New Tutorial: No 70 – The Training Ring (Part 2)

Poster image for our sheepdog training tutorial The Training Ring (part 2)

The training ring can be used for much more than just starting a dog off

We saw in part one of "The Training Ring" tutorials that getting your dog's training off to a good start will be so much easier if you can confine the sheep and the action within an enclosure of the right size, but that's only the beginning.

title image of our sheepdog training tutorial video with optional English subtitles
Optional English subtitles are available on all of our sheepdog training videos

Our seventieth sheep and cattle dog training tutorial shows ways to use the training ring for increasing the dog's skill and experienced to a far more advanced level.

In this tutorial you'll see ways to get better control of the dog when it's working in tightly packed yards or pens, how to get the dog to circle the sheep on command, and how to teach a sheepdog to drive sheep and other livestock as well as widen its outrun and flanks, improve its stop and self control.

This is the latest of our SEVENTY online training tutorial videos! It will give our members lots of ideas for taking the dog's training to a more advanced level.

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged in to their account. There's more information about our sheepdog training tutorials in the video below.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

A Fine Sheep and Cattle Dog in the Making

Sheepdog in training, Dulcie looking very businesslike

Introducing Dulcie - daughter of Bronwen - granddaughter of Mel

Dulcie showing patience when walking up on some sheep
Dulcie's sheep control is excellent

The latest addition to our team of working dogs is Dulcie. She's the daughter of Bronwen and Oliver.

Bronwen was one of our best ever sheep and cattle dogs, and features in our "Bronwen and Scylla" tutorials where we compare the litter sisters Scylla (the naughty one who takes ages to train) and Bronwen (who got the sheep into the training ring in her very first training session!).

Both dogs ended up being really good sheep and cattle dogs, but the whole series of comparison tutorials are well worth watching.

Dulcie's grandparents are Meg and Ezra, so of course, her great grandmother is the sadly missed Mel.

A cheery looking Bronwen feeding her puppies
Dulcie's in there somewhere! Bronwen with her pups in May 2017

Whilst on the subject of comparisons, I cannot help but compare Dulcie with her family. Carew (Dulcie's great aunt) along with Mel and Bronwen, were among the very finest working dogs we've had, but of course, all of them had their faults.

Mel was very "pushy". She certainly got things done, but often worked too quickly. I used to say "if I take Mel, I know the job will be done", and that was true, but it took a lot of concentration to keep her back off the sheep. (Dulcie's pace is excellent She'll push hard if you ask her too, but she's equally happy to bring the sheep at a leisurely walk if you want her to).

In the open field, Carew's pace was too slow. Constant encouragement would speed her up, but it was wearing at times. She had the heart of a lion and would tackle the most aggressive sheep or cattle, but when gathering, she was s-l-o-w unless encouraged all the time. (Dulcie's pace is great - see above).

Dulcie in calm control of two sheep near a building
Firm but patient. Dulcie shows the qualities of a top class sheep and cattle dog

Bronwen. Well, possibly Bronwen was the best of them all. Tremendous outrun, good pace (perhaps a bit pushy) worked well in pens, but not great with aggressive ewes in the open field. (Dulcie's courage when working a flock has yet to be tested, but I'm confident she'll make the grade)!

Now, I know I get enthusiastic about lots of dogs, but Dulcie really does seem to be something special. Of course, Mel, Carew and Bronwen each had a wealth of other talents too numerous and varied to cover here, and only time will tell whether Dulcie will develop some or all of those, but she's begun her working career in excellent fashion. We'll keep you posted (I can't wait to take Dulcie to Dean Farm for some real flock work)!


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

Featured Tutorial – The Perfect Stop!

Improve the stop of your herding cattle or sheepdog without damaging the dog's confidence

Improve your dog's stop without damaging its confidence

A dog which will stop instantly on command is a great asset on any livestock farm. The most common fault among working sheepdogs is that they're too eager, and their handler cannot stop them precisely when and where they need to, but over-intense training can damage a sensitive dog's confidence.

"The Perfect Stop" tutorial points out ways in which you can improve your dog's stop while maintaining or even building the dog's confidence.

Close up photo of Dot, a tricolour Border Collie Sheepdog, lying in the grass
Andy nearly ruined his first dog Dot by "over training" her.

The tutorial also explains why Andy uses the "Lie down" command in preference to "Stand", why he prefers his dogs to remain standing when they stop, and why he doesn't always want the dog to stop when he gives it the "Lie down" command!

Confusing? Watch the tutorial!

Our latest tutorial video will give our members lots of guidance for building the dog's confidence and encouraging it to work steadily

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged in to their account. There's more information about our sheepdog training tutorials in the video below.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

New Tutorial: The Training Ring

Photo of sheepdog trainer Andy standing inside a training ring made from sheep hurdles

Correct size and shape of your training ring can make starting your dog far easier

Not only is the training ring one the most useful assets you can have when you start to train a sheepdog, it can also be a great help when the dog moves on to advanced work such as driving, pen work and circling sheep on command.

Our new tutorial "The Training Ring (Part 1)" clearly shows the dimensions we have found to be best for starting your dog off. Once some control is established and the dog is going around the sheep, rather than splitting them up, the addition of just a few more hurdles (or panels) transforms the ring into an oval which is ideal for "Walking Backwards".

Sheepdog training ring title image showing the availability of English subtitles
Optional English subtitles are available on all our Sheepdog Training Tutorials

The walking backwards exercise, (look for the tutorial "Backwards is the way forward") is the single most useful training exercise for dogs which have very basic control of the sheep. It teaches the dog self control, to keep its sheep together, to flank both ways, to work at a steady pace, and the correct working distance from the sheep.

It improves the dog's stop and teaches it to stay in place when told to.

Our latest tutorial video will give our members lots of guidance for building the dog's confidence and encouraging it to work steadily

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged in to their account. There's more information about our sheepdog training tutorials in the video below.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

New Tutorial: How Can I Slow the Dog Down?

Photo of a trainee Kelpie sheepdog splitting up a bunch of sheep

Many people ask us how they can slow their dog down when it's working

It's essential that the dog learns to work stock steadily. During training, a dog which is calm is likely to learn much quicker than a dog which is excitedly racing around.

If sheep or other stock panic as a result of the dog working too fast and close to them, not only will it be far more difficult to get the stock where we want them to go, but the stress will cause them to be less productive, too.

English Subtitles are available on all of our training tutorials
English Subtitles are available on all our Sheepdog Training Tutorials

Unfortunately, teaching the dog to work steadily isn't something we can achieve overnight, but there are quite a number of things we can do to encourage the dog to be calm.

Our latest tutorial video will give our members lots of guidance for building the dog's confidence and encouraging it to work steadily

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged in to their account.

More information about our sheepdog training tutorials in the video below.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

How to train a sheepdog to slow down

Training a dog to herd sheep - giving the sheep plenty of space

A dog working too fast and close, disrupts and stresses sheep and shepherd alike

For maximum working efficiency and minimum stress to the sheep, the herding dog should work with a calm authority, keeping a good distance between itself and the sheep, but not so far off that it loses control of them. This topic is covered in our online sheepdog training videos.

Training a sheepdog to slow down
Keeping the dog at the correct distance behind the sheep as you walk backwards is a great way to teach the dog self-control.

Not long ago, we received an email from a sheepdog handler in New Zealand who had bought our 'First Steps' sheepdog training DVD and had managed to get her headstrong dog to outrun and fetch the sheep, but the dog was working at breakneck speed and she wanted some advice on how to slow it down.

My first reaction to a problem like this is that the handler is allowing the dog to work too far away from them too soon. One of the vital rules of sheepdog training is that the further away from you the dog is working, the less control you have over the dog. Remember, the dog is using a primitive hunting instinct. When you train your dog, you're channelling that instinct into controlled work from the dog, but a trainee dog will usually only respect your control if you're very close. Dogs hunt quite close together in packs, so a dog that finds itself working a good distance from the rest of the pack (that's you) feels it's getting no backup. It will often revert to its hunting instinct, rather than listen to a pack member who's shouting orders from afar.

The dog needs leadership, and particularly in the early stages of its training, it wants its leader to be working alongside it - or at least close by. While on the subject of leadership, often when the dog's not doing what we want or expect, we revert to excitedly shouting at the dog - just at the moment when we should be calm and authoritative. It's hardly surprising the dog doesn't recognise us as its leader if we shout excitedly.

The dog working too fast is caused by two main factors. 1. The novelty of chasing, particularly something which moves quickly or runs away. 2. The fear of being attacked by the "prey". Often when hunting, the predator finds itself being attacked by the prey. Sometimes fatally.

The novelty aspect will reduce as the dog becomes more familiar with being close to sheep (or other livestock), so regular, controlled training will help a great deal but unfortunately, the more quickly and unpredictably the dog moves, the more frightened the sheep will be, so they'll react by making sudden, very fast movements. These result in the dog being still more excited. Somehow, we must break this chain reaction.

If the dog works sensibly close-bye, then the solution is to work the dog calmly, and praise it with a gentle voice when it's working steadily, but stop it the moment it gets excited. The dog will soon learn that it gets a lot more fun (work) if it remains calm.

Stopping the dog and keeping it in place for a few moments, or even up to about half a minute can also help. It teaches the dog that the fun will still be there, even if it pauses for a while.

Of course, if the dog won't stop, even close-bye, you need to concentrate on this issue first. Repeatedly flanking the dog a little way around the sheep and stopping it by blocking it, is the way to drum it into the dog that it must stop on command.

Kay driving sheep into a field
A dog which has the confidence to approach the sheep calmly will find it much easier to control them.

Once you can stop the dog fairly reliably on the far side of the sheep (point of balance), the best all-round exercise we know of to improve the dog's pace, stop and overall control over the sheep is to walk backwards, keeping the dog in place as the sheep follow you (to get away from the dog). When you have a few yards between the dog and the sheep, call the dog up quietly. The instant it begins to rush, stop the dog with a sharp command, then repeat the procedure until the dog follows the sheep at a steady pace. Sometimes the dog will learn this quickly, but other dogs take longer to oblige

The next step is to increase the distance between the dog and the sheep, before you call the dog up. This teaches the dog to control itself and you'll find that most dogs will learn to moderate their speed.

If at any time the dog reverts to tearing around, go back to the very close work again - walking backwards as the dog brings the sheep up to you calmly. Walking Backwards is covered comprehensively in the Sheepdog Training Tutorial entitled "Backwards is the Way Forward" which can be found in the Pace (Slowing) category.

If the dog has a good stop close-bye, but won't stop at the end of its outrun, the outrun was too long. Walk closer to the sheep next time and make sure the dog stops properly when commanded (not twenty paces later). Only then, should you begin to increase the outrun distance again (gradually). Improving the dog's stop is covered in several tutorial videos listed in the "Stopping" category.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

New Tutorial: Sheep – Essential Facts for Beginners

The title image for our sheepdog training tutorial. Showing seven sheep in a line near a hedge.

Understanding sheep and their behaviour makes training your dog far easier

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the release of our double DVD set "First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training", we're busy updating it in anticipation of releasing a second, even more comprehensive version in the near future.

A useful spinoff of this is that as each "First Steps" chapter is somewhere near completion, we can add it to our Sheepdog Training Tutorials Library so that our full members can benefit from the advice.

First steps in border collie sheepdog training dvd

Full members will know that we've already uploaded "Sheepdog Selection and Preparation" and "The Sheepdog Whistle" and now we're pleased to be able to tell you the chapter "Sheep - Essential Facts for Beginners" is available in the Tutorials Library.

As the title suggests, Sheep - Essential Facts for Beginners is packed with useful information which is not often available to those training a sheepdog for the first time.

As well as showing what sort of sheep are best for training, and which to definitely avoid, there's advice on the legal side of sheep keeping, and how you might find a training ground if you don't already have one.

There's advice on the behaviour of sheep, too - it's extremely useful to know when sheep are likely to stay in a neat bunch and when they're probably going to make a run for it at high speed!

Whether you already have sheep but perhaps don't understand why they behave the way they do, or you're thinking about training a dog and simply wondering how to go about it, you'll find some essential information in this "new" video tutorial.

Watch the video below for more information on our sheepdog training tutorials.


  • ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS
    Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

    We now have 69 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

    Click icon at bottom-right of viewer for full-screen mode.

    For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory - we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

Pippin – Super Little Sheepdog and Super Mum!

Smooth coated border collie Pippin's doing really well in her new home.

Great things come in small packages!

"Hi Andy. Just to let you know the dogs have settled in lovely. Pippin is already working groups of 300 ewes like she has been doing it for years. Thanks again. Brilliant dogs."

Smooth coated border collie puppy Phiz
Phiz very much takes after her mother Pippin.

This was the text message I received a few days ago from Pippin's new owner. It's always a great relief when we get a message like this, because some dogs take longer to settle into a new home than others and of course, not all dogs suit their new owners.

From the day we collected her as a somewhat nervous eight week old puppy, we've been very fond of Pippin. Gradually her confidence grew and although still remarkably small for a border collie, she showed signs of being a courageous dog. When she began working, the sheep showed her great respect.

Happily, Pippin produced and reared a (small) litter of lovely pups before she moved to her new home, and now these too are proving remarkably like their mum in terms of their courage-to-weight ratio.

Smooth coated border collie puppy Boz
If you can tell which is Boz and which is Phiz from the front, you're doing well! (Mew and Maddie in the background).

Phiz very much takes after her mother. At around twelve weeks, she's only showing a very casual interest in sheep at the moment, but we're optimistic that she'll be fine.

She absolutely adores playing with toys, particularly bouncing balls, so she's going to be just fine here.

Little Boz is a great chap, too. He shows a little more interest in the sheep than his sister Phiz, and every bit as much courage. Sadly we won't be able to keep him in the long term, but I'd like to get him at least partly trained before he goes to a new home.