The Masterclass Sheepdog Training Video Series
Comprehensive, step-by-step, expert sheepdog training videos from the internationally acclaimed author of
“Working Sheep Dogs – A practical guide to breeding, training and handling.”
Overview: In this video (aimed at newer handlers), I discuss the various considerations in deciding the best age to start training your sheepdog pup on sheep.
Starting the pup at the right time can help training go as smoothly as possible.
Running time: 8 minutes
Overview: In this video I discuss the four ways arm signals can be used, and answer the question of which is the best method of using the arms for training and for directing sheepdogs.
How we use our arms (and the training stick) when training our dogs, can make a BIG difference to how quickly and smoothly training progresses. And how we use them when directing our sheepdogs at work (if we use arm signals at all) can greatly influence how effective they are.
Running time: 22 minutes
Overview: A detailed video on how to use the “pointing/guiding” system of arm signals.
Pointing in the direction you want the sheepdog to go (as compared to chasing or blocking the dog), was a much more popular method of arm signals in the past than it is today. It was used by some of the best sheepdog trainers, stockmen, and trial handlers. This is the method of arm signals (and the way of using the arms in sheepdog training) that I believe is superior to the “chasing/blocking” system.
Running time: 12 minutes
Overview: Over the years I have come across at least one quite well-known sheepdog trainer (and many pet trainers), who recommended using commands as praise. For example, if we sit our dog down, then instead of just saying “good dog”, these trainers recommend saying “good sit down”.
In this video, I answer the question of whether this will get better results when sheepdog training (and why, or why not), or whether it is infact counter-productive.
Running time: 5 minutes
Overview: The very first training for the pup on sheep. How to teach the pup to move away from us around the sheep, in either direction, and to remain on the far side of the sheep. (And no, I don’t use a garden rake or a round yard).
This is sometimes referred to as “counter-balance”. This is also a stage where we continue to evaluate the pup’s instincts.
Running time: 27 minutes
Widening the pup out
Overview: In this video I demonstrate my method of teaching the pup to “get out” to command, and to work a bit wider off its sheep.
Most handlers just tend to chase their dogs out wider in some fashion while yelling at them to “get out”. This is often not very effective. My method has important differences that mean the sheepdog understands very quickly exactly what we want it to do, and is therefore far more effective and gets far better results, with minimal time and effort.
This also slows (and calms) everything down (dog, sheep, and handler!). It makes it much easier for the trainer to maintain a position of control (see The Handler’s Position). This is particularly important with pups lacking the natural instincts of “width”, “square break” and “breakaway break”, but all sheepdogs should be taught the “get out” command at some stage.
I also use this as the foundation for teaching the dog to cast.
Running time: 20 minutes
NEW – The Handler’s Position – in control, or out of control?!
Overview: If you are out of position, then no other sheepdog training methods or techniques will be effective!
Knowing where to position yourself in relation to the sheep and the dog, and what to do in that position in order to influence the pup in the way you desire, is vital in becoming a good sheepdog (and livestock) handler and trainer. I call this position the “position of control” or the “position of influence”.
In this video, I explain exactly where the “position of control” or “position of influence” is, how to get yourself into this position, and then how to maintain that position with everything (sheep, dog, you) constantly moving and changing. If we are in the right position, then everything else in our sheepdog training will work relatively easily. If we are not, then sheepdog training can seem almost impossible!
I also touch on some principles of livestock handling, and why I don’t find descriptions such as “behind the eye”, “on the shoulder”, “on the hip”, etc., to be of much value, either when handling livestock or when training sheepdogs.
Running time: 45 minutes
Overview: Once our pup is broken in to stay on the far side of the sheep (as explained in “Starting the pup on sheep (Part 1 & 2)”), we can begin to widen the pup’s experience.
We can do this by allowing the pup to bring sheep along behind us, or to hold them to us, out in larger paddocks, or with larger numbers of sheep. We can vary these conditions, perhaps by using more flighty sheep, or walking through timbered or rocky areas, or having the dog bring the sheep behind us across a river bed or eroded gully. With a pup with good natural ability we can do this fairly safely.
However, if your pup lacks this type of natural ability, and is likely to split the sheep or make any other common mistakes (as many pups will), then getting out in larger areas too early can allow the pup to quickly develop bad habits. If you have a pup of that type, then you would be wise to leave gaining experience until the pup is much further along in its training. Even with a good quality pup, it is a good idea to stay fairly close to the sheep and the pup, so as to prevent anything going astray.
In these two short videos, I take Rust and Annie (the two pups shown in the video “Introducing the directional commands”) and give them some experience outside the training yard. Here they get to work a few more sheep, and sheep that are more runny and flighty. In these training sessions, Rust and Annie have been started as demonstrated in “Starting the pup on sheep”, and have had a basic “Introduction to the directional commands”, but have had no more training than that. At this stage they have they not been taught to “sit down”.
You might also notice that they tend to work a bit wider off their sheep in this situation, than they did in the training yard with quiet training sheep (in “Introducing the directional commands”). This is due to their reading of the more timid sheep and the bigger area.
Overview: In this video we introduce the pup to the “Sit down” command on sheep.
“Sit down” (lie down) is really a foundational sheepdog training command, and having a reliable “sit down” will make future training much quicker and easier.
Running time: 22 minutes
Watch next: “Sit down” – Achieving a high-quality response
Also see “The Stationary Directions” to see what Rust’s (one of the pups featured in this episode) “sit down” looks like after a couple more lessons.
“Sit down” – Achieving a high-quality response – COMING SOON
Overview: In this video I look at some further points on how to continue laying the foundation for a quick, easy and reliable response to the “sit down” (or “lie down”) command.
By that, I mean that as far as possible our sheepdog should lie down quickly and without resistance the first time it is asked, and should then remain lying down solidly and calmly until asked to move off. How we train the “sit down” command in the early stages can lay the foundation either of a high-quality response, or a slow, poor response.
The “Stationary Directions” (flanking) exercise
Overview: After giving the pup a basic introduction to the directional commands (see Introducing the directional commands), it is time to begin increasing it’s understanding, and gaining more control of the directions.
To do this, I utilize a number of different training exercises. These include:
- The “Stationary directions”
- “Crossing behind”
- “Reverse counter-balance”; and
- The “Overtaking directions”
These exercises start to teach the pup to obey the spoken commands regardless of our position. Many handler’s dogs are only responding to their position and movement (or their use of the training stick or arm signal), rather than to the spoken (or whistled) command itself. It is vital (if we want a well-trained dog), that we train the pup to respond to the directional commands regardless of where we are standing or what we are doing.
In this training video, I look at the next exercises in my method of training the directional commands – the “neutral” and “offset” stationary directions.
Note: In this episode we also see how Campaspe Rust’s “sit down” has progressed since we last saw him in “Introducing “Sit down”“.
Running time: 17 minutes
The “Crossing Behind” directions (flanking) exercise
Overview: In this video episode, I demonstrate and explain the 4th exercise in my system of directional command mastery – the “Crossing Behind” training exercise.
Done properly, and used in conjunction with a well-designed, comprehensive commanding system, this one exercise achieves 4 things:
- It continues to increase the dog’s understanding of the directional (or flanking) commands, by progressing on from the “offset stationary directions” exercise.
- It introduces the next “positioning” command – “behind”.
- It introduces the dog to “driving” in a very basic form.
- It is the stepping stone to the pivotal “reverse counter-balance” directional (flanking) exercise.
The “Crossing behind” directions exercise follows on from the previous “Stationary directions” exercise. In particular, it is a progression from the “offset” stationary directions exercise.
Running time: 16 minutes