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Herding 3-5

Resources to further your knowledge of herding

Herding Command
Much of our training has to do with clear communication with our dogs.  We tell them only once and return them with pressure and continually ask for a command in the exact same location.  This simple clear communication in a positve manner is key to our training.  Important - we do not re-command.  the only time this does not hold true is in the beginning, if we tell the dog down and he does not, we go to where he is going, therby blocking him from what he wants [sheep].  As we advance quickly through this phase, we will then, as with other commands, simply replace him (with the use of our tools)  to the spot we originally asked him to down.

Please note:. We do not use the negative reinforcemnt of yelling, striking, adding motion, noise or confusion.  We instead simply, in a normal voice and one time, tell our dog what we wish for him to do.  The only reprimand he needs is for us to block him from his reward [sheep].

Retraining dogs who are used to confusion takes some time, but it is rewarding.  The hardest part is retraining handlers to communicate clearly and concisely.

GO BY - Go by the way of the clock or clockwise.  Short for traditional "time goes by."  Full flanking command.  "Go" smaller flanking commands for smaller movement.AWAY TO ME - Go counter colockwise.  Full flanking command.  "Away" is a smaller flanking command

Right & Left - Always the dogs right and left.

THERE   - The dog should turn in to the stock, cover and hold.  The dog should act like  a rudder.

DOWN - Stop.  In training, this will end the previous exercise so you can get on to the next exercise.

STOP -  Stop on the dogs feet.  If you begin early using a stop the down will come much easier.  The stop is always introduced when you are sure the dog will stop so the dog can learn by doing.

WALK -  I use to use Steady but now only use WALK.  To teach your dog a WALK, you would have the  dog WALK then say DOWN if the dog speeds up.  IF you put this in as one word WALK DOWN they will begin to get up slower and move nice and controled.  We are looking for the dog walking if you say walk.  
Will come with time, training and experience.  We begin with down and walk to slow the dog down.  We want the dog to figure out the right pace so we don't have to control the pace.  This is VERY  IMPORTANT.  I don't like to use the word WALK, I want the dog to begin to develop a WALK on his own. The WALK is straight on to the stock.

HERE - Come toward me, if I tap my leg, come all the way to me and touch my leg.

THAT WILL DO -  Time to stop working.  Use this often between work situations.

LOOK BACK or GO BACK - I usually want the dog to figure out how to keep all the sheep together, so I prefer to get between the two splits of sheep until the dog figures it out.  You can also teach the dog this "look back" command to go after sheep that are out of sight.  Never send a dog on a "look back" unless there is livestock there.

BACK - Dog backs straight back like a horse.  This will maintain contact with the stock but relieving pressure.

OUT - Turn away from the stock and go the opposite of the sheep.  If you were saying out and you are near the sheep you should see the dog's tail till you redirect "there stop"

Tools of the Trade
CROOK - The best height is to your lower rib.  Use wood, something with which you are comfortabe.  The crook is used as an aid to show the dog where you want them to go.  It is not to be used on the dog except as an occasional guide; never as a weapon!  Dogs, even "hot" dogs, never need to be touched by the pole; I will show you how we do this

RAKE - The leaf rake is an idea I got from Greg Prince and Bob Vest.  The rake is useful because it is soft on the dog but large enough that the dog sees the rake and with pre-training, will move off the PRESSURE of the rake.

ROPE - A rope lead is used to "hold the dog's hand" throughout hard situations.  The rope is a very positive force; we are showing the dog exactly what we expect from them and working as their partners.  This gives them confidence not only in themselves, but in us as well.

CRATE - A place for the dog to go so he can think about what he did after working.

BODY PRESSURE - Once the dog is trained on the rake now we need to make sure the dog will move off your body pressure.  The dog needs to understand that they must do it even if you don't have the rake.

COLLAR - Buckle collar works the best tightly fitted behind the dogs ears.

FOOD & TOYS - Additional motivators if needed. Food treat or favorite toy.

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Herding Terminology
OUTRUN - Dog and handler stand at a gate or starting place, the dog runs out and around the sheep and lies down at 12:00 or balance, the dog does this without disturbing the sheep.
LIFT - After the outrun is completed and the dog is lying down on the far side of the sheep, ask the dog to move towards the sheep.  The sheep's first reaction or movement to the dog is the lift.  The fetch is completed when the sheep are brought to the handler.
SQUARE CORNERS - Dog turns slightly away from the stock when they take a direction.  When giving a direction, we do not want the dog to come straight toward the stock.

FLANKING OUTSIDE - Direction the dog  takes when you are in fetch position.  They are easier to teach to a gathering dog.  "way to, go bye".

FLANKING INSIDE - Direction the dog takes when you are driving.  These take time to teach the dog.  Inside flanks represent a less instinctive motion for the dog; we  may ask the dog to be "off balance", move a shorter distance - a quarter of the clock (even less), and to go between us and the stock.  Use small commands like "go, and "way"

BALANCE - Place that the livestock turn their heads into the handler or, in driving, turn the way you want them to go.  This is natural in many breeds and the dogs turn in dramatically on the balance point.

WEAR - Dog moving right to left behind the stock,;  also referred to as "tucking in the corners".

EYE -  How the dog looks at the stock;  how the dog instinctively controls the stock by power.  You will hear the terms 'loose eye' and 'strong eye.'  Most Border Collies and Kelpies have more eye than other breeds.  Eye can be developed in all breeds with patience and showing them they have the power to move livestock with their eye.


BITE - Appropriate bite is very valuable.  We don't encourage this at the early stages but it will be encouraged later.  Body biting is not allowed.  Appropriate bite is on the nose or heel of the livestock that isn't moving.

FLIGHT ZONE -  Distance from the stock that any one of them respond to you and/or your dog.  This could be an ear flinch or a head turn only.  Different livestock have different zones.  We always hope that the group willl work as one but that doesn't always happen; the lead sheep can cause the group to move sooner and faster than you want.  We are teaching our dogs how to control the livestock and to learn the flight zone.  Sheep we use in class have a very close flight zone, but if we went to a strange flock the flight zone may be 100 feet.  This is the distance that you and your dog should work from the livestock.  You, and the dog, must learn to recognize this in different situations.

LEAD SHEEP -  Always at least one sheep or cow or duck in the group, no matter what size the group.  If you learn to read that lead sheep, you will be able to take them anywhere, the magic of the lead sheep is that when the dog puts pressure on that sheep,
she will look three times in the direction she is going to go.  If you have the dog walk up at that time, the sheep will drift nicely.  For the handler, reading the sheep is one of the hardest things in stock work.

SINGLING - When the dog comes in too close and causes the sheep to separate on his own. This should be discouraged and help the dog understand how to keep the livestock together.    

SHEDDING - Shedding is an advanced exercise to separate groups of sheep..   In Advance trialing you need to select the sheep you would like to separate - one, two or even exact sheep that have a problem.  We introduce separation of sheep in early training to make sure the dog will learn this skill in training.  The key is you asking the dog to separate the selected sheep.