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. Hi, Andy
    I have a training issue I have never seen addressed in a video. My dog has just turned 2 years old this month, and with the help of your website has progressed from a pup (our first) to a pretty useful sheepdog. We started him at 9 months. However, I haven’t been able to improve this: after his outrun, instead of stopping opposite me and bringing me the sheep, he often continues to circle in front of them. He can’t move them that way! I block him when he swings out to the side, and he goes out the other side. Have you seen this? Is it in a tutorial I may have missed? Thanks for all you do.

    1. If you’re sending the dog off and he goes round the sheep but then instead of stopping behind them and bringing them to you, he continues to circle them, you’re sending the dog too far.

      You’re expecting too much, too soon, from your dog. You haven’t covered the basics properly.

      It’s great that he’ll go round the sheep, but remember, the closer you are to your trainee dog, the more control you have over it (and vice-versa). Dogs are pack animals, their instinct is to work in a group, but your dog doesn’t have a pack, he only has you. When you ask him to work farther away from you, he feels he’s getting no backup from the rest of the pack (that’s you), so he abandons what you’ve taught him and resorts to his ancient hunting instinct (hence, circling the sheep).

      Watch “What Shall I Do Next” (if you’ve already watched it, watch it again).
      (You need to be logged into a full member account for tutorial links to work).

      I strongly recommend you go back to basics with the dog. Work close enough to him to be sure you can stop him and don’t try to increase the working distance until the dog reliably understands he must stop on the far side of the sheep from where you are.

      Once this is achieved, you can gradually increase the distance that he works at, and the dog’s confidence will grow. As that confidence increases, he’ll work farther away from you (and stop behind the sheep). Watch “Backwards is the Way Forward” to see how to do this.

      Lastly, thank you for your encouragement, and good luck with training your dog!

  2. Hi! We have a 3 month old Border Collie and we have a goat farm . We rotational graze over 160 acres. I’m very interested in signing up for your classes although id like to know if training on goats is similar to sheep. Are there any differences I should be aware of before signing up?

    1. Training a dog to work goats is very similar to training on sheep.
      The principle behind herding is that the herded animal (in your case, goats) sees the dog as a predator, and the dog must have the instinct to hunt (in other words, chase other animals).
      In stock working Border Collies, this instinct has generally been preserved, but sometimes it’s dormant and needs to be “brought out”. We have two tutorials for this, called “Starting a non-starter
      (You need to be logged-into a full member account to be able to access the tutorial links).

      Personally I have no experience of working goats with dogs, but I know people do.
      If the dog is keen to “get at” the goats, and the goats would prefer not to be near the dog, then the tutorials will apply. If the dog doesn’t have the instinct to chase the goats, then the tutorials above should help you, but it’s not guaranteed.

      Your dog is very young, so the hunting instinct may not have developed yet. If not, don’t despair, there are things you can do to help (and things to avoid) in the “Starting a Young Puppy“) tutorials.
      The age that a dog begins to take an interest in herding varies widely, but I would usually expect it to happen between ten weeks and six months.
      As well as sheep, Border Collies are used for working chickens, ducks, turkeys, cattle, and other animals.

      Why not sign up for the tutorials and find out? It’ll only cost you $14.50 (US) for a month, and you can cancel at any time. Signup here.

      1. Hello Andy.

        I dont know how to start a post for myself, so with an apology, I will ask here. Do you have beginner bracing videos?

        Thank you. julie
        [I could use some internet skills also]

        1. Do you mean working a brace, Julie? (Two dogs at once).
          We don’t have a tutorial for working a brace at the moment, and that’s because I’m not very good at it!

          To work two dogs independently, you should ideally train them (from the start) on completely different commands. That is the part I find difficult. I sometimes get mixed-up, especially when the situation is difficult.

          You should also teach the dogs to wait where they are when you are working the other dog. This is not so difficult, but it takes patience on the part of the trainer. Start by having one dog on a lead while you work the other, then when the dog stops pulling every time you give the other one a command, you can try letting that dog off.
          Once both dogs will let you work the other one without moving or joining in, you are nearly there!

          Because I tend to get muddled when I try to remember which dog is on which command, I train two dogs to work together by saying the name of the dog that I want to move, immediately before I give the command. Then it’s just a question of teaching the other dog to ignore any command which begins with the other dog’s name.

          I hope you understand what I mean. Please reply to this if you need more information.
          Your question has inspired Gill and I to make a tutorial on this topic sometime in the future. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear how you get on.

          Lastly, the Glyn Jones DVD “That’ll Do!” covers teaching two dogs to work together.

  3. We have a smooth collie bitch (aged almost 3) and we’ve been working sheep with her for just over a year now. She’s actually doing a very good job, despite our bungling. However, she is very forward and puts a lot of pressure on the sheep and then flanks wide, often right up to the handler, effectively stopping the sheep. We’ve been trying to get her to keep her distance, but this is proving quite hard. The trainers tell us it has to do with the fact that she’s not a border collie and therefore works slightly differently to border collies. How can I get her to keep more distance and put less pressure? All work we do with her is under guidance of a trainer, but we hope to get some sheep of our own and train her on those as well. Would your tutorials help even though we don’t have a border collie?

    1. Your description is a little vague…
      Smooth collie bitch? Do you mean a dog like this?
      Smooth coated working border collie sheepdog, Boz
      This is Boz. A typical smooth coated border collie sheepdog. As it happens, Boz is not registered with the International Sheepdog Society, but that’s down to an administration error with his mother’s registration when we bought her as a pup. Boz is a perfectly normal border collie sheepdog, and with training, will become a fine herding dog. Dogs do not have to have long coats in order to be border collies.

      Secondly, by “flanks wide, often right up to the handler”, do you mean that the dog won’t stay behind the sheep, but prefers to come back to the handler??

      If that’s what it’s doing, you’re trying to move on too quickly. Get the dog going round the sheep, and stopping reasonably well before you move on to more ambitious work.
      Once the dog will stop, you can begin to keep it in place while you (and the sheep) move back – giving the sheep more room.

      Either way, as long as your dog is keen to “get at” the sheep (and it sounds as though it is) I think the tutorials will be very useful for you. Everything you need to know should be in one or more of the seventy tutorials, and if it isn’t let us know and we’ll endeavour to add another tutorial to cover it.

      Why not sign-up for a free account and watch the free tutorial?

      1. hi Andy,

        Thanks for your reply. I have a smooth collie, i.e. a smooth-coated scottish sheepdog (‘Lassie’ with a short coat, see https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/display.aspx?id=5120) . Definitely not a border collie.
        You’re absolutely right that she’s very keen, perhaps a little too much so…? On straight stretches she will run up alongside the sheep, level with me. It’s not that she’s coming to me, but more like level with me. She has good balance, because as soon as I turn, she’ll counter my movement (taking the 12 o’clock position). It seems to be over-enthusiasm on her part. She is constantly on the move, either weaving to and fro behind the sheep if I’m lucky or otherwise moving alongside level with me. We’re working on the wait/lie down to create more distance between her and the sheep, but once she gets a ‘walk on’ she’ll rush right up to the sheep again. Both trainers I train with say that this behaviour is because she needs to put more pressure on the sheep because she lacks the eye of the border collie.
        Will sign up for the tutorials!

        1. If you can get the dog to go to the opposite side of the sheep from where you are, you need to train it to stop there when you tell it to.
          Obviously, our “Starting” tutorials will help you with that.
          Once the dog will fairly reliably stop on the far side of the sheep (around three or four – not too many at this stage) you need to move on to the “Walking Backwards” stage.
          There is a tutorial called “Backwards is the Way Forward“. It’s probably the single most useful tutorial in our library for getting a dog to work well.

  4. Hi Andy
    I Have a 7 month Bitch ISDS I am concerned she seems very small…I know at that age she is not fully grown but in your experience do they tend to put on much height/weight after 7 months…also she is very fussy with her food do you have a recommendation on which food to feed her?
    thanks
    Roger

    1. Don’t worry, your young dog has plenty of time left for growing Roger. They continue to grow until they’re over a year old. There really is no need for concern. Big or small, if you train it properly, I’m sure the dog will do a great job for you.
      If you saw the parents before you bought the pup, that can give you an indication of the size the pups are likely to be (but not always).
      Don’t worry about the food too much either, she’ll eat as much as she needs. We feed ours on Beta Puppy Junior when they’re very small and then gradually begin to mix in some adult food, until by the age of a year, they’re on 100% adult food. (We feed CSJ Champ Adult to the grown up dogs).
      Don’t make the mistake of giving the dog too much protein. Despite what many manufacturers claim, it can cause all sorts of behavioural problems because it “hypes” the dog up. Apart from the Beta Puppy (30% protein) when the pups are very small, the highest protein we feed is usually in the low 20% area. At your dog’s age, around 24% should be about right.
      My advice is to stop worrying, and enjoy your young dog’s youth!

  5. I have a 2 1/2 year old entire male border collie who is very hard to train, I was watching your tutorial on Max the gripper and although Salt doesn’t grip, he dives in and splits the sheep and chases one, when he does this, I have no control over him, he doesn’t listen, usually this is anti clockwise and under pressure ( close work) and also on a cast ( outrun) anticlockwise only, he has put numerous sheep into a fence, he has a very strong eye and is a mix of Australian bloodlines and ISDS lines.. I’v had him since 8 weeks and he has always been like this, working really well then all of a sudden rushing in and splitting the sheep and chasing one, I thought we had it under control, but on the weekend he did it again in a paddock.
    I’v had so much advice, do this , do that, don’t work him in a confined area, work him more in a confined area, don’t put him under any pressure, put him under more pressure, the last trainer/clinic I went to on the weekend said the only way to get it out of him was to belt it out of him, which I won’t do.. but I’m now totally confused and at a loss as to how to fix it.. he has always been a very headstrong dog, but I don’t let him get away with anything, he is not allowed to go before me anywhere, off stock he is very obedient, he knows his sides, has a good recall, and when under control has a great stop on him, he reads his sheep well, carries them beautifully, and when he is working well, he is calm.. he has a steady command which I use to slow him down on a cast and I usually only do short casts and get close to the sheep before I send him, but he has a hair trigger and you have to be on your guard all the time because he is so fast when he does explode.. I was wondering if you had any advise for me..

    1. I don’t need to see a video to know what the problem is, Annette. It has little to do with his gender, his hormones, his age or even his Australian ancestry.

      You clear description tells me you have a dog with great potential, but in certain circumstances he’s lacking confidence. He simply needs training. I don’t mean that in an insulting way at all. You’ve done well to get him doing outruns (albiet in one direction) but you’re trying to move on too quickly with him. The expression we’d use in the UK is “trying to run before you can walk”.

      Forget the outruns for now. I recommend you go back to the very basics, and get them right before you attempt more ambitious work. Work with three or four sheep (no more) and get the dog going round them and stopping reliably in a situation where you know it will work well and he won’t dive into them.

      Work him very calmly, and give gentle praise when he’s doing well. Whatever you do, don’t shout excitedly or rapidly (even to praise him). You must be ultra-calm under all circumstances, but obviously correct him firmly (just once) each time he makes a serious mistake. Be a good leader.

      Limit his lessons to very basic work that you know will go well, and only very gradually move on to more ambitious work when you can rely on him. I strongly suggest the next thing you move on to is “Walking Backwards”. This exercise will benefit him greatly if you’re prepared to make sure he does it properly. It’s described in detail in the tutorial “Backwards is the Way Forward”.

      Once he’s doing the walking backwards exercise really well, you can go back to circling the sheep, but this time, edge the sheep a little closer to a fence or hedge, then send him to get bring them away again. The closer the sheep are to the fence, the greater the pressure on the dog, but once more, progress very gradually. If he dives in, correct him and if the correction works (he takes notice of you) carry on, but at any time (whatever the lesson) if he dives in repeatedly and won’t heed your corrections, take him away gruffly, and bundle him into his pen (or if he lives in the house, somewhere he’ll be bored). Show him that if he won’t listen, you’re not going to let him near the sheep until at least the next day.

      There’s absolutely no need to beat the dog, and anyone who tells you to, knows little about dogs. You have a great dog there. Believe in him, and train him one step at a time. When you eventually give him outruns again, limit them to very short ones which he can achieve reasonably well in either direction, then concentrate on the worst side until he’s going equally well both ways. Only then should you begin to gradually increase the distances.

      Relevant tutorials are: Backwards is the Way Forward, Get off the Fence and all three The Outrun tutorials.
      (You need to be logged into a full member account for this link to work).

      It would be great if you would post back with Salt’s progress (good or bad)!

      1. thank you for your prompt reply Andy, I have watched the tutorial Get off the fence and will try that next training, I feel that the waltz will work quite well with him.. I’v already watched the tutorial Backwards is the Way Forward a while ago, but will revisit in the next day or so, I already do walk backwards and stop him to allow some distance, as I work with very dogged sheep who tend to hug my legs and Salt has a lot of presence, so I have to make him work at a distance so I can move, then I give him a walk in command which he does so perfectly, I try not to let him get too close as you can see the pressure build when I do, I will try as you suggest, go back to basics, avoid confrontation and maybe we will both start enjoying it again :-)

        1. That’s great, Annette. The more you can work him without him diving in, the more his confidence will grow, so keep the work very simple and only gradually increase the pressure – you’ll get there!

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