Training Max – the gripper (1 of 3)

A gripper (a dog attacking biting and gripping sheep) must be quickly brought under control for the welfare of the stock. Find out how we correct Max’s bad ways.


How to train an aggressive sheepdog - attacking biting and gripping sheep

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Video Highlights

Max would ‘Grip for England”!
On release Max ran straight at the sheep, attacking biting and gripping them.
These sheep have good heavy coats, which protect them from a dog’s teeth when it’s nipping them.
Watch how Max naturally starts flanking around the sheep.
Max’s first training session at home (10th May).
Setting Max up in the hope of guiding him around the sheep.
Max grips a sheep and hangs on to it.
Whacking the training stick hard on the ground close to the dog makes him let go.
The dog stays out while flanking, but lunges at the sheep when told to stop.

Look for a pattern

Patterns in the dog’s work can help us predict what it’s going to do next.
The dog is hanging onto a sheep again.
A typical pattern to look for – the dog attacks when commanded to stop.
To train a dog like Max, you need to be tough.
Watch how a well-timed correction prevents the dog changing direction.
Another well-timed correction prevents the dog from nipping.
Attempting to stop the dog.
Crouching down and giving the ‘that’ll do‘ command, stops the dog at last!
On sending the dog off again, he grips a sheep. (Another pattern to note).
Some dogs calm down as they get tired – but not this one…
If the dog stops, try to give it the impression you commanded it to stop.
Trying to stop the dog.
Crouching down, and the ‘that’ll do‘ command, stop the dog again.
Lead training is useful for reinforcing your status as the dog’s leader.
How to make the dog think it’s on a lead when it’s near sheep.
SAFETY is essential. Ensure the rope will not cause injury to people or animals.
Leading the dog around the sheep – Max’s second training session (15th May).
The rope’s too long!
A rope can help control a dog, but in Max’ case it had little effect.
Some people attach a long rope to the dog, and then tread on it, to stop the dog.
Treading on the rope to stop it might seriously injure the dog’s neck.
A long rope is bound to wrap itself around things, including the handler’s legs.
Instead of encouraging the dog out wider, the long rope unfortunately drags it in towards the sheep!
It can even wrap itself around the legs of the sheep, and wind the dog into them!

The rope-chain

A better combination is a short rope, with a heavy chain attached.
Dimensions and assembly of the rope-chain.
Make the rope long enough to allow the chain to keep clear of the dog’s back feet.
The short rope with heavy chain attached steadies the dog down and also give the dog the impression it’s on a lead.
Max’s third training session (also 15th May).
The rope in this clip is longer than the rope we use now.
Setting the dog up for a short outrun.
The dog dives-in, attacking biting and gripping sheep.
Whacking the stick on the ground close to the dog makes him let go.
Stopping the dog.
The chain dragging in the grass is also slowing the dog down.
With the rope-chain attached, the dog is flanking, that is to say circling, and stopping better.
Watch the dog get the sheep away from the hurdles – very tight, but he didn’t grip.
Getting the sheep off the fence again, but in the ‘away‘ direction.
Insisting the dog goes the way you send it, and not the way it prefers to go.
The dog continues to improve dramatically.

Working without the rope-chain

Soon we remove the rope-chain and allow the dog to work without it.
Max working without the rope-chain.
Stopping the dog.
Moving the training stick to the correct hand soon causes the dog to change direction.
Encouraging the dog to bring the sheep along.
The ‘walking backwards‘ exercise!
Catching the dog.
Attempting to set the dog up for a short outrun.
Max’s worst grip! The outrun setup didn’t work.
The rope-chain did a great job, but it’s no instant-fix.
Attempting to set the dog up for another short outrun.
Catching the dog.
Setting the dog up for another short outrun.
A well-timed warning prevents the dog from biting a sheep. (Reading the patterns).
Dogs love silly talk because it shows them all is well.
REPLAY: Rapidly repeated commands increase the dogs excitement, and speed it up.
REPLAY: Watch Max’s biggest grip again.

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Not for the faint-hearted

PART 1: This tutorial deals with one of the most difficult aspects of sheepdog training, how to cope with a very strong-willed dog which also persists in violently attacking biting and gripping 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 all three videos to find out how to stop your dog biting sheep or cattle.

Max had no training of any kind, at any time in between the lessons IN THIS SERIES.

Training Max – the Gripper 2
Training Max – the Gripper 3


77 responses to “Training Max – the gripper (1 of 3)”

  1. Dylan Rees avatar
    Dylan Rees

    We bought a young pup 6 months ago, been training her the foundational training, lie down, come etc. the basics, she’s about 7 months now and has gone really aggressive to sheep. When we let her out of the kennel, we have to put her on a chain because there’s sheep and lambs around and as soon as she sees them she goes straight for the chase, (also there’s a public footpath and tries to bite people too).

    Calling her seems to make her worse and tries to go further, the only way to get her back is some food or the quad bike or getting the older dog to corner the sheep by the wall or fence so I can get closer to her, that way she listens..

    There are times where she lunges causing me to loose grip of the lead and she would attack the sheep so have to be very careful with letting her out and taking her with me, sometimes its hard to know if things will get better over time.

    When on a leash, she is calm, she listens and a different character.

    Been trying your method with Max in a round pen using a fence and putting her on a dog muzzle for now, it seems to help, the sheep though tend to always stick to the fence. Hopefully over time she will improve.

    1. I assume you bought the older dog ready-trained, otherwise you would know that you can’t allow a young dog to run around free?
      The dog must either be shut away, or under supervision when it’s not working. When the dog is shut away (or chained up) it’s not learning anything useful, but if you take the dog with you when you’re working (assuming you’re on a farm) it will bond with you properly, and learn that it’s not to run after sheep (or walkers).
      Take her with you whenever you can, and she will learn many, many things.
      Things will get better – she’s just an adolescent dog who will make a great sheepdog if you train her properly.
      PLEASE watch the tutorials in the order they are on the page you land on when you login. They will give you a far better understanding of your young dog – and how to train her.
      By all means use the Max tutorial (as well as watching the others) but we don’t use muzzles because they can make the dog more frustrated. Watch the video, and train her the way we suggest. Get her in the round pen, and MAKE her behave herself with sheep, then keep her under control when she’s not working. Gradually, once she’s more mature, and sheep are less of a novelty, you’ll be able to trust her to be loose around the farm when she’s not working, but you need to ‘get on top of her’ first.
      Lastly, you really need to socialise her with people, otherwise you’re going to have serious problems when she’s older.
      She sounds like a great young dog with all the right attributes, but she’s got off to a bad start.
      Please let me know how you get on with her, and if we can be of further help.

  2. Freya Jesty avatar
    Freya Jesty

    Hi andy

    My dog grips badly when a sheep breaks from the flock, it’s like she gets tunnel vision and just can’t come away from that single sheep. She tends to go right for the face and has injured a couple of my sheep whilst doing this. Any tips for addressing this?

    Should also add my sheep arent the easiest and can be very stubborn with her as well as not being the best at sticking together if that makes sense.

    Many thanks

    1. It’s perfectly natural for the dog to be focussed on a sheep which breaks away from the rest, but of course, she shouldn’t be attacking – at least, not enough to harm it.
      I may be wrong, but from your description, it sounds as though you are trying to train your dog on unsuitable sheep – and too many of them! Is this happening inside a training ring, or in the open field?
      You should limit your training to the very basics on three or four easier sheep, until you have proper control of the dog, and it will come away when you call it.
      If you are unable or unwilling to do those things, unfortunately, your sheep (and dog) will suffer.
      If I have misunderstood you, please give me a more detailed description of what’s happening, and the dog’s level of training. I’ll help if I can.

      1. Freya Jesty avatar
        Freya Jesty

        Thankyou so much for your reply and confirming my suspicions that our sheep arent the right sheep to be training her on to address this issue. Your videos have been great and so helpful, looks like I need to get myself some quiet dogged sheep moving forward!

        Thanks again

        1. Quiet sheep which are used to being worked with dogs will be a help, but not an instant cure. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your dog will behave in just the same way with them, as it does with your existing sheep, if you don’t have good control of it.
          You didn’t answer my question about whether the problems with your dog happen in a training ring, or in the open field. You also didn’t respond to my suggestion that you use fewer sheep. How many are you working the dog on at the moment?
          I think you’re trying to move along too quickly. I suggest you go back to basics with the dog working with three or four of your quietest sheep inside a correctly sized training ring. Get the dog going nicely around the sheep. Build her confidence and she’ll be far less likely to grip. It would also be worth watching “Sticky dogs“.

  3. Micha Hamersky avatar
    Micha Hamersky

    HI Andy! If I push her more (encourage) her more, she would rather run around to get to the nose. Than I have to give her a stop or NO command and that will take the speed out of that exercise. That is why I asked especially for the lgs-training again. BUt I will try to first work on the grip command some more and than see if she will do that when she is behind the cattle. thanks a lot.

    1. Well come on! Cows are quite long things – much longer than sheep!
      When you see she wants to go to the head of the cow, you’ve got time to stop her, and make her stay behind. But equally, make it clear that she can go in front of the cattle to turn them back. It’s all a balance – ‘you can do this, but NOT that!’. It’s what training’s all about. You’ll get there!

  4. Micha Hamersky avatar
    Micha Hamersky

    Hi Andy!

    I work with our border collie on cattle and she is a header only. She does not grip the you have hints how I can teach her to grip the back legs? And how to get her to be more aggressive? She likes to be a bit more pushy when things become fast..not so much when when the work is slow (although sometimes the cow is just stubborn and that is why all is slow) thanks a lot Micha

    1. You’ve pretty much given the answer yourself, Micha!
      “She likes to be a bit more pushy when things become fast..”

      Watch the tutorial “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough“. That’s the one for giving the dog a bit more “GRRR!”

      Obviously, you need to be extra careful when working in close proximity to cattle, but the closer you are to the trainee dog when it’s working, the more control you have because when you are close, the dog has more confidence.

      The more encouragement you give the dog when it’s confronted with stubborn animals, the better. Try to keep the dog moving, and whenever the dog becomes more aggressive, put a command on it. That way the dog will learn when it’s OK to be more ‘pushy’ and when it’s not.

      When you say “(although sometimes the cow is just stubborn and that is why all is slow)” I presume you mean there is a standoff between the dog and the cow? Try not to let that happen. If you can anticipate when there’s likely to be a conflict, get in close (but safe) and give the dog some help to shift the beast. Every time the dog is successful, the dog’s confidence will grow.

      1. Micha Hamersky avatar
        Micha Hamersky

        Thanks you have an idea on how to get her to grip on the hind legs?

        1. It’s in the fourth paragraph of my reply to you, Micha. If the dog needs to be more assertive with the cattle, your close encouragement (and excitement) will ‘wind’ the dog up. Be sure to use a command, so that the dog will know when you want it to assert itself. (I don’t know how you tell it which leg! The dog will sort that out for herself). :)
          Watch the tutorial “How Can I Slow The Dog Down” – and do the OPPOSITE – in other words, lots of shouting, and excitement – and sudden movement, to shift the cattle. The dog will soon join in. Having another dog barking nearby, can be a big help. There are also some tips in the two “Starting A Non-Starter” tutorials.
          But take great care of your own safety when close to cattle

  5. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Hello Andy. can the same dog work both sheep & cattle in the early stages of training & in general?

    1. To work cattle, a dog needs to be very strong, and quite aggressive. In my opinion, it’s far better, safer and easier to train the dog to work sheep first, and then once the dog is working well, move on to cattle. This way, the dog will be far more controllable and responsive, and it will also understand that it shouldn’t be too aggressive with sheep.

      1. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
        Arye Ehrenberg

        Thanks Andy. I’m still wondering, in your experience, in the case of a fully trained dog, does working on cattle makes the dog more aggressive when working sheep?

        1. To successfully work cattle, the dog generally needs to be fairly aggressive – and if you train your dog to work cattle before training it to work sheep, the dog can often be too aggressive on sheep. You can train it not to be, of course, but if you’re likely to want the dog to work both, I would train it on sheep first, and then on cattle.
          It’s safer that way, too. An untrained dog could spook the cattle into doing something dangerous, whereas spooking sheep is far less likely to cause trouble. Once the dog can be controlled around sheep, it’s far easier to control it on cattle.

  6. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Hello Andy. this video is very helpfull.
    Will it be good to start a dog like Max in a small round pen where the sheep are in and the dog is on the outside?

    1. I don’t find working the dog on the outside of the pen very useful. In my experience, the dog just gets frustrated, and when it eventually gets into the pen, it’s just as bad, if not worse than it would have been if I started it off inside the ring.
      It’s important the ring is the correct size though – about 16 metres diameter (17.5 yards). Watch the Training Ring Tutorials to see how we do it!

  7. Brenda Horne avatar
    Brenda Horne

    My collie is just a year old and I have been trying to train him for about two months. I made round pen with hurdles and tried to work him on the outside. Initially it went well but he then decided to jump the hurdles to get closer to the sheep, he is inclined to grab but only if one of the sheep gets separated from the rest of them. he is a bit like Max so quick, quicker than me that’s for sure. He gets calmer as he tires out.

    1. I don’t find working the dog on the outside of the pen very useful. In my experience, the dog just gets frustrated, and when it eventually gets into the pen, it’s just as bad, if not worse than it would have been if I started it off inside the ring.
      It’s important the ring is the correct size though – about 16 metres diameter (17.5 yards). Watch the Training Ring tutorials to see how we do it!

  8. Hello. Your videos are very helpful. I have a one year old dog who grips. He runs in , fixes on one and grabs hold of it. I have a couple of questions please.
    I don’t have any other dogs, so how do I keep the sheep quiet after being scared by my dog?
    They run away as soon as I take him into the round pen with him (he is on a lead). So I made another pen and put the sheep in there with the dog on the outside. He has a good stop and recall off the sheep. I am stuck on how to move forwards. What do you suggest please?

    1. By keeping the sheep quiet, I assume you mean calming them down (rather than stopping the noise)?
      If I’m right, it suggests your sheep are not used to being worked by dogs (at least, not by untrained dogs). If you don’t have another dog (or a friend with a trained dog who could help you) the only way you’re going to calm them is by working them with your dog. You might try walking the dog around the sheep on a lead to familiarise them but it’ll be a slow process. It can sometimes help to calm the dog down, too though.
      Have you tried the rope-chain? As you will have seen in part one of this tutorial, it can transform the dog’s behaviour – as long as the rope-chain is more or less as the one in the video. Too long and it will wrap around the feet of the sheep (and actually wind the dog in towards them like a winch). Too short, and it’s likely to harm the dog’s paws. The weight needs to be correct too. Heavy enough to slow the dog down, but not so heavy the dog gives up and stands still.
      Remember you need to be pro-active, too. You really need to chase the dog away from the sheep when he comes in. Watch “Starting a Strong Dog” for more on this – and “Calm But Firm“.

  9. Lauren Holley avatar
    Lauren Holley

    I have found all of your tutorials incredibly valuable and I have taken something from each, even the ones that I wouldn’t have thought applied to my dog, these with Max are wonderful and have given me hope when I am worried about her gripping. She is approaching a year old and after about 3 weeks in the ring with 4 sheep we moved out to a small paddock which is working well, she’s giving the sheep more space but will still try to come in when going away and have a grip, not always but often enough for me not to trust her yet. The sheep have learnt to stay close to me even in the paddock so I am able to give a swoosh of the stick to send her out when I can see she’s going to give it a go, I’ve got pretty good at reading her intentions. I feel we are making progress in other areas and she now has a good stop the majorty of the time so I am reluctant to go back into the ring as I am able to control her in the paddock, is it just a case of being patient and trusting in the process and she’ll get there or is there another tactic I should be trying?
    She jumped a fence the other day and got in a larger field with about 30 ewes with lambs, she refused to come back to me as it was far too exciting so I said to myself “what would Andy do” and decided to give her calm instructions as if I was in control and she followed them to my surprise, she stopped when asked but kept dodging me when I attempted to approach her, I eventually got her cornered and she went to my step dad tail wagging like it was the most fun she’d ever had. She didn’t grip once despite several break away attempts by some of the sheep which gave me hope even if it took 10 minutes to get hold of her! Prior to watching your tutorials I would have panicked and screamed at her, so I feel we are both making progress, thank you, I am genuinely enjoying learning with her.

    1. It’s great to read your comments, Lauren. Thank you for the valuable feedback!
      Keeping calm and appearing to be in control makes a huge difference when you’re training a dog, doesn’t it!
      You’re obviously making great progress with your young dog, but don’t forget she’s still very young. If I were you, I’d get her back in the ring, and concentrate on getting her going well in the anticlockwise direction without gripping, if you can.
      If you feel that she’s worse in the ring, then by all means make the ring larger if that’s an option, or work on her flanks in the paddock, but remember it’s a confidence issue, and if you get her going well in the ‘Away’ direction in the open, that’s only part of the job. Next you need to GRADUALLY start working her closer to a hedge, fence or corner, to build her confidence when she’s between the sheep and a fence or hedge. The ring can be useful for this, but you can do it in the paddock by gradually working the working the dog closer and closer into a corner.
      Calling the dog away can be very trying, but once you can do it, training moves forward much more quickly, so it’s worth doing! How do you manage to catch her in the paddock though? Assuming you’re able to catch her there, did you try that method when she escaped to the ewes and lambs?
      The most important thing is to crouch down BETWEEN the dog and the sheep, and call her to you. That way, she’s getting closer to the sheep (which is what she wants). They quickly learn to dodge away from you though – so it’s better if you have a really good stop on her.

      We’re in the process of putting together some Frequently Asked Questions on our blog:
      Read about Calling the Dog Away there – and please let me know if you need any further help.

      Currently we’re working on a new tutorial about getting the sheep into a training ring without a trained dog – and immediately after that, we plan do a video about calling the dog away – hopefully it’ll be uploaded quite soon.

      1. Lauren Holley avatar
        Lauren Holley

        Thanks Andy, great advice as ever!
        I will set up the ring again, I do have the option of making larger too if I do need it, I feel even more confident after your reply so thank you. I don’t mind how long it takes, she’s worth it and it’s teaching me patience I didn’t know I had!
        We have been working on her coming to me in the paddock as you describe above thanks to your fantastic tutorials, she has a good stop too but when she jumped that fence there was no tricking her into coming anywhere near me! We’ve made progress as there was a point she would never come anywhere near me if she thought even for a moment that the fun was up so I shall continue and I’m sure we will get there. Her stop is good so the times she doesn’t come to me she will stay in place if I go to her in the ring or paddock, I’d like to add that her stop is only good because I followed your tutorials, as infuriating as it was to have to let her go having got her to stop when we started it has paid off! I look forward to the new video on calling the dog away as we are still clearly a work in progress.

  10. Jane Stubberfield avatar
    Jane Stubberfield

    I have a 12 month old dog who is a gripper, he goes straight at the sheep grabbing one and scattering the others. i have got him to work properly in a round pen using roughly your method with Max and he is going quite nicely in both directions. I have now tried him in a small paddock but more space and he starts to flank nicely then goes straight in, takes no notice of my efforts to block him. any suggestions for this stage? i feel we will be in the round pen for ever

    1. REMEMBER! The closer you are to your dog, the more control you have over it.
      Difficult to tell from your description, but I suspect you’re allowing the sheep to get too far away from you when you send the dog off. If you go up close to the sheep before you send the dog off, you should have far better control. Most important: KEEP CALM – and try to keep the dog and the sheep calm.
      If the problem persists when you and the dog are close to the sheep, you need to go back into the ring, and get it right.
      Watch part two of this tutorial (again, if you’ve already seen it). You’ll see me take Max into the open field, mid-session. You may need to enlist the help of a friend for this. Get the dog working nicely inside the training ring, and then as the dog is CALMLY flanking around the sheep, keep it going nicely as your friend opens at least two hurdles (preferably more) for you. The wider the gap, the better! When sheep rush through a narrow gap, the dog thinks they’re escaping, and rushes to stop them. Often this results in gripping, or at the very least, heightened excitement on the part of the dog. If you can, keep the dog working the sheep inside the ring, even after the hurdles are opened up wide, that will be a great help. Keep the dog going round and round, and gradually work closer to the opening, until you feel you can ‘waltz’ them into the open field.
      Whatever you do, try to keep yourself, and the dog CALM.

      1. Jane Stubberfield avatar
        Jane Stubberfield

        Thank you Andy. Having watched Max out of the pen again I think my problems are partly because my sheep are not as well trained as yours and are not sticking to me well enough which leaves too big a gap for the pup to take advantage of. For the time being we are back in the round pen and the older dogs are on sheep training!

        1. I quite agree that Max’s sheep are very ‘dogged’. Watch the “Moving Out” tutorial to see how it’s done with sheep which are not so co-operative!

  11. Robann Mateja avatar
    Robann Mateja

    This is a very interesting video series because it is something you almost never see in other on line training venues; that is, training a strong, difficult, and grippy dog. Not many trainers illustrate that type of situation, so I greatly appreciate it. Thank you! You mentioned in a reply to Steven that walking the dog on lead around the sheep (in the round pen as well as in the field) can be beneficial for helping in this situation, although it takes a long time to make progress. Did I understand that correctly? So walking the dog around the sheep on lead until the lunging disappears can be a good way to deal with this situation? I have two very nice and well trained sheep dogs, and one “fire breathing dragon”. The latter is still a pup (not quite a year old). I think he’s going to be awesome when he trains up, but his first reaction is to dive in and grab. I like the idea of walking him around sheep on a lead until he quits lunging, and I have lots of time to devote to that. I just don’t want to frustrate him, so I want to make sure that I understood the recommendation. Thank you!

    1. It’s very good to know that you find the tutorials interesting! Thank you for the feedback.

      Yes, you have understood my reply to Steven correctly, but have you watched (and tried) the methods used in “How Can I Slow the Dog Down?“? The lead training idea will work but it’s slow, and if you overdo it, there’s a good chance you will put the dog off working. Restraining the dog on a lead when it’s trying to get at the sheep will teach the dog that you don’t want it to work, so you need to strike a balance between restraint and encouragement.
      It’s very frustrating for the dog – and the handler too!

  12. Sarah Hemming avatar
    Sarah Hemming

    Hi, I’ve just started putting our 10m old collie with the sheep and he (ominously called max!) Runs straight for them and grips or scatters them into the fence and the sheep get hurt. I’ve had to stop having Max in the ring for the sheep’s sake. I think it’s a combination of issues in Max being too excited, running at the sheep rather than running around (and certainly not wide), the sheep not coming off the fence, me being new and probably many more. I have tried to get Max to get over the excitement by penning up the sheep and letting him run around them. He is listening more in terms of starting to lie down and his tail is definitely showing more confidence. He will run tight around both ways, but he is consistent in reaching through the hurdles to grip. I know you normally have the dog in a ring so not sure what to focus on. It feels like he needs to get over the excitement and have an ability to walk near sheep calmly. Should this be done in the ring on the lead or just in general walking around the sheep in the field? He has definitely calmed down over the few sessions running around the penned sheep, but pulls hard immediately when a sheep (or anything that moves) is around and that could be as very long process in and of itself! Thanks in advance for any advice. Sarah

    1. Can I respectfully refer you to the reply I made to Steven (the previous comment to yours on this page)?
      Your dog’s reaction is perfectly normal – if somewhat undesirable! It simply needs training – and it’s up to you to make sure your pen is the correct size (about 16m diameter [52ft]) so that you can keep control of the dog and MAKE him stay off the sheep.
      We find putting the dog on the outside of the ring is of little use. It seems to frustrate an excited, aggressive dog still further. The dog appears to be calming down because it realises it can’t get to the sheep, but then when you take it into the ring, it’s more aggressive than ever. Please read the reply I gave to Steven, watch the recommended videos, and then if you still have questions, we’re happy to answer them.

  13. Steven Kean avatar
    Steven Kean

    I’m curious as to how old Max was in this video, and what formal training he had before you took him on. My dog is 12 months and has only just started with the sheep, but I’m having a lot of problems with him charging and scattering the sheep when in the training ring, and subsequently I lose control of the situation. Do you think the rope and chain might benefit him at this stage, if only to slow him down? Thanks!

    1. Max was a year old when we made the video, Steven. You need to make your dog keep off the sheep – either by positioning yourself close to the sheep and warning the dog off with the training stick, of if you can’t do that, the rope chain should help, but you really need to do most of the work yourself. Make sure the training ring’s not too big (no more than 16 metres diameter) – get in there, and MAKE the dog keep away the sheep. Watch Starting a Strong Dog and The Training Stick for more.
      If you use the rope chain, take care. You don’t want to harm the dog.
      An easier (but far slower) way is to walk the dog around the sheep – both in the field and in the training ring, until the novelty and excitement reduce considerably. It takes quite a few frustrating sessions, but it will eventually calm the dog down and make it easier to train. At first the dog will pull like anything, but gradually, it will accept that pulling is pointless, and it will begin to calm down. Once the dog stops pulling, towards the sheep, you’re getting somewhere – but it’s not a quick solution! Watch How Can I Slow the Dog Down? for a better understanding of your problem.

  14. Oliver Hosier avatar
    Oliver Hosier

    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.

      1. Oliver Hosier avatar
        Oliver Hosier

        Thankyou so much

  15. John Groves avatar
    John Groves

    Hi Andy,

    I have a very similar situation with my dog that I am trying to train, however the circumstances are considerably different, I keep Indian Runner Ducks. My dog is 3 years old, he is from working stock and was originally intended to work sheep. Circumstances drastically changed and to cut a long story short, what was supposed to be an opportunity for training and working with sheep, turned out to be false. Approximately 10 months old, although he had seen sheep, but not been directly exposed to them. I attended a sheepdog school to do that. He was absolutely full of energy as expected and the feedback I got after the training sessions, was that he showed real promise, even though there were excited gripping occasions through the fence . From those early stages and change in circumstances, I was adamant to find some way of being able to work him. I haven’t been back to sheepdog school. As a frequent country show attendee I started seeing dog and duck shows, where collies were demonstrating on a small scale what I wanted to achieve with my own dog, so I set that up. I don’t own a farm or land. In the considerable amount of time that it took, my dog has just turned 3. His life hasn’t been just dog walking though. In that time, he has a very good understanding of what I want, our bond is strong. He recalls to “that’ll do” or whistle command. He can stand, lay down, walk-on, steady and although I haven’t released him to the ducks directly, I have built a circular pen and enabled him to balance. I appreciate your video on not convincing yourself that your own dog is doing better than it is, but I am confident he has the potential to do well.

    I’ve got and done everything you have suggested but on a smaller scale for the Indian Runner Ducks, the pvc waste pipe works amazingly well. Even the ducks understand what I want, so moving them around whilst he is on lead is simpler than what I anticipated, however his lunging concerns me, hence the long line. I know that teaching him to push the ducks forward is done later in training, but I wanted to at least expose him to them somehow without injury. My dog has been on a long line and is yet to be let off. Watching Max, apologies for describing it this way, but it is affordable for Max to grip in the early stages onto a sheep with a full fleece, I cannot afford that. My dog gripping a duck is game over, and I won’t allow that. His focus, strength, eye or whatever we refer to it as in the case of ducks is strong, but when the lead is loose, I’m concerned he will hurt or injure one of my ducks. The use of my body language or tone of voice is very influential to my dog, but my concern is with ducks running around frantically when he gets excited, my “Rrrrrrrrr” or “No!” will not work. When we have done circular pen work for balance, it’s clear to see he is over excited to have a nibble.

    I’m considering standing in the middle of the pen with the ducks and trying to push him out, but I wasn’t sure if this was the right approach. I’m also concerned by taking him away from the environment when things get a bit out of hand (over excitement) that I’m telling him I don’t want him to work, which is not what I want, however I cannot stress the ducks.

    I’ve even considered a muzzle, but this is a prime example of my in-experience.

    I appreciate my scenario is slightly different, please don’t think I expect an answer to address what issue I have, my comment is more a question of “what would you do in my situation?”

    Thank you for any advice you can give,

    1. Thanks for an interesting question, John.
      First, forget the muzzle idea. It may actually save a duck’s life, but it won’t help to train the dog, just frustrate him.

      Reading your description, you’re very nearly there (ready to start, I mean).

      Another point worth mentioning, is that Indian Runners might not be the most placid of ducks. Other breeds (or an IR cross) are much less flappable (pun intended) but being of heavier build, they cannot work for as long.

      Now, what you’re trying to achieve is exactly the same as anyone training a sheepdog on sheep, but as you point out, the margin of error is much tighter.

      However. You have the massive advantage that ducks move much slower than sheep. They can’t really run away, so this is what I suggest.

      First, get your dog used to working in a pen with ducks. Put him on a lead which is the correct length for you to control him and prevent him from lunging at the ducks. Walk the dog behind them keeping him back off them at whatever distance is required to avoid panicking them.

      As you go, gently try to encourage him to flank a little way left and right. If you’re successful, you’ll be able to dictate where the ducks go, and you should eventually get them into the middle of the ring.

      Remember that ducks get tired quite quickly, so you need to train a little at a time.

      Every time the dog goes near the ducks with you, the novelty will begin to wear off, and he’ll be more controllable. As this happens, you’ll be able to lengthen the lead, and hopefully, gently flank him a little further around them.

      The ducks will be settling down too – and eventually, you’ll have “dogged ducks” (just like the ones you’ll have seen in the shows).

      Of course, you’ll be working on the dog’s stop command at the same time, and training should all begin to fall into place.

      Once you really begin to trust him, you can even let the rope drop to the ground. This can work very well, because the dog feels the lead pulling on it’s collar, and assumes you are still in control. Don’t try it too soon though! (And use a rope that’s heavy enough for him to feel it’s resistance).

      If you can work with a longer lead, or by dropping the lead or rope to the ground, you can try putting yourself somewhere on the other side of the ducks from the dog. Not directly opposite at first, just a little way, and then gradually increase it until you’re on the opposite side of the ducks to the dog.

      Then you can start “Walking Backwards“!

  16. Saskia Sowers avatar
    Saskia Sowers

    Hi Andy , I have a 9 month old who is Very keen on the sheep . He is so focused he simply does not hear or see anything else, unless I am very tough on him. I do my best to be soft as much as I can. the biggest problem I have is he is too tight when he circles , he grips every chance he gets and will go straight at them rather than go around them as much as possible . I train with 4 very calm dogged sheep . my arena is about 150ft by about 50ft, a bit long but its all I have, beside hilly mountain fields. Usually he starts out very good but quickly goes south. and I try by best to keep things positive. but like Max, I end up just defending sheep , I wave the stick at him to move him out as you do but it does no good. I can wack in to the ground he will dodge under or around . So intent on getting straight to them scatter, chase, and grip . I have accidently hit him on the nose twice and once on the body in trying to hit the ground as you do to stop the gripping. I felt horrible . I tried the short outruns as you did with max when he was good but only to have the same disaster you did. I am so at a loss with him. I feel he could be great. If I can just manage not to ruin him, while I figure how to teach him to get wider and not attack the sheep! hes such good respectful boy in every thing else . even in the ring , until he just seems to ‘check out.’.. I tried today, instead of scolding and backing him farther from the sheep and then sending him around again as you do, to scolding and removing him from the ring entirely. As if to say if you do that you cant play sheep! l dont know. I would greatly appreciate any advice.

    1. My first reaction is that you have the makings of a great dog, Saskia, but you must “get on top of him”. At nine months of age, he’s an adolescent boy – need I say more?

      The training area is far too long. If you’re at one end and the dog chases the sheep to the other end, you have absolutely no control over the outcome The dog will know that, and take advantage of it. Is it not possible to put some sort of fencing across it to make it about 50 x 60ft or somewhere in that region?

      You say the dog usually starts very well, and then it quickly goes wrong, but how quickly? If you can get the dog to go around the sheep once or twice (and praise it) before things go wrong, that might be a good opportunity to abruptly end the session and bundle the dog unceremoniously back into it’s pen (or somewhere it won’t like being). You could then try again after an hour or two, and when the dog “goes south” as you say, bundle it away again.

      You don’t mention the rope chain… If the dog walks well on a lead, the rope chain can work wonders – and save both you and the sheep a lot of stress.

      If the dog begins well, and then turns aggressive, it very much sounds as though the dog’s getting frustrated for some reason. Try to work out what it is that’s frustrating him. Is there a pattern or something a sheep does – even looking at him in a particular way, or maybe challenging him?

      If the dog’s ignoring the stick, try taping an empty polythene bag on the end of it. Our supermarkets use very thin polythene bags which make a sharp rustling sound. That often works well.

      Our “weapon of last resort” is a lungeing whip. Not to hit the dog with, but to crack – immediately before the dog grips, but beware. If you over-use the lungeing whip, you can put the dog off working in seconds. Only use it if you’ve tried everything else and are making no progress. If you can’t crack a whip, whatever you do, don’t practice near the dog. They get used to it, and will eventually ignore that too – but it’s mightily effective when you first use it, so be careful.

      Whatever you do, don’t despair! The dog will come good as long as you keep protecting the sheep, and chase him away from them. Ending the session can be a very useful training aid. Dogs learn by reward – and you said how keen he is! He’ll quickly learn not to be aggressive if you take him away when he gets nasty.

      Get the sheep away from the fence and try to set him up to go round them nicely first time every time, and it’ll pay off soon. Lots of stuff to try there, please let us know how you get on!

    2. Saskia Sowers avatar
      Saskia Sowers

      Thanks Andy!! I think you are right , he does get frustrated. he works fast , and close but well. for about 5 minutes. or less. I haven’t timed it. but a guess. I think he gets bored ?? The big difference between Max and Ian is , Max will go out wider when you swish the stick . Ian does all possible to stay very close. he does have a stop and for the most part, a consistent one. but close. I did use a 10ft 1 inch cotton horse lead for him to drag. but I will go today and get the things for a rope chain. And fencing to shorten the pen. One thing I forgot to mention, he tends to get ‘sticky’ when he stops and I try to send him off again . Then dives in when I have to get close to move him . One last question. will the smaller pen make a difference with my other pup?. I have a 6 month old who is so quick to please she learns super quick , stops on a dime .and is flanking beautifully. both ways and doing short outruns? They are such opposites its amazing . She seems so easy and he is so tough . I think they will both be awesome!

      1. If Ian has a stop, work on it. Stop him on the other side of the sheep and make him stay there for some time. This is excellent for building the dog’s self-discipline. All the ‘symptoms’ you describe are typical. He’ll be fine once you show him you’re the boss and not him.
        If you can keep him on the far side of the sheep, try walking backwards (new tutorial coming up on this very soon). Walking backwards with the dog bringing the sheep up to you is excellent for showing the dog what distance you want it to work at and the pace you want it to work at, as well as building the dog’s self-discipline.
        Walking backwards is also great for sticky dogs. If you and the sheep keep walking away, eventually the dog will realise it’s no longer holding them to you, and will come forward (watch Sticky Dogs).

        1. Saskia Sowers avatar
          Saskia Sowers

          Hi Andy ! Ok I shorted the pen, used a rope chain scolded him fiercely when he got nasty. I took him unceremoniously out of the ring and put him in a crate for 2 hours , I took him back out to the sheep . and Eurika!!!! No charging , no griping ,stopping when he almost got nasty but did not. he gave more room when flanking too. very willing ! I also switched out one younger more excitable ewe, for one a bit steadier. she kept consistently breaking off from the 3 to get to her pals .and she messes things up at this stage I think ?? and wooohooo. I could have just cried tears of happiness and hope! twice he has done very well . even successful sort outruns ! I am exited to try a little more . but what should I do next? I watched the “What to do next”, tutorial but wasn’t sure about it . I am walking backwards and letting him bring the sheep, that is also doing well so far! I don’t want to jump to far or bore him to misbehavior.

          1. That’s excellent news, Saskia! Now you need to gradually get his training back to a more normal level. Us the rope chain for as brief a time as possible but have it handy so you can put him back on it if he’s aggressive. (I never had to put Max back on the rope chain after that first time).

            Now you’ve got better control, you need to teach him his flank commands – and get him flanking at a workable distance. You should also be thinking about getting him working in a bigger training area. If there’s some sort of gate into the longer part of your pen, try walking backwards and taking the sheep through that gate – but expect trouble as they actually go through. He’s likely to dive-in because he’ll think they’re escaping. Watch “Coming Out” before you do this. You might even try taking the new fence out altogether.

            Work on walking backwards for a while, and mix in some short outruns – it will transform him. You need to watch our new tutorial “Back to forwards” – once you can trust him not to attack the sheep when your back is turned, you can start walking forwards – a real milestone in the dog’s training. As you do this, you can keep him farther and farther back – and mix in some slightly longer outruns. Gently work mostly on his weaker side if he has one – but of course, take care not to send him too far. The closer the dog is to you, the more control you have over it.

            You were right to take out the difficult sheep – a red rag to a bull! Once you can trust the dog more, it might be worth trying him on some fresher sheep. Broaden his horizons!

          2. Saskia Sowers avatar
            Saskia Sowers

            Omygosh!!!!! ANDY!!!!! Ian made me cry today. I did not use the rope chain at all today , he’s a different dog entirely today! I did watch the back to forwards video, and employed it. He was flawless, working calmly. flanking nicely. Even when I say “lie down”, then, “that’ll do”, he came away with me. Every time!! I then walked about 30 ft and sent him out again he flanked beautifully . both ways .Come by’ he seemed only a little bit temped to go to them a bit straighter, but he did go around them and brought the sheep back ! the sheep separated on their own once and he panicked a bit I think. a short grip. I removed him . then we went back in 10 minutes later. and he going around even better. Ian wants to walk up a bit when they start to move, as I go backward but I think he will be fine after a few times. The sheep also seemed to sense his new attitude and worked calmer too! At the end he looked like he was getting a bit hot. I told him “lie down” went to pet him good boy and make a fuss. I then said, “That’ll do”. and he walked away with me, out of the ring!!!!!!!! Just one quick soft “here Ian” when he looked back at them!. I wish I could just hug you!! lol I so appreciate your advice ! Thank you Andy! he’s like a new dog!.

          3. That’s wonderful news, Saskia, but to avoid any misunderstanding I feel we should make it clear to anyone reading this post that Ian is your dog – and when he made you cry, it was a good thing!

            Seriously though, that’s wonderful. I’m sure you’re well on the way to making Ian into a really useful sheepdog. I would only stop a training session and take the dog away if it’s quite seriously ignoring your commands. Generally, it’s better to keep the session going and coax the dog back to good behaviour. Only if that isn’t working, do I take the dog away as I described in an earlier post.

            There will be setbacks on the way, but stick with it, believe in your dog, and you’ll succeed.

          4. Saskia Sowers avatar
            Saskia Sowers

            Note taken Andy , Yes they were tears of joy, I wont remove him unless serious , He’s been doing great. At a friends today, we did your suggestion and took him though a large opening. as you said to expect, he panicked . He went after them ,They scattered. but he gathered them with out one grip . he was stuck on the fence. but rather than get aggressive, he just held them , looked back at me like . What now?: I got to them and walked back enough to slightly get the sheep moving. he cleanly got them off the fence. so very proud of him. My friend also has 3 calm dogged sheep that he worked with at her place. Thank you again !

  17. Sascha Christof avatar
    Sascha Christof

    HI Andy,

    I have got Jack, he is 4 years old coming from Cornwall and lives in Germany (Frankonian Switzerland) now and he knows how to work around the fence with come by, away, stand and laydown. He reacts on slow down and when I fluster he is getting very attentive and carefully. The big advantage is here that he has to follow the fence – that makes it easy for him. As soon as I put him inside – it is oval – he logically goes always the direct way on the sheep. I have to say it is the first time I train a boarder collies and it is the first time that the one male and 2 femal sheeps has to do with a dog. If there is enough space between them, it is no problem. If I go in my round pen (metal-version) and he is working on the outside everything is fine. He uses always the 12 o´clock position and react by himself on the movement of the three sheeps. The male often hit with the front legs on the grond to warn Jack. One of the younger female makes it meanwhile, too. Jack is not impressed at all. Because he is so fast I used the rope with the chain which worked on the first ten minutes. Then he startet again with his normal high speed. When I fluster he will slow down.

    Now I started in the meaning to get this regulated also inside the round pen. The first problem is, that the sheeps will glue to my bud ;-) and I have no chance to bring Jack with distance into the round pen. So I need a second person which brings the sheep to the other side of the entrance.
    Jack makes on command lay down and he won’t move like the sheeps which stay behind me. As soon as he got the order to go away or come by he will run full speed direct line to the sheep. When I start with the stick to bring him towards the fence he will start to react a little bit. But as soon the sheeps overtook me on the right side he will cut and passes me also on the right side instead the circle to the left around me with the away command. And then he is goint directly on the sheep and grips them. He well stop it pretty fast and lay down on command. But meanwhile the male sheep jumped over the fence and the females want to follow and do not move like before – logically.
    How can I go on to solve the problem “High-Speed” and “direct way on the sheep”? When I bring the sheep to the grassland Jack helps but I have always to stop him all 10 meters with the command lay down that he won’t drive the sheeps somewhere else with full speed which makes everything uncontrollable. I think in the round pen the male sheep will cause a big problem because he knows now how to escape from the round pen.

    What do you think Andy?

    1. Trying to start a keen young dog on stubborn or aggressive sheep is just not fair on either the dog, the sheep or yourself. Just as you wouldn’t try to teach a child to read by giving it a complex scientific document to read, nor should you expect a dog to learn to work sheep in a controlled manner when the sheep threaten or attack it.
      Although I used a small round pen with the sheep inside and the dog outside just for one session in the DVD First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training, this was to try to “balance” a dog which would only go one way around the sheep. I have since found far better ways, and have not used the dog on the outside of a pen for many years – because all it seems to do is frustrate the dog.
      Please try to get some suitable sheep – and watch “Starting a Strong Dog” and “Training Max the Gripper” (again) and watch how I try get myself between the dog and the sheep before I send (or release) the dog. If you can do this, you should be able to “chase” the dog out as it runs towards the sheep.
      Using the chain will help – and if it’s not slowing the dog down, it’s not heavy enough.

      1. Sascha Christof avatar
        Sascha Christof

        Hello Andy,

        I will go some steps back and try it new, step by step like you told me.

        Thanks for your help!

        1. Sascha Christof avatar
          Sascha Christof

          By the way – my problem is that I have no alternative to the stubborn sheeps.
          I have only at a neighbours ground about 8 sheeps which work with an very wise 14 years old boarder collies on a different way and they have right now lambs. An no round pen at all….only a fence or walking free over fields and the old boarder collie will take care and bring them back in a very relaxt and calm way. Very nice!

          But for Jack or better said for me very difficult to show him the right things in the right environment… ;-(

  18. Hi Andy,I took your excellent advice and built a circular pen and I am using six of the hoggets,it was a bit chaotic at first but they settled down surprisingly quick,I have my fathers dog on the outside which prevents any jumpers,I have established that he has a tendency to grip on his comebye side but now I can get in quick to prevent it,I am thoroughly enjoying the training now because previously I was anxious that he was going to cause damage to the sheep and I suppose this anxiety was being passed to the dog,I also put the rope chain on him at the start of every session to tire him out a little and then remove it.thanks again for your advice and I love the tutorials.

    1. That’s very good news, Dave. I’m glad you’re finding the circular pen useful.
      Try to manage without the rope chain as soon as you can. If you can keep the dog in place while you put yourself between him and the sheep before you send him off, you should be able to guide him around the sheep, especially if your father’s dog’s on the outside keeping the sheep off the hurdles.
      Most important: When you first send him off to the sheep, send him “Away” – that’s obviously his best way because you said he’s inclined to grip if you send him clockwise. Once he has the sheep under control, try to send him “Come bye” as often as possible to get him used to going that way. The rule is: Send the dog its best way if the job is difficult (sheep on the fence, or the dog’s excited etc etc) – and send the dog its worst way whenever the job is easy. This way, you’ll soon balance the dog’s sides up.
      Of course it will be a great help if you feel more relaxed – try to be very calm, but firm.

      1. Hi Andy,I have had my dog in the circular pen every evening for a week,he is flanking nicely in both directions and the gripping is definitely getting less and less,he has no problem controlling the six hoggets in the ring,however at the end of the last few sessions Iv tried to get things going in the open field,whilst the ewes are fine in the ring they are very flighty in the open,he certainly tries his best to control them but he really only manages it when the ewes are very tired and panting,at which point I feel I don’t want to work them anymore,it’s such a pity because at this stage when the sheep are tired the dog is working nicely,unfortunately I don’t have any other ewes to use so I have to make these work,should I just stay in the ring for longer and not attempt the open field for another while?he was able to control the larger flock better but then gripping was the always your expert advice is very welcome.

        1. Working the dog every evening for a week is probably not enough, but I would expect him to have stopped gripping by now. Are you using the same hoggets every time? You really should, otherwise you’re using fresh, flighty sheep for each lesson. If necessary, mark the sheep and make sure you use the same ones every time.
          Six sheep is too many at this stage. Use three or four at the most. You can always increase the numbers gradually once the dog’s managing better. I don’t worry too much if the sheep are panting (just as we do after running) but I stop immediately if they’re gasping. In fact I try to stop well before they start gasping.
          If you’re losing control when the sheep leave the ring, how are you getting them out? Watch the “Coming out” tutorial and make sure you follow it.
          You need to open up a wide gap so the sheep move out steadily and the dog has room to go round them.
          Try this.
          Work the dog in the ring as normal, and while he’s going round the sheep well, get a friend to open the hurdles WIDE. Make sure the dog keeps circulating and keeps control of the sheep while the hurdles are being opened. If you lose control of them, I’d say the dog’s not ready to work outside the ring.
          If you’re able to keep control of the sheep with a large gap in the hurdles (or fence) then keep the dog circling in his best direction, and “Waltz” the sheep out into the open. This way the dog keeps the sheep in check and they can’t run off. Watch the “Get off the fence” tutorial for more about “Waltzing the sheep out“.
          How big is the ring (diameter)? If you can’t control the sheep outside the ring, but the dog’s controlling them well inside it, you can always gradually make the ring bigger and bigger.
          Lastly. while the dog is in the ring with the sheep, you should be teaching him to get the sheep away from the fence. If he can do this well, then it should be quite simple to get them under control again if they run off to a hedge or a corner somewhere. If they’re tight in a corner and the dog doesn’t want to dig them out, slip a rope or lead THROUGH his collar and lead him behind them, then as the sheep come out of the corner, let go of one end of the lead so that it slips through his collar and releases him. Then IMMEDIATELY keep him going round them and if possible, stop him in the corner, so the sheep come out.

          1. They are the same six sheep I have been using in the ring for the week,the ring is approx 20 meters in diameter,he has no problems in getting the sheep away from the hurdles,I suppose I am getting a little anxious as the summer is drawing to a close and because I work full time I will only be able to train him at weekends when the evenings get dark,will he still be ok with this minimum training?he will be two at the end of next July?

          2. NEXT July? You mean he’s only a year old Dave? Some of our dogs are lucky if they get trained once in two weeks! He’ll be fine.
            The ring sounds about the right size – now what about all the suggestions I spent a lot of time typing out to try to help you?

          3. Rest assured Andy that I will use every piece of advice that you have given me and I am watching all the tutorials over and over,and yes he was only a year old at the end of june(not July as I previously stated)so I should really appreciate how far he has come.

  19. Very interested in max the gripper,I have been working with my young dog(13 months)since early summer and he’s doing great,fetching,flanking even driving,however my only concern is that when a sheep tries to break he grabs and hangs on,he has even nicked a couple of ears along the way,I am working with about forty sheep so it’s difficult for me to see it happening to get the correction in before it happens,he just needs to learn to keep out around the sheep,when he gets the sheep turned towards the flock he lets go,any ideas would be very welcome.

    1. Your dog is young and excitable. Are you training him or using him for work, Dave?
      If you’re using him for work, he’s not ready for flock work yet. If you’re training him, forty’s far too many for you to control the situation and give the dog the guidance it needs. Diving in and gripping shows a lack of confidence, so you need to reduce the number of sheep to something like six or eight, and work the dog close enough to be able to see what’s happening, and correct him (as you say) before he grips.
      When he can handle that number of sheep confidently, start to increase the distance gradually – and then increase the number of sheep.
      He sounds like a great dog but you’re trying to get him to “run before he can walk”.

      1. Thank you for your reply Andy,it’s difficult for me to use a small number of sheep as these are ewes with Spring lambs(lambs were born in March)and separating them would be near impossible,he’s fairly calm around them and only grips when one of the lambs make a dart for escape,I have access to 15 hoggets but these are very flighty and he finds it very difficult to get control on them which I was worried would damage his confidence.

        1. Trying to train a dog on ewes with lambs is not fair on the dog or the sheep. You’re expecting a novice to do the work of an expert.
          Surely your dog’s worth the small effort of getting a handful of sheep which are used to being worked by a dog. Are you really not bothered?
          Allowing the dog to continue working in a situation where you can’t control it is likely to have a highly detrimental effect on the dog’s future work – not to mention the welfare of the sheep.

          1. Thanks for the reply Andy,I certainly am bothered and don’t want to do wrong by the dog or sheep,getting a handful of sheep isn’t the problem but I have no where to put them as I have no land,I am using my fathers sheep and whilst I have trained two dogs for him in the past they were far from trial dogs although they were excellent workers,I got this fellow as a pup and planned to try and get him to trial material,I work full time and only get to train him in the evenings,perhaps when the lambs are weaned il be able to separate off a couple of ewes to make it easier on the dog,I admit I am a complete novice and look forward to any input you may have.

          2. Hi Andy,since Iv last been in touch Iv had my dog in the round pen and out in the open field,he was going great until I was bringing the sheep into the round pen and one decided she didn’t want to go in,she tried to run down the field and he went after her and gripped her ear,I was really disappointed as I thought we had started to get the gripping problem under control,any idea how I can get him to stop doing this,he only goes in to grip when one sheep tries to break away.

  20. Melinda Stevenson avatar
    Melinda Stevenson

    We have a novice dog that is a gripper and already caused some physical damage to a sheep, we are thinking about training in a muzzle for a while. What are your thoughts on using one?

    1. Apologies for the very late reply, Melinda. I have only tried very briefly to use a muzzle on the dog, and I stopped using it because it seemed to increase the dog’s frustration. Don’t take this as an expert reply though – it’s not. However, I can honestly say that I personally prefer to use the rope and chain system that you see on the “Training Max the Gripper” tutorial on a dog which walks well on a lead (away from the sheep).

  21. Andrea Cobler avatar
    Andrea Cobler

    I have lots of experience with police k-9’s and Schutzhund dogs and have used a long rope extensively in that training. I am currently working my first herding dog, primarily on cattle. She flanks beautifully but has bee a real challenge to get to fetch because she was constantly wanting to dive in and grip and push the cows at a dead run right over the top of me on several occasions!!!!! Last week was the first week that I could send her on a short fetch, turn my back and have her reliably bring me the cows. I still have to give her a reminder or two to stay behind when she is fresh but when she blows off a little steam, she has been staying behind and starting to rate herself and take pressure off by slowing or stopping and not blowing out to the sides. It has been really amazing!! Her problem is that if the cows get a little ahead of her or if we are done with work and she senses the opportunity, she will fly into them, to the head and grip. I have tried running and driving her off of them but she is persistent. She is 20 months old now and is a very strong dog. The typical comment, from those that watch her work, is “when you get that under control, she will be a nice dog.” The problem is that no one has told me how to get it under control. So, I go back to my old Schutzhund roots, and think that I should put her on a long line and set up a couple of situations where I’m fairly sure that she will rush in and be able to stop her on the rope. But then I second guess myself because I don’t want to make her think that she can’t ever go to the head to stop them, so I am currently having this debate with myself and, in the meantime, the problem continues. What are your thoughts? I should also say that I used a long line to teach her to down for a ball and for a Frisbee and now I can stop her in a dead run after either of those with a down command and she drops reliably. Am I over thinking this? I hate being so indecisive.

    1. Reading through your comments carefully Andrea, it seems you’re rushing things a little. When working a dog on cattle, great care must be taken for your own personal safety, and that of the dog. How many cattle are you working with? Just two or three should be sufficient. More will give you a lot less control.

      I strongly recommend you go back to basics – especially Walking Backwards if it’s safe for you to do it.

      The other basic to concentrate on is the stop. Flank the dog around the cattle, then stop it. If the dog won’t stop, it’s not really ready to move on to greater distances. Once you get the basics sound, the rest will be much easier.

      You say her problem is that if the cows get a little ahead of her or if we are done with work and she senses the opportunity, she will fly into them, to the head and grip.

      Use your power of anticipation. You just told me what she’s going to do under these circumstances, so if the cattle begin to get away a little, flank her after them and stop her. If she won’t stop, you either sent her too late (and the cattle were further away, giving you less control) or you need to work on the stop to improve it.

      If the dog goes after the cattle when you want her to stop working, SHE’s the one doing the anticipating. Keep her working until you can get her very close to you and then just stop her and make a fuss of her – then send her off again – so whenever you call her to you, she doesn’t know whether it will be the end of the session, or whether you’re just going to give her some fuss. Break the pattern up so that she can’t anticipate.

      1. Andrea Cobler avatar
        Andrea Cobler

        Thank you. My plan was to go back to basics and work through those things this summer. I will definitely be following your recommendations!!

  22. Amy McKenney avatar
    Amy McKenney

    That was beautiful. I used to train Military Police dogs and drug dogs and have my first herd dog; a 1 year old border collie. She was abused and thrown into pens with Hogs by her first owner and has many scars to prove it. She acts like she wants to herd and is interested in my goats, but runs away from any human contact or attempt at control. Perfect on a leash and runs away at the first opportunity. After 2 months here, she won’t allow any but very brief contact for a few seconds as she thinks she will get beat if you try to touch her. Any helpful hints?

    1. This is more of a canine behaviour problem than herding as such Amy, but if you’ve only had the dog for two months, and the dog really has been mistreated, it’s very early days yet. She needs to fully bond with you – and that can take a long time.
      I’d really need to see what she does when she’s around goats or sheep to be able to advise properly, but if she wants to herd without you around, and she’s not harming them, why not arrange it so that she can spend some time on her own with them while you observe from a safe distance?
      This may not be possible if the dog is causing stress to the goats, but if you are able to set it up, watch carefully – and as the dog’s confidence builds you should be able to gradually join in, in some way – even if it’s initially just encouraging her from behind a hedge or fence. As she gets more confident, you should be able to take a more active part.
      Don’t try anything until the dog is happy to be with you and doesn’t run off. Take her for long walks on the leash and stop at intervals to stroke her and make a bit of a fuss of her if you can.
      Don’t try to force her to do anything – do it by encouragement rather than pushing her.

  23. Jim & sandy lockwood avatar
    Jim & sandy lockwood

    Can you share the timeframe for this, ie how long it actually took to get Max to not constantly run in and grip? Is this culmination of many weeks? The rope chain seems like a really great idea- it is so easy to get wrapped in a long rope! I look forward to the next stage- these are very helpful lessons- Thanks!

    1. Very good point, Jim and Sandy! I made a note this morning to edit some sort of timescale into the video – and this has now been done. Thanks for prompting me – and good luck with training your dog.

  24. Caroline Harding avatar
    Caroline Harding

    Great (if a little painful) to watch – my young dog has been very grippy and rather like Max! Have had to take a different approach as no round pen, and light sheep. Using a long line and a good helper(!) and teaching him to flank wide. Also lots of walking backwards with him balancing (and friend on end of rope). Very much work in progress. Liking the idea of a weighted rope.

    1. We would love to hear how you get along with your dog on a rope being held from behind, while you walk back with the sheep, Caroline. It sounds like a good idea – especially if the person holding the rope allows the dog to get closer to the sheep than you want him to. This will mean you have to be very firm with the dog – and should pay dividends when the rope is eventually released.
      Good to hear you find the tutorial useful.

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