Stopping the dog (1 of 3)

How to train your herding sheepdog to stop on command, without damaging the dog’s confidence.

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



Teaching a sheepdog to stop on command

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Video Highlights

Teach your herding dog to lie down

Getting control of the dog.
We must protect the sheep.
Keeping the action close results in far better control.
In an open field, the trainer can’t keep close to the action.
Should a ‘lie down‘ command mean the dog must lie on the ground?
Should a stop command mean the dog must ‘stand still’?
Keep the number of commands to a minimum in early training to avoid confusing the dog.
A slow moving object is easier to stop than a faster one.
Limit the number of sheep you train with.
A dog which won’t stop is at best, difficult, at worst, a menace!
Get a good bond between yourself and your dog.
The sensitivity of the dog.
Sticky dogs (often called ‘too much eye’).
From strong-willed, to sensitive dogs.
Distractions (canine avoidance techniques).
A delicate balance.
Things to teach the dog before training on sheep.
Training your dog begins the moment it first sees you.
Crouch down when calling the dog to you.
An excited young dog will ignore commands.
Pre-training can have unexpected results.
Feel free to invent your own commands.
More about bonding with your dog.

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How to get your sheepdog to stop!

These three extensively revised ‘stopping the dog’ videos deal with the common problem of how to get your dog to stop, and at the same time, avoid damaging the dog’s confidence. They go into more detail than the earlier versions, explaining why the keen herding dog doesn’t want to stop, and what you can do to make it more likely that the dog will heed your ‘Lie down’ or ‘Stand’ commands. (Both mean the same thing in sheepdog training terms).

PART 1 is packed with useful information as you will see if you look at the highlights list above. It reminds sheepdog trainers of the need to quickly get control of their dog to protect the sheep. The video recommends the use of a training ring, which will keep the sheep and the dog close enough to afford the trainer a lot more control than they would have in the open field. When the action is close, the dog will take a lot more notice of the trainer than it will at a greater distance.

Stopping the dog 2 | (top ⇧)


18 responses to “Stopping the dog (1 of 3)”

  1. Brian Thomas avatar
    Brian Thomas

    My family is started to think I’m crazy, because I watch these videos all the time. Every day I’m watching the videos and trying to take a mental note of the subtleties I’ve missed from previous viewings. My Belgian Malinois (beans) is progressing very nicely. It’s been a whole lot of fun, and I cannot wait until she can help me work the stock. Thank you very much for all the effort you have put into the content – the great video, editing, and thought out instruction. Based on the progress I’ve made in 7 training sessions, I feel very confident that she will be a great working dog here on our goat ranch in Texas. She is already circling nicely in both directions, taking to the flanking commands, slowing down, and sometimes she stops. The next sessions will be taking the goats out of the training ring into the open field for the first time. I’m super excited about this. Can’t wait to start walking backwards :)!

    1. Thanks for the informative feedback Brian, it’s important to know whether we’re putting the message over in a way that works, and in your case we certainly seem to be! It’s great to know you’re making progress with your dog. Be sure to watch “Moving Out” before you take the dog and goats out into the open field!

  2. Nicola Dennis avatar
    Nicola Dennis

    These videos are fantastic, but for some reason they are playing very poorly for me. Lots of stopping and buffering even though our internet connection is fine with other streaming sites.

    1. Thanks for your comment Nicola – and for subscribing to our training tutorials. It’s great to know you like them, but I’m sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing difficulty with viewing them. We have no other reports of issues at the moment, and the videos are certainly playing properly here, so it suggests that either your browser cache needs to be cleared (read about that here) or I wonder whether you may have changed the HD setting on the player?
      For the browser cache, follow the instructions on the link above, and for the HD setting, look for the HD icon at the bottom-right of the player when you are playing a video. It should normally be set on Auto, but some people change it so that it’s permanently on a high setting. I suggest you put it on Auto, or change it to a low setting.
      If neither of these suggestions work for you, please do an internet speed test (just type “speed test” into your address bar) and let me know the actual download speed. If you have the HD setting on Auto your internet speed shouldn’t be a problem unless it’s extremely low, as it automatically adjusts according to the signal strength. It can sometimes help if you watch on a different device…
      I hope this has been of some help, and that you can continue watching the tutorials as they should be!

  3. Mariko Suzue Pan avatar
    Mariko Suzue Pan

    Hello Andy and Gill thank you so much for the advice from my previous comment regarding distance! I’ve noticed that as our training has progressed, both my pup and I have gotten much better at reading the sheep. She’s able to better “calibrate” her working distance given how flighty or heavy the sheep are. I don’t fret too much about her maintaining a particular distance as long as the sheep are moving calmly and steadily, and will only really get firm if she is far too close and stressing the sheep out. There are so many different camps regarding the stop that I’ve run into as I’ve dipped my toes into the sheepdog world. I’ve tried a few different methods with my dog to see what works best, but I’ve decided and observed that the simplest and best method for us is keeping the number of words to a minimum, with my voice intonation determining if I want her to slow down or full on stop. With the walking backwards exercise, we can go straight with the sheep nicely between me and her, and I say “lie down” constantly in a very slow and gentle voice, and we are able to keep things moving calmly and steadily. Will there come a day when I can stop the constant “lie down” and she’ll learn to keep things steady on her own during the walking backwards exercise? Thanks as always!

    1. It sounds as though you’re doing really well!
      Keep nagging at the dog – and MAKE her stay back. If necessary, walk through the sheep to block her, and eventually she’ll get the idea. It won’t happen overnight though. Probably the best dog I ever had (work-wise) was Mel. She was incredible, but it wasn’t until she was FOUR years old that I could get her to actually stop and stand still with all four feet on the ground, for more than a second or two. She was too pushy for sheepdog trials, but an unbelievably good farm dog.
      Have you watched “How can I slow the dog down?” That should help you, too.

  4. Menno Wichers avatar
    Menno Wichers

    My 8 months old Border Collie listens well to commands, close by or far off, while off leash. On a walk off leash he’s often to focused on me and my commands. However, once on the leach he becomes a different dog. He will still stop, sit etc. when I ask, but when moving it is full speed to the end of the lease over and over again. If I tell to stay close, he will come back to my side but straight after go full speed ahead. The more pressure I put on him to stay close, the more he will focus on the surrounding or starts sniffing and peeing. This seems very deliberate to avoid contact and to escape to pressure of having to listen.
    I have tried many ways to fix this but without success. In the tutorial “Stopping the dog (Part 1)” you mention that this is related to the dog not being properly bonded with the owner and the dog not accepting leadership of its owner. Reading the above do you feel that that is the case, meaning that off leash he listens only because it gives him so much satisfaction?
    Your advice would be appreciated!
    Thanks, Menno

    1. Interesting! The dog chooses to obey you when he has a choice, but protests when he’s more closely controlled.
      It sounds as though you have him on an extended lead. Whether that’s the case or not, I would put him on a short lead and MAKE him stay close to you.
      Only when he’s prepared to walk properly (with the lead slack most of the time) on the short lead, would I promote him to a longer lead – and if he misbehaves when he’s on that, he goes straight back on the short lead.
      Yes! The dog has apparently found a way of controlling you. You need to get him walking properly on a lead – and control HIM. It won’t take long to do, and then you’ll have his proper respect.

  5. Nigel Sly avatar
    Nigel Sly

    Hi Andy,
    Making good progress on the stop (working in the pen), and more frequently she is taking a stop without the need to put pressure on her. Working on stops while she flanks the sheep, which is improving.
    One thing I am trying to do is to get her to maintain the stop while I walk back a few paces bringing the sheep with me. I’m trying to walk back far enough so that the sheep will stop, and then ask her to walk up and get the sheep moving again.
    However, just about as soon as I take a step back, she starts to follow.
    Should I insist on another stop, or should I just very slowly try and increase the duration in which she stays stopped.
    After a training session yesterday, I managed about 4 steps back while she remained stopped.
    I think her issue is that not being overly confident at the moment, she is afraid the sheep are going to get away from her.

    Great video’s by the way, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person who gets tripped up by sheep during training.


    1. It’s good to hear that you’re making progress, Nigel. I suggest you watch “Backwards is the way forward” for help with keeping the dog in place as you walk back. (Watch it again, if you’ve already seen it once). “Tess in the open field“, will also help.
      It can be tiresome, getting the dog to stay in place, but it’s well worth the effort – and yes, it’s a confidence thing. You wait until you try to get the sheep through a gateway (that can be fun)!

      1. Nigel Sly avatar
        Nigel Sly

        Hi Andy,
        Thanks, was just watching the backwards video yesterday.
        Managed two circuits around the inside of the pen and she managed to stay behind the sheep for the complete second lap.
        We’ve experineced going through the gates, absolute carnage the first time, but she is getting better, will try and flank and head the sheep, but I can just about stop her before she completely heads them.


  6. Hi Andy,
    I’m looking for ideas on how to get my dog to control her enthusiasm to work sheep, which at the moment is causing a lot of problems with the training.
    She is 2 years old, been training for about a year. At the start, not very interested, but now super keen.
    She started inside the training ring, but now moved out into a small field, works better in the open. She flanks nicely (except for the odd slice after a turn), but stopping is awful, going through the full range of ask, tell, insist. If I try and block her, she will dodge past me given a chance.
    When I do manage a stop, I flank her immediately so she does not associate stop with losing the sheep.
    In addition to this, other behaviour which needs sorting is her pulling like a train on the lead as soon as we walk into the training ring. I have to constantly be saying that’ll do, lie down, here to me to get any sort of hesitation in her pace. We walk back towards the gate, back towards the sheep, but very little effect on her.
    And finally, calling her off the sheep. She seems to sense when training is ending and just starts to do big wide flanks. She will change direction when asked, but keeps well out of my reach. Wont stop or even slow.
    She is much better with a large flock, but she has to be able to work with a small group.
    She has great potential, but unless I get that stop, training sessions just end up in carnage.
    She can do a good short outrun, goes a good distance behind the sheep, but turns in on the balance point and walks up (more like runs up) way to fast, setting the sheep going fast, her going faster.
    Any ideas on how to curb this enthusiasm would be very much appreciated

    PS, next to sheep, her favourite thing is a small ball. I can throw that ball, send her after it and call for a lie down, and she will plough up two farrows with her paws as she comes to a stop, so it’s not like she does not know what the command means.

    1. Your dog sounds perfectly normal for an untrained sheepdog, Nigel but you’re trying to move on much too fast. I strongly recommend you watch ALL of the tutorials in the “Where to Start” category so that you have a much better understanding of what’s normal, what’s not normal, and what to expect from your dog.
      Get her back in the training ring, MAKE her stop, and MAKE her listen to you.
      She’s certainly not ready to work a flock, and being the clever monkey she is, will use the greater distance it puts between you to her advantage.
      Back to basics is the way to go, but watch ALL of those Where to Start tutorials first.

  7. Regine Crutain avatar
    Regine Crutain

    Good Evening Andy , Jim and Sandy , I found your conversations really interesting !!! Andy convinced me that sharing our experiences is the way forward and he is right!!! After trying to learn this job for over a year now I am realising that it is so full of contradictions different situations , frustration on the part of the handler and the dog !!! In my short experience I have been under the impression that the dog knows what it’s doing and then in a different situation everything goes completely wrong !!!! At the moment our 2 year old girl is having to deal with mud , rain , goats that have given birth other ones that are heavy pregnant . She has tried to stop working a couple of times , understandably none of us like hard dirty work!!!! But I have by coming back to Andy and Gill,s vidéos and understanding them better it works!!!! Even with the up’s and down’s having a Bordercollie on our Farm was the best thing we ever did and with the experience that we are gathering. They will always be part of our Farm …. Eddie France

    1. jim and sandy lockwood avatar
      jim and sandy lockwood

      Hi Eddie,
      Thanks for your note! Our 9 Month old who is the dive and snack and flank at incredible speeds without thinking – today gave me a wonderful surprise- After asking her to lie down- which she did- I called her off with a “That’ll do” and for the first time- she actually came! I need to keep an eye on the sheep and her as the combo can change instantaneously. The video Andy showed of the strong dog in slow motion was great- when her played it real time- that is exactly what I have here. I was very encouraged after seeing his video in real time. This is such a learning experience and so much fun! I hope you are enjoying your experiences as much as we are! Have fun! sandy

  8. Jim & sandy lockwood avatar
    Jim & sandy lockwood

    Greetings Andy
    Thank you for your comments- they are helpful. Our purpose is to learn so we appreciate the constructive criticism and advice. Both dogs are Border Collies from good herding lines (unrelated but both dogs’ dam/sire are proven trial dogs and good farm workers – reason we selected their breedings)
    The lambs are about 10 months old but are small in size. They are smart enough to stand behind me and not break out and run from the dog. We have watched your videos but obviously need to watch a few more times! We will go “back to the drawing board” and watch these again. In fact, I don’t think we ever watched the training pen videos – some how we must have missed them! The game plan you laid out will be helpful. Thank you for your advice- we wish you many more happy successful days! Keep the great instruction videos coming! Enjoy your day! sandy

  9. Jim & sandy lockwood avatar
    Jim & sandy lockwood

    We are really enjoying your videos. We have a 8 Month old who is VERY excited. We have begun to work her in a 60′ by 80′ area with 4 or 5 small lambs. She is flanking but tries to run in for a snack occasionally. Right now we are waiting for her to get tired before giving a lie down command- I think that is working but we are open to suggestions if there is another way. I don’t get in front of the sheep yet so i don’t know how her balancing might be. She is very young so we are not putting pressure on her. I also have another dog who will be 2 in a couple months, She was doing very well- very thoughtful but suddenly will not walk up on sheep. She has not been injured by them or scared as far as I know. I do not pressure her a lot either. She was fine , would walk up to their heads very carefully but now will flank versus walk up- She was really a great dog for her age but I am confused and not sure how to bring back my brave little dog. I went back to balancing hoping that would give her confidence as the sheep follow and do not turn on her. I also have her on a lead and walk up with her to sheep that are confined and wait for her to relax but that does not seem to be helping either. What can I do? I don’t want to ruin her or mess her up. (Hopefully it is not too late!) Thanks! We are all ears and eager to learn as much as possible. Thank you- for the tutorials- they are very helpful. It is nice to see when things are not perfect- gives us hope! have a wonderful day! sandy

    1. It’s great to know you find the tutorials useful, but there are a number of points in your message which concern me. Please understand that my replies are intended to help you.

      [We have an 8 Month old who is VERY excited.]
      That sounds perfectly natural for a young sheepdog. Is she a Border Collie, or something else? When you say she’s excited, I presume you mean around sheep?. Watch “How Can I Slow My Dog Down?” to find out how to minimise the dog’s excitement when she’s working.

      [We have begun to work her in a 60′ by 80′ area with 4 or 5 small lambs]
      That area is more than twice the size we recommend for starting a dog off. Watch “The Training Ring (1 & 2) and “The Training Area” to find out what you should be doing to help get control of your dog.

      How small are the lambs? Very young lambs are hopeless for training. I would suggest they should be at least six or seven months old.

      [She is flanking but tries to run in for a snack occasionally. Right now we are waiting for her to get tired before giving a lie down command]
      You must discourage her from gripping the sheep.
      If she’s flanking around the sheep (in the right sized training area) you should be able to keep her out wide and discourage her from coming in. When she’s out wider, it’s easier to stop her. The longer you allow her to do her own thing, the more it will become a habit, and much harder to change later.

      [I don’t get in front of the sheep yet so i don’t know how her balancing might be.]
      You must try to stop the dog on the point of balance – on the opposite side of the sheep from you.

      [She is very young so we are not putting pressure on her.]
      How much pressure you put on a dog should depend on how it behaves with the sheep, not its age. You must protect the sheep.

      It seems to me you’re doing very little other than just letting the dog have some fun! You need to be far more proactive to show this dog what’s acceptable and what’s not. If you don’t do it now, it will get harder and harder to change later.

      [I also have another dog who will be 2 in a couple months, She was doing very well- very thoughtful but suddenly will not walk up on sheep.]
      Something has happened to make this dog fear the sheep. She was probably attacked by one. You need to take all the pressure off her. When you describe her as “very thoughtful” I can’t help thinking she’s always been a bit timid with the stock..?

      [I also have her on a lead and walk up with her to sheep that are confined and wait for her to relax]
      This won’t help. Watch “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough” to find out how to help your dog regain her confidence.

      It sounds as though you have a couple of potentially very useful sheepdogs which just need their training programme modified a little and they’ll be great! I strongly recommend you watch all of the tutorials in the “Where to Start” category. They will help you to understand what’s going on.

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