Training Max – the Gripper (Part 1)

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Training Max the Gripper - part one

Not for the faint-hearted, this tutorial deals with one of the most difficult aspects of sheepdog training, how to cope with a very strong-willed dog which persists in violently attacking the sheep.

In the first part of the video, you'll see Max at his worst despite his trainer being vigilant. Later on, Max's training becomes easier and far more rewarding. Watch the video to find out how it's done.

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

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42 Replies to “Training Max – the Gripper (Part 1)”

  1. Hi Andy,
    My dog, very rarely grips, but if one ewe runs away and I send him to bring he most certainly will grip it.
    When he does grip a sheep he doesn’t let go or listen to me. I have to run the whole field and really shout at him. Why is it he only grips when there are very few sheep he is herding? What’s the best things for me to do. I want him to be able and fetch one escapee.

    1. I could write a book on this, but basically it boils down to confidence. It’s very common, in fact most trainee sheepdogs do it at some stage.
      Think of this in terms of hunting. When the sheep are in a tight flock, they’re more or less inpenetrable to dogs, but when one breaks away, that’s the one the predator will try to kill.
      It’s both exciting and frightening for the dog. The excitement of closing in for the “kill”, but the obvious danger that the terrified prey will make a last stand (and could injure or even kill the dog).
      When a sheep breaks away, it’s important to KEEP CALM.
      Remember. The closer you are to the dog, the more control you have over it, so as dog and sheep get farther away, your control reduces.
      If the dog senses any excitement in your voice, it’ll excite the dog too, so try to keep calm. Unless you’re sure the dog can bring the sheep back before they both get outside your control range, don’t send the dog after the sheep. Instead, keep the dog with you while you get closer to the sheep.
      If you go out wide, the chances are the sheep will run back to the others, and you can quietly encourage the dog to follow it. This will increase the dog’s confidence, and show it what you want it to do next time.
      If the sheep is more than just a few yards away, it’s a good idea to take the group of sheep to the single one. Alternatively, you could take the dog away from the sheep, far enough away to allow the runaway to come back to the main group.
      There are loads of ways of doing it if you think about it, but the important thing is to keep calm, and only let the dog work if you’re pretty sure you can control it. If you can’t, take the dog closer to the sheep before you send it off.

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