The Golden Rule of Sheepdog Training

The most important rule when you train a dog on sheep or cattle


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There are a number important rules that you would do well to keep in mind when you train a dog to work cattle or sheep. After all, whether we’re beginners, novices or experts, nobody wants to make a complete mess of it, do they?

In this tutorial, Andy takes a look at some of the more essential guidelines for establishing and maintaining order, protecting the stock, and improving the dog’s confidence around sheep or cattle.

Finally, he confesses to breaking the most important rule of them all. Nobody’s perfect!

17 responses to “The Golden Rule of Sheepdog Training”

  1. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

    Thanks Andy for the quick reply. I ,of course, signed in for the yearly membership & I’m “drinking” it with thirst… by the way, I wonder what’s your take on using an e-collar to teach the recall off sheep? (done professionally on low levels with a good quality collar)

    1. Andy avatar

      Electric collars are barbaric. They are banned in the UK, and should be banned throughout the world.
      I’m disappointed that you asked the question, let alone asked it twice.
      As for “professionally” and “good quality” how do you judge the professional quality of electric shock treatment..? Perhaps the professionals try it on themselves first? Otherwise how can they judge the effect it has on an animal?

      1. Virginia Dickson avatar

        It sounds like you aren’t familiar with modern, low level e-collar training. Essentially, it’s a method to apply pressure. When the dog has been trained how to interpret the sensation of the electronic stimulation, he learns how to turn off the pressure. Just like the variety of pressure you know how to apply with a stick — from gently waving it to create space to tapping the ground with it — an e-collar allows the handler the ability to communicate without needing a stick or leash, again, after the dog has been trained to understand how he controls the stim. When you describe e-collars as barbaric, it suggests you think they’re being used to give high intensity corrections to dogs; that simply isn’t true.

        1. Gill avatar

          Hi Virginia, and thank you for your comment. You’re quite right, we don’t know about the latest innovation in electric collars. Are e-collars just electric collars with the “lectric” taken out? That should be harmless enough; we call those “leather collars”. We’re always interested to learn about other people’s training techniques, but will take some convincing that a typical human can be trusted with a device that can potentially cause pain to an animal who’s in no position to argue.
          Do you think you could wear this low-level stimulating electric collar, while someone else operates it, of course, and then let us know how educated you felt afterwards?

  2. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

    Hello Andy & Shalom,I’m a dog trainer from Israel. here sheep dog training & trailing is in its “diapers”. years ago my parents brought me your DVD “First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training” after visiting the U.K. & I’v must have watched it a 1000 times. I finely got me an ISDS puppy, she’s 6 months old now. my biggest challenge is getting access to sheep… A sheep farmer here is wiling to let me use his sheep and in return I’l train his two adolescent(7-8 months old) border collies. they grew up in a cannel without any training or bonding.
    How would you train these dogs?

    1. Andy avatar

      How you go about bonding with the two young farm dogs depends how much time you have available, how much access you have to the dogs, and how trustworthy the dogs are.
      Ideally, you would spend as much time with them as you can. Take them out for walks, lead train them and teach them good manners, including stop, stay and come here. Just do the best you can, but remember that if they escape from you, they’re likely to head straight for the nearest livestock, and play havoc with them. Be very careful.
      As for the ‘First Steps‘ DVD, from what you say, you must have a pretty good idea how to go about training a dog now! But can I suggest you look at our Online Tutorials? We made ‘First Steps’ around ten years ago. It was our first instructional video production. Since then, we have learned a lot more about training sheepdogs – and about making instructional videos!
      A few of the ‘First Steps’ chapters are among the online tutorials. They’ve been revised and updated where appropriate, in some cases heavily. But there are now more than seventy tutorials online, and they are greatly improved over the ‘First Steps’ videos. More details.
      Good luck with training your first dogs. Please let us know how you get on, and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way.

      1. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

        Thanks Andy for the quick reply. I ,of course, signed in for the yearly membership & I’m “drinking” it with thirst… by the way, I wonder what’s your take on using an e-collar to teach the recall off sheep? (done professionally on low levels with a good quality collar)

  3. jennifer hill avatar

    Hello Andy–I wanted to share with you how much I have enjoyed your tutorials. Your calm manner and sense of humor have helped me laugh at myself when things have gone horribly chaotic!!!. Just have truly enjoyed your videos. Thank you!

    1. Andy avatar

      That’s great to hear, Jennifer. Thank you for the feedback, it’s very valuable to us!

  4. Melinda Stevenson avatar

    Love all your videos, I have been a member for quite some time and plan on continuing learning from you and your videos! Thank you for so much your time and education!

    1. Andy avatar

      Thank you so much for the great feedback, Melinda. It’s really useful to us to know that we’re getting through!
      Good luck with training your dog!

  5. Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak avatar

    When is my next membership due ?
    I enjoy your training video’s very much indeed.
    Very proud of my Kate!
    Your tutorials and Kate have taught me a lot.
    Still learning.

    1. Gill avatar

      Hello Yvonne. Great to hear from you, and to hear that you still enjoy the tutorials. I’m happy to report that your subscription was renewed on January 9th, so you’re ready for the next twelve months. Many thanks for your support. Kind regards, Gill

      1. Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak avatar
      2. Charlotte Phipps avatar

        My dog Cutter was born in April. I’m having trouble controlling him. He is very intelligent. Learns commands quickly but only wants to do them when there are no sheep. When sheep are around he turns his ears off. I have a round pen to work them in. Also my sheep are not real gentle. They don’t always cone to me. I have never trained a sheep dog. Have any suggestions on how to get more control??
        Thanks Charlotte

        1. Andy avatar

          Your dog sounds absolutely fine, Charlotte. What you describe suggests he’ll be a great sheepdog, but you need to get control of him.
          Watch the Max the Gripper tutorials, and also Starting a Strong Dog to begin with – as well as The Training Stick and Give the Sheep Space.
          These should all help to you.

          1. Charlotte Phipps avatar

            Thanks I have watched about a third of the videos. I will work Cutter again tomorrow. He is not a gripper yet. I feel more confident after watching the videos.

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