Training Max – the Gripper (Part 3)

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Training a dog which is aggressive with sheep

Max is so good now, I can almost trust him!

The third and final part of our "Training Max the Gripper" tutorials sees Max working well in the training ring but then Andy decides to move the action out into the open field.

Find out how Max copes with taking the sheep out of the training ring, and whether or not he manages to get them back into it before the session ends.

Max had no training of any kind at any time in between the lessons shown in these tutorials.

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21 Replies to “Training Max – the Gripper (Part 3)”

  1. Hello,

    I am a new member to Working Sheepdog and thoroughly enjoy the videos! My youngest border collie, Chase, seems intent on chasing my horses. He is now 16 months old and does not seem to be growing out of the desire to get at them despite my training efforts and has been injured twice. I think he might be considered a “gripper” if he started working sheep.

    I have been training him in obedience and agility using positive reward methods, but now I wonder if I should consider getting him formal sheep herding training so he can at least learn to maintain a safe distance from the horses and respond to commands. Chase is my 3rd border collie and 4th herding breed dog. I was able to train all prior dogs to assist me with horses on the farm, or at least keep a safe distance. This little guy, however, has presented a bigger challenge. He is excellent as a disc catcher and agility, but our horses are on our property and I must find a way to manage this.

    Do you ever have situations where the dogs must work sheep in close proximity to horses and need to differentiate which livestock is to be their job? If so, I would love to hear your suggestions.

    Thank you for your time and attention from Maryland, USA.

    1. It’s great to know that you’re enjoying the videos, Sandra! Thank you for the feedback.

      As far as teaching your dog to be less aggressive with horses is concerned, yes of course that’s possible, but ideally it should have been done when the dog was younger. At sixteen months, the habit has become deeper rooted, so it’s going to take a little more patience and time to get him under control.

      The first thing I would suggest is you suspend the agility work for the time being. We need to calm the dog down, not wind him up!

      Basically, you need to calmly show the dog that it’s OK to be around horses. The more familiar the dog becomes with being close to horses, the more confident he’ll be with them, and the aggression will stop, but in the meantime, you must have the dog under control.

      I must point out that safety is an issue here, and you should avoid anything which might put you, your horses or your dog (and anyone else, for that matter) in danger. Horses can be very dangerous, so take the utmost care to make certain you can control the situation.

      I’ll tell you what I’d do to stop a dog chasing sheep, and it’s up to you to interpret and adapt what I tell you if you feel you can do it safely around horses.

      I would start off with the dog on a strong leash and walk him around at some distance from the sheep. If the dog became excited and tried to go towards them, I’d tell him “NO”, and lead him away from them until he calmed down. Then I’d continue to walk him around at that distance and after a couple of calm minutes, gradually work back towards the sheep a little way.

      Once again, the moment he got excited, I’d firmly, but calmly tell him NO – and lead him far enough away to calm him again.

      I’d do this for just a few minutes, maybe a couple of times a day, and keep the dog away from the sheep at all other times.

      The dog will soon realise that to get closer to the animals he must behave himself. Once I could get closer to the sheep and the dog would remain calm, I’d use a longer leash – and eventually graduate to a rope, but taking the utmost care not to allow the rope to tangle in the legs of the sheep.

      I know this works with sheep and cattle, so there’s no reason for it not to work with horses, but it’s up to you to make certain you can control the situation, and ensure the safety of all concerned.

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