How to get your dog flanking both ways (FAQ)

How to get your dog flanking both ways (FAQ)

QUESTION: How can I get my dog to go both ways around sheep?

ANSWER: It’s perfectly natural for a newly started dog to only want to flank one way around sheep or cattle, and in the case of sheep, the problem is worsened when they crowd together onto the fence.

Being one-sided like this is bad practice because sooner or later, a situation will crop up where the dog must go around the stock in a certain direction to avoid a serious problem.

Leading the trainee dog between the fence and the sheep can help to get them away from it, but it’s of limited help when trying to get the dog to flank both ways.

Our online sheepdog training tutorial “Starting a reluctant dog” shows a simple version of how we get the dog to go both ways around sheep. The video’s about starting a sensitive dog, but it shows a good way of getting the dog to cast both ways. As long as the dog will get the sheep off the fence in one direction, it’s fairly easy to send it back the other way by blocking it – but your timing must be good! With a less sensitive dog, you would need to be more assertive, but it’s the same principle.

Keep the sheep in the middle

Remember. The closer the sheep are to the fence, the more confidence the dog will need, to go between the sheep and the fence. Ideally, the sheep will be in the middle of the ring when you try to gently block the dog and encourage it to go the other way.

If this doesn’t work, keep trying (with the sheep well away from the fence).

If the sheep are close to, or against the fence, but the dog’s able to get them away from it in one direction, you’re nearly there!

You need to be quick, and your timing needs to be really good, but as the dog is approaching the sheep on the fence, you approach from the opposite direction (move between sheep and fence towards the dog). Block it and send it the other way. It’s unlikely to go right round and get them away from the fence in that direction, but at least it went the other way. Keep doing it to improve your timing, and the dog’s flanks. Then when the sheep are in the middle, try gently blocking the dog, and sending it the other way.

Backwards is the way forward!

Lastly. If the dog has good control of the sheep in one direction only, and you are able to stop the dog on the opposite side of the sheep from yourself, consider moving into a larger space. If the dog can control the sheep outside the training ring, then you’ll have room to do the “Walking backwards” exercise. (Watch “Backwards is the way forward“).

If you can get the dog to bring the sheep up behind you in a larger space as you walk back (taking care not to fall over) keep changing direction. Use big changes of direction when it means the dog will flank the way it favours, and smaller changes when it means the dog must go the way it dislikes. This way the dog will realise it must go both ways to keep the sheep up near you, and if you keep away from fences, it’ll be easier for the dog.

If the dog doesn’t flank the way it dislikes, keep walking away. Sometimes they realise the sheep will escape, and they instinctively flank round again to bring them to you. It really works, if you keep trying!

The walking backwards exercise is wonderful for teaching the dog so many things.

This post is one of our Sheepdog Training FAQs
Click here for the full list of frequently asked questions. (Top)

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