Featured Tutorial: The Training Area

Trainee sheep and cattle dog Remus keeping a small bunch of sheep under control

(Not to be confused with “The Training Ring“)

IS YOUR TRAINING GROUND A HELP, OR A HINDERANCE?

Your training area can make or break the early training sessions. It might seem like hard work, but taking the time to round off the corners and clear some obstacles will make it easier for your dog to succeed, and pay dividends in saving your time and temper.

A group of "Badger Faced" sheep hiding under a canopy of overhanging branches

A SAFE HAVEN!
It takes a confident, skilled dog to get sheep out from under a hedge like this! Sheep are quick to take advantage of any refuge they find when being pursued by an untrained dog.

We originally examined the training area on our First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training DVD, and it also appears, with a few changes and the addition of optional English subtitles, as The Training Area tutorial in the tutorial library.

The Training Area looks at how to adapt the space you have available and suggests some alternatives, including using sheep hurdles to build a temporary training ring, if the corners and obstacles are beyond your control. 

To watch the online tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member.  
Paid members – Log in and watch
Non-members – Sign up now


ONLINE SHEEP AND CATTLE DOG TRAINING TUTORIALS

For English SUBTITLES click CC on the player.

video

Clear, inexpensive, herding sheepdog training instruction

We now have 70 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

Featured Tutorial: Backwards is The Way Forward

Sheepdog trainer Andy Nickless walking backwards as his dog brings the sheep up to him steadily

This deceptively simple but significant lesson can pay dividends in improved performance of your dog.

As soon as your dog’s working around the sheep, and under some sort of control, this simple exercise gives you the opportunity to improve the dog’s stop, flanks, and working distance – all at once.

Backwards is the Way Forward revisits Tess and her training. Tess was a strong and determined dog, with loads of potential, but we needed to harness her enthusiasm and create a working partnership with her before she could make progress. In this tutorial you’ll see a training session where Andy puts this deceptively simple exercise into practice. 

You won’t need vast acres or even a training ring for your “backwards” training sessions, but eyes in the back of your head would definitely help! When you’re both ready for something more advanced the follow-up, Back to Forwards, will show what you and your dog can learn when you turn around and look where you’re going.

To watch the online tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member

Watch Dulcie Working at Dean Farm Early Today

video
Herding sheepdog Dulcie controlling a yard crowded with sheep

Follow Dulcie as she gathers a flock of sheep in the open field, and then takes them to the farm, where she guides them through the ‘sorting race’ so that the lambs which are ready for market can be ‘drafted out’.

Dulcie works quickly and calmly as she brings the flock from the field into the sorting area and she shows courage and patience when confronted with a stubborn ewe which doesn’t want to go into the yard.


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

We now have 70 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

For English SUBTITLES click CC on player.

video

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.

What’s Wrong With White Sheepdogs?

A predominantly white border collie sheepdog working a small bunch of sheep

Answer – NOTHING! (Well, almost nothing).

A recent question from one of our members reminded us that white border collie sheepdog pups are not as popular as black and white, tricolour, red or other colours.

Three predominantly white border collie pups under an overhanging branch.

That’s a pity – and there’s little or no justification for it, unless you’re a sheepdog trials competitor.

If you have a predominantly white dog, the sheep don’t always recognise it as a dog when it first approaches them. I’ve seen this happen. Unbelievably, the sheep will often totally ignore the dog until it’s extremely close to them; then suddenly they realise there’s a dog amongst them and they panic!

Cap the white border collie sheepdog

After their initial panic, the sheep remember that the white thing approaching them is actually a dog (in disguise?) and it’s not a problem from then on. This is OK in a farm situation, where the same sheep see the same dog every time, but for sheepdog trials, where you can lose points if the dog causes the sheep to jump or panic, the poor sheep rarely see the same dog twice. In this situation, a white dog can be a big problem.

Read more about coloured dogs we’ve had .

Dulcie’s First Gather in Over Three Months

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we’ve been confined to working the dogs at Kings Green, so today’s outing to Dean Farm was very welcome – and Dulcie didn’t disappoint us!

Dulcie gathering the sheep together and driving them towards the farm

On a glorious June morning, Dulcie gathered the sheep effortlessly. Her outrun has improved considerably since we last visited Dean Farm. Here, she’s moving the flock towards the railway bridge on the way to the farm.

Far in the background, Dulcie keeps the entire flock heading for the gateway

As the leading sheep come through the gate, Dulcie can just be seen in the background, making sure all the stragglers keep together with the main flock. In this situation, ewes will often try to lead their lambs away from the ‘dangers’ of a dog.

Dulcie patiently waits for the sheep to realise they have no option but to go into the handling yard

Once safely in the yard, Dulcie’s next task was to push the sheep into the handling pens.

Close up photo of two ewes and a lamb facing sheepdog Dulcie in the handling pens at Dean Farm today.

These sheep are challenging Dulcie. They don’t want to go through the sorting race (off to the left) but Dulcie stands her ground and they quickly run through.

Dulcie lying on the floor in the yard at Dean Farm, keeping watch on her sheep

All in all, Dulcie’s work showed a big improvement over previous visits to Dean Farm. She was doing big outruns (more than 300 metres) and listening to her commands much better than before.

She also held the sheep up to the race by herself when required. That’s a great help.

How to Stop Your Dog Chasing Cars

picture of a car driving down a country lane, being chased by a sheepdog

How to stop your dog chasing cars or anything you don’t want it to chase!

Chasing cars and other vehicles is a big problem for some dog owners. It can be extremely dangerous, both for the dog, and any humans involved. The drivers amongst us know they shouldn’t swerve to avoid small animals which suddenly appear on the road, but it’s a natural reflex. It could be fatal though.

Stopping a dog from chasing cars is very similar to stopping them chasing sheep, cattle, or other livestock. It can’t be done quickly, except by physically restraining the dog or shutting it away.

Photo of Border Collie Scylla jumping to catch a ball
‘High Drive’ dogs will chase almost anything that they see as ‘escaping’.

If you’re a subscriber to our online sheepdog training tutorials, you’ll understand that it’s an ancient hunting instinct which makes the dog want to chase livestock, and that same instinct makes some dogs see a car or wheeled vehicle – or basically anything which moves – as “prey”.

If you want your dog to retrieve a ball, you wave the ball tantalisingly close to the dog to excite it, then when the dog shows interest, you throw the ball. The dog sees the speeding ball as ‘escaping’ and chases after it to bring it back.

If we wanted the dog to ignore balls, we’d avoid making them interesting to the dog. We’d keep the ball still, and not temptingly close to the dog, until we were sure it would be ignored.

Likewise, we must encourage the dog to find moving vehicles boring. It works not only with vehicles and moving objects, but with sheep, cattle and other livestock too. I know this because in the years when we used to run sheepdog training courses here, we’d occasionally get well-meaning people who had walked their dog around a field of sheep every day since it was a puppy.

It quickly became apparent that when this had happened, the chances of the dog taking an interest in working sheep were very slim. By walking the dog around the sheep on a lead (and therefore restraining it) even without saying anything to the pup, they were sending a message to it that they didn’t want it to go after the sheep.

NOTE:
It’s not difficult to discourage the dog from chasing cars, but maintain its interest in sheep, simply by occasionally giving the dog a little training with sheep in between car-chasing lessons.

photo of a tightly-packed group of Border Collies looking very happy!

Being creatures of habit as dogs age, those habits become more difficult to break as the dog ages. Dissuading a puppy from chasing vehicles is simple. At eight to twelve months it will be a little more difficult, but if the dog’s five or six years old, and it’s been chasing cars for all that time, it’s going to test your patience! It can be done if you’re prepared to put the time in, but it won’t be quick.

Whatever its age, you need to be really well bonded with the dog. By bonded, I don’t mean the dog sits there while you give it treats or pat its head, I mean the dog accepts you as its leader and will come to you immediately. Even when it doesn’t want to.

I don’t mean when it’s chasing a vehicle. By the time it gets to that stage, the “red mist” has descended and the dog’s not listening to anything. I mean if the dog’s playing with a toy or doing something it finds interesting and you call it to you, it should come immediately.

Don’t use “tit-bits”. If you use treats, the dog will be bonded with them, and not you. We never use tit-bits with our working dogs.

A good test of the bond between you and your dog, is walking on a lead. If the dog walks with the lead slack for about 90% of the time (away from livestock or cars) it’s probably pretty well bonded with you. If it’s pulling on the lead, it’s trying to control you and therefore hasn’t fully accepted you as its leader.

The easiest way to properly lead-train a dog is to start off somewhere boring (for the dog). If possible, eliminate any distractions. Walk about with the dog on the lead, this way and that. If it pulls on the lead, correct it with a gruff voice, and pull-back on the lead. Take care not to harm the dog, of course.

Take great care not to get cross with the dog, and make sure you behave like a good leader. Good leaders don’t get excited when things are going wrong, they don’t shout and scream, they remain calm and give praise when things are going well, but will also give stern correction when things are going wrong. Once they’ve given a stern correction though, it’s forgotten. Good leaders don’t bear grudges, they move on in a calm but firm manner.

That’s exactly how you should behave with your dog.

Photo of two young border collie sheepdogs running and biting at each other in play as they run

Once you have the dog properly bonded with you, I suggest you very carefully expose it to moving vehicles, by making those moving vehicles as boring as possible to the dog.

All dog training basically entails making it as simple as possible for the dog to grasp the idea at first, and then very gradually move on to a more realistic scenario.

To help achieve this, the vehicle should be small, slow and QUIET at first. You should also do it initially, in a garden, a field, or at least somewhere away from public roads if possible.

The more control you have, the better, and you cannot control traffic on public roads, so it makes sense to start off somewhere safe.

An ideal start might be with a lawn mower in your garden! A ride-on mower would be perfect, but almost any mower will do provided it gets a response from the dog when it moves. Of course its blades shouldn’t be working when you’re training your dog. It should be driven or operated by someone who’s willing to help you, and prepared to stop immediately if the dog should get away from you, or pull you over, for instance.

Not everyone has a garden large enough to do this in, but it’s the principle that I want to describe – make it BORING!

The safety aspect is your responsibility and you must take it very seriously.

Basically, you take the dog up to a stationary vehicle – and probably get no reaction from the dog.

Next, the driver starts the engine. The dog should ignore it. If the dog reacts badly, the driver turns off the engine and you take the dog further away.

The engine starts again, and let’s say the dog remains calm. You walk it quietly up to the vehicle (while the engine is still running).

As before (and in the following stages) if the dog remains calm, you can carefully move on to the next stage. If the dog becomes excited or difficult to control in any way, you go back however many stages it requires to get the dog calm again. (We’re talking BORING here).

Once the dog will stand close to the stationary vehicle with its engine running, we take the dog away to a safe distance and ask the driver to move the vehicle forward by a couple of metres.

Assuming the dog’s fine with this, we ask the driver to dive a little further this time – and so on. Eventually, the dog will be fine with the moving vehicle, so we can move on to a more realistic situation – but remember to go back however stages it requires to get the dog calm again.

Photo of a border collie sheepdog herding a bunch of sheep into a pen

Our training is intended mainly for farm situations. If your situation is different, you must adapt the training to suit your conditions, but safety must come first.

We know of one new owner who took on a particularly bad car chaser, and he literally sat by a road with the dog securely restrained, and gave it tit-bits or played with the dog whenever a car approached. It worked eventually, but the safety aspect makes me shudder. Try to train the dog away from public places if you possibly can, at least until you are sure you can control the dog at all times – especially where traffic is involved.

The safety of yourself, your dog, and of other people is YOUR responsibility.


A NEW Training DVD and a GREAT OFFER for BUYERS!

Picture showing the five DVDs on special offer

We’re proudly announcing our FOURTH Sheepdog Training Tutorials DVD and a great offer to help you buy more than one copy!

If you’re eagerly awaiting the next volume of our collected tutorials… HERE IT IS!

Picture showing how to choose the currency you'd like to pay with
How to choose your currency and select a DVD or book category using a mobile phone

PLUS, to celebrate Volume 4 and mark an amazing ten years since the launch of our first DVD, First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training, we’re offering discounts on multiple purchases – from 10% (for two DVDs) to 20% when you buy all five.

The tutorials on Volume 4 are all available online, but we know that some subscribers have internet problems, or simply prefer to watch on TV.

Sheepdog Training Tutorials Volume 4 is in stock, and ready to ship to anywhere in the world NOW. You can buy in one of eleven popular currencies (see the picture above-left) and we automatically ship the correct format for your worldwide location.

So check out our new shop pages, choose your currency, and checkout with your DVDs!

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE 2xDVD SET?

Volume Four looks at new challenges, and goes into some previous topics in more depth, all using explanatory graphics, slow motion, and clear instructions. In just under four hours, 16 chapters cover:

Picture showing the two DVDs and the case for volume four

  • Slowing the dog down
  • Making the best use of the training ring, even for advanced work
  • Back to Forwards – taking a vital exercise a stage further
  • Bronwen & Scylla – further instalments of our training comparison
  • How work can be a reward for a keen dog
  • The how and why of flanking both ways
  • Starting a reluctant dog
  • Why some dogs don’t want to work, and how to spark their interest
  • Top tips for training your dog
  • Further training with “Max the Gripper”
  • Stopping the dog – part 2

But hey? You’ll find lots more information on the Sheepdog Training Tutorials Volume 4 page.

Featured Tutorial – What Shall I Do Next?

Title image for our sheepdog training tutorial - What Shall I do Next?

Our recommended order for training sheep or cattle dogs

When you first start training a dog to work livestock, it can seem daunting to say the least! With the dog whirling around and refusing to stop while sheep or cattle run in all directions, the beginner can be forgiven for thinking they’ll never regain control, but attending to the most urgent points, and tackling them correctly, can quickly yield good results.

“What Shall I Do Next?” suggests a solid structure of priorities for setting the situation up correctly and maintaining (or regaining) control when the dog is released.

If you’re wondering what you should be teaching your dog now, and what can wait, or even whether you should be training all of the basics at once, watch “What Shall I Do Next?” to learn the order of lessons that many years of sheepdog training has given us the best results.

Interesting and Varied
The training order shouldn’t be inflexible though. Once you have good control of the dog (and the dog has good control of the stock) as the dog’s skill increases, it’s good practice to vary the training, the training venue, and if possible, the stock too. This keeps sessions fresh and interesting for both dog and trainer, and equally importantly, broaden’s the dog’s mind.

Image depicting sheepdog trial competitor with dog

Sheepdog Trials
For the aspiring sheepdog trials competitors, we have two tutorials which deal specifically with preparation for Sheepdog Trials and how they are run, and the things trials competitors are expected to know.

Our video tutorials give members lots of guidance for starting a dog, progressing its training, and dealing with the challenges that arise.

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.