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Dog Breaking Sheep


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I have an opportunity to use some sheep this winter and next spring/summer that have not been dog-broke. I currently drive 8 hours roundtrip to go herding and can only manage it twice monthly. That is why this seems tempting to me...yet I do not want to if it will somehow not be good for my dogs. Their training with me not having much "stock sense" is already behind the eight ball! The owner of the sheep has dogs, used to have Border Collies she did herding with but these particular sheep have not been worked by dogs and are wary of humans they do not know.

Where would I even start with this? Any ideas would be helpful.

My dog is an eight year old seasoned dog who is very gentle with livestock. My other dog is a pushy little girl who is still learning that sheep should not fly!

Thanks in advance for any info. I wanted to go atleast see the sheep this coming weekend without a dog if necessary to start.

M. Roland

Virginia, MN

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If your older dog is trained and is willing to stand up to sheep that don't know to move off a dog, then you can use him to break the sheep. Once they have learned to work off a dog, then you can try your youngster on them. If they've never seen a dog before, they will very likely walk *toward* the dog to check him out (this is a typical reaction of stock that have no experience with working dogs--an exception would be sheep that have been harrassed by dogs or other predators, in which case they may either stand or run). If your older dog will stand his ground and is willing to walk in their faces and convince them to move away from him, then you should be okay. If not, you could find someone who has such a dog (and I don't mean a "rip and tear" type dog, but a dog who has confidence and power and is willing to continue walking into sheep's faces, as willing to grab a nose if necessary in order to gain their respect). If your older dog is too gentle (i.e., won't stand up for himself when challenged) then he's not likely to be helpful breaking sheep as they will quickly lose respect for him. And it's much more difficult to fix that lack of respect than it is to avoid it occurring in the first place.


Don't try to break the whole flock at once. Break them into smaller groups and work those. Once you have one set moving well off a dog, you an use the sheep from that set to mix with small groups from the rest of the flock. Hopefully the sheep you've already broken, when mixed with the small groups of unbroke sheep, will help make the process go faster with the remaining sheep. In theory.


What worries me most about this situation is your self-proclaimed lack of stock sense. Do you feel comfortable/confident that you can properly break these sheep with your dog? Can the owner help you (presumably if she used to work dogs she has some idea about breaking sheep)? If the answer to either of these questions is no, can you convince the person you train with, and maybe some of their friends, to come up for a weekend and help dog-break the sheep? Most handlers would jump at the chance to work non-dogged sheep, so you might be able to have a weekend of training close to home and get your sheep dog broke (at least well started that way) at the same time.



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Thank you for the information. That is very helpful and gives me some things to think about before making any moves! My older dog Tripp has been used to dog break sheep before just not while he was with me. He will stand up to them and grab them by the nose to establish himself if needed. I have been around sheep and cattle just do not own any so I lack the everyday contact. I am hoping to with this from someone who has a bit more expereince. I do not feel comfortable doing this with just me and my dog! Thanks again.


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