch her when i finisht the trainning.

        The problem to me is that she goes losing intesity and I just try to train when I like the intensity she is having and stop as soon as the intensity goes down. I dont know if this is right… do you mean I should train longer than the 5 minutes? i do this 3 or 4 times a day.

        thanks again! and of course I will watch the tutorials!

        1. I am sorry, I do not understand what you are trying to describe – but if you have watched the tutorials we recommend, you will know that the training ring size should be around 16 mtrs diameter. 6 or 7 is too small…
          You say the dog enters with energy and chases close to the sheep. Do you mean she is chasing very fast and making herself tired that way? (That would be normal for an untrained dog).
          You also say she balances the sheep to you – but if she’s going from 1 to 11 (as on a clock face) that is NOT balancing the sheep to you. Watch the “Balance” tutorial.
          Then you say she is getting bored or something… don’t know…
          That is the part that worries me. Without a better description, or seeing what the dog is doing, I don’t think I can help you much. But you should know whether the dog is doing what the dogs do in our videos. Watch “Calm But Firm” is the dog losing interest because you are not allowing it to attack the sheep? If that is the case, you really need to be careful or the dog will stop working altogether.
          Taking the dog away from the sheep when it loses interest is a very bad idea. The dog stops working because it doesn’t want to do what you are trying to make it do – and you do exactly what it wants by taking the dog away! If the dog is doing that, you need to be more easy-going with the dog (allow it more freedom with the sheep) to get it back to work again. Keeping the dog working should be a priority.
          I would suggest just ONE 15-20 minute) training session per day for the time being. Try to keep the dog keen to work.

  4. Hayley Watson avatar
    Hayley Watson

    good morning i have a 8mth old bitch who is very sticky i have trouble flanking her when shes in front when shes walking on. she likes to drive them and can flank her at the back of me. shes tight on the sheep and quite slow. the stick or whip doesnt bother her. so cant get her off them. she will balance them all day long so taught her stand so keep her moving . outrun is coming on nicely. i have took her off them for a week now she has gone really sticky. your vids have taught me so much. so hoping you could help please ha thanks hayley

    1. First, let me make it very clear that eight months of age is very early to expect the dog to be doing all you ask of it. My overall impression of your comments and questions are that you are trying to move on too fast, and not teaching the basics properly, first.

      [I have trouble flanking her when shes in front when shes walking on. she likes to drive them and can flank her at the back of me].
      This is perfectly normal for a dog which is learning to drive. If you have taught the dog to flank around both you and the sheep in the early stages of her training, that is what she will want to do when you begin to teach her to drive (if that is what you are doing).

      [shes tight on the sheep and quite slow].
      If she’s tight on the sheep, you need to teach her to keep back off them during her basic training. Driving is definitely not a part of basic training, so until you can control the dog properly, go back to basics.

      In what situation is she quite slow?

      [the stick or whip doesnt bother her. so cant get her off them].
      The dog hasn’t completed its basic training yet. Get her under control before moving on to outruns and driving.

      [she will balance them all day long so taught her stand so keep her moving].
      I don’t know what you mean by ‘taught her to stand (ie. stop?) to keep her moving’. It doesn’t make sense to me (sorry).

      By ‘hold them all day long’ I think you mean she’ll hold the sheep in place (on her terms, not yours). If that’s the case, then it’s back to basics again. Watch “Sticky Dogs” again, and take note of how I walk around with the dog bringing the sheep up to me. That’s how to keep the dog moving.

      [i have took her off them for a week now she has gone really sticky].
      The dog learns nothing when it’s in its pen – and little or nothing about sheep work when it’s away from sheep, but in your case, it’s probably a good idea to give the dog a short break while you learn how to train it.
      If she’s getting increasingly sticky it means you are confusing the dog and it’s losing confidence rather than gaining it. Again, go back to basics and build your dog’s confidence back up.

      I strongly suggest you watch ALL of the early tutorials in the default order they appear (Recommended Viewing Order). That will give you a proper understanding of how to train your dog.

      There’s nothing wrong with your dog, she just needs proper guidance.

  5. danny gamble avatar
    danny gamble

    my 9 months old border collie is very much like mab, she like to hold on to the sheep,out runs are good i use the walk on, thats also good,thats just what i needed to show my nellie keep her moveing. many thanks

    1. peter hastings avatar
      peter hastings


      My 3 year old dog has just developed this stops on flank and wound get up to drive

      He is down on weight and maybe his power being reduced has brought this on I am not sure

      1. If the dog has recently lost weight and his work is affected, I suggest you get him checked by a vet, Peter. I hope he’s OK.

  6. virginia lemon avatar
    virginia lemon

    Great to watch.

  7. Tony Wiedermann avatar
    Tony Wiedermann

    Hi Andy –

    I have a 8 month old Kelpie who is extremely Sticky. She get’s fixated on the trainer sheep and doesn’t move. Where i have had success in the past is doing figure of 8’s in the paddock where she has to keep on moving. I’ve had no success elsewhere (yes she is young). She has no force and when trying to get her to move sheep through a gate (even if i walk through first) she will just stare at them. My question is for a dog who’s instinct is to be sticky, am i best focusing on encouraging her to be consistently moving and once she seems comfortable with this, then proceed to other aspects of training?

    Thanks. Your video was extremely helpful.


    1. Great to know the tutorial was helpful, Tony, but if it didn’t make it clear to you that you need to keep the dog moving, then I guess it failed!
      Keep her moving all the time until she gains confidence – and give her very easy tasks to do. If the fails to get sheep through a gateway, try somewhere with a wider gap. Maybe between two buildings, or set something up with fencing or even straw bales.
      If the dog finds it difficult, make the task simpler until the dog’s confidence builds.

  8. Hayley Watson avatar
    Hayley Watson

    Hi iv got an 8mth dog who is sticky all he wants to do is drive drive drive he’s OK in the small pen if u get after him in with the sheep and out but if I take him out into small field he doesn’t run fast at all I have to have another dog run on outside to keep the sheep together. My sheep are heberdeans which are probably to flighty for him. He lies down on command walks up on sheep but trying to get him round is hard work. He’s out of cap who won Scottish internationals I belive they are like that from him thanks Andy

    1. Let’s get this clear. What I describe as “sticky”, Hayley, is a dog which stops and then doesn’t want to move again (as with Mab in this video). From what you say, your eight month old pup is not sticky, it’s running after the sheep but it’s not fast enough to get ahead of them. Give it some time to grow a little, and get faster. Once it’s fast enough to overtake the running sheep and get ahead of them, you can train it to do that, but at the moment, you’re expecting too much of it. In the meantime, restrict the pup to working in the ring so that getting ahead of the sheep and bringing them to you becomes second nature.

  9. Mark Hughes avatar
    Mark Hughes

    I am training a 9 month old dog who is a bit sticky. I have tried constantly changing direction and praising when he moves with energy. He will stay on his feet and wont stop unless he’s told or there isn’t any reason to move. He will walk up on command brilliantly. I wondered if it could be my sheep ( I use 7 young ewes, Torrdu) who are well dogged and he perhaps feels like he doesn’t need to run with much pace as he has them under control? Would I be better with less dogged sheep or a greater number? If I let the sheep drift away he is excellent and goes out nice and wide and fetches them back with energy and enthusiasm. He is brave and happily brings the sheep off a fence or even through a lean to shelter we have in the training field so I don’t think its a confidence thing? If we are working close he does the job but his lack of pace makes it hard for me to encourage him out wider. Any advice appreciated! Mark

    1. I don’t think your dog’s what I’d call a “Sticky Dog” that’s one which becomes fixated and will not move when commanded. This is a confidence problem.
      In your case, it sounds as though the dog knows the sheep are not going to run away, so there’s little of interest to him. Why don’t you train him to drive the sheep? There are three tutorials to help you with that. The other thing that springs to mind is shedding. If you shed off three or four sheep from the others, and get the dog to take them some distance away, that might be quite a challenge – and then the dog will simply LOVE going back to collect the remaining sheep.
      Alternatively, as you suggest, I think you could use some “flightier” sheep – to make work more exciting for your dog.

  10. Laetitia Boiron avatar
    Laetitia Boiron

    I have a sticky dog when the work is too long… When my BC is tired and if sheep are statics I have a real problem. But, my dog is not shy with sheep, not afraid. How can I manage this situation ? Should I stop before the dog is tired and uncooperative sheep? Should I rather work this? For now, in this situation I start to move so that the dog is placed in front of me, but that does not solve the problem for the drive.
    Thank you for your answer.

    1. It’s difficult to assess the situation without more information, Laetitia. When you say the dog gets tired, how long has it been working for when it gets tired? How many sheep do you have? Are the sheep “heavy” (difficult to move or aggressive with the dog)? What sort of work is the dog doing?
      Or is it possible that the dog loses interest in working after a few minutes? Most keen sheepdogs will work until they drop if you let them (of course this is not recommended) so there must be some reason for the dog not wanting to work.
      It would be easier for me to answer you if I knew more, but in the meantime, I recommend you watch the “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough” tutorial.

  11. Melinda Stevenson avatar
    Melinda Stevenson

    We are working a “sticky” border collie here at the farm. He can be very difficult to get him up but once we do and ask for flanking commands he will over flank 3-4 strides before stopping. His overflanking makes it hard to keep the sheep moving in the direction we want them to go, and then he becomes sticky and freezes! He is very talented, nice outruns and driving nicely when not overflanking!

    1. This is a problem if you’re trying to work a dog while you train it, Melinda. If possible, you should fix the stickiness problem first, and then move on to the stop. If the dog won’t move on easily, you should try not to stop it at all. Keeping it moving will build its confidence – and then once the dog is working very smoothly, you can begin to stop it momentarily before calling it up again. Very gradually increase the duration of the stop, but if the dog starts to get sticky again, go back to keeping it moving.
      It takes some time, you won’t get a quick result, but it works if you do it properly.

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