Ralf is a young sheepdog that I have in training at the moment. I want to prepare him to compete in nursery trials this season. I have him running out well to gather sheep. He has learnt his left and right, his off balance flanks and his inside flanks. you can see his flanks training video here https://youtu.be/48lfoBbZcTg He can drive sheep well now too and a fellow said to me that at this point in a dog’s training that it is time to find out how to train your sheepdog shed sheep.
(I have documented most of Ralf’s training on this subscription account https://www.patreon.com/rss/churchmountsheepdogs?auth=i_YT-eayrzJEP4ATzB1RkoMaMCzu2fvT ).
I have trained a sheepdog to shed before but Ralf is a bit different to the dogs that I have trained in the past. It took him longer to learn his flanks than other dogs I have trained before. I think this is because he does not like letting go of his hold on sheep, so I broke his training down into simpler and easier communicated steps. How to train your dog to shed sheep requires the dog to put aside his instinct to herd the sheep together and to do the counter intuitive action of running through the middle of the flock of sheep and split them. On top of that, he has to disregard one group and place all his focus on the group you choose to keep.
This is a tall order for any trainer so I decided to go and see my friend Michael Crowe from http://www.irishworkingsheepdogs.com/ He has plenty of experience with training working sheepdogs so I thought that he would be well qualified to offer me some tips and advice about teaching a dog to shed successfully. You can listen to his interview with me here too and it might be of use to you when you think about how to train your sheepdog to shed.
Someone asked me recently ”why do we even need a dog to be able to shed?”
Obviously we need a dog to be able to shed proficiently if we want to compete with them in open trials. But depending on where or how someone might farm, they often teach their farm dog to shed so that they might be able to pick 20 sheep out of a flock of 200 to load against the hedge into the top deck of a sheep trailer and then they might shed out another 20 out of the flock and load those into the bottom floor of the trailer, thus avoiding the need to bring the whole flock into a yards and as a result save considerable time. Or maybe it is a hill farmer who might say that you have to know how to train your sheepdog to shed sheep because when you gather your sheep on the mountain they will often have sheep from other flocks mixed through them that need to be shed off so that you do not take home your neighbors’ sheep.
in my own case, I like to be able to do a derivative of shedding which is counting sheep. It often requires gathering the flock with the dog and using him to control them while I allow the sheep to trickle past between me and the hedge, a bit like the salt in an egg timer passing through the narrow neck. In order to count them successfully the dog needs to be under very good control but still be able to use his initiative to know which sheep to stop and which ones to disregard while they ‘escape’..here is a similar version of me counting sheep on the open mountain however, I do not have a hedge to squeeze them past so I need to use a second dog https://www.facebook.com/ChurchmountWorkingSheepdogs/videos/487080022074074/
Micheal explains why having a stop or teaching a sheepdog to lie down, is so important. he goes on to explain his thoughts and ideas about how to train your dog to shed sheep in this interview video that we made back in the summer.