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

If you have a paid account with us please LOGIN.
Our sheepdog training videos are restricted to paying members who have logged-into their accounts.
Find out about our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials.


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.

If you like our tutorials please leave a review on our Google Profile!
If you have a training question or comment, leave it below.

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 | (top ⇧)


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. 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. 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *