The Working Sheepdog Website

Sheep & Cattle dog training advice, articles & information

Featured tutorial – Moving out into the open field

Sheepdog driving sheep into a paddock
The training ring is ideal for keeping the action in easy reach of the handler, but some young dogs are unhappy when working in a restricted space. Confined with the sheep, and feeling under pressure, a dog can be uncharacteristically aggressive. We recommend you move your training sessions to the open field as soon as your dog can control its sheep, but those first few moments of freedom are likely to be chaotic. You might find your inexperienced dog is … Read more

FAQ – Stop at the top of the outrun without command?

The top of the outrun
QUESTION: Should my trainee sheepdog stop at the top of its outrun without a command from me? ANSWER: It’s nice to think the young dog will stop at the top of its outrun without a command, and indeed, it sometimes happens. But I’m inclined to think the dog is likely to be stopping because its confidence is flagging, rather than wanting to do things perfectly! Nice though it might be to see the dog stop at the end of its … Read more

FAQ – Sticky dog biting sheep’s faces

Photo of a working sheepdog very close to some sheep which are trapped in a pen
QUESTION: My dog has become very ‘sticky’ and recently started biting the faces of the sheep, instead of responding to my commands what should I do? ANSWER: Being sticky (staring at the sheep and not responding to commands) and biting sheep, are both indications of a lack of confidence. If the dog has recently begun to get ‘sticky’ it suggests you might be trying to progress too quickly with its training. NOTE:What we refer to as a ‘sticky’ dog is … Read more

FAQ – Outruns (send the dog from your side)

Graphic image showing the relative distance between dog, sheep, and handler
QUESTION: My dog’s doing lovely long outruns when I stand between her and the sheep, but how do I get her to do them from by my side? ANSWER: The reason for standing between the dog and the sheep when you send it on its outrun, is so that you can move towards the dog and encourage it to go out wider as it comes past you. Once you’re satisfied that the dog is going wide enough without you having … Read more

FAQ – Why’s the dog’s tail position so important?

photo showing the dog with its tail in the air as it's led into the training ring
QUESTION: I keep hearing people talk about the position of the dog’s tail when it’s working sheep. What do they mean? ANSWER: When dogs are relaxed, they hold their tails in a normal downward position but when they are nervous or afraid, the dog’s tail becomes rigid, and often points upwards. In the photograph above, Andy is leading trainee sheepdog Scylla into the training ring – with Scylla’s tail straight in the air. A sure sign that the dog is … Read more

FAQ – How to stop your dog barking

Photo of an excited dog jumping up and down at the prospect of getting to the sheep
QUESTION: How can I stop my dog barking when I take him somewhere new, where there are sheep? ANSWER: Basically, there are two reasons why dogs bark: 1. ALARM – if they suspect an intruder or danger of some sort. If there really is no danger, it helps if you gently reassure the dog that all is well. Alternatively, relocating or adjusting the dog’s living quarters can help to obscure a particular view or lessen the dog’s notion of danger … Read more

FAQ – Flank around sheep both ways

Photo of a sheepdog herding sheep into a paddock
QUESTION: “How can I make my dog go both ways around the sheep? She stops reasonably well, but insists on going anticlockwise all the time”. WHY THIS HAPPENS: In a similar way to humans, a great many dogs are left or right “handed”, and as with most training issues, it’s all about the dog’s confidence. Once the dog discovers that nothing unpleasant happens to it when it goes one way around things (not just sheep) it will naturally prefer to … Read more

Featured tutorial – Why Your Dog Should Flank Both Ways

Photo of Mossie working sheep
It’s important that your dog will flank both ways around the stock For day-to-day farming tasks you might be able to work around your dog’s shortcomings, but when the unexpected happens (as it surely will) you, your dog, or more likely your sheep, will run into trouble if the dog is reluctant to flank freely in both directions. Why Your Dog Should Flank Both Ways relives an incident that demonstrated the value of a versatile dog. Happily our emergency was … Read more

NEW Tutorial! – Getting the sheep into the ring!

Title image of our sheepdog training tutorial - Getting the sheep into the ring.
How to get your sheep to go where they’d rather not be! New sheepdog handlers who’ve built themselves a training ring, are often faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem: “How can I put my sheep into the training ring if I don’t have a trained dog?” It’s a fair question! And one we should perhaps have addressed before. Sheep can be particularly difficult at times, especially when they’re being herded towards an enclosure they’d really prefer to keep out of … Read more

Featured Tutorial: Starting a Non-Starter!

Photo of a border collie clambering through a fence to get away from the sheep in the background
Can anything be done if your collie doesn’t want to work? The short answer is “Yes!” and understanding the possible reasons why the dog won’t work is a huge help to finding the cure. It’s very disappointing to find that your collie doesn’t want to work sheep or cattle, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to change its mind. As with most aspects of training dogs to work stock, if you understand what’s happening and why, there’s … Read more

Featured tutorial – Get off the Fence!

getting sheep away from the fence
When confronted with a dog, one of the few ways sheep have to defend themselves is to crowd together onto a fence, or in a corner. From this position they can turn to face the dog, and even just a few sheep can look very intimidating from the dog’s point of view! As a result, a very common problem for young dogs and inexperienced handlers is getting the sheep into the middle of the ring or field, and keeping them … Read more

FAQ – Dog attacking cattle

A dog leaping up at a young heifer's face to bite it
QUESTION: My dog works cattle quite well, but dives in and grips their legs for no apparent reason. How can I calm him down and stop him gripping cattle when they’re moving OK? ANSWER: The first thing is to try giving just enough well-timed correction so that the dog doesn’t go in too hard – and avoid rapidly repeated, and high-pitched commands.You will know the situations when he’s most likely to grip, and you should also have noticed how his … Read more


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