Sometimes Nice is Not Enough

sheepdog training video about improving the dogs confidence with stubborn stock

Does your dog lack the power to shift stubborn sheep or cattle?

It's all very well training your dog to keep back from the sheep and not upset them, but what can you do if the sheep refuse to go where the dog's trying to put them?

For the welfare of the sheep, they simply must be handled, treated for any ailments and managed, so we need to teach the dog to get tough when the time arises.

Find out how Carew's confidence grew immensely once she learned to be more assertive. As well as difficult sheep, Carew can now handle stubborn cattle with relative ease.

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29 Replies to “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough”

  1. As an amendment to what I wrote yesterday, the times when my dog has grabbed sheep is when she has been pushing them into a pen and one has broken away and jumped over her. She is so desperate not to let it go that she grabs it. I was thinking that she would be better if she learned to stand rather than lie down in front of them but this hasn’t been easy to teach her. Today we were taking sheep back to the field after clipping. The sheep that sometimes has a go at her faced her and she nipped it on the nose. This was enough to turn it away so that was just what she needed to do. I don’t think she recognised it clipped. I was there as backup but nice not to be needed.

    1. The behaviour you describe is perfectly normal Jane. Your dog is learning all the time, and will be a first-rate sheepdog I’m sure.
      I used to think it was better if the dog stayed on its feet, but these days, I don’t think it makes much difference, confidence-wise. A dog which is lying down is rather like a coiled spring (ready to jump into action) whereas a dog standing upright, has to bend its joints and tense its muscles before it can spring. Look at the way sprinters start a race (crouched down) compared to marathon runners who set off more slowly from a standing position. These days I prefer to let the dog decide whether to lie down or stay on its feet.
      It’s difficult to get the balance just right between discouraging gripping but at the same time, encouraging the dog to have more confidence. You seem to be on the right track, but if your corrections are causing the dog to lose confidence, they’re too strong (back-off a little).
      I hope you praised the dog when she nipped the sheep’s nose! It’s so important to praise the dog when it gets something right.

  2. Hello, I have encouraged my dog to stand up for herself but a couple of times she has grabbed sheep and hung on. Also she has grabbed lambs which have walked towards her. I have told her off for doing this and we are now back her having not much push and turning away from sheep that stand up to her. I am not sure how to get the balance right as I don’t want her hurting my sheep. She is 2 years old. Should she still gain confidence at this age?

  3. Hello Andy, I have been training our 15 month old collie since she was about 7 months old. She does training on the hoggs and helps with the farm jobs too (we only have a small 9 acre farm so there’s not that much work). She seems to struggle to move sheep that don’t want to move eg moving sheep out of fields into the yard. One of our new ewe hoggs faced up to her and she backed off. I don’t know if this is because I have discouraged her from being too hard on the sheep, or if I have been making her do too much too soon. Can a dog like this learn to stand her ground?

    1. Too much discouragement won’t help of course, but you have to protect the sheep! The dog’s confidence can certainly be built up though Jane – with a little help from you!
      Watch the tutorial carefully and make sure you’re close to the dog when she needs encouragement. Give her lots of enthusiastic support and if necessary, encourage her to nip (on command). It will boost her confidence to know that if necessary she’s allowed defend herself.
      It helps to actually move a stubborn sheep yourself at first.

      1. Thanks a lot! Even though I have watched the tutorial I still felt the need for a bit of encouragement (a bit like my dog does..). I’ll just have to be careful with her and support her all I can. I feel like if she just did one nip it might be all she needs to do to gain confidence and for the sheep to see she means business.
        Best wishes,

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