Sheepdog Training 9 – Always welcome your dog back

Close-up photo of a young tri-coloured rough-coated Border Collie

Make your dog feel welcome when it comes back to you

In the early stages of training, make the dog’s return to you worthwhile, even exciting. Use a pleasant tone and a little fuss to show the dog you’re pleased that he’s returned.

If the dog doesn’t respond to this, it’s finding being somewhere else more interesting than being with you! Make the dog feel you’re happy when it’s close – and make being close to you enjoyable for the dog.

You can resort to the (strictly temporary) use of titbits to encourage the dog back. We never need to use titbits for training our dogs, but if it helps, use them. Whenever possible grade the reward according to the response you get. Give the most fuss (or titbit) when the dog obeys instantly – and polite acknowledgement if the response is reluctant.

If you really must shout!

If you feel the need to shout at your dog after it’s done something wrong, think carefully about it. It’s best to correct a dog at the precise time of the offence (or preferably just before) rather than later. Sometimes you have no choice though.

When training your dog with sheep, don’t call it back to you and then shout at it, the dog will think you’re shouting at it for coming back! When the dog does whatever you rebuked it for again, you’ll repeat the procedure . . . and soon end up with a thoroughly confused dog.

A dog’s mind works an awful lot faster than a human’s, so we should bear this in mind when training. A good example of this is gripping (biting the sheep or pulling at their wool). If we see our dog grip, we’re inclined to shout at it to stop, but it’s really already too late! It’s history now!

The dog’s mind’s moved on, and he’s considering his next move – which may be perfectly good. Scold him too late and the dog may well think it’s this next move you disapprove of.

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