Gripping the sheep isn’t necessary for a confident working sheepdog, and can be counter-productive by upsetting the sheep and causing extra stress.
Training a dog that grips can feel like a thankless task; it might seem that you take three steps forward in your training session only to start the next session two steps further back! It’s important to have faith in your dog and yourself, and concentrate on the small improvements you make.
We wouldn’t want to describe gripping as the norm for a trainee dog, but many dogs will grip when they first start training. Often it’s simply a lack of confidence that causes it, and sometimes it’s because you’ve worked the dog for too long and it’s mentally tired and feeling desperate. Young dogs can become mentally tired long before they appear physically tired, and it can affect the dog’s work in different ways.
The dog we used for these tutorials was a determined gripper because he lacked confidence – even if it didn’t look that way! If you have to deal with a dog like Max, watch our three Training Max the Gripper tutorials.
Part One demonstrates the two essentials of working with a dog like Max – identify the pattern, and slow down the action. A simple solution but it really works!
Part Two looks at making progress and building trust with the dog.
Part Three shows Max being given more responsibility as he (and we) became more relaxed.
And don’t be taken in by the bravado, even the hardest dogs LOVE to be rewarded so keep calm, and be ready to give praise – the opportunity might be brief!