Why your dog should flank both ways

We explain why your sheepdog must go both ways round sheep. Make sure the dog will run around stock in both directions.

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



Why your dog must run both ways around sheep. Make it run around stock in both directions

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Video Highlights

The sheep dog must flank well in both directions

Why balanced flanks are important.
Sheepdog Carew demonstrating why your sheepdog must go both ways round sheep!
Balancing your dogs flanks correctly in order to improve its skill level.

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Left or right-handed

Most humans are left or right-handed. Similarly the majority of herding dogs favour working in one direction over another. Flanking one way is simply a habit. Dogs can be trained to go either way round sheep.

Some sheep and cattle dog handlers don’t care whether their dog will run equally well around stock in both directions to gather the stock – as long as it brings them successfully. They should though. Sooner or later a dog which only goes left or right around cattle or sheep will come unstuck. There are times when the dog must go in one particular direction to successfully complete a task.

This video demonstrates the importance of training your dog to run around stock in both directions, such as the ‘Come bye‘ or ‘Away‘ direction, when it’s working sheep, cattle or other livestock. Your dog must run both ways around sheep. Watch the video to see why.

My Dog’s No Good


3 responses to “Why your dog should flank both ways”

  1. catherine lockyer avatar
    catherine lockyer

    Thanks Andy for all your advice. I will get straight on to watching the suggested tutorials and get back out in the ring with some new ideas in my belt. And a big thank you for your website, it really is making training my first working dog an enjoyable and fascinating process.

  2. catherine lockyer avatar
    catherine lockyer

    Dear Andy and Gill,
    I have a 9 month old that I have just started on the sheep. She is my only working dog. I have built the training ring and we practice in there for about 10 mins each day. I have the’ training stick’ and the ‘magic cord’ and use 4 old quiet cull ewes to practice on. My question is – she only wants to run clockwise – I have tried blocking her with the stick, she simply dodges it, I have tried leading her on the magic cord and every time I loose her off she turns to go clockwise again. Am I simply being impatient ? I can see from the tutorials how important it is to be able to flank both directions. Her being my only dog means I also have the ‘stuck on the fence’ trouble, I have watched your tutorials on this and I can lead her behind them on the magic cord – but again she will only do it clockwise. Any tips or guidance would be hugely appreciated.

    1. It’s perfectly natural for a newly started dog to only want to flank one way, and of course, the problem is often compounded by the sheep crowding onto the fence. Leading the dog between the fence and the sheep can help to get them away from it, but it’s of limited help when trying to get the dog to flank both ways.

      I suggest you watch “Starting a reluctant dog” to see how I do it. The video’s about starting a sensitive dog, but it shows a good way of getting the dog to flank both ways. As long as the dog will get the sheep off the fence in one direction, it’s fairly easy to send it back the other way by blocking it – but your timing must be good! With a less sensitive dog, you would need to be more assertive, but it’s the same principle.

      Remember. The closer the sheep are to the fence, the more confidence the dog will need, to go between the sheep and the fence. Ideally, the sheep will be in the middle of the ring when you try to gently block the dog and encourage it to go the other way.

      If this doesn’t work, keep trying (with the sheep well away from the fence).

      If the sheep are close to, or against the fence, but the dog’s able to get them away from it in one direction, you’re nearly there!

      You need to be quick, and your timing needs to be really good, but as the dog is approaching the sheep on the fence, you approach from the opposite direction (move between sheep and fence towards the dog). Block it and send it the other way. It’s unlikely to go right round and get them away from the fence in that direction, but at least it went the other way. Keep doing it to improve your timing, and the dog’s flanks. Then when the sheep are in the middle, try gently blocking the dog, and sending it the other way.

      Lastly. If the dog has good control of the sheep in one direction only, and you are able to stop the dog on the opposite side of the sheep from yourself, consider moving into a larger space. If the dog can control the sheep outside the training ring, then you’ll have room to do the “Walking backwards” exercise. (Watch “Backwards is the way forward“).

      If you can get the dog to bring the sheep up behind you in a larger space as you walk back (taking care not to fall over) keep changing direction. Use big changes of direction when it means the dog will flank the way it favours, and smaller changes when it means the dog must go the way it dislikes. This way the dog will realise it must go both ways to keep the sheep up near you, and if you keep away from fences, it’ll be easier for the dog.

      If the dog doesn’t flank the way it dislikes, keep walking away. Sometimes they realise the sheep will escape, and they instinctively flank round again to bring them to you. It really works, if you keep trying!

      The walking backwards exercise is wonderful for teaching the dog so many things.

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