Moving Out – Into the Open Field

Bring sheep out of a pen without drama!


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Getting your trainee sheepdog to bring the sheep out of the training ring without crisis can be a tricky affair. The sheep will usually grasp the slightest opportunity to bolt and this can result in an ugly chase. In this tutorial you’ll learn a simple routine which will greatly increase the chances of a smooth transition with the dog maintaining control of the sheep from inside the training ring to the open field.

8 responses to “Moving Out – Into the Open Field”

  1. Valerie Leith avatar

    Hello Andy. Thank you for all the tutorials which are really very helpful. My dog (Cait) is 10 months old and has just started training – I am an absolute beginner at sheepdog training so we are both learning as we go along. Initially Cait flanked very close to the sheep, and preferred to flank ‘come by’. On the ‘away’ she had a tendency to dive in and try to nip. We’ve worked on this and now she is flanking much better both ways (and a little wider too although still a bit too close). I’m now trying little outruns (her stop and stay isn’t too bad) – if the sheep are too far away though she does dive in and split them, but seems to be trying to bring them back now, rather than chasing them around the training ring. Following your tutorials I would now like to try to get her walking the sheep up to me, but the sheep (scotch mules) don’t follow me, but stand facing the dog, who lies down and stares at them. Even pushing the sheep behind me they are still facing the dog. Any suggestions as to how to encourage the sheep to follow me, and or encourage Cait to get up and move forwards towards the sheep. Many thanks.

    1. Andy avatar

      It’s great to know the tutorials are helping you Valerie, and I understand your frustration when the dog can’t bring the sheep up to you.
      Sheep learn to “get the measure” of a dog if they possibly can, and yours seem to have discovered Cait’s lack of confidence.
      Fortunately, there are several ways around the problem. First of all, I recommend you watch “Sticky Dogs” and “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough“. Ideally, watch both several times to make sure you fully understand what’s going on, and how to fix it.
      As well as that, try sending the dog to bring the sheep to you, and then YOU run in the opposite direction (away from the sheep) a little way. At the same time, encourage Cait to bring them to you quite fast.
      I suspect you may have been trying a little too hard to perfect Cait’s behaviour around sheep and now she feels she’s not allowed to be assertive with them.
      If you can’t get her to get up an “assert herself” when she’s bringing them towards you, start teaching her to drive. That way, you’ll be walking along with her at the beginning, and having you there will boost her confidence.
      If you can get her to lunge at them, put a command on it. Once she’ learns that she’s allowed to get tough with the sheep when required, they’ll quickly learn to respect her.

      1. Valerie Leith avatar

        Andy, many thanks for your very helpful reply. I have been encouraging her to be a bit more forceful with some success, but today the sheep were being quite aggressive (head butting her) which resulted in her hiding under the gator. I took another dog in to work the sheep for a while and she joined in, so that we ended on a good note. I think I need to get lighter sheep (maybe fattening lambs) and work with them so her confidence builds. I’ll keep watching all the videos as they really are helping with my confidence! Thanks again.

  2. Regine Crutain avatar

    Hello Andy, just to let you know that by following your advice and by watching your tutorials, for example dogged animals in our case goats and being able to call the dog away makes life so much easier,!!!!!! I have been doing an enormous amount of walking backwards and gentle commands and we are really making a huge amount of progres! !! Our little dog Nilka and ourselves are so pleased to be able to take advantage of your experience and personally I don’t understand why people need to ask you questions when you guys have made such an efforts to cover and then explain all the up’s and down’s of this job!!! Thanks again and regards fom France ,Regine

    1. Andy avatar

      Great to know that the tutorials are working well for you Regine.
      Thank you for the valuable feedback.

  3. Rosemary Codd avatar

    Hi Andy
    I am struggling with this aspect of training. In the pen, I can get my dog to run around the outside of the sheep, but as soon as I let them out, the sheep make a run for the edge of the field with the dog in hot pursuit. I have ended the session each time he’s done this because I can’t get close enough to the sheep to send the dog off in a more controlled manner and I don’t want to instill bad habits into the dog. Originally I tried with 7 sheep and have reduced this to 4 which has helped a bit as it is slightly easier to stop the sheep dashing past quite so fast in the first place and there are less to split but it’s still far from elegant. Any ideas?

    Thank you for your help
    Rosemary Codd

    1. Andy avatar

      It sounds as though the dog’s not ready to work the sheep outside the pen. Apart from simply going round them, the dog should want to bring them to you. Then when you let the sheep out (and they run away) the dog will bring them back.
      Are you giving the dog plenty of short outruns in the pen? If possible, increase the size of the pen, and make it into an oval shape so that you can give the dog short outruns, and (most important) practice walking backwards – until the dog is working more calmly and bringing the sheep to you naturally.
      Clearly, the field that the pen is in, is too large for the dog’s skill level, so you need to increase the skill level.
      Is it possible to make the field smaller with fencing, or move to a smaller paddock, so the sheep can’t run so far?
      Practice getting the sheep away from the fence INSIDE the pen, so that if the sheep run off, you can get them under control with the dog. Remember, you need to be close to the dog for this to work at first.

      1. Rosemary Codd avatar

        Thank you. This makes sense and I will try these suggestions.

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