Tutorial series – Bronwen and Scylla

A variety of smooth and rough coated border collies

A tutorial series where we train litter sisters, clearly demonstrating the differences in young dogs. Even if you breed your own replacements you can’t be entirely sure what you’ll get! It’s partly why training young dogs is so fascinating.

How can litter sisters be so different?

You might expect that litter sisters would be very similar in temperament and working style. We chose two home-bred puppies, Bronwen and Scylla, to demonstrate that even littermates can be poles apart. Both girls developed into keen, useful working dogs – just like their parents, Meg and Ezra. But both of these litter sisters needed very different training.

Even if your dog isn’t bringing you the same challenges that we see in Bronwen or Scylla, we strongly recommend you watch the nine part “Bronwen & Scylla” tutorial series.

Using actual training sessions we explain and resolve a range of problems, but there’s lots more to see and learn. Along the way Andy tailors his technique to suit the temperaments of the different dogs.

Litter sister Scylla, started to show an interest at an early age.
As a puppy, it was Scylla who showed “all the moves”

Our intention was always the same. To have the dog flanking nicely around the sheep, keeping them together and not chasing them away. Then they must stop when we ask.

Bronwen and her sister were so different. You’ll see that achieving our aims was sometimes hard and seemingly thankless work (Scylla) and sometimes gratifyingly easy (Bronwen).

Tutorial One looks at early training, and the importance of supervising your puppy’s early experiences with sheep. And does the temperament of your puppy give you any clues as to what sort of worker it will make?

Tutorial Two shows our techniques to prevent a young dog from developing the habit of gripping, and what to do when we’re too late.

Victor and Scylla love to share the same bedroom
Scylla (right) always enjoyed the company of other dogs

We also look at early lessons in stopping; gathering; and dealing with one-sidedness. Then there’s the tricky but essential issue of getting the dog between the sheep and the fence.

Plus a miscalculation shows why a small space and just a few sheep offer the best chance of early success.

Read your dog’s TAIL?

Tutorial Three – reading your dog’s tail (Bronwen and Scylla’s tails tell very different stories); keeping the lessons short, and how to turn flanking practice into the first outruns.

Tutorial Four – getting a lesson off to a good start. We must also learn to differentiate between confusion and disobedience; an easy walking exercise that builds confidence and fluency. With Scylla’s training we needed to remind ourselves that, even when it feels as though nothing’s going right, we must try to recognise an improvement, and take heart.

Bronwen became a valued and trusted member of the team

In Tutorial Five it’s our turn to learn! We’re over-ambitious with some new sheep, but it demonstrates the difference between using dogged and undogged sheep when you’re training.

We also see why the dog needs to learn to work in new places and different circumstances. Bronwen and Scylla both find their inquisitive neighbours very distracting.

Look Back!

Tutorial Six introduces the Look Back as we try to work the dogs outside the ring – with (as you might expect) mixed results. As we’ve come to know, litter sisters can be very different in their approach to work.

Tutorial Seven focuses on Bronwen’s tendency to flank far too wide from the sheep, and so lose contact with them. We like to use practical tasks to make training more interesting for the dog. For us, and for the dog. Bronwen will learn to stay closer to the sheep to get the job done.

Bronwen became invaluable with the landlord’s flock

Practical tasks are important learning opportunities. It wasn’t long before Bronwen was helping out as Andy’s blogs “Bronwen Excels Under Pressure” and “Our Best Ever Sheepdog?” illustrate.

Tutorial Eight of our training comparison focuses on Scylla and points out the areas of her work which deserve praise and encouragement, as well as those which are still a long way below par.

Thwarted!

Sometimes our best efforts are thwarted, and sometimes we get it wrong, but we take these opportunities to show you there’s something to learn from every session – and not always learned by the dog!

Close up of Bronwen concentrating very hard on some sheep

Tutorial Nine – and training our litter sisters takes them to the next stage on their way to becoming useful farm and stock dogs. Bronwen’s made great progress so she tries some more difficult tasks. She’s already quite good at penning a few sheep, but working inside the pen is a very different matter.

There’s an interesting demonstration of sheep/dog dynamics when Bronwen finds herself faced with a single sheep for the first time and has to stop and think about it, and we see the value of “Look Back“.

As usual, the keys to success when you’re teaching something new are Be Close To The Dog, and Prepare Your Training Area before you start…!


Happily, by the time Bronwen left us we already had her daughter Dulcie waiting in the wings – and we weren’t disappointed!

Close up photo of two ewes and a lamb facing sheepdog Dulcie in the handling pens at Dean Farm today.
Dulcie – following in her mother’s pawsteps

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