Give the sheep some space

Teach your sheepdog to keep away from the sheep when it’s working.


Photo of a pond In autumn

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Why your dog must give the sheep space

Most points lost in sheepdog trials, are caused by dog’s being too close to the sheep.
Comparing the working distances of dogs.
Teaching a trainee sheepdog to give the sheep more space.
Walking backwards with the dog bringing the sheep along nicely.
Correcting the dog when it goes the wrong way.
‘Whooshing’ the stick, to make the dog go out wider.
Work on the side that the dog is tightest on, to balance it up.
More walking backwards to relieve the stress. Rita enjoys this.
In the next lesson, two days later the dog’s flanks have improved.
Gently use the stick and follow the dog round to keep it back off the sheep.
Standing between the dog and the sheep, increases the chance of guiding the dog round them.
Use a quiet voice to encourage the dog, and a wave of the stick to keep him out.
Blocking the dog with the stick, to stop him, then ‘whooshing’ it to widen him out.
Following the dog round and gently waving the stick to ‘push’ him out.
The same dog in the open field a few days later.
Walking back with the sheep, and keeping the dog in place.
Walking through the sheep to send the dog on a short outrun.
If the dog’s hard to stop, repeatedly flank it a little way and then stop it.

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The dog must not crowd the stock

If your dog’s going to work sheep or cattle properly, it must learn to give them plenty of room and not crowd them. Of course there are times when the dog needs to be close and assertive with the stock, but as a general rule, the less the dog pressurises sheep or other livestock the better. Teach your sheepdog to keep away from the sheep.

If the dog keeps well back off the stock, they’ll be much calmer, and subsequently far easier to manage than excited or frightened sheep or cattle will be.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn ways of encouraging your dog to go out wider, and stay out there! Your dog must not crowd the stock.

Starting A Non-Starter 1 | (top ⇧)


25 responses to “Give the sheep some space”

  1. Mariko Suzue Pan avatar
    Mariko Suzue Pan

    Hello Andy, thank you so much for your videos! I am really enjoying them. I found this video really helpful and my pup is starting to keep her distance well with her flanks and in doing so, has been gripping a LOT less. We still have work to do but it’s getting better! The one thing I can’t seem to do is to encourage her to keep her distance when I’m walking backwards straight. With her flanks she keeps her distance, but she comes in way too tight when I go straight, and that’s where it all seems to go all out the window. Her stop is getting better and better and I tell her to lie down when she comes in too close, but the second I tell her to walk on, she comes in too close. It’s akin to a car constantly accelerating and braking rather than just a slow, smooth ride. How can I fix this? Thanks!

    1. It’s great to know you’re finding the videos helpful! Thanks for the valuable feedback!
      Don’t worry, it’ll come! Your description of the car lurching forward is exactly what it’s like! It’s perfectly natural for the keen young pup to keep coming in, but you must insist on her staying back.
      I hope you’ve watched “Backwards is the way forward” – if you have, watch it again – and again! It will help you a lot. Watch how I come through the sheep to MAKE Tess stay back.
      Backwards is the way forward is the single most important video for anyone who’s dog is flanking and stopping reasonably well. Keep at it – do it PROPERLY, and your dog will be transformed!

  2. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Hello Andy. do you use a command to to tell the dog to move away from the sheep?

    1. If you need to, but usually the dog will learn to flank properly if you push it out, as you’ll see in the video above (and many others).

  3. Nancy Barrows avatar
    Nancy Barrows

    Hi Andy
    I’ve been enjoying the videos and have found them helpful. My young dog was very tight but she’s gotten much better lately. The problem I having is at the top of the out run. She’s willing to give room on the sides but tends to cut in at the top which upsets the sheep. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks, Nancy

    1. Great to know that you’re finding the tutorials useful – and that your dog is going wider now. Thanks for the feedback Nancy.
      If your dog’s tight at the top of her outrun, position yourself between the sheep and the dog before sending her off to them. Then, as she comes past you, move across towards her and ‘push’ her out. You need to get a feel for how aggressive/assertive to be though. Usually just the fact that you’re moving out towards the dog and telling it to “get out” will be enough to push the dog out wider, but of course you need to time it so that it has most effect when the dog is actually past you. At the very least, this will give you a “get out” command to tell the dog to go wider.
      You can see graphics showing this more clearly in the Outrun tutorials but basically, if you stand closer to the dog and farther away from the sheep, you can widen the dog on it’s journey to the sheep, and if you stand closer to the sheep – but farther from the dog, you can widen the part of the outrun when the dog goes around the sheep.
      If you don’t already have a “get out” command, it’s well worth developing one because you can use it whenever the dog begins to come in tighter.

      1. Nancy Barrows avatar
        Nancy Barrows

        Hi Andy
        I tried your suggestion yesterday during practice. Yes it does help if I position myself closer to the sheep and just Get Out. Thank you for your help with that. The other issue I’m having is with her speed. She is very very fast. I’m pretty sure the sheep would like for her to approach at less than warp speed. Any suggestions?

        Cheers, Nancy

        1. Good to hear that worked, Nancy.
          Now I want you to position yourself on This Page (the A-Z list of tutorials) and look for “How Can I Slow the Dog Down“! :)

          1. Nancy Barrows avatar
            Nancy Barrows

            I tried the walking backwards today at practice. It made an amazing difference! I used a fence line to help control the rather flighty sheep we were using and by the end of the session she was really giving the sheep tons of room. Thank you so much

          2. That’s great news, Nancy. It sounds as though you’ve got a really useful dog there!

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