Can sheep be trained?

Yes, sheep can be trained. They are not dumb creatures which is how many people perceive them. This is probably due to years of television presenting them as automatons being chased around a field by a sheepdog. They are more intelligent than many people believe which allows them to be responsive to clicker training (positive reinforcement training).

Flause', a Dutch spotted sheep, can jump through hoops
‘Flause’, a Dutch spotted sheep, can jump through hoops, walk backwards, weave between his mistress’s legs, come when called and turn in a circle. Infographic by MikeB at PoC. The image of Flause is by Millie Clark at Yew Tree Farm School. Agency: SWNS.

There is a useful, I think, enlightening article in The Times newspaper from yesterday, February 10, 2023. It is nice to see the public profile of the humble sheep elevated to one where we can imagine this farm animal being a pet, a companion animal. There is no doubt that they are capable of being a pet although I’m not suggesting it.

Milly Clark, 26, has trained a Dutch spotted sheep to do certain “tricks”. They prove conclusively that sheep are not stupid. Milly was amazed when one-year-old Flause responded so well to clicker training which as mentioned as a form of positive reinforcement training. It is normally used on cats and dogs, primarily dogs for obvious reasons.

Milly had tried to train pigs, horses, goats and sheep but says that Flause has responded better than any other animal. Perhaps Flause is a very special sheep and perhaps he is not representative of all sheep! Nonetheless, I expect it to be possible to train sheep with the required degree of patience that training always requires.

Milly Clark said:

“I found out that sheep are much more complex than any other animal on the farm.”

Flause arrived at the New Tree Farm School in Sittingbourne Kent when he was a young lamb. As you might expect, he now attracts an audience when performing. He’s drawn some quite large crowds apparently.

Clark also said:

“I can shout his name when he is in a herd and he will come running over, all excited. I’m trying to get him to jump up onto a table and also learn to shake my hand.”

He is performing in public on open days at the school between April 5-8 and 12-15.

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Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.