I have addressed how to train the flanks & stops. Now we turn to the other important command: “Walk up”.
Think of this command as the Power Button. Remember, the flanks do NOT move sheep, just reposition the dog. When he is in the correct position, he should move into the flight zone (contact point) of the sheep and gently move the sheep forward. Slow, steady and STRAIGHT!! Constant, gentle nudge; not goosey (too pushy). Stop, go, stop, go does not make sheep move calmly.
How to train this?
Believe me, when I say this is one of the most difficult concepts I have to teach people. It is not a “bring ‘em” command (fetch) or go round and round sheep. Loose-eyed dogs have particular trouble w/ this, mostly because of their owners. The point of reference of herding terminology to these dogs is the handler. When dog usually hears the w.u as a release command and bounds merrily toward the handler. The handler HAS to be aware of the dog looking at SHEEP, not people when using the w.u command. DO NOT tell the dog to “come” to you to make him move up on the sheep. DO NOT use w.u. when walking to the post. When training this, the dog must first be on the opposite side of the sheep and pushing them to the handler, not going around the sheep to get to the handler. I tell people to use “watch your sheep” to get the dog looking at woolies, then say w.u. If the dog doesn’t have a straight walk up to the sheep, driving will be nearly impossible. Many dogs also will go past the last sheep in an effort to get closer to the handler on the w.u. , thereby demonstrating they are NOT using power on sheep.
With Border Collies, the problem is the dog running to the head of the leader and not following the last sheep. When training these dogs, use the “stop” to keep the dog behind the last sheep till the heading isn’t such a problem. “Ringing” on the trial course is a SERIOUS penalty as it’s just a dog running to the heads excessively. This doesn’t allow the sheep to follow a straight line in course work. Once the dog’s balance is in play, he will bend enough to straighten the leader w/out turning it.
Other breeds don’t have the excessive heading but don’t like to walk into the pressure either. Use prey drive to get these dogs motivated to move into contact, so in the early stages there may be some chasing. EARLY STAGES ONLY! This is not going to do you much good if the dog thinks it’s okay to chase sheep at will. It’s amazing to me how many “loose-eyed” dogs demonstrate “eye” when on contact. My Rottie had eye just like my BCs. I see it in the Boxer we are training and some of the ACDs. It’s a GOOD thing, as it helps the dog sense the contact point and move accordingly.