QUESTION: My dog works quite well normally, but if any sheep move before I send him off, he won’t stay in place. He runs straight at them and chases them. The dog darts at the sheep if they move.
ANSWER: The dog’s natural instinct SHOULD be to go and stop the sheep running off. If it’s splitting or chasing them, he’s on the right track, but clearly hasn’t fully got the message yet! You must train him to stay in place until you send him off.
Boring old ‘Back to Basics’!
I’m afraid boring old “back to basics” is the answer here. If you can’t rely on the dog to stay by your side, you’re trying to move-on too quickly. (We all do it).
I suggest you go back to working inside a training ring, with three or four sheep. Show the dog that if he’s going to be unreliable, he’ll be restricted to elementary, basic work.
Inside the ring, if the dog darts at the sheep if they move you can MAKE him behave.
Give the dog several sessions of very basic training. Next, try some slightly more advanced work, but the moment he flies at the sheep again, that’s it! Back to very basic stuff again.
Alternatively, the moment he flies at the sheep, bundle him unceremoniously back into his pen (or somewhere he finds very boring). Don’t work him on sheep for a day or so. Then take him out again, and repeat the procedure. He’ll soon learn that this sort of behaviour means he’s not going to work.
You KNOW he’s likely to do this, so be ready for it, and be close enough to stop it happening.
You also know when you’re approaching a situation where he’s likely to fly off. Watch him closely and talk to him quietly (“No – lie down”). The moment he looks as though he’s going, rush at him. Shout and wave the stick to shock him a bit.
If you were too slow, end the session there, and be quicker next time.
Learn to “read” the sheep! Then you’ll know when one’s about to run off – but you must be lightning-quick (and firm) to stop the dog.