Dulcie’s First Gather in Over Three Months

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

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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.


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.


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)!


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.


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.