Get to grips with gripping

Many novice handlers are horrified if their dog grips. It has to be stopped, of course, but help is on hand!

A sheepdog grips (bites) a sheep at a sheepdog trial
At a sheepdog trial, gripping usually results in disqualification

Gripping” is the euphemistic term we use to describe a dog that bites - literally “grips” - a sheep, but it covers a spectrum of behaviour from taking a nip at the fleece as the dog rushes past, to a determined hanging on to, usually, a leg or the tail.

Biting the sheep is unacceptable. It’s grounds for disqualification in a sheep dog trial, and if the veterinary inspection at an abattoir shows up bruising on a carcass, the farm is warned and the value of the carcass is reduced. So, even aside from issues of sheep welfare, there are very good reasons to stop your dog from gripping.

Many novice handlers, faced with a dog who grips, are inclined to panic, but shouting and screaming at the dog is only likely to make the dog go faster. So, calm down, and look for the signs. Forewarned really IS forearmed in this case.

The dog is most likely to grip when flanking in the direction it likes least - be it Come Bye or Away

In addition, the dog might grip when:

  • You change its direction
  • You ask it to stop
  • You turn your back on it

And the signs will be changes in the dog’s body language:

  • It might become longer, and lower
  • The tail goes up
  • The ears go back
  • It begins to run in straight and/or tight, with a different facial expression

Once you understand when the dog’s likely to grip you’re in a position to set up the situation, and if you’ve set up the situation then you’re ready to do something about it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a gripping dog is a strong dog. Very often the opposite is the truth, and the aggressive but sensitive dog can be very frustrating (though not impossible) to train.

Watch the Online Training Tutorials for more information and help for handling gripping, training sensitive dogs (“Calm But Firm”), and why “Sometimes, Nice is Not Enough”.

Of course, if you'd prefer to watch on a TV the tutorials are also available on two DVD collections, in both PAL and NTSC formats.

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