Bronwen and Scylla (Part 7) – Going too Wide

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In part seven, of our Bronwen and Scylla comparison, we focus entirely on Bronwen. Although she's far more advanced and reliable than her sister, Scylla, she's developed the all-too common problem of running much too wide when she goes round the stock.

When a dog works too far back from sheep or cattle the stock quickly learn that the dog's not in a position to control them, and they're likely to run away.

The video shows that being firm, but patient, with the errant dog, and using practical work to show the dog that it needs to be in control, will help to stop the dog casting out too wide.

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11 Replies to “Bronwen and Scylla (Part 7) – Going too Wide”

  1. Andy, I’ve watched Bronwen 7 and read the Q&A’s above. These describe a problem similar to mine but with a variation. Zac is just 2 year old, loads of instinct and a massive bundle of attitude, he can be fantastic and totally exasperating in equal measures. He certainly does the very wide bit described above but usually I can get him back and move the sheep in the right direction. As we move them forward towards the pen he will often take it into his head to race forward, cut them off and send them back to me. Does this fit your comment above about not wanting the session to end? Another linked problem is that often we will pen the sheep but before I have chance to check him he races straight in and turns the sheep out again. We always manage to pen them on the second attemmpt and this time he stays outside the pen. Is this related to above, ie a desire to keep up the game? Any suggestions of either other videos to watch or techniques to try would be gratefully appreciated.

    1. That seems to fit perfectly, Sam. Quite often a dog will work fine in the open field, and it knows how to put the sheep into a paddock or pen, but then when it senses the session might be in danger of ending, it tries to keep the sheep out in the working area. You have a good opportunity here though.
      Just as when you are teaching a dog to stop, it’s important to send the dog off to continue its work. In your case, you need to do lots of penning practice. First, to make sure you stop the dog from going in and hooking them out again, and secondly, to show the dog that once the sheep are penned, it doesn’t necessarily mean the session will end.
      There’s a good chance that hooking them out of a pen might be because the dog thinks they’ve escaped (as with going through a gateway) but it makes no difference, you still need to give the dog plenty of practice. Zac sounds like a great dog in the making!
      Try to end the sessions in a different way each time – sometimes penning, sometimes leaving them out in the field, and sometimes in a different field or paddock.

      1. Andy, thanks for your prompt, helpful and encouraging reply. I know Zac could be better than I can make him, but within my limitations I am pesevering. Unfortunately he has been plunged into work too early because of the loss of my older dog, so I have to be careful not to expect more than he can reasonably give. The nature of our land doesn’t help, few nice level pastures where every part of the field can be seen, lots of undulating rough ground with copses etc where both dog and sheep can disappear. Yesterday Zac had done a good job of bringing the hoggs in, then we went back for three tups grazing some rough, scrub covered slopes. He began quietly and steadilly pushing them up a steep bank, but as soon as the tups entered the hawthorne scrub on top he was away like a rocket, they split assunder and it took 20 mins to get them back together and eventually move them to the catching pen (succesfully). At times like that I wish I was a calm and measured man! We will get there, but it would be better for him if could restrict his training to easy spaces, unfortunately that is just not possible. We will continue, I love him to bits and with your continued help we may get there.

  2. It is very interesting this tutorial and it seems that my dog which is a strong willing dog (stopping not very easy) starts also to go too wide very recently. Has he seen the video !!?? I do such as you have suggested it in your video and I (try) to stay calm but saying “hey, hey” seems to be enough to remember he has sheep to control. It happens when he is doing a big outrun and instead of stopping on the point of balance, he pursues his “mission” as you say it in your video or when he has to drive sheep on a longer distance. But what is the reason why dog is doing that ?? why does he forget his sheep ? Have you an explanation for Bromwyn?
    Thank you in advance for your advice.
    Nicole Morsaint

    1. It’s impossible to say exactly why a particular dog is going too wide, unless I can see the dog working. Often it’s a lack of confidence – if the dog is tearing around the sheep or cattle very fast and at a distance, it’s not going to come to any harm. In other circumstances, the dog might be afraid of the handler. I know Bronwen is more likely to go too wide if I’ve been correcting her, but she will also do it if the sheep are going in a direction that SHE doesn’t want them to go in. For instance, quite often I will use Bronwen to pen the sheep before we take the dogs out for their run, so she’s learned that when the sheep are in the pen, it’s the end of her training session. Her reaction is to try to stop the sheep going in the pen! Carew used to do it, too.
      You need to watch the dog carefully, and call it back to work quietly if you can. Sometimes when it happens, I walk away down the field. This usually triggers the dog’s instinct to bring the sheep to me, and to do that, the dog must work properly again.
      So I can’t really tell you why your dog is going too wide without seeing it, but like most faults with a dog’s work, by watching for signs or typical circumstances when it’s likely to happen, and being ready for it, you can control it.

      1. Thank you Andy but my dog is absolutely not afraid of me because since the early days I had a perfect recall even when he works but I know (perhaps) why he is doing that. There is a little hill and you cannot always see the sheep and my dog started recently by his outrun to search everywhere if he has not forgotten one sheep and I have found it very pleasant in the beginning but now it seems to be a habit to keep on searching,therefore I am going to follow your advice by watching him when it is likely to happen and when I know all the sheep are there, I Will stop him so that he does not going on searching everywhere “like a mission” and ask him to bring the sheep back to me. I hope this is the solution to “break this new attitude. Thank you again and your tutorials are a great discovery for me and it is fantastic! Happy New Year! Nicole

        1. As I said in my first reply, Nicole, it’s impossible to say exactly why a particular dog is going too wide, unless I can see the dog working. A fuller description of what the dog is doing would be helpful too. In your question, you made no mention of the dog going looking for sheep.
          Anyway, now that you have identified the cause of the problem, you’ll know when to expect the dog to do it, and you’ll be ready to call it back. I suggest you also try sending the dog on its outrun and immediately walking down the field in the opposite direction. You may be surprised at the result.

          1. Thank you Andy for your good advice and I have waited to reply to be sure it works. My dog was recently going too wide and I did what you said:I immediately walked down thé field in thé opposite direction and “1-2-3” I see him looking after his sheep and he’s bringing them back to me asap. But I have perhaps also identified the real reason of his attitude of going too wide. It started immediately after à session of Shedding because I have a very difficult flock to shed and stay extremely close to each other, I suppose stress of dog had to be evacuated by running the whole field and at that precise moment I give thé impression I am going to leave the field and here my dog is coming! Indeed I have been very positively surprised and therefore I try not to insist too long on shedding which remains difficult.
            Thank you

          2. I don’t think the dog is running wide as a direct result of shedding, Nicole. More likely he’s doing it as a distraction to avoid any pressure which he finds excessive – in this case shedding. Shedding is a very stressful operation for a trainee dog so make it as easy as possible for the dog, even to the extent of parting the sheep yourself before you call the dog in. Make it very easy at first, to build the dog’s confidence, and then you can very gradually withdraw your assistance when the dog can cope.
            Be aware that if the dog finds running wide to be an effective way of avoiding pressure, or a particular task, it will run wide more and more, so you need to manage this carefully. Do whatever you need to to get the dog back to work with the sheep, and then try to find a way of asking the dog to do whatever it was that caused it to run wide, but make it extra easy this time, and shower praise on the dog when it succeeds. Hopefully, this will teach the dog that it’s better to persist with its work, rather than run off wide.

  3. Very interesting tutorial, I original thought it wouldn’t help me with my dog Oz, a similar age to Bromwyn and I was only thinking recently how well Bromwyn is doing and how could I improve Oz. It isn’t the flanking wide with Oz, but he loves to run, he has one speed and that is fast, when he first goes to the sheep, he loves getting them off the fence, as long as I can get him to go out, which undoubtedly means speed and then he will go round and round, this part is similar to this tutorial. The sheep and I walk around the field in a little bundle! I feel I should stop him sooner as this is becoming a habit and Oz will think it is the norm, but the effort involved is incredible and then he just sets off again, it is only when he is tired, he settles, again like Bromwyn. He does then get too close almost encouraging the sheep to move in front of me so he can circle again at speed. We have been working very hard on the stop, which has improved greatly, but I am still having to leave the sheep, both arms in the air and insist on stop, which I get, but then he is off. To get him to stop again quickly like you have done in another tutorial is almost impossible and I seem to be saying down all the time. When Bromwyn had the sheep up against the tree, again a similarity with Oz, I find it very hard to keep Oz off the sheep as he will go towards them, so they scatter in all directions, he seems to do this as he finds he then has the added challenge of stopping the sheep getting away and we have sheep flipping backwards and forwards, which can be quite terrifying as you try to stay on your feet and scream, although I try not to, as this must excite Oz all the more, to stop!

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Jill. I think you need to concentrate on two things with your dog. First, I would do lots of walking backwards as in the Backwards is the Way Forward tutorial. This will teach the dog to use self-control, and the distance you want it to work from the sheep. The other thing I would concentrate on is stopping the dog immediately after you send it round the sheep. This will improve the stop, but remember to vary the lesson too – don’t just constantly stop the dog immediately all the time, or it will anticipate it. Just stop it quickly a handful of times, and then flank it round the sheep non-stop for two or three circuits a few times, then go back to the quick stops again – and then maybe do some walking backwards, and so on.

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