QUESTION: My dog is very enthusiastic and eager to work but she’s a bit timid and runs away from aggressive sheep. Are we spoiling her by keeping her in the house?
ANSWER: Living in the house shouldn’t affect the dog’s confidence when it works sheep, but there are plenty of things you can do to help build her confidence. You need to anticipate the situations where the dog will have difficulty with the sheep, and make sure you’re as close as you possibly can be to her at those times.
The dog’s confidence with be considerably greater if she knows you’re close alongside her.
If the sheep are really stuborn, move them yourself – and if the dog dives-in and nips the sheep’s coat while you’re doing it, PRAISE her!
In other words, teach her to be more assertive with the sheep (when you tell her to). That way her confidence will grow, and once she’s moving the sheep reliably by herself, you can GRADUALLY increase the distance that you work her at.
It would also help if you could get rid of the sheep which stand up to her – but of course, that’s not always an option.
We have a Sheepdog Training Tutorial called “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough!” which specifically covers sheep which are lacking confidence.