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.


Featured tutorial – Get Off The Fence!

It's hard to make progress if your sheep just "stay put"

Sheep have a real talent for assessing a trainee dog, and for making life as difficult for it as possible. As a result, a very common problem for young dogs and inexperienced handlers is getting the sheep into the middle of the ring or field, and keeping them there.

It's a problem we've all had, and it's SO FRUSTRATING! Luckily, it isn't difficult to overcome.

how to train a sheepdog to get sheep off a fence or hedge

As with so much in sheepdog training, the dog's confidence is the key.

If your sheep are crowding into a corner, or pressing themselves up against a hedge in a (successful) attempt to foil the dog's gathering efforts, it'll probably be because your dog lacks the confidence to get between the sheep and the fence.

Don't despair! As with every other challenge, if you try to understand what's happening, and why it's happening, you'll overcome it with persistent, supportive training. Stay calm (your frustration or temper will only help to convince your dog that it's right to be scared) and practice the techniques you'll find in this tutorial.

With your newly co-operative sheep, and bolder, more confident dog, training will become so much easier!


Watch the Get Off The Fence tutorial to see how, with persistent, supportive training, your dog will learn to cope with sheep that "sit on the fence".

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, or register for a free subscriber account to watch a sample tutorial, "Top Tips for Easier Training".


Featured tutorial – The Outrun

A sheepdog handler sending his dog off on its outrun to gather sheep

The outrun - the only training session you'll hope will go "pear-shaped"!

If there's one aspect of sheep work that demonstrates the joy and convenience of a working dog, it's a good outrun. When you no longer need to walk down the field to drive your sheep to where you want them, you save your time, your temper and your legs.

Most dogs thoroughly enjoy this part of their training, and outrun practise is often a good way to relieve the tension when training becomes more intense.

Our three Outrun tutorials show you how to teach the outrun, and how to make it longer and wider as the dog's skill and experience grow. As ever, don't skimp on the basics. We have lots of emails and enquiries about the outrun "going wrong at the end", when the answer is simple: Get it right at the START.

Part One - a real training session with a headstrong young dog, Jed, shows how to begin teaching the outrun, and how to make the best of it when things go wrong.

You'll probably find that teaching the outrun helps to improve other areas of the dog's work too.

Part Two shows how positioning yourself, your dog, and the sheep, in relation to each other, is the key to success when you're working on lengthening or widening your dog's outrun.

Experiment a little, and discover how much control you can have over the outrun.

Part Three in the series demonstrates how we use our "Slingshot" technique to encourage a wider outrun.

The Slingshot will help to widen the dog's flanks, too.

You'll often hear that a sheepdog trial can be won at the pen, but it can be lost on the outrun. If you plan to compete, give your dog the best possible chance with a reliable and confident outrun.

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, or register for a free subscriber account to watch a sample tutorial, "Top Tips for Easier Training".


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"