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.

Cover thumbnail image for The Golden Rule of Sheepdog Training

THE GOLDEN RULE OF SHEEPDOG TRAINING. There are important rules that you should keep in mind when you train or instruct a dog to work cattle, sheep or other farm 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 essential guidelines to help establish and maintain order and makes recommendations for broadening the farm dog’s skill level.

Cover photo of the Sheepdog Selection tutorial

SHEEPDOG SELECTION AND PREPARATION. This is a very important tutorial!   It’s also packed with essential information to help you to understand, and look after your farm dog or ranch dog, during the course of its working life. 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.

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

AN INSIGHT INTO PACK BEHAVIOUR. This is an unusual sheepdog training video tutorial to help you get a better understanding of your dog and how it works. We’re taking a close look at the dog’s natural instincts, rather than simply 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 might surprise you!

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

TOP TIPS FOR EASIER SHEEPDOG TRAINING. The most popular tutorial in our sheepdog training video library. With nine important training tips to make teaching your sheep dog to herd livestock easier. Nobody would claim that training a dog to work sheep or other livestock is easy. But understanding what’s going on and why, and paying attention to a few details, can make the lessons easier. We ask new members to watch this video first.

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

THE DOG’S CONFIDENCE – REVISED! (May 2024). Understanding factors which affect the dog’s work is important for a successful sheep or cattle dog trainer. Of those factors, the dog’s confidence is the most underestimated. It’s essential if a sheepdog is to work efficiently, at long distances from the handler, or when faced by stubborn animals. It’s also important when the farm or ranch dog works in confined spaces, such as between the stock and a fence.

Photo of a man training a sheepdog in a training ring

LEARN YOUR COMMANDS. 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 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.

Andy with Border Collie puppy Mo

PUPPY TRAINING ESSENTIALS. 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 we suggest you take care to do it this way!

How to call the dog away from sheep or cattle during training

CALLING THE DOG AWAY (Part 1 of 2). Catch Your Uncatchable Dog! It’s extremely important to be able to call the dog away from the sheep or cattle when you work it. From the dog’s point of view, it has very good reason to want to continue ‘working’. These tutorials will show you how you can catch the dog easily, and convince it that coming away from the stock with you is a great idea! (Part 2).

Photo of a group of sheep grazing by a green hedge

SHEEP – ESSENTIAL FACTS FOR TRAINERS. People think sheep are irrational, and they certainly can be at times. In some ways, though, 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 the sheep themselves, and their behaviour. Accordingly, the more you know about sheep and undestand their funny ways, the easier it will be to train your sheep or stock dog.

Sheepdog Trainer talking about how to be a good handler

THE SHEEPDOG HANDLER. It’s all very well learning about the dog, the sheep, and the training area, but it’s also important to understand some of the qualities required in a sheepdog handler 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 meanings, as well as training aids.

Learn how to make your training area suitable for classes

THE TRAINING AREA. Without doubt, the size, shape and nature of the training area can make a massive difference to your training experience. Sheep quickly learn to use vegetation, corners and the slightest irregularity in a training area, to frustrate the attentions of the dog. This tutorial gives an insight into the type of ground you should train on. It also suggests ideas for making simple changes which will improve your training ground dramatically.

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

THE TRAINING RING (Part 1 of 2). You can’t train a dog to work sheep if it constantly chases them away! A simple training ring of the correct size, makes teaching your dog a lot easier. It’s one of the most useful assets that help us to train a farm or ranch dog as a sheepdog. The closer you are to your dog, the more control you have over it. As well as basic training, the training ring helps with more advanced work such as driving and shedding. (Part 2).

Photo of the simple training stick

THE TRAINING STICK. One of the most important videos in our sheepdog training video library. It’s about a most useful tool for training sheepdogs. A simple lightweight plastic pipe we call the ‘Training Stick’. We wouldn’t like to have to train farm dogs without one! Learn how we use the training stick for guiding and directing the dog in the early stages of training, particularly for controlling direction, pace, and the distance it works from stock.

Close-up photo of a typical sheepdog whistle

THE SHEEPDOG WHISTLE (Part 1 of 2). How to blow the notorious shepherd’s whistle! If you find your sheepdog whistle difficult to blow, you’re not alone. Many people find it tricky to master at first, but don’t worry. This video will teach you how to blow a sheepdog whistle and part two shows how you can easily get your dog working on whistle commands. Unless your dog is in the advanced stages of training though, there’s really no need to hurry.