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.

Featured tutorial – Sometimes Nice is Not Enough

sheep attacking a herding dog

Sheep are natural runners when they're being hunted, but some situations, such as when held in a pen, or protecting their lambs, can make a sheep turn, challenge, 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 some dogs naturally shy away from confrontation, and for others the memory of a previous bad experience can hold it back.

A ewe confronts Kay on the drive

We're not suggesting a licence to grip in this tutorial, but we're teaching the dog to move up a gear in its work, and be more assertive.Even a cautious dog can learn to cope with strong-minded ewes or tups, or even cattle if the handler is sympathetic and encouraging.

Dealing with stubborn stock is a perennial problem, and Sometimes Nice is Not Enough was made in response to emails and questions left on the Training Tutorials pages. 

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


Featured tutorial – Sticky Dogs! with “too much” eye

Young sheepdog working off balance

It's time to get moving if your dog has "too much" eye.

To a greater or lesser degree, border collies use "eye" (a particularly intense and assertive stare) to move stock. In some dogs the look is very exaggerated, while other dogs work with their heads up and don't appear to be using eye at all.

Either type of dog is perfectly capable of getting the job done.

But when a handler finds, or more often is told, that their dog has "too much eye" it can seem like a big problem. The dog works in a stop-start fashion, frequently "sticking" on the point of balance, but it can be improved, and it isn't difficult if you understand what's happening.

If your dog has an excellent stop - but won't get up again - the chances are that the problem is "eye". This was exactly the problem we had with Mab, the subject of our Sticky Dogs! tutorial; Mab works with that typical stop-start action, sometimes rooted to the spot.

Andy demonstrates that with a kind, encouraging, but assertive approach, the dog learns that it needs to keep moving to get the job done.

The emphasis in this tutorial is on movement, and often it's the handler who needs to do the moving.

Don't be stuck with a stop-start dog - watch Sticky Dogs!

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 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 tutorial – Tess in the Open Field

Watching a real training session will show you the theory put into practice.

An over-excited and strong-willed Tess first appeared in our Starting a Strong Dog tutorial. In Tess in the Open Field she's made great progress, and has proved she's capable of working to a high standard, but Tess is still young and sheer novelty and enthusiasm makes her inconsistent.

In Tess in the Open Field you'll see the techniques we use to improve the dog's flanks and outrun, and to introduce the concept of driving, used in real-time in an actual training session. As you'd expect, Tess doesn't always get it right (for one reason or another) but she's making progress.

Watching an unedited training session is the next best thing to watching a session of your own. You'll see the theory of the tutorials actually put into practice, and it will help you understand what your dog's doing, and why, and how you can put it right.

If you recognise your own dog in this tutorial take heart - after a trying start, Tess developed into a useful and stylish sheep dog.

NB: Tutorials are available to paid subscribers who are logged into their account, and paid subscribers are also invited to submit short videos of their own training sessions for evaluation and advice. Please contact us for more 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 tutorials – the dog and the handler

Silhouette image of a shepherd and dog moving a small bunch of sheep

The Sheepdog Selection and Preparation and Sheepdog Handler tutorials provide lots of helpful tips and advice.

Many handlers seem to find the early "puppy" months very stressful; they're anxious to raise the dog in a way that will spark and preserve the all-important working instinct, but worry about balancing that with the entirely natural desire to have a well behaved family playmate and companion

Training with a young collie and a few sheep

Sheepdog Selection and Preparation should answer these questions, and more, and help you develop the relationship with your working dog.

The Sheepdog Handler tutorial looks at the other end of the "magic cord" - you! For example, you need to be prepared to run, to help your dog balance the sheep or to maintain control. Body position is arguably your most important tool because it influences both the dog and the sheep, so it helps to be fairly fit.

A few simple steps will fully equip you to start training, and to be in the best position to guide your dog.

These two tutorials are based on the Handler and Sheepdog chapters from our First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training DVD, with a few changes, and added subtitles.

If you need more help please leave a comment or question on the tutorial page. Remember, to watch the tutorials you'll need to be logged in as a paid member.