Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

Chapters 1 & 2 from the DVD set ‘First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training’


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

For a long time now we’ve wanted to update our “First Steps” DVD set because our training techniques and understanding of sheepdogs have improved immensely since the DVD’s release.

This video presents most of chapters one (the introduction) and two, from the DVD set. It’s fairly heavily modified and now nearly 30 minutes long! We’re sure those of you who’ve seen the old version won’t be disappointed.

Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

26 responses to “Sheepdog Selection and Preparation”

  1. Alex Fullmer avatar

    Ok, so I have the dog, and I have the space in the field to put up a training ring, but I am lacking one thing. You guessed it, the sheep! I thought it would be better to get my Panda (who is just over 6months old) trained a bit on herding sheep before I got the sheep. She is already trying to herd the cats but that’s like pushing a wet noodle. She is quick to pick up on commands. I have her sitting and staying on command and coming when I need to tie her up (most of the time), so I think she has great potential as a herding dog. I’m just not sure what to have her herd at the present.
    Any ideas?

    1. Andy avatar

      There’s not an awful lot you can do until you get sheep, other than making sure the dog fully respects you as it’s leader. Presumably you’ve watched this tutorial, but I suggest you watch it again!
      How does the dog behave when it’s on the lead? (Lead slack or pulling you along)?
      Will the dog wait while you go through doorways or gates?
      You’ve already said the dog doesn’t always come to you when you call it, so you need to address that. The better the recall, the easier it will be to train the dog on sheep, but don’t make the mistake of walking the dog around sheep and not letting it chase them. If you do, the dog will learn that you don’t want it to chase them.

      1. Alex Fullmer avatar

        I have watched it and many other of your videos. Thank you so much for putting them together because up till now I really had no idea what direction to go. I’ve already decided from your teaching about leash training that Panda and I need to spend more time there.
        One thing I find curious is that the two times I had to come around front to get Panda to tie her up, my wife was out there. I’m not sure if it’s a pack thing with Panda or not. My wife really doesn’t spend any time with her.
        As far as sheep, there are not many around hear that I know of. I did watch your vid about how different sheep behave which will be very helpful.
        Thanks again for your help. We here in the states can learn much from you.

        1. Andy avatar

          It’s good to know you find the tutorials helpful Alex, but in your second paragraph, what do you mean by: “I had to come around front to get Panda to tie her up”?

  2. Jane Hart avatar

    I would love to see more videos about how you train your dogs in basic obedience and what their lives are like before they start training. Would you recommend taking a sheepdog to a puppy obedience class at a dog club? I was thinking this might be good for socialisation.
    Best wishes,

    1. Andy avatar

      Puppy obedience training would be great for socialising a young dog, but it will be of limited use when you first introduce the dog to sheep work. Teaching the dog to “lie down” is a good example. When the trainee dog sees sheep for the first time, the chances are it will be so excited it will forget every command it ever learned, but as training progresses over the following weeks gradually, the dog will start to listen, and a familiar command will come in very handy.
      For further information on how we keep the dogs when they’re away from sheep, I suggest you watch An Insight into Pack Behaviour and Sheepdogs Time Out.

  3. Jane Hart avatar

    If I take my pup for walks and we see sheep, (ie not ours) I will have to keep it on the lead. Would these kind of encounters be bad for the dog? Should I avoid walking the pup in places where there may be sheep in the fields? There are a lot of sheep near us. I am a bit unsure about what I do with the pup regarding encounters with livestock that it can’t be allowed to chase.
    Best wishes,

    1. Andy avatar

      If you regularly walk a dog near sheep and restrain it from chasing them, eventually the dog will stop trying to chase the sheep because it’s pointless. The dog knows you’re not going to let it go.
      To maintain the dog or pup’s instinct to work, you should encourage it to work sheep from an early age, but obviously you should look after the welfare of the sheep, and in the case of a puppy, only do it if you’re certain the sheep won’t attack or threaten the pup. I recommend you watch our tutorials about starting pups on sheep.
      A mixture of allowing the dog to chase your own sheep, but walking the dog on a lead when it’s near other sheep would be a good compromise. Preventing your dog from chasing other people’s sheep should be top priority

  4. Kim Goodling avatar

    Can you give me more details on how you teach “stay close”?

    1. Andy avatar

      It’s really simple, but it takes patience and determination, Kim.
      I suggest you begin by teaching the dog to walk properly on a lead (with the lead slack at least 90{a56cfaadebb0a7665ef0b8bb5f8f73bbf0eca0e81cdb3d1fbeae9197b774aba9} of the time). While you are teaching the dog to walk properly on a lead, if the dog pulls, use your “Stay close” command to call it back. If you want to teach the dog to walk behind you, you can pull the dog just that bit further and let it know that’s where you want it to be. Once you and the dog have mastered that, it should be very easy to keep the dog close to you when it’s walking off the lead.
      As I said, it takes patience and determination, but if you persist, you’ll do it.

      1. Kim Goodling avatar

        Great thanks! Do you have other videos that talk even more about establishing yourself as the leader?

  5. adam scott paul avatar

    Hi I have two dogs that are a year old. I’m starting to train them , when I take blue into the pen she just wants to stand by my side and follow me round the pen now and again she will head the sheep how can I get her to be more interested in chasing the sheep? Ted doesn’t seem to be showing any interest in the sheep and often runs home how can I stop this? They are out of the same litter from v good breeding lines ted does like to chase the quad so I’m hopeful he has chase instinct in him. He has the same character as Zoe in one of your videos.
    Any help would be much appreciated!
    Many thanks

    1. Andy avatar

      My apologies for the late reply, Adam.
      Your first mistake was to buy two pups from the same litter. We won’t normally sell two pups to the same home unless the owner can prove to us that they know how to cope with two young pups at the same time. Litter mates are even worse. If you watch our tutorials regularly, you’ll know that herding dogs are pack animals, and that they need to bond with their owner. Litter mates are already very strongly bonded and when they go to a new home, they don’t feel the same strong urge to bond with their new owner because they’re already very strongly bonded with each other.

      By “bonding” I don’t mean the dog likes your company, or will sit, stay and wag its tail when you stroke it. What I mean is that the dog sees you as its leader. If the two live in the same pen, or the same part of the house and always go out together, this just makes matters worse. You need to spend time with each dog separately.

      To help you get your reluctant dogs working, her’s a blog I wrote some months ago.

      1. Alex Fullmer avatar

        I keep her tied up on a long run at the back of the house. We have a wood slated fence separating the front from the back. My wife usually sits out front in the morning drinking coffee when she gets up. Usually I’m up and gone before she gets up but on some occasions I’m still taking care of the back yard chores when she gets up early and this is when I seem to have a problem with Panda coming to me when I whistle for her. Donna told me yesterday that Panda heard me whistle (she picked up her head) but then moved over towards our other older dog that stays inside most of the time.
        Hmm, maybe it has something to do with the other dog?
        Anyway, hope this isn’t to lengthy of an explanation.

        1. Andy avatar

          It sounds as though you tie the dog up and then go off somewhere, possibly for a long time (to work?) and of course, the dog knows what’s going to happen. When there’s nobody else around, the dog will come to you, but when there’s another dog which clearly gets greater privileges, Panda will see this and really, really won’t want to be tied up.
          Tied-up dogs are not a good thing. Is it not possible for Panda to spend more time with the older dog as a companion?
          My best advice is to spend more time with the dog if you possibly can, and provide a pen with a proper run for her.

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