Approach and Retreat: A Driving Skill

A steer responding to a bit of approach and retreat method

Hey all,

When you work with any variety of prey animal on a homestead such as cattle, goats, sheep or even poultry, you need to learn how to apply the concept of approach and retreat. What is approach and retreat? All prey animals have a comfort zone. We as humans are predators in their eyes. Approach and retreat is a method of driving that is employed by herding dogs and shepherds. It is also used by equestrians, and cowboys.

When you apply approach and retreat, you move in on a spot on the animal and watch carefully to see how close you have to get before that animal begins to react. If you are wanting to drive that animal,  when the animal begins to take a step in the direction you want, you back off. This takes the emotional pressure off of the animal. When you apply the pressure by approaching, the animal feels the need to move because it feels afraid or uncomfortable. It is preferable that the animals not have to be moved by approach and retreat. However, sometimes, you’ll have a situation that doesn’t give you much option.


Here’s a video on how to drive an animal if you need to:


It will take time and practice to be able to drive animals well. I recommend trying it with gentle animals to start with and learn how they respond to pressure first. If you eventually have enough livestock, you may even decide to drive with a dog. Here is one that I would highly recommend for most homesteaders.

The English Shepherd

I highly recommend getting a mentor from the breed if you do think the breed might be right for you. Research breeds carefully if you think you might be ready for a homestead helper.

Until next time,

Homestead in Health Ya’ll,



Share on facebook
Share on pinterest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

How to Make a Water Pan Warmer

Do you ever wish you didn’t have to deal with frozen livestock water pans? When the weather gets cold, homestead chores take longer and it’s