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.

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

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‘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 | (top ⇧)


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

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