A useful sheepdog needs to be confident when it’s working sheep in yards and buildings.
A huge outrun might be a sheepdog’s most impressive skill, but any working dog is likely to spend more time on yard work – penning, pushing, holding and loading sheep – than it is gathering them. The outrun will save the shepherd’s legs, but a dog who’ll move sheep in pens, through a race or up a trailer ramp will save time, temper and man power. A good dog will make sheep handling tasks a one man/one dog operation.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Like everything else your dog has learned, developing the necessary skill, control, and calm confidence in its work will be a gradual process, but it will pay dividends for the handler. Our Close Work tutorials describe the easy stages for teaching your dog about working sheep in yards and buildings.
Make haste slowly!
“Make haste slowly” when training for close work. If your dog’s nervous, and feels trapped when it’s close to the penned sheep, lead by example; don’t be afraid to reassure your dog, and demonstrate what you want. Working closely alongside your dog like this is an excellent way to build its confidence. It keeps you near to support your commands. It’s also valuable training for when you need the dog to work at a distance.
For more help with working in races and pens we recommend you watch Eve at the Pen. It’s a complete session introducing a young dog to pen and yard work. But a lesson in and around the pen doesn’t only teach penning. Eve’s lesson gives us the opportunity to work on her stop and flanks, and to introduce the “Look Back”. All this helps build Eve’s confidence to get between the sheep and the fence. This in turn will help in her other work too.