Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

Chapters 1 & 2 from the DVD set 'First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training'.

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Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: Sheepdog Selection and Preparation

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.

26 comments

  1. Dear Andy. I’v recently watched all of your wonderful tutorials & I intend to watch them again.
    Now that a lot of pet dog owners are interested to train their dogs to herd sheep, it would be very interesting ,I think, if you’d make a video on training different herding breeds, the popular ones anyway. thanks

    1. That would be nice, but I really don’t have the time, unfortunately.
      Thank you for your kind words though – it’s good to know you find the tutorials useful.

  2. Thank you, Andy, for this and all your videos. They are a wealth of information, especially for the novice handler.
    May I ask a question that’s not regarding training, but about dogs’ health. Can you share what tick/flee applications you use on your dogs. I lean towards being holistic/organic in my care for my dogs, but my routines don’t seem to be working in the fields and around live stock. Appreciate your input. Thank you

    1. Thanks for the great feedback, Kathy. It’s important for us to know that we’re on the right track with our videos.
      We use Frontline for flea treatment, but (possibly because we have a closed ‘pack’ these days, and our dogs don’t frequent placed populated by other dogs) we very rarely need it these days. When we do use it, it’s very effective, and there are no apparent side effects from it.
      I’m not sure what we use for ticks – it’s so long since we had any here. We’d ask our vet what they recommend!

  3. Hi Andy

    Thanks for the videos they have been a great help. However, I have a problem with getting my border collie bitch under control. She is so focused on the sheep I can’t get her to come to me on the ‘that’ll do’ command. If the sheep are still, she will lie and stare at them until they move. I had her at 8 weeks from working parents – I saw the mum working and I have a training pen. Sky can flank come-bye and away on command and stop on balance, the away side needs improvement. She knows ‘that’ll do’ means come straight back to me because I use it with her off the lead before getting to the training field and we don’t get there unless she is by my feet. However, I use a long lead (40 ft) to get the sheep into the pen for training and she is pretty good at ‘lie down’ but ‘that’ll do’ only works with a pull on the lead. She also chases cars when working in a field next to our lane. she does have 3 walks a day with different family members where she can wander off lead and does chase squirrels! Can you give me some tips for basic obedience and a strong recall which I should have got sorted by now – she is just about 2. PS she is like Ray in your video – likes to chase the sheep into a corner and holds them there! Many thanks. Rick

    1. Sky sounds as though she’s making good progress, but I have to wonder whether you have watched all of the early videos in the order that we recommend, Rick? If you have, then please watch them again – and if you haven’t – perhaps you should.
      If you want to get a good understanding of your dog, the sheep, and how things are likely to pan out during training, those early videos will help you a lot.
      By watching them, you’ll find that it’s perfectly natural for Sky to not want to come back to you when she’s with sheep – and they show you ways to get her to come back easily. For instance, in the early stages of training, don’t call her to you (or catch her) and then take her away from the sheep. This will simply teach her that coming to you means the end of her fun. Catch or call the dog away and then send her back to the sheep as many times as you like (within reason). That way she’ll learn that coming away may result in her doing another outrun (they love this).
      There are plenty of examples of how to get the dog to come away from sheep, but I won’t list them because I want you to watch those early videos first.
      Chasing cars – that’s really bad practice – and likely to get her involved in an accident. Maybe a serious one.
      Keep the dog under control, and if she runs at a car (or anything else) pull her back. Teach her that if she does it, she won’t get any freedom.
      Chasing squirrels – that’s just teaching her that she can do what she likes, and ignore you. I’m sure that’s not what you want – is it? Don’t allow the dog to chase squirrels unless you can control her. What if a squirrel ran across a road? Even if there are no roads where she does it now, one day things might be different – and the longer you leave it before you get her under control, the harder it will be to train her…

      1. Hi Andy

        I’m very grateful for your in depth reply and advice. I have watched the early videos, although I might have missed one – I will watch them again! I had a good session in the pen today with Sky quickly flanking both ways and with me walking backwards she was able to move the sheep to me (to a fashion!). I also got her to come to me off the sheep (4 of them) – letting her go back to the sheep each time – that felt great- just need more practice and some dry weather!. Looking forward to getting out of the pen – have tried it but she just chases them to a corner of the field. I have watched the ‘coming out of the pen’ video at least twice but I think my priority is to get her under control and to slow her down. Your videos are a great help as I have never had a dog before and she is the only one on the farm so no others to copy. I wish I had enough time to watch them all! Thanks again.

  4. Hi Andy and Gill, Thank you for the great videos. We’ve just brought our 8 week ISDS registered puppy home. She is our first sheep dog and is wanting to chase the chickens from the garden. As an adult we would rather she didn’t chase chickens but we are worried about stopping her now in case we put her off working the sheep in future. Would be very grateful for your thoughts?

    1. There are a number of options open to you, Heather. The most obvious is keep the chickens away from the pup, or the pup away from the chickens!
      Unless you are there to supervise the pup, it shouldn’t have access to any livestock, and yes, there’s a chance that the pup will think it’s not to chase anything if you keep stopping it from chasing chickens, so I suggest you keep the chickens away from the pup if you can.
      If you decide to train the pup not to chase the fowl, it would be a very good idea to regularly encourage the dog to take and interest in sheep. That way, the pup will learn that it’s not to chase chickens, but it can chase sheep – but be sure you’re close enough to protect the pup if a sheep chases or attacks it.
      Really, the pup shouldn’t be wandering around unsupervised, because unless it’s VERY well fenced-in, it will eventually go out and chase the sheep anyway. That’s not a good idea either, if the pup’s not supervised.

  5. Hi Andy,
    I’m looking into buying a new pup and I love German Shpherd dogs. Do you think it’s a bad idea (or too much unnecessary hard work) to try and train a GSD for sheep herding?

    1. German shepherds are not recognised sheepdogs in the UK. As far as I know they are not used for gathering, in the way that’s familiar to us. I think you’d be hard pressed to get one to work well with sheep, but we have very little experience with German Shepherds, so we don’t feel qualified to advise you, really.

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