Too much eye? There’s a tutorial for that!

Closeup photo of a black and white rough coated sheepdog staring intensely at something. This can be a sign that the dog has what's known as too much eye

Watch the “Sticky Dogs” tutorial to get your dog moving

Some years ago I kept my first training sheep in a small paddock behind a large country house. Sometimes the children of the house would come out to watch my efforts, and shout their approval from the sidelines. They also frequently dismantled my hurdle ring, despite my requests that they didn’t, to make a “tent town”. I confess I wasn’t always very welcoming.

Sheepdog and handler standing at the entrance to the trials field
Nice stick – be careful where you leave it.

However, one afternoon I pulled into the drive and the children gathered around me, looking very grave. Apparently they’d “been out to check the sheep for you” and found something sticky in the hedge.

I pulled on my wellies and tried to make sense of what I was being told. The oldest child, a boy, took charge of the situation, sensing that his sisters were failing to do justice to the discovery. “It IS sticky,” he stressed, making an extravagant gesture with his arms, “And it’s brown…and there’s a tooth on it!” he announced. What fresh Hell was this? I prepared myself for the vet’s bill.

It was my shepherd’s crook, left stuck in the hedge where I’d left it the previous evening. I had to admit it WAS sticky, inasmuch as it was like a stick, and it WAS brown, but it didn’t have a tooth – it was a horn.

So when anyone describes their dog as sticky having too much eye isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. But that’s my problem.

When an inexperienced handler realises they have a dog with eye it’s usually having too much eye that’s the problem. The dog might have a stop to die for, but won’t get up again; or you try to send it to gather from a few yards – and it just stares, and won’t leave your legs. This is a sticky dog.

Eye has its place.

Carew at work with sheep

Eye is said to be a unique feature of collies, allowing them to move even stubborn livestock with a penetrating stare and an attitude. We have mixed feelings about eye. Whilst strong-eyed dogs, slinking about with their chins at ground level, look jaw-droppingly gorgeous, a dog that works with confidence, with its head high and showing no eye whatsoever, can be a stronger worker, even if it wouldn’t win any points for artistic merit.

A dog whose strong eye makes it difficult to move often gives the impression of being afraid, and sheep are quick to assess this.

Whatever the arguments one way or another, if you find yourself with a sticky dog you need to get it moving smoothly around the sheep before you can hope to make any progress. Happily, we have a tutorial to help you do just this. Watch “Sticky Dogs!”

Cover image for the Sticky Dogs tutorial

In “Sticky Dogs!” Andy works with a lovely little bitch, Mab. Mab was late to take an interest in sheep, and when she did she clearly showed a lot of eye and worked in the typical stop-start manner.

In our tutorial Andy shows that with an assertive, but kind and encouraging, approach Mab learned to work fluently. The emphasis is always on movement – and sometimes it’s the trainer who has to do the moving.

Once you’re making progress watch our “Backwards is the way forward” and “Back to forwards” tutorials for a simple exercise that reaps huge benefits for any young dog. The walking backwards exercise teaches balance, sheep control, working distance, reinforces the flanking and stop commands, and, vitally, keeps the dog moving.

We recommend that you watch a couple of times before you put the technique into practice, and then watch again after you’ve tried it with your own dog, when it will mean so much more.

So don’t worry, finding you have something sticky doesn’t have to be bad news.

The Girls are growing fast

Smooth coated black and white collie puppy enjoying the spring sunshine

They have different personalities, but Maddie and Mew are in full agreement when it comes to sheep

Tricolour Border collie puppy standing in the sunshine
I know I look cute, but I’m actually in mid-bark

The Girls have attained the great age of five months and the honeymoon’s over, so far as playing in the field is concerned.

When the dogs move out into the field the sheep (generally) retreat to a far corner, where they can watch the proceedings without attracting undue attention. Until now.

The sheep still head for their corner, but Mew and Maddie know exactly where they are, and undue attention is precisely what they have in mind.

Luckily, both puppies will come back when we call them. It isn’t a problem if we’re vigilant, but we’re only fallible humans, and Mew and Maddie are experts at recognising and exploiting an opportunity.

Chihuahuas love to run free as much as any other breed
“Confidence is essential in a sheep dog” – now where have I heard that?

Of course, when this happens there’s no point in getting cross (it’s our fault, after all). We have to welcome the girls back and let them know how pleased we are, while making a mental note to pay more attention in future.

In everyone’s defence, however, I don’t think that we, or they, are entirely to blame.

If a Chihuahua shouts: “Last one to the sheep’s a pussy cat!” it’s a matter of collie honour to take him up on it!

Border collie for an active pet home

Non-working collie dog for sale

CLOVIS – bred for work, but bored by sheep!
Clovis is SOLD

Smooth coated collie dog for sale
Clovis has a calm temperament, but loves to be in on the action

Clovis was born here on April 3rd 2016.

His parents are both working dogs with excellent trialling pedigrees but, despite some early promise, Clovis has decided against working sheep for a living.

He will, however, make a lovely pet for an active home.

Clovis is well socialised with people and other dogs (including Chihuahuas) and loves to be involved with whatever we’re doing.

He currently lives in an outside pen, but he’s eager to please and will be easy to house train if you want him to live indoors.


Please email, using the Contact Us link at the top of the page, if you’d like more details or if you’d like to come and see the dogs.

Our puppies are bred with sheep and cattle working in mind, but temperament is just as important to us. Clovis is a delightful character – obedient, affectionate and companionable.

He is microchipped, vaccinated, and International Sheep Dog Society registered. Clovis is SOLD 161114.

Two in a dog house

Victor and Scylla love to share the same bedroom

Victor and Scylla are happy to share the vantage point of an upstairs bedroom

When we first started our collie collection, we had a routine. We’d buy the dog/dogs/puppy/puppies, get them home, put them in the yard and then build a pen around them. Sometimes it was just substantial enough to contain them overnight, and others we used for years.

Ezra (top) and his litter sister Carew in their living quarters
Ezra and his litter-sister Carew would generally take a bedroom each, but they didn’t argue over who went where

In time our yard resembled Heath Robinson’s early work – before his introduction of hamster power or the buttered-cat array.

Then a few years ago we decided to replace the old pens with a secure design that gave us two bedrooms per run – an upstairs and downstairs.

They’ve worked very well for us. Having two “rooms” means that the dogs who share can either snuggle up together in one bed, or enjoy their own space with a bedroom each.

Anyone who’s shared a room with a sister or brother will understand the importance of having your own space, and in this respect dogs are no different from us.

When it came to it, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to dismantle all of the old pens because we thought how useful it will be to have a spare room.

Can’t remember when we last had a “spare room”…

Pic of the Day – Eric’s finding his place

AND his name!

It turns out that the Chihuahua, formerly known as Emrys, is actually called Eric.

Tiny Chihuahua pup with Border collies and a Kelpie
“Anything they can do!” – Eric’s pretty sure he’s in with a chance to catch that Frisbee

Eric’s been with us for a week now, and is starting to find his place within the pack. I’d assumed that Eric’s “pack” would be the existing small dogs, Alfie and Chester, but Eric’s clearly aiming higher than that.

Eric’s perfectly happy in the house, organising Alfie and Chester’s toys, bones and chews around him on the hearthrug, but he wants to be a farm dog. He comes out into the field with the Big Dogs, joins in with their games (though carefully) and won’t tolerate any disrespect.

Chihuahua cross puppy playing with a deerhound pup
Chester and Eris were puppies together, but neither seemed to notice when Eris grew so much bigger.

In fact, it’s the other dogs who are most wary.

When Chester first moved in we soon discovered that sheer attitude will compensate for a lack of stature, and faced with something that’s fast, sharp and shrill, most Border collies will retreat to a safe distance to see what will happen next (preferably to someone else).

Kelpie pup playing with a Chihuahua puppy
Tucker never takes advantage of his size and strength, and the ultimate victor is usually Eric

Just as Chester’s best friend was Eris, the deerhound lurcher, Eric has established a mutual “All for one, and one for all!” devotion with the much bigger Kelpie, Tucker. Tucker is amazingly gentle with puppies; he helped Pippin to settle in here, and is such a good mentor that he’ll be in charge of Isla’s puppies when they move up to the porch in a few weeks’ time.

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Training your dog with cattle or ducks

Border collie working with cattle

“Starting your Border Collie on Cattle, Sheep or Ducks”

A new DVD for the Working Sheepdog

Not all border collies are needed to work sheep; we’ve had dogs attending our courses who were needed to work with cattle, alpacas, goats and turkeys.

Front cover of Starting your border collie on cattle, sheep or ducks training DVD

Although we don’t keep cattle ourselves, it was often useful to have Carew on hand if we needed to collect sheep from amongst landlord’s dairy herd, or to eject cattle from the orchard on those days when the grass was looking oh-so-much greener.

And, of course, many farms need a useful all-rounder to work with a variety of livestock, but it can be very difficult to find help with training a dog to gather and drive anything other than sheep.

This DVD – new to the website, but already long-established as a clear, easily understood training programme – guides the novice handler through the early months of puppyhood, and preparation for training, and goes on to explain how to get your young dog started on cattle, sheep and ducks.

A border collie working with ducks

Starting your Border Collie on Cattle, Sheep or Ducks” is informative, thoroughly enjoyable, and probably unique. It’s the only DVD we know of that shows dog training using livestock other than sheep.

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Pic of the day – Puppies! Hurrah!

We’re delighted that one of our favourite collies, Isla, has produced a litter of seven fabulous puppies.

Lovely black and white border collie with litter of day old puppies
Isla’s puppies will soon get used to wet legs – family commitments won’t keep Isla out of the ditches
Border collie with puppies and a large squeaky toy
It’s never too soon to introduce the concept of toys – apparently

Of course we’re just assuming, at the moment, that they’ll be fabulous, but with Isla for a mother, and a father like Ezra, what else could they possibly be?

The puppies, four girls and three boys, were born 5 days earlier than we expected, but this is Isla’s first litter so we didn’t have any history to guide us.

When it comes to the timing of whelping, each female tends to have their own patterns. Kay, for example, has always been two days early. Or our arithmetic is so bad that we’re always two days late.

Isla’s final puppy was born in the early hours of Sunday morning, and at 9am it was business as usual for her and she was out in the field with everyone else.

True, she did return to do a head count from time to time, but it was clear she had no intention of missing out on any action.

When Isla did come in to stay with the puppies, she brought her favourite toy back with her.

I don’t know if this was for the benefit of the puppies, or just to prevent anyone else from playing with it in her absence.

We’re very excited about our first Isla/Ezra litter; there are sure to be some real characters!

Happy sheepdog, happy shepherd & vice versa

Smooth coated, but no smooth operator, Max will be the focus of our next tutorial.

Smooth coated border collie sheepdog
What a sweetie! But when Max first joined us, this was his natural expression

In 2011 we bought a dog who’s since become famous (or infamous) in our household. We expected Max to be a problem, that was why we chose him, but he tested our resolve on more than one occasion!

We know, from our training days as well as from the emails and telephone calls we receive, that sheepdogs who grip are a big worry to their handlers, especially to a novice handler who can find it difficult to cope on their own.

Sheepdog attacking a sheep
Max was very quick to attack any sheep he could get his teeth into

We also know that a gripping dog is often interpreted as a strong dog, but in our experience a dog who grips is often quite worried about working sheep, and is taking a “get in first” approach that is neither strong nor confident.

Max confirmed our hunch, but we didn’t expect how much happier, in all areas of his life, Max became as his behaviour and training progressed. He became a quieter, more confident worker too, with no loss of power over the sheep.

Black and white smooth coated border collie sheepdog
Six months later & Max was taking his place amongst the workers, with a flair for cattle

Here (I think) we have the photographic proof that a confident dog, who understands and enjoys his work, is a happy dog. Max was always a delight away from sheep and, to me, was already beautiful, but I hope you can recognise the difference in these Before and After portraits, taken 6 months apart.

Look out for Max’s “gripping” tutorial in the next day or two.