Jump to content
BC Boards

Working sheep who just want to run


Recommended Posts

I have a bit of a dilemma right now, and I'd welcome people's thoughts about it. The place I usually work my dogs at is no longer available, so I've been trying to find other places to work. It's been difficult, but I have found a place where I can work my dogs regularly. The people who own the place are great and they have working dogs, too.


The problem is that the sheep are pretty sour. They are mostly gazelles barbs, and they have such a strong draw back to the barn area that they spend most of our work time running back toward home--finding and then moving back and forth along either the fenceline adjacent to their home area if we're in their big field or the fenceline that is closest to their home area if we're working in their big arena. They will zigzag to beat the dogs, and they do not stay put if the dog takes any pressure off them. This encourages the dogs to slice and cheat just to be able to cover them, and Taz is beginning to work to guard the draw (a bad habit he had as a youngster). I am especially concerned because Taz has been working very, very well ever since a clinic I took with Faansie Basson a couple of weeks ago. I do not want to undo the progress we've made, as he is not getting rewarded for working correctly by the behavior of the sheep.


At this point, this is pretty much my only option for regular work. I am wondering if I should continue to do our best here, or would it actually be better to work much less often with better-behaving sheep?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the sheep aren't cooperating for outruns and such, just work on driving along the fence, or something else that you can do successfully without teaching Taz bad habits. There was a training question last week where i posted a method for working sheep that just take off, if you want to pull that up. These would be good sheep to do the fence method and teach Taz to pull the sheep back to himself to keep them from running so much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I probably wouldn't set up a regular outrun on sheep that are punishing him for being right. But...do the driving, get the hang of holding the sheep just right so they don't run or stall, and you can work your way off the fence and work on nice sweepy inside flanks, which are great for improving the outrun anyway. That's what i'd probably do anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aside from the above good ideas, here is some good

advice I've received about sour, running sheep.


They need to be "trained" not to do it.


One approach to this "training" is to repeatedly let them make a break for it

and each time let a (reasonably solid) dog catch them and bring them back.

After a while the sheep start to anticipate things and they

don't bother to make a break for it any more.


And, of course, the usual reason the sheep are sour is that they've been

overworked and/or been harassed by inexperienced/unskilled dogs.

To "train" the sheep from this point of view means to teach the sheep that moving off

a dog without running for the hills is good enough. This might involve walking a dog up

gently and as soon as the sheep begin to feel the dog the dog gets stopped. The sheep

are allowed to (hopefully) drift off to a comfortable spot. Let them sit there happy for awhile

and repeat. For this to work the dog must be stopped right way - no real pushing

of the sheep should occur.


These training sessions will likely have to repeated many times for very sour sheep.


And it's all easier said than done, of course.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

Charlie, do you think I would have any luck retraining the sheep if the owners' young, inexperienced dogs continue to work them?



Well, it's not possible for me to say for sure - if

only because I am actually pretty clueless even though

I talk a good game.


But it looks doubtful.


But, in any case, it wouldn't hurt to keep

in mind the sheep training idea as you work your dog. Just as

you are trying to build good habits in your dog, you are also trying

to build good habits in the sheep.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've also found it helps to let the sheep break and have a solid dog catch them every time, they should at least starting back as soon as the dog's movement catches their eye if the dog used is a good flanker and quick to the head.


About 6 years ago, I had a group of sheep that were pretty bad, mostly because of barn draws and a few too many German Shepherds :D . I started changing how I did things and now I have the opposite problem- sheep that like people and dogs too much! Some of these sheep were in the original bad bunch, but have reformed.


If I was working an inexperienced dog, I would do lots of wearing but whenever the sheep would stand next to me, I'd give them a minute or so to rest and not move the dog up on them unless they went past me or tried to break. It was good for the dog's to learn patience too. So the sheep learned that next to me was the best place to be. You may have to use the fence at first. Once they were more settled, I'd try to do more driving so they didn't turn into knee knockers but the first plan was to keep them from always taking off for the nearest gate.


I also was very careful to take them out of a different gate than the one they were used to, even if it meant they went back to their pen the "round-about" way. Having two gates out of the working area helped that, it also helped that one gate led to a smaller pen where I could sometimes work them there or used the pen for doctoring/etc so it was no longer associated with "going home". When we don't take the sheep in the desert for long distance work, we have a 2 acre lot to work in where the sheep live- they actually are pretty good, they do like to break for their feeder or up the hill if they know the dog can't or won't catch them but we've done enough driving in there that they are used to the dog being flanked around and taking them on a different line.


If you have any influence on the sheep they keep or breed, keep the ones that don't go out of their way to cause problems. I've done that over the years and after borrowing someone else's sheep for a brief period, I wouldn't go back to just having whichever sheep are cheap and available. In fact, I've culled too well for temperament, because I have about 6 ewes that will barely break a trot, even on wild pups, and two ewes that will at least "try" to act like sheep. Been keeping more lambs out of the faster ewes so that we can do 300 yard fetches under twenty minutes :rolleyes: .


Lastly, just watch the sheep's condition- if they are under condition and tired alot, they are not going to be reasonable- keeping my sheep healthy goes a long way towards their general attitude and if any opens their mouth and starts panting, they get a break right away. We work in really hot conditions during the summer and my sheep fare much better than the dogs do, so I am convinced that any open mouthed panting on hair sheep is a sheep that has been pushed too far or is out of good condition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe you've already read this, but I think its a great article on what you can do to make the most out of a small number of sheep. Plus you'd probably have a fun time coming up with new tricks to try and change things up. From Little hats





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...