The ‘Look Back’ command

In this video we show how to train your dog to look back for sheep that are behind it. These could be sheep that have separated from the rest, or we might want the dog to bring sheep from another location.

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).

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Video Highlights

The dog must bring all of the sheep

If a trainee sheepdog is too close and “pushy” with the sheep, causing them to separate, the dog will bring what it’s got, and ignore the rest.The longer a dog is allowed to leave sheep behind, the harder it will become to break the habit. Fortunately, the “look back” command will teach the dog to keep the stock together, and it’s easy to teach.

The look back command is not just for trialling

Some trainers regard the look back as advanced, because it’s used in double gather sheepdog trials, where the dog collects two bunches of sheep from opposite sides of the field. It’s also essential at ordinary sheepdog trials after shedding, but the look back can be invaluable when gathering large flocks, and in everyday practical shepherding situations.

The look back makes your dog more useful

Before you teach your dog to “look back” you need to be able to stop it, and call it back to you. The dog must flank around the sheep reasonably, too.

How to start the look back

When the dog brings some of the sheep and leaves others behind, stop it, and tell it to “look back!”. The dog won’t have a clue what you mean, and will probably be very keen to go after the sheep it was bringing, but keep walking towards the sheep that were left behind, and insist that the dog comes with you.

The dog’s likely to seem confused, but keep walking towards the sheep you want it to bring, and keep repeating the command. Watch the dog carefully, and the moment it sees the sheep you want to collect, give the appropriate flank command to send the dog to fetch them.

Leaving sheep deliberately?

Sometimes you might see the dog is deliberately leaving sheep behind, and often this will always be the SAME sheep. If it’s had a bad experience, perhaps threatened or even knocked down by one or more sheep, the dog will remember which sheep did it and it’s likely to avoid those particular sheep. Who wouldn’t?

Watch the tutorial “Sometimes nice is not enough” to see how to deal with this situation, basically working more closely with the dog until its confidence is restored.

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When to use the look back

Once the dog has learned the “look back” you can use the command as soon as you see there are sheep left behind. The dog will quickly learn that it must look back for sheep that are behind it.

The look back command is useful when the dog can’t see the sheep and doesn’t know where to look for them, such as when working on new ground or when there’s higher ground between you and the sheep. If you send the dog off and it’s looking around, clearly unable to see where the sheep are, stop it. Tell the dog to “look back” and when it’s looking in the right direction send it off with the appropriate flank command. With practice, and success, you’ll soon be able to direct your dog anywhere across the field.

When your friends (or your boss) see you can direct your dog to a chosen bunch of sheep, they’ll be so impressed!

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