Top tips for easier training

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Nobody would claim that training a dog to work sheep or other livestock is an easy matter.

But by understanding what is going on and why, and by paying attention to just a few basic details, we can make the process so much easier for both dog and handler.

In this video Andy shows how to correct the points which will be most beneficial when you train a herding dog.

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16 Replies to “Top tips for easier training”

  1. Just a word to say I am greatly enjoying the tutorials. I am using/ training English shepherds to work my sheep here in central Missouri USA. A gathering breed for sure! That is if the dogs are from working bloodlines…. which sadly are in danger of being lost. We call em a border collie with an off switch! Just had to give em a little brag! Stuart, Lexie and I are all benefitting from your excellently produced videos! Thank you!!

  2. Hi
    Just to say I’m thoroughly enjoying your videos and learning a great deal from them.
    About 2 1/2 years ago, when I started training my first Border Collie, Glenn, I bought four of your DVDs and found them very useful. I’m now starting to train a new 14 month old bitch (Cass) I bought recently so I decided to invest in a subscription to your website so that I would have access to all your training material. Cass is progressing well and is much “faster on the uptake” than Glenn was – or maybe it’s just that I’m a more effective trainer this time round!
    Glenn is now nearly 4 years old but still capable of learning new things – and indeed in need of further instruction. For example, I only recently managed to teach him to shed.
    One thing I would like to train both Glenn and Cass to do is to “take hold” on command. Obviously, there is a fine line between an unwanted grip and a controlled take hold so I was wondering have you any advice on the matter or if you are planning to cover it in a future video.
    Thanks.
    Gerry McAuley (Big_gmc)

    1. It’s great to know you find our videos helpful, Gerry. The feedback is very useful to us. Thanks!

      As for teaching a dog to hold a sheep, it’s not something I do, but I know it can be extremely useful on certain occasions, and at four years of age, Glen’s certainly young enough to learn how to do it.

      The way I would go about it is fairly simple but you must understand your dog might bite you if you do it. Wear thick protective gloves if you try this. Watch this video for more details about the risks.

      If you watch “Starting a Non-Starter“, you’ll see that I recommend getting a small number of sheep into a fairly confined place and then grabbing one, and pretending to drag it away. This excites the dog and can be an excellent way to spark it’s interest in working. It can also fire the imagination of a dog which already works! So much so, in fact, that the dog is likely to try to bite the sheep very close to where you’re holding it. Hence the likelihood of you’re being bitten!

      Once the dog grabs the sheep by the wool, you simply give the “take hold” command. If you do this in a calm and controlled manner, the dog will quickly learn that grabbing the sheep and holding it, is what you want it to do.

      If the dog isn’t moved to grab a sheep just because you have, it’s going to be more difficult to train it to “take hold” because you’ll need to create a situation where you know the dog will grip. This can be more uncontrolled and stressful for the sheep, so I recommend you try hard with the first method. It should work if you can excite the dog when you grab a sheep.

      Only do this if you’re prepared to risk being bitten though.

      1. Hi Andy
        Thanks for your informative and prompt reply.
        I shall have a go using your suggestions and, if successful, I’ll video the result and send it to you.
        Gerry

        1. Hi Andy
          This morning, I tried the “take hold” suggestions you gave me and, with one slight modification to the technique I think I can make it work with Glenn.
          When I grabbed a sheep and started seemingly to struggle with it, Glenn obviously wanted to help but all he would do was dive in for quick nips and jump away again. Strangely, though, when I let the sheep go, he grabbed it immediately and firmly by the wool at the shoulder and held on tight until I took hold of it again. He then let go. I was so surprised that I almost forgot to issue the “take hold” command!
          Just to check if it was real and not just a coincidence, I tried the same thing with another sheep. Same result. This time I had the presence of mind to issue the “take hold” command on time!
          I think that this exercise will also help Glenn’s power and confidence. His one major fault is that when he is working a bit away from me (say 100 yards or more) he lacks the power to push stubborn sheep. Also, he’s never too keen to go into tight corners to drive sheep out.
          I blame myself for this. When I started to train him I was very hard on him if he showed any signs of aggression. The result was that I made him a bit too soft – I think.
          After the “take hold” exercise, today he seemed to have had his “fighting spirit” rekindled a bit and was much more authoritative with the sheep than he had been at the beginning of the session.
          Thanks again for your excellent advice.
          Gerry McAuley

          1. I was confident that would work for me Gerry, but it’s good to get confirmation that worked for you too! Of course, it’s often necessary to make minor changes to training ideas, and you seem to be doing that with Glenn. That’s excellent.
            Once he understands that he can use his teeth when he needs to, Glenn’s confidence will improve dramatically, but don’t expect it to work when the dog’s a long way from you, straight away. Get it all working nicely close-bye at first, and then very gradually increase the distance.

  3. Thanks so much for your great videos. We have learned so much so far. How often would you recommend doing herding training sessions with a one year old border collie? Should we do daily, every other day, or less frequently than that?

    1. Hello Kirsten, thanks for the question. I recommend you watch the “How often, and for how long?” and “What shall I do next?” tutorials (you need to be logged in for the links to work). I’m sure these will answer the question more fully than we have space for here but, of course, don’t hesitate to ask if anything’s still unclear.
      Good to hear that you’re finding the tutorials helpful.

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