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 64 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.

The essentials of sheepdog puppy training


Spring time is puppy time!

The promise of longer daylight hours and milder weather makes puppy ownership more appealing than during the cold of winter, and it’s a time of year when there are more puppies to choose between.

We have our own puppies in the spring, and are eagerly awaiting our (Ezra and Meg) litter in early April.

Tricoloured border collie puppy in an open field
Fun and exercise will help your puppy develop mental and physical dexterity

When you’ve bought a puppy to work sheep there are a couple of important points to bear in mind. First, preserve your puppy’s confidence at all costs. Don’t give your puppy the opportunity to be unsupervised around livestock.

It’s not so much the danger of injury (though there’s always a chance) but that an aggressive sheep’s head-butt, or several sheep taking it upon themselves to chase the puppy away, can seriously damage your puppy’s confidence.

On the other hand, it’s important that you allow your puppy to be a puppy during its early months. Encouraging play, socialisation and exploration will all help to develop your puppy’s, and later your dog’s, confidence.

Secondly, if you want to take your puppy to see livestock, either to get it accustomed to the stock or to see its reaction, take care if you use a lead. Dogs, and especially border collies, take things very literally. If you walk your pup to heel and insist on good lead behaviour around stock you MIGHT be teaching your puppy that you don’t want it to chase!

Sounds like a minefield? It needn’t be.

Black and white smooth coated collie puppy looking cute
Develop a bond with your puppy before you start serious training

The early months with your puppy are invaluable for getting to know its personality, establishing a bond between the two of you, and laying the ground work for early sheep training. It’s even, dare we say it, an opportunity to have some fun! So use the time to play with your puppy, and take him out and about with you.

(We know that some trainers disapprove of playing with sheepdogs, feeling that it distracts the dog from its real purpose, but we’ve only ever seen sheep dogs of all ages benefit from having some fun and relaxation away from livestock.)

You’ll find a huge amount of information and advice about training your puppy in our Online Tutorials library, and much of it, we’re sure, isn’t available on any sheepdog training DVD.

Start with our short introduction video, “Puppy Training Essentials”, and move on to “Starting a young puppy” parts One and Two. There’s also a “Pack Behaviour” tutorial that explains how, we believe, dogs view hierarchy and leadership.

If you don’t yet have a puppy, watch “The Sheepdog – Selection and Preparation” to help you make the right choice.

Remember, to watch the tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member. If you still need help, leave a comment or question on the tutorial page and we’ll respond as quickly as we can.

You’ll find 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 64 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 64 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 area

Photo of a sheepdog trainer fastening the field gate, watched by Kay the trainee sheepdog. This is the title image of the training area tutorial

For beginners and beyond

The wide open spaces have their place, but NOT in the early stages of sheepdog training.

For the best chance of success, and to save your legs and temper, keep the dog and sheep contained. We stress, in our training tutorials, that: "The closer you are to the dog, the more control you have," but it's especially important in those vital, early lessons.

First steps in border collie sheepdog training dvd

The size, shape and nature of the training area can make a huge difference to your training experience, and will either help or hinder your dog's progress.

We covered the training area on our First Steps DVD and now, after a few minor changes and with the addition of a subtitled version, the training area chapter can be seen 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 training ring.

Once built, we show you how to get your sheep into the ring and then take a first look at moving out into the field when your dog's ready.

To help you get the best out of your training ring, we recommend you watch "Get off the fence!" where we demonstrate how working inside the ring helps the dog learn to keep the sheep away from the fence or hurdles. Partly confidence and partly technique, this is an important skill for your dog to master before it can work successfully in an open field (although it's almost impossible to train in any situation when the sheep are pressed tight against the fence).

Don't dismantle the training ring once you start to make progress. Even as your dog becomes more advanced you'll often find it helpful to go back to the ring for a session or two, either to reinforce the commands or perhaps restore some confidence to the dog. If you watch "Teach your dog to circle the sheep (inside flanks) part two" you'll also see how useful the ring can be for introducing more advanced work.

Having covered sheep, dog, and training area, the final part of the equation is the handler - coming soon.

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

You'll find 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 64 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 64 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.

The Sheepdog Whistle. Tune-in With Our Training Tutorials!

How to teach your herding dog to work on whistle commands

Watch the "Sheepdog Whistle" tutorials to get your dog moving

There are some common misconceptions about whistles and sheepdogs. The first, and very common, is that you must have a shepherd's whistle to train and work a sheepdog - you don't. If you have only a few sheep, and a relatively small area in which to keep and work them, you might never need to use a whistle at all.

Cover image of our sheepdog whistle tutorial, showing a typical whistle, and the title

Dogs' hearing is far better than ours, and although your dog might appear not to hear you on occasions (mentioning no names - KAY) unless you're working over 150 metres away, or shouting into a strong wind, the chances are that your dog's perfectly aware of your commands.

An important part of basic training is to use a soft voice to tell the dog you're pleased when it's working well, and a sharper voice to let the dog know you're not pleased when it's working badly. It's extremely difficult to express how you feel, by blowing a whistle!

Secondly, less common but still surprisingly frequent, is the belief that, in some spooky way, a collie is "wired" to understand and obey a whistle without any training. I can only imagine that this was born out of watching "One Man and His Dog" on TV. Of course the huge majority of sheepdog triallers, even at Nursery level, use a whistle, but the whistle commands have to be taught just as do any other commands in any other discipline.

Thirdly, that it's a challenge to blow a sheepdog whistle, but it's not challenging, exactly, any more than playing the trumpet is challenging. Blowing a sheepdog whistle simply involves learning a technique and then practising - far away from your dogs and your loved ones.

The final, fourth, misconception is that teaching whistle commands to your dog is difficult, but there's no reason why teaching whistle commands should be any more difficult than teaching voice commands.

Andy prepares to work sheepdog Bronwen on whistle commands

For anyone who's contemplating using a sheepdog whistle, and doesn't know where to start, or who's hoping to train whistle commands to their dog, we have two tutorials in the Online Training Tutorials library that will be a huge help. In "The Sheepdog Whistle" Andy demonstrates a tried and tested technique to get you blowing your whistle in minutes.

Once you can make a sound, any sound, you'll find you quickly improve and can begin to invent your own whistle commands (or copy someone else's, of course). This tutorial's had lots of positive feedback from people who've finally discovered the key to their whistle - sometimes after years of trying and failing.

"Teach Your Dog Whistle Commands" shows you that it'll be harder to learn to blow your whistle than to teach the commands to your dog. Andy explains two methods of teaching the commands so you can pick whichever seems more natural to you. "Teach Your Dog Whistle Commands" has been greatly revised since it first appeared in the online tutorials library. It now includes a training session where Andy teaches Bronwen to work on whistle commands.

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

    We now have 64 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.

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

    We now have 64 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.