Sheepdog training basics

The basics of sheepdog training.

We recommend all new members (not just beginners) watch these BASICS videos. They’ll give you a good understanding of the nuts and bolts of sheep dog training. They will also give you a great insight into how the dog and the sheep are likely to behave when you start training.

Watch all the videos on this page at least once, for a better grasp of how to go about training your sheep dog or farm dog.

The golden rule of sheepdog training

Cover thumbnail image for The Golden Rule of Sheepdog Training

There are a number important rules novice sheepdog trainers should keep in mind when they train a dog to work livestock. After all, whether we’re beginners, novices or experts, nobody wants to make a complete mess of it, do they? Andy takes a look at some of the more essential guidelines for establishing and maintaining order – then makes a confession! (Top ↑)

Sheepdog selection and preparation

Cover photo of the Sheepdog Selection tutorial

This is a very important tutorial! It’s also packed with essential information to help you to understand, and look after your farm dog. The video includes housing, choice of breed, choice of dog or puppy – and also what dogs to avoid. In addition, there’s a wealth of information on how to prepare your pup or young dog for herding sheep, cattle and other livestock. (Top ↑)

An insight into pack behaviour

Close-up photo of a group of Border Collie sheepdogs close together

A sheepdog training video tutorial to help you get a better understanding of your dog. This lesson’s a little different from usual. This time we’re looking at dog behaviour, rather than how to train a farm dog to work. ‘An Insight into Pack Behaviour’ was originally a chapter on our “Still Off Duty” DVD. It’s 33 minutes of our observations when we’re out and about with our dogs. It may surprise you! (Top ↑)

Top tips for easier sheepdog training

Top tips to make sure training your dog goes as smoothly as possible

Nine valuable sheepdog training tips to make teaching your sheep dog to herd cattle, sheep or other livestock easier. Nobody would claim that training a dog to work sheep or other livestock is an simple matter. But an understanding of what is going on and why, and paying attention to a few basic details, can make the process easier for dog and handler. The ‘Top tips’ sheepdog training video tutorial is the one we ask new members to watch first, when they join us. (Top ↑)

The dog’s confidence

Close-up photo of Border Collie Sheepdog Kay controlling a group of sheep

Understanding the factors which affect the dog’s work is extremely important for a successful sheep or cattle dog trainer. Of those factors undoubtedly, the dog’s confidence is the most underestimated. Confidence is of vital importance if a sheepdog is to work efficiently, especially at long distances from the handler, between the stock and a fence, or when faced by stubborn animals. (Top ↑)

Learn your commands

Photo of a man training a sheepdog in a training ring

If you want to train a farm dog to work, learn your commands before you begin. 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. Training a dog to work stock can be confusing enough, without you adding to the chaos by talking rubbish. (Top ↑)

Puppy training essentials

Andy with Border Collie puppy Mo

Tempting though it may be to try your puppy with stock at a very early age, you should beware. Unless you can be absolutely certain you’re in a position to protect the youngster from attack or even the threat of it, there’s a very real danger that sheep or cattle will frighten the young dog and damage its confidence – possibly permanently. By all means walk the dog around sheep, but take care to do it this way! (Top ↑)

Sheep – essential facts for trainers

Photo of a group of sheep grazing by a green hedge

People think sheep are irrational, and they certainly can be at times. But in some ways they can be very clever, as well as determined. When you start training your first sheepdog, it’s easy to overlook the importance of learning about sheep and their behaviour. Accordingly, the more you know about sheep and their funny ways, the easier it will be to train your sheep or stock dog. (Top ↑)

The sheepdog handler

Sheepdog Trainer talking about how to be a good handler

It’s all very well learning about the dog, the sheep, and the training area, but it’s also important to think about some of the qualities required in a sheepdog handler (or trainer) and how to make improvements. Topics covered in this video include the importance of moving around to encourage the dog to go in the direction you want it to, as well as a brief look at some traditional commands and their meanings. (Top ↑)

The training area

Learn how to make your training area suitable for classes

Unquestionably, the size, shape and nature of the training area can make a massive difference to your training experience. Sheep will very quickly learn where to use vegetation, corners and also the slightest irregularity in a training area, to frustrate the attentions of the dog. This tutorial will give you insight into the type of ground you should train on. It also has some great ideas for making simple changes which will improve your training ground dramatically. (Top ↑)

The training ring (1 of 2)

Using a training ring to keep sheep together makes sheepdog training far easier

A simple training ring of the correct size, makes training your dog a lot easier. One of the most useful assets that help us to train a farm or ranch dog as a sheepdog is the sheepdog training ring. It’s also very much more versatile than you might think. A properly constructed ring makes the early training your dog so much easier. (Top ↑)

The training ring (2 of 2)

Photo showing the use of a training ring for more advanced sheepdog training

A correctly sized training ring will transform the early stages of sheepdog training. It can also be an extremely useful aid when it comes to teaching the dog more difficult tasks later on, such as teaching the dog to drive, circling the sheep on command and working in tight spaces. (Top ↑)

The training stick

Photo of the simple training stick

The most important tool we use for training sheepdogs is the lightweight plastic pipe. We call it the ‘Training Stick’ – and we wouldn’t like to have to train dogs without one! This tutorial describes how invaluable the training stick can be in the early stages of training, particularly for controlling the dog’s direction and pace, as well as the distance it works from the sheep or cattle. (Top ↑)

Whistle (1 of 2)

Close-up photo of a typical sheepdog whistle

How to blow the notorious shepherd’s whistle!  If you’re finding your sheepdog whistle difficult to blow, you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to master at first, but don’t worry. This video will teach you how to blow a sheepdog whistle. Unless your dog is in the advanced stages of training though, there’s really no need to hurry. (Top ↑)