Featured tutorial – Inside Flanks (Circling the Sheep on Command)

Border collie working sheep in a field

Lift your dog’s skill from average to excellent!

Once your dog’s driving competently, teaching inside flanks (circling on command) is the next step. Make no mistake, good inside flanks can be the difference between having an average dog, and a great dog!

In the two-part tutorial, Train Your Dog to Circle the Sheep, we see Wyn learning to overcome her inhibitions to flank between Andy and the sheep.

It sounds simple enough, but having been taught NOT to come between us and the sheep in the early stages of training, many dogs are reluctant to circle the sheep.

Once your dog’s driving fairly fluently you’ll want to be able to steer it at a distance, and this is where a dog with good inside flanks comes into its own. If the dog will circle the sheep in either direction you can put the dog anywhere you want, and drive the sheep to anywhere you need.

It’s a vital skill for trialling, where precision is important, but it’s also very useful for farm and practical applications (and it’s quite good fun too).

Part one shows training in the open field, but if this doesn’t work with your particular dog and sheep combination, don’t despair! Part two shows techniques to try while working inside the training ring.

To watch the tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member, and if you need more help, leave a comment or question on the tutorial page.


Featured tutorials – Introducing Sheepdog Trials

Sheepdog moving sheep

Have you ever felt tempted to try sheepdog trialling?

The more prepared you are for your first competition, the less nerve-wracking it will be; it’s reassuring to know what to expect, and what will be expected of you.

It seems unbelievable now, but when I entered my first sheepdog trial (oh, so many years ago) it wasn’t until I stood at the post that I fully realised the sheep were now MY responsibility.

Whatever happened, however much of a mess my dog and I made of the run, those sheep weren’t going anywhere if we didn’t take them. It was a sobering thought, and I wished I’d thought it sooner!

Sheepdog trials demand control and precision, but are founded in the practical everyday work of the shepherd. Trials can be a hugely enjoyable, if sometimes frustrating, opportunity to see how your dog, and your handling, measure up.

But whether your interest is as competitor or spectator, our two-part Introduction to Sheepdog Trials will show you how a sheepdog trial works.

Part One covers what to do when you arrive at the field, studying the course, what a typical course looks like, and how to plan your run to your dog’s advantage. We also tell you how points are most often lost, and what the judge will be looking for in a good run.

There’s lots of great sheepdog footage to illustrate the Outrun, Lift and Fetch, with further explanations using clear animations.

Part Two takes you beyond the Fetch, through the Cross-drive, to the Pen. It will also help you understand how a sheepdog trial is run and how to prepare your dog for your first trial, as well as what to do when you get there, and what to avoid (if you can).

At my first trial I learned to take responsibility for the sheep, and to take responsibility for my dog’s training and be more realistic about our progress. I also learned that if, finally, it all falls apart and you have to take The Long Walk (all the way up the field to the letting-out pen to collect your dog, and together drive the sheep to the exhaust pen with what feels like the eyes of the world on you) you won’t be the first, and you definitely won’t be the last. It’s happened to every competitor at some point in their careers.

And if it’s any comfort, hardly anyone will be watching you anyway – especially if there’s a half-decent tea tent. Well, no one except your trainer, your partner, your parents, your children, and anyone who already knows you, of course …

We’re sure that An Introduction to Sheepdog Trials will interest potential spectators, as well as encourage potential competitors. Remember, to watch the tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member, and if you need more help, leave a comment or question on the tutorial page.


Featured tutorials – Bronwen and Scylla

Close up photo of Bronwen in a grassy field

A tutorial series that demonstrates the differences in young dogs.

We took two puppies, Bronwen and Scylla, from a litter and thought we knew what to expect: we assumed their work would be similar to their parents’ and that Bronwen and Scylla would be similar to each other. How wrong we were! Both girls developed into keen and useful sheepdogs, but their differing personalities, strengths and, yes, weaknesses, meant they each needed a different approach.

If you’re training a young dog and are confused by its progress (or lack of progress), we recommend you watch the “Bronwen & Scylla” series of tutorials. Our intention was always the same – to have the dog flanking nicely around the sheep, keeping them together and not chasing them away, and then stopping when we ask. Because Bronwen and her sister were so different, you’ll see that achieving our aims was sometimes hard and seemingly thankless work (Scylla) and sometimes gratifyingly easy (Bronwen).

Usually, it was somewhere in between!

Victor and Scylla love to share the same bedroom
Scylla (right) always enjoyed the company of other dogs

Tutorial One looks at early training, and the importance of supervising your puppy’s early experiences with sheep. And does the temperament of your puppy give you any clues as to what sort of worker it will make? (Spoiler alert – we think so!)

Tutorial Two shows our techniques to prevent a young dog from developing the habit of gripping, and what to do when we’re too late. We also look at early lessons in stopping; gathering; dealing with one-sidedness; and the tricky but essential issue of getting the dog between the sheep and the fence.

Plus a miscalculation shows why a small space and just a few sheep offer the best chance of early success.

Tutorial Three – reading your dog’s tail (Bronwen and Scylla’s tails tell very different stories); keeping the lessons short, and how to turn flanking practice into the first outruns.

Tutorial Four – getting a lesson off to a good start; learn to differentiate between confusion and disobedience; an easy walking exercise that builds confidence and fluency. Particularly important with Scylla’s training – even when it feels as though nothing’s going right try to recognise an improvement, and take heart.

Bronwen became a valued and trusted member of the team

Tutorial Five – we’re over-ambitious with our new sheep, but it demonstrates the difference between using dogged and undogged sheep when you’re training.We also see why the dog needs to learn to work in different circumstances, as Bronwen and Scylla both find their new neighbours very distracting.

Tutorial Six introduces the Look Back as we try to work the dogs outside the ring – with mixed results (naturally).

Tutorial Seven focuses on Bronwen’s problem of flanking far too wide from the sheep, and losing contact with them.

We like to use practical tasks to make training more interesting for the dog, and for us, and hopefully Bronwen will learn that to get the job done she mustn’t lose control of her sheep.

Tutorial Eight of our training comparison focuses on Scylla and points out the areas of her work which deserve praise and encouragement, as well as those which are still a long way below par.

Sometimes our best efforts are thwarted, and sometimes we get it wrong, but we take these opportunities to show you there’s something to learn from every session – and not always learned by the dog!

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged into their account. Paid subscribers may also submit short videos of their own training sessions for evaluation and advice. Please contact us for details.


Featured tutorials – My Dog’s No Good, and No Excuses Please!

Smooth coated border collie puppy Boz

Sheepdog training – with a little help from Johnny Mercer?

Take a look at two complementary short tutorials, My Dog’s No Good and No Excuses Please!

My Dog’s No Good warns against falling into the trap of believing your dog will never make a good sheepdog. So long as it’s fit, healthy and keen, the only thing preventing your dog from achieving its potential is YOU! So if anyone tells you, “Your dog’s no good!” you probably need to reassess your training technique. And don’t be downhearted if your dog isn’t progressing as quickly as people tell you it should: every dog and handler combination is unique.

No Excuses Please! takes a different angle – the risks of allowing your dog to perform poorly, either because it’s easier to “just let him get on with it” or because you simply haven’t noticed. Be realistic, but always aim for accuracy and constant improvement. The more times your dog is allowed to work badly, the more confident your dog will become that:”This is how we do it!”

So, what advice does Johnny Mercer have for sheepdog trainers?

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

And latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged into their account. Paid subscribers may also submit short videos of their own training sessions for evaluation and advice. Please contact us for details.


Featured tutorial – Stopping the Dog Part 2 – Revised!


We’ve uploaded the latest tutorial to benefit from a lot of new footage and much more information.

Now that part two of our “Stopping the Dog” series is available to members, these completely revised tutorials Stopping the Dog – Parts One & Two take a detailed look at the problems surrounding the stop (or stand, or lie down, whichever command you choose). They explain why your dog doesn’t want to stop, and what you can do to make it more likely that the dog will respect your stop command when you give it.

We also look at situations that occur, or that you can create, where the dog is most likely to obey you, as well as how to catch your dog when all else has failed (and why it’s important to let it go again!)

Watch Stopping the Dog – Part Two in conjunction with Stopping the Dog – Part One and How Can I Slow the Dog Down?

Sheepdog in training, Dulcie looking very businesslike

We hope you’ll find the new Part Two more clear, and even more helpful, than its predecessor, but we’re always happy to hear from you. Please let us know what you think, via the comments section on our tutorials pages.

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged into their account. Paid subscribers may also submit short videos of their own training sessions for evaluation and advice. Please contact us for details.


Featured tutorials – basic training

Kelpie Will and Border Collie pup Jago standing side by side

There’s more to training a sheepdog than just sheep work.

We know that sheepdogs love to work, so we can take advantage of that to teach our dogs other things that will make life easier for us – and them.

We want to remind you of two tutorials in the library: Use a Reward to Get Training on Board, and Eliminate the Toilet Break.

In Use a Reward we meet Odo, a super-keen collie who’s less keen about travelling. We demonstrate, in real time, how quickly Odo can be convinced that travelling’s not only nothing to worry about, but even essential if he wants to work the sheep. It doesn’t take Odo very long to learn this simply-taught lesson.

In Eliminate the Toilet Break Archie learns that preparation is important for a long work session or sheepdog trial run. A dog who stops to relieve himself during his work not only risks losing control of his sheep, it looks unprofessional and in a trial can lose you valuable points. If the dog continues to work, regardless, there’s every chance that it feels very uncomfortable, and who can concentrate, or give of their best, under those circumstances?

It’s easy to teach your dog to toilet on command and avoid both of these issues and, incidentally, it can be very useful when you’re travelling.

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


Featured tutorial – the Point of Balance


Everyone’s heard that the dog must balance the sheep, but what does it mean?

You’ll often hear that the dog MUST stop at 12 o’clock. To understand where this is, you need to imagine that the handler is standing at 6 o’clock on a clock face with the dog directly opposite the handler (at 12 o’clock) on the other side of the sheep.

At least, that’s the theory.

In practise it isn’t quite so simple, but rest assured that if the sheep are moving towards you, in a straight line, then wherever your dog is it has found the point of balance.

Watch the Balance tutorial to understand the basics of balance. Once you’ve mastered the point of balance Sending the Dog the Wrong Way looks at working OFF balance, and Driving Part 2 explains that the point of balance can be more than just watching the clock!

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.


Featured tutorial – Eve at the Pen

Dog bringing sheep into a pen

Many of the online tutorials include actual training sessions with a trainee dog. No training happens in isolation so, as well as the main topic of the tutorial, any training session can highlight other aspects of the dog’s work – good or not so good.

A typical example is Eve at the Pen.

At this point in her training Eve was becoming a very useful young dog, but you’ll see she isn’t perfect. The focus might be on working in and around the sheep pens, but the lesson demonstrates so much more!

Watch Eve at the Pen for help with:

  • A dog who circles the sheep after its outrun, instead of bringing them to you
  • A dog who brings only a few of the sheep – leaving some sheep behind
  • Teaching the Look Back – to collect the left sheep and correct the habit
  • Positioning the dog to push sheep into a pen
  • Building the dog’s confidence
  • Positioning the dog to move sheep through a race
  • Using your body position to control the dog
  • Stopping the dog at the back of the pen, behind the sheep, and keeping it there
  • Leading the dog into a crowded pen to accustom it to working close to the sheep
  • Eve at the Pen is a 36 minute training session, demonstrating some common problems and full of valuable advice to improve your dog’s work (and your own).

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