Sticky dog biting sheep’s faces (FAQ)

Photo of a working sheepdog very close to some sheep which are trapped in a pen

QUESTION: My dog has become very ‘sticky’ and recently started biting the faces of the sheep, instead of responding to my commands what should I do?

ANSWER: Being sticky (staring at the sheep and not responding to commands) and biting sheep, are both indications of a lack of confidence. If the dog has recently begun to get ‘sticky’ it suggests you might be trying to progress too quickly with its training.

NOTE: What we refer to as a ‘sticky’ dog is one which becomes mesmerised by the sheep and does not respond to commands. It’s more commonly referred to as “too much eye” – a term we dislike because it suggests the dog has some physical ailment, when in fact it’s a simple confidence problem.

‘STICKYNESS’: If your dog has a tendency to be sticky, the first thing to do is make the training sessions as easy for the dog as possible. You are probably trying to make progress too quickly.

Try not to let the dog stop. In order to be sticky, the dog must first be stationary, so if you keep it moving, it won’t stick! Keep the sheep well away from corners or other obstacles where they might stop and face the dog.

Give plenty of gentle praise

Give the dog plenty of (genuine) praise whenever it’s working properly, and only correct it gently. You need to build the dog’s confidence, and the best ways to do that are making training easy for the dog, and giving it praise.

If the lesson is fluid and simple for the dog, it will boost the dog’s confidence and the ‘stickyness’ will reduce.

BITING: If you keep your sticky dog moving, it’s far less likely to stop and stare at the sheep – and that’s the situation you need to avoid.

Stay close to the dog while it’s working, and if you see a situation that might cause the sheep and dog to stop, unless you’re sure the dog will be able to keep the sheep moving, be prepared to very quickly intervene by driving the sheep away from the problem area yourself!

Build the dog’s confidence

The more you build your dog’s confidence with sheep, the less likely it is to stop and stare at them and more importantly, to bite them.

If you have to work the dog close to the sheep, get alongside the dog so that the two of you are working together. If the dog can see you taking an active role in the work, it will boost the dog’s confidence significantly.

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