New Tutorial: Training Max – the Gripper

Max the sheepdog gripping (attacking) a sheep

Here’s a way to save your sheep, your nerves, and possibly even your dog!

Our Latest Tutorial   –   Training Max – the GRIPPER

A dog with a persistent grip is no fun to train and, more importantly, can be a real danger to your sheep and a liability for your business. It’s a conflict: a strong dog can often develop into a great sheepdog, but few handlers would choose to own a dog who grips.

Seven border collie sheepdogs looking at the camera
Max (far left) was happy to be compliant when the dogs were “Off Duty” but it was a different matter when he was near sheep.

However, whether or not you knowingly chose your gripping dog, the fact remains that it has to be trained.

This tutorial introduces you to Max, our most committed gripper to date, whose early antics in the training ring don’t make comfortable viewing.

Thankfully no sheep were injured, but Max needed to be shown that using his teeth was unacceptable (and unnecessary) if he was to have a happy, useful working life.

The video explains our two essentials to working with a dog like Max – identifying the pattern, and slowing down the action. It’s a simple solution that really works.


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2 responses to “New Tutorial: Training Max – the Gripper”

  1. Jason Berthelette avatar
    Jason Berthelette

    Sir, I am not sure if this question belongs here however, I could not find another place to post it. My question stems from watching several of the tutorials and videos. When the dog is flanking; away and come by, several times you tell the dog to “lay down” and attempt to block the dog with the stick in both directions to ease the dog into the down position. However, the dog never downs and ends up flanking in either direction it can instead. You gave the dog the down command, and the dog never actually completes the down. Is there any approach to correcting that issue? My background in dogs is such that when the dog is trained or conditioned to a command, it just does it. Here, the down command is given several times, the dog never does it and is allowed to continue without ever completing the command. Any ideas or suggestions?

    1. Hello Jason,
      Thank you for a very valid question.
      Training a dog to work sheep is completely different to any other form of dog training. It involves the dog’s hunting instinct. This primitive instinct to hunt for survival is so strong that (particularly in the early stages of training) sometimes even the most obedient dogs (away from sheep) completely abandon anything they’ve learned in the way of obedience. When I repeatedly block the dog as you describe, I’m in fact simply keeping the dog away from the sheep and trying to get it to stop. I don’t really want the dog to lie on the floor, because I believe that in the face of aggressive sheep, a dog which is compelled to lie down will feel more vulnerable than one which is on its feet (but standing still). I happen to use the words “Lie down” for a different reason, too complex to describe here.
      The dog flanking back and forth is trying to get at the sheep and might harm them, so I’m blocking it to keep it away from them. Soon the dogs learn that they must give the sheep room, and proper training can begin. With very keen dogs, it takes time for a proper stop to happen, but we start to achieve it from the very beginning of training. I don’t insist on the dog stopping in the early stages, because it can demoralise the dog, and undermine its confidence. Confidence is paramount in a good sheepdog, so we “make haste slowly”.
      Hopefully you will have watched more tutorials by now and will understand what’s going on, but please feel free to ask again, if anything is unclear.

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