Learn your training commands thoroughly

Using muddled commands is bad practice, and not fair on a herding dog. Learn your training commands properly!

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).



Photo of a man training a sheepdog. To train without confusing the dog, learn your training commands properly

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Learn the commands you want to pass on to your dog.
Giving wrong commands to your dog is unfair.
Watch wrong commands in action.
The most commonly confused commands.
Forget about ‘left‘ and ‘right‘.
The clock-face.
Traditional sheepdog commands.
Hard and soft commands.
Tell the dog when it’s doing right or wrong.
Give a command for the way the dog’s going.
‘Look back’.
If the dog doesn’t know where the sheep are.
Brief summary.

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If you have a training question or comment, leave it below.

Muddled commands confuse the dog

Attempting to train a sheep or cattle dog when you’re not fully conversant with the commands can cause serious problems. It’s completely unfair on the dog because you’ll be blaming it for going the wrong way when in fact it was doing exactly what you asked.

At times you won’t know whether the dog has obeyed your directions or not!

Training a dog to work stock can be confusing enough, without you adding to the chaos by talking rubbish. The “Learn your commands” tutorial will give you some tips to make memorising your commands easier.

The Sheepdog Handler | (top ⇧)


14 responses to “Learn your training commands thoroughly”

  1. Heather Sidmore avatar
    Heather Sidmore

    I have a 3 year old Border Collie that I am starting herding with in the states and we are using ducks to get his confidence first before moving to sheep. We just started yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised when he took to it and started working since he is so much older than you recommend for starting. I waited because I had no sheep and I did not want to start him on herding and then not have a way to let him do it.

    Right now I started with get around without a specific direction (Away or Come-bye). He did that really well and naturally found the middle facing me very nicely. He tends to go come-bye more than away. So my three questions

    1. How long do you let them work and encourage them just to work before you start teaching them the commands?

    2. When he is naturally going clockwise, Do I start saying Come-bye so he will start to associate the command with the direction?
    2a. He also knows come, so if I say come-bye an pulls off the sheep, do I redirect him and come-bye again?

    3. Since Away is not as natural for him, should I start getting going in that direction and naming the command and also do this direction more often to get him stronger in that direction?

    I would like to see a training video of teaching these commands to a brand new dog while working the sheep. This is not 100% clear to me.


    1. Good to know that your dog is going around the sheep naturally, Heather!
      Question 1.
      We have a tutorial specifically for that – it’s called “How Often, and for How Long“.
      Question 2.
      That’s what we do – yes!
      Question 2a.
      It’s up to you. You can teach him to listen to the whole command before he acts (he will learn that when working stock you don’t use “come” as a recall). Or use a different command – either for the recall, or the flank command.
      Question 3.
      Yes – it’s very important to balance the dog’s flanks – watch the tutorials – what you ask for is in most of them.

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