The Sheepdog Handler

Don’t just train your dog! Make yourself, a better trainer!


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Picture of a sheepdog handler, with the title of our sheepdog training video The Sheepdog Handler

It’s all very well learning about the dog, the sheep, and the training area, but it’s just as important to think about some of the qualities required in a sheepdog handler (or trainer) and how to make improvements.

This tutorial is based on chapter five from the ‘First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training‘ DVD set.

Topics covered in this video tutorial include the importance of moving around to encourage the dog to go in the direction you want it to, and a brief look at some of the traditional commands in common use, and a more in-depth look, at some of the tools we can use to make training much easier.

8 responses to “The Sheepdog Handler”

  1. David Acuna avatar

    Hi Andy,

    Is it ok if there are two handlers for the same dog during his training or it is much better if there is only one during all the sessions? What about working after the training? If there will be two different persons working with the sheep and the dog daily, should both of them participate in the training or it doesn’t make any difference?.

    Many thanks,

    1. Andy avatar

      As a general rule (and if it’s practical) you should get the dog used to doing whatever you will want it to do, right from the start.
      Yes, it’s a good idea to get the dog used to two handlers as soon as you can, but in the early stages, I think just one person should give training in each session. Once the dog is perfectly OK about working for either or both handlers individually, then you can both command the dog during a work situation – if it’s practical.
      Probably my best ever dog, Mel, refused to work for poor Gill if she knew I was on the premises – but if I drove off in the car, she was fine with her!
      On the other hand, Eli would work for anyone, and when we sold him, the delighted farmer called us to say that he worked just as well for the whole family, including the children!
      If just one person trains a dog, it takes a little while to get the dog used to working for someone else, but it’s only temporary.

      1. David Acuna avatar

        Great! Thanks Andy!

  2. Merin Ap Martin avatar

    Hi Andy,With the round pen.How do you get the sheep in there.Because they were going in there for about a week but realised they were going to be herded soo ran away.

    1. Andy avatar

      Ha-ha! Yes, they learn pretty quickly, don’t they!
      As it happens, we’re working on a tutorial to cover that just at the moment, but it’ll be a few days before it’s ready to upload.
      In the meantime, watch “The Training Area” to see how we get the sheep into the ring without a trained dog.

  3. Tóki Berg Mikkelsen avatar

    Hi Andy.
    Thank you for all your great tutorials. my dog is 2 years old and is coming along well. has nice working distance. the problem is that, when the dog gets too close to the sheep, it speeds in to them and spreads them apart. i have worked on this problem for a long time now. the problem has gotten smaller but its still very mutch there. when the dog speeds in to the sheep it blocks its ears. otherwise the dog is a great listener.

    i have given it time to build confidence, by walking backwards and forwards, and everything is great. also driving. but if i don’t ask the dog to lie down when it gets too close for its comfort, it speeds up ad spreads the sheep (this happens when further away than 20meters).
    although the dog has good pace, and walks as slowly or quickly as the sheep, but only when the dog is very close to me.

    Thank You.

    1. Andy avatar

      First, I must apologise for not replying sooner. Somehow your question was overlooked.
      It sounds as though you are trying to work the dog too far away from you, too soon. Sheepdogs are “pack” animals, so your dog feels much more confident when you (a fellow pack member) are close. When you are training a dog, the further it works away from you, the less control you have over it, because the dog is less confident when it has no backup from other pack members.
      First, you need to learn the distance at which your dog can be relied upon (this may vary for different tasks) and then very gradually increase that working distance.
      There’s no quick way to do it, other than with lots of easy work, plus guidance and encouragement from you.

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