Sheepdog Training 11 – careful thought helps cure problems

Photo of a small group of sheep standing in a field, looking towards the camera

Whatever problem you’re having with your dog, you should be able to cure it

Think carefully about the problem – why the dog’s doing it and how you can change the training routine to correct it. Sometimes the dog will simply be using its own initiative to try to help you.

For instance, if he knows the sheep prefer to head for one side of the field every time they’re in a certain position (maybe towards cover of some kind, or towards sheep in another field) he might well be staying out on that side to head or “balance” them back towards you.

Once your dog reaches the stage where you can trust him to work on his own for a few moments, try sending him out to the sheep and then just watch – let the dog do as it likes (within reason) and you may be surprised how well it works without you.

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2 responses to “Sheepdog Training 11 – careful thought helps cure problems”

  1. Kent Bradley avatar
    Kent Bradley

    A question and request for coaching:
    One of my dogs sometimes uses that initiative to break his lie down and take off from my side for the sheep on his own.

    At 3 yo he usually knows better by now but if/when he sees the sheep moving away (as they sometimes do when they catch sight of him with me because they don’t trust him), he panics and takes off.

    Compounding the problem is that when he launches like that he loses his mind and tends to go straight in, rather than bending out and around, which he does nicely when he is relaxed and listening. He will not take a lie down in this situation unless I immediately run straight to and through the sheep and get in his face (and head) taking his sheep away from him.

    Frankly my approach so far is not working very well to cure the problem of him launching. I’m not a “yeller” with my dogs and I value quiet confident partnership above all, but I find myself having to flail around and bark at him in order to break through his “red fog”. Just as soon as he gets his mind back, I can get him working quietly again and all seems good.

    Suggestions, tips, tricks, and any and all help on curing him /us of this would be wildly appreciated! Thanks Andy

    1. I’m afraid boring old “back to basics” is the answer here, Kent.
      If you can’t rely on the dog to be sensible and stay by your side, you’re trying to move-on too quickly (we all do it).
      I’d go back to working inside a training ring, with three or four sheep and show the dog that if he’s going to be unreliable, he’ll be restricted to elementary, basic work, where you can MAKE him behave.
      When you’ve had several sessions of very basic training, I suggest you 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, he gets bundled unceremoniously back into his pen (or somewhere he finds very boring) and doesn’t work sheep for a day or so. Then take him out again, and repeat the procedure. He’ll soon learn that his bad behaviour means he’s not going to work.

      These remedies will work, but they shouldn’t be necessary!
      You KNOW he’s likely to do this, so be ready for it, and be close enough to stop it happening.
      You know when you’re approaching a situation where he’s likely to fly off, so watch him closely and talk to him quietly (“No – lie down”) the moment he looks as though he’s going to go, you rush at him, shouting and waving the stick to shock him a bit.
      If you were too slow, end the session there, and be quicker next time.

      “Read” the sheep! They’ll tell you when one’s about to run off – but you must be lightning-quick to stop the dog.
      (I’d love to know how you get on)!

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