How to train a sheepdog – Online Tutorials Preview

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We now have 70 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

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86 Replies to “How to train a sheepdog – Online Tutorials Preview”

  1. Andy- I know this is probably basic, but how would you teach the recall command? My dog is 11 months old and rather embarrassingly doesn’t always come when called even though he knows what it means.
    Thank you for your help
    Rosemary

    1. You don’t say how long you’ve had the dog, Rosemary. If it’s only a couple of weeks or so, he should improve quite quickly, but either way, if he doesn’t come back to you, it’s simply because he doesn’t yet respect you enough to abandon something he sees as interesting, in order to come back to a situation he regards as less interesting…
      You need to work on the bond between you – and by bond, I don’t mean that the dog should sit and wag his tail when you pat him, I mean he must RESPECT you.
      If you open a gate, I’d put money on it he’ll dash through it first, even if he nearly knocks you over in the process! This is not good enough. The dog needs discipline. YOU should be in charge, and if he disobeys you, then you gruffly bundle him away somewhere, away from anything that interests him – for at least an hour. Then you bring him out again (and so on).
      One of the best ways to gain your dog’s respect is to teach it to walk PROPERLY on a lead. By properly, I mean with the lead slack for at least 80 percent of the time.
      Take the dog for a walk on a lead. If he pulls, pull him back sharply and tell him “No” (sharply too). If he continues to pull back, stop and repeat the pulling back and sharp “No”. If he continues to pull, turn around and go the other way. This will usually stop him pulling, so when the lead’s been slack for a few moments, turn back to the original direction again. If he pulls, repeat the process.
      If you do this RIGHT – and don’t give-in to the dog, it WILL work.
      If you think about it, a dog which pulls on the lead doesn’t fully accept your authority over it. By pulling, the dog is trying to control your speed – so it can’t have accepted your authority over it. Once he does, his recall will improve dramatically.

    1. When you login, Anne Marie, look at the categories. The first one (in red) is “Where to Start“. Watch all of the videos on that page to get a good grounding of sheepdog training!
      There’s also a tutorial called “What Shall I do Next“. That will give you a better idea of the order of training. (You must be logged into a full account for this last link to work).

      1. Thanks Andy! I’m learning to navigate the tutorials and the way they’re organized. I’ve trained dogs for search and rescue, but as you point out, sheepherding is a completely different world. My little BC is from the UK (I’m in California) and I’m amazed at the instinctive behaviors that she was born with. For example, she has a natural outrun – something I’ve been told is more commonly seen in UK-bred BCs. I stumbled on your website, watched the introductory video, and instantly could relate to your way of explaining and illustrating. It’s so helpful to have videos, not just words, and to show when things go wrong. It provides the perspective needed for a beginner and gives me the opportunity to watch dogs work with an experienced handler.

  2. Do you have a tutorial that would show how to get a dog to circle and head the stock that absolutely does not want to circle? The only instinct my dog has is to push the livestock. Anything other than that and he loses interest.

    1. Wow! That’s not much information to go on, Katrina!
      You don’t give any information about the dog (whether it’s a gathering breed or a droving type) and other than saying he loses interest if you try to get him to head the stock, I have nothing to go on.

      Assuming he’s a border collie from proper working lines, then it could be you’re just not reading his sensitivity correctly. When you say the only instinct he has is to push the sheep, do you mean he’s attacking them, and when you correct him for that, he loses interest?

      If that’s the case, I suggest you watch “Calm But Firm. If the dog really wants to get at the sheep, and then loses interest when you correct him, to help get the dog back to work, watch “Starting a Non-Starter“. (You need to login, then UPGRADE to a Paying Member Account for these links to work).

      Many of the tutorials cover your question, but it’s down to you to judge the dog’s sensitivity against it’s determination to push (or dive into) the stock. Then you must balance the sensitivity of your correction to suit the dog. (I can’t do that for you).

      1. I am sorry. He is a Border Collie with 1/8th Kelpie.
        He does not like to work on the heads /gather the cattle and he does not balance on me. He drives them away from me and is very natural at it.
        He is 9 months old and still shows a lot of “puppy.

  3. Hello,
    I have a question ( sorry for my englisch )
    I have a 1 year old bitch, on the field she grips if she has the change. If I worn het with my voice, she stops working. If I Seattle her and I walk to the sheep, she Will work again. But she Wales Very slowly.
    She Also Will not keep distanche from the sheep. If I put a little pressure then she Also starts working Very slow.

    She us with gripping hard headed but When pressure she gets slow.

    Not sure what to do.

    Just let het work close and keep her happy and wait till she is little onder to put pressure. Only hen she Will stay doping the same think over and over.

    Regards Marc

    1. Your dog is OK Marc, but she does not like you telling her not to grip the sheep! This is very common.

      She will be fine if you are careful with her. When you can see that she is going to grip a sheep, try to correct her as gently as you can (try not to shout too much). If she’s very slow, try to encourage her with a gentle voice, but be ready for her to run at the sheep and grip them (you already know that she is likely to do this when she changes direction).

      I suggest you watch these tutorials (you need to be logged into your account for the links to work):

      • Calm But Firm. It takes self-control but, if you can be calm yet firm with your dog, it will be far easier to train. – 10.5 min

      If you can stop her on the far side of the sheep, this tutorial will help a lot – but you must do it correctly and make the dog stay back so that she brings the sheep at the pace that you walk back at.

      1. Saw Some strange words in my replays.

        She is getting better on het away side. Come buy she Will walk slow or stop.
        She looks afraid on that side. No idea why.
        On the away side she even makes little outruns. But come by is still terrible.
        I tried like in video, but she Will not take that side.

  4. Hi, Andy, I have an Aussie ( Feb 3, 2016 born) that I want to mountain bike with but he bites my tire everytime we try to go out to ride? I assume he is herding me but how can I can No! I don’t want to herd sheep but just want really badly to bike with my dog up in the country on the dirt roads? I go for long rides which include 40 to 50 mi? I did make this mistake of trying to use an electric collar, bitters on my bike tire and a loud No with my voice! Have experienced many flat tires! He is worth every tire. I love my dog and want to bike with him sooo much! Please help or advise in anyway you can would be very appreciated!
    Thank you! Sharon Engle

    1. First of all Sharon, a dog which is coming in close (let along biting) when you’re riding your bike is a danger, not only to you but to others who may be around at the time. You must either get control of the dog, or stop taking it with you when you go cycling.

      At just nine months old, your dog is “an adolescent boy”. He’s likely to have strong ideas of his own, but he should be very trainable too. There are no shortcuts though. I’ve always had a very strong dislike of electric collars and never use them for training.

      You don’t say how well behaved your dog is away from bikes, but I guess he’s something of a handful. The reason I mention this is because there are two important factors involved here.

      1. The dog’s respect for its owner.
      2. The dog’s strong hunting instinct.

      Clearly, the dog isn’t listening when you try to tell him not to bite your tyres. This suggests he doesn’t fully accept you as his leader. Dogs are pack animals and as such they live by a hierarchy. If yours doesn’t respect you as its leader, it will completely ignore you at times when its instinct is strongest (such as what the dog perceives as hunting) or when it’s having more fun somewhere else.

      A very simple test of whether a dog fully accepts its owner as its leader, is to walk it on a lead. If the dog walks with the lead slack for at least eighty percent of the time, it’s fully accepted you as its leader, but if it’s pulling on the lead, it’s clearly not satisfied with either the direction you’re taking it, or the speed that you’re travelling at. By pulling, the dog’s trying to control YOU – and as such, cannot possibly have accepted your leadership.

      So phase one, is to make sure your dog accepts you as its leader. To do this, you simply need to be FIRM, FAIR and CONSISTENT – and spend lots of time with the dog, but be the boss. Teach the dog good manners. For instance, you go through doors and gates first, and you decide when to play with the dog, and when play is over. Most useful of all, teach the dog to walk properly on a lead. This will help to establish your leadership.

      TYRE BITING.
      With any form of dog training, it’s best to start off with something easy, and gradually progress towards the goal. By trying to ride your bike from the outset, you started off at the goal!

      If the dog’s determined to bite the tyres of the bike, there’s no way you’re going to control it while you’re actually riding the bike, so start by simply standing still while you hold the bike and make certain the dog doesn’t interfere. If the dog doesn’t interfere while you are still (and it probably won’t) give the dog a command, such as “Stay Back” to tell it to keep away. That should be very easy, so assuming all’s well, push the bike a couple of paces or so. If the dog bites the tyres when you start to push the bike, again, you must make the dog keep away. If you can’t do this on your own (dogs are much quicker and more nimble that we are) get someone else to push the bike while you control the dog. Put it on a lead if necessary.

      It would take far too long to type all this out in full, but I’m sure you can see the idea! If the dog’s OK while you’re standing still, push the bike a little way. If he’s still OK, move on in stages (maybe standing on a pedal and coasting for a little way). If this is OK, try sitting astride the bike with both feet on the ground. If he’s OK with this, use your legs to push you forward slowly. Once he’s alright with that too, you can try actually mounting the bike. The moment the dog shows signs of interfering, stop immediately, give a sharp “Go Back” command, then go back to a stage that he’s OK with. Only move to the next stage when he’s calm and well away from the bike.

      When people ask me how to lead train a dog, I tell them to walk the dog on the lead (away from stock) and if it pulls, turn around and go back the other way. As I said earlier, if the dog’s pulling, it’s usually because it wants to get to the park (or wherever) more quickly. If you go back the other way, the dog will eventually learn that if it pulls, it will take longer than ever to get to the park. Occasionally people have said “I tried doing that, and if I’d kept it up, we wouldn’t have got to the park, so I gave in. It didn’t work!”. That’s nonsense. If you do it, it always works, but if you give in and let the dog get its way, it won’t work.

      The same thing applies here. Progress slowly and each time the dog interferes, stop and go back to a stage where the dog doesn’t interfere. You may not actually get out for a ride at all for a couple of days or so, but once the dog accepts that it mustn’t come near the bike, it’ll be well worth it.

      You don’t say whether your dog chases cars, but if a dog gets excited by something like a moving bicycle, there’s a very good chance it will be a car chaser too. Hopefully he’s not, but in either case (cars or bikes) you need to take great care. Once the dog will walk properly on a lead though, it can help to familiarise the dog with bikes if you can take it somewhere where people are riding them – but again, start off with something simple, like a friend riding a bike – and only do it if you’re absolutely certain you can control the dog (and the collar won’t come off or snap etc).

      I realise you’re not interested in training your dog to work stock, but getting your dog’s respect and obedience plays a large part in it. I’m sure you would find a subscription to our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials well worthwhile including Sheepdog Selection and Preparation, Use a Reward to Get Training on Board and An Insight Into Pack Behaviour. These tutorials can be found in the Preparation category. Whether you subscribe or not, good luck with training your dog. I hope you’ll let us know how you get on.

      1. Hi Andy,
        Excellent advice and i will follow through with your advice for riding the bike with my dog! Otherwise he does obey and comes when called! Stays with me when we hike and will accept walking beside my bike when I am off the bike but when I get on it he must think it is a sheep out of control. I will follow throught with your suggestions of starting with only one pedal and see what happens but quite quickly and gain control if he tries to bite my tire or any aggressive motion.

        I did take him to obedience classes so he waits for me to go through a door, and only comes when I giver permission, he comes when called and sit’s on command & waits if I give a command and go into another room. I can hike for miles with him staying with me on the trails. When approaching another bike he cares nothing about their bikes only mine if I am on it and ride! He does chase the Elk and Deer here but comes back when I call him. I assume he will stop this when I gain better control!

        I like the idea of turning the other way if he pulls and I go the other way! I am excited to start with the bike on the ground which I had been doing some but will follow through as suggested! Excited to start working with Cowboy! Thanks so much and I will look at the other tutorials! I need a well behavied dog since we live at on 300 aces which is a camp for kids. He loves kids and loves to come! My mistake with the bike since as a puppy he biked and no problem. I probably stoped my trainning and did not realized. I plan to breed him occasionally. Thanks again, Sharon Engle

    2. I’m wondering if the dog resents the bike-riding because he has been seriously over-worked by the length of the rides – if 40-50 m (miles?) is not a mistake? He will feel obliged to run along, but if he dreads the exhaustion at the end, & possibly sore feet, he may be trying to sabotage the trip, since he’s not biting other bikes. Much shorter trips as a pup would have been easier to cope with. Many working dogs, especially collies, do not show tiredness (even though they may be extremely tired). They are so motivated to run they can collapse & even die of heat exhaustion/ dehydration when herding in hot weather without breaks. They have to be told to take a rest & drink, at which point they switch off & pant like crazy until they’ve reduced their temperature & rested.

      1. Biting the tyres is not a protest at the distance to be run, it’s caused by the dog’s hunting instinct, just as with car chasing. It’s more likely to happen at the beginning of a journey than later on, although it could happen later on, too.
        However, I share your views on expecting a dog to run very long distances straight away. You’re right. They don’t seem to know their limits (again a product of their hunting instinct). Dogs should be introduced to running with cycles (or anything else) slowly. At first they might be over excited, and even bite at tyres, but with correction and patience, they can be taught not too.
        As with any training, the important thing is to introduce it slowly and only move on when the first part has been learned thoroughly.

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