Featured tutorial – Sometimes Nice is Not Enough

Sheepdog Bronwen lies down defiantly in front of some threatening sheep

It takes huge self-confidence for a dog to lie down in this situation, but even a cautious dog can learn to assert itself.

Sheep are natural "runners" when they're being hunted, but certain situations, such as when held in a pen, or protecting their lambs, can make a sheep turn and fight back.

While sheep and dog welfare must always be a priority there are occasions when the dog, quite simply, needs to get the job done. But what if your dog naturally shies away from confrontation, or has the memory of a previous bad experience holding it back?

Even a shy dog can be taught to assert itself in this situation, but give it time.

Sometimes Nice is Not Enough was made in response to many emails, questions and comments left on the Training Tutorials pages. It features two dogs, Carew and Kay, with very different ways of controlling their sheep. Neither approach is perfect, but with training they both became extremely capable sheepdogs.

The tutorial looks at how their personalities dictate how Kay and Carew work; how to recognise the different ways a dog can demonstrate a lack of confidence; and how to build that much-needed self-confidence to deal with practical shepherding situations.

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.

Cammen Kay – our unsung hero?

Quietly in the background, with no fuss or bluster, we didn't always give Kay her due!

When we bought Kay, at about a year old, our intention was to train her but not, necessarily, to keep her forever. Yet I think Kay is probably the only dog we haven't ever suggested we could sell.

When Andy first started to plan First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training (as much as we ever plan anything) we picked three dogs to use as demo dogs, and one of those was Kay. Anyone who's seen the DVD will probably remember Kay's debut in the introduction where, I think we can say, she demonstrated exactly what she thought of it all.

Lovely image of man and sheepdog. Border collie yawning.
Kay was quick to demonstrate that life in front of a camera isn't all it's cracked up to be!

Who could have guessed that she would prove to be the ideal pupil, and a lovely character too.

I remember when my son was at primary school. He'd produced an excellent story and, having been highly praised by his teacher, was pretty confident of receiving that week's class prize for achievement. Imagine his disappointment when a classmate was given the prize for seeing and recognising his own name?

I'm not suggesting it was unfair, but I often used to remember it when we were training and assessing sheepdogs!

Kay was surprisingly slow to learn to drive, but with perseverance (from both Kay and Andy) she eventually nailed it and continued to be an excellent driver of sheep throughout her working life. Everything else she just picked up in one or two lessons, so Kay's progress didn't attract much attention.

Sheepdog driving ewes and lambs along a farm track to the yard.
Kay always enjoyed driving our landlord's flock along the farm drive - not too fast, and not too slow.

On the other hand, a dog that was hard to work with (mentioning no names - Max), or frustrated us with a persistent and annoying problem (ditto Carew, Bronwen, Scylla, I could go on) would receive high praise and accolades when there was a perceptible improvement, however minute.

In the meantime, if we needed a job done, if we wanted to take puppies to the sheep in safety and with minimum effort (for ourselves) or if we were holding a training class and needed an assistant, we called on Kay.

Kay taught herself to watch from a distance (often relaxing under a tree), spot when the trainee dog lost control of the sheep, quietly run out to bring them back to the trainee and then simply melt away without interfering.

Sheepdog driving sheep into a paddock
It was easy to take Kay for granted, she was so reliable.

Kay's workmate, Carew, was/is a superb sheepdog - gentle and sensitive to the sheep she would move 200 ewes at a speed to accommodate the smallest, slowest lamb, and yet with power to spare when it was needed. Carew's work style drew your attention, but little Kay was always on hand to back her up.

When Carew left us to work with a dairy flock, Kay was promoted to Number One dog and we finally realised just how good she was, and how much we'd come to rely on her. Without our noticing, Kay had became our go-to dog.

At 12 years of age Kay's become rather deaf, and with her eyesight not what it was her working days are over, but she seems to enjoy her retirement. She takes an interest in her daughters, Jet and Maddie, and her granddaughter Scout, and still enjoys the traditional collie sport of "flattening" precocious young pups who try to take advantage of her good nature.

We have Ezra's daughter, Dulcie, making meteoric progress, and she, with Jet and Maddie, have taken over Kay's work duties, but we'll probably never know if they could be such accomplished training class assistants.

I hope Kay understand how much she's appreciated, and I can't help thinking that this photo suggests her answer is "YES! And rightly!"

Tricolour border collie looking majestic
"I think you'll find this is our best side"

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 Point of Balance

Sheepdog moving sheep

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". 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.

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, your dog has found the point of balance.

Watch the Balance tutorial to understand the basics of balance, and watch Driving Part 2 to see 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.

New dogs – new opportunities

It feels like a new term at Kings Green.

This year’s puppies are ready to start training, and they’re giving us lots of filming and photo opportunities.

Without actually planning it we have a real mix of dogs to bring on and, of course, they’re presenting us with a range of natural talents and individual problems that we’ll reflect in our online training tutorials.

The puppy with the sheep at the top of the page is a Meg/Ezra daughter, Madge. She's too young for intense training, but she's keen and determined. Ideally we'd keep a puppy away from challenging situations such as this, but if a puppy goes looking for trouble it's important that the camera goes too!

In the Dogs chapter of First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training we talk about the options available to a prospective puppy buyer - International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) registered; UK Kennel Club (KC) registered; or unregistered, and look at the “fors and againsts”. Our Class of 2018 includes all three! It’s early days, but I have to say that the unregistered and KC youngsters are putting up a very strong show.

Smooth coated border collie dog, black and white, unregistered
Boz, born 18th November 2017 from Pippin and Oliver.
Smooth coated border collie black and white female with pricked ears
Phiz - Boz's litter sister. There's a definite family likeness!

Our unregistered puppies are Phiz and Boz; they're well connected to successful trials and working dogs, but their mother, Pippin, isn't registered.

Phiz and Boz could be registered on merit with the ISDS, of course, but that won't be necessary until they qualify for the International. Well, you never know.

We rarely buy dogs these days, but earlier this year we bought a couple of youngsters to add to the team.

Trials bred rough coated border collie, Glen
Glen, whose father was in this year's Welsh National.
Rough coated black and white border collie - sheepdog and family pet.
Rough coated Roy has taken well to his career change.

Glen (from Wales) and Roy (Yorkshire born and bred) are both well bred, but with very different backgrounds. Glen was bred from trials dogs, and Roy, although he's from trial and working dogs, started his career as a family pet*.

Both dogs have made an excellent start, as well as giving our established frisbee-retrieving team some competition.

Two dogs who are too busy chasing and wrestling to have any time for frisbees are home-bred Scout, and Glenalpine Dash.

Black and white kennel club registered border collie bitch
Brains and beauty - KC registered Dash looks likely to be a super working dog
Smooth coated small border collie puppy
Will Jet's daughter Scout be an equally smooth operator?

Dash is a daughter of Ezra and Nikki, a KC registered working trials champion. Dash has a lively personality; she earned the name "Dash" within hours of arriving.

Scout is a rich blend of four of our favourite dogs. She's the (tiny) daughter of Jet (from Kay and Oliver) and Odo (Meg and Ezra).

We have no idea what mix of her grandparents' strengths and foibles we're likely to see in Scout. When you breed a litter of puppies it's a voyage of discovery; there's no guarantee of what will turn up, and that's what makes breeding and training so fascinating.

Some of these dogs will almost certainly make an appearance in our long-planned revised edition of First Steps - the original is almost ten years old! What a thought...

Rough coated sheepdog Roy, working dog and family pet.
* A couple of people have asked why Roy changed homes: it was solely due to a change in circumstances, that would have left Roy "home alone" for long periods.
Roy's a well-socialised, polite and nicely brought up young dog; so nicely brought up, that when he's working with the sheep and Andy tells him to lie down, Roy insists on coming back to Andy's lefthand side to lie down beside him!
Roy will be an excellent sheepdog, but he'd probably be happy to be a pet again!

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.