Sheepdog training tips and advice to make teaching your farm dog to herd sheep, a lot easier!
Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).
Simplify the education of your first herding dog with our sheepdog training tips and advice for beginners.
Safety tips and advice
If you want the dog to work cattle and also sheep, training it on sheep first is safer and easier.
You must ensure the safety of yourself, other people, and also any animals concerned.
Falling over in the field, is an obvious safety issue.
Training herding dogs is completely different.
Which of the everyday obedience training lessons are also useful for farm or ranch dogs?
Everything a dog does in its life is either for survival, or reward.
Most other canine disciplines rely on giving the dog a reward of some kind.
When a dog herds other animals, its instinct tells it that it’s doing it to survive.
The biggest reward you can give a herding dog, is to allow it to continue working.
Because dogs are so trainable, we’re able to turn the hunting instinct to good use.
The hunting instinct is essential for herding dogs
New trainers are often shocked by their dog’s aggression when it first encounters stock.
A modified form of this aggression, is what the dog uses when it works stock.
Getting the dog as well as the sheep under control, can be the most difficult part.
Even those who doubt dogs descended from wolves, must recognise their ancestors hunted.
We defy anyone who’s lived amongst dogs the way we have, to deny their pack instinct.
Watch the tutorial ‘An Insight Into Pack Behaviour’ for a better understanding of it.
Understanding pack behaviour, answers many questions about sheepdog training.
A dog’s reluctance to get sheep out of tight places, is clearly explained by pack behaviour.
Trained sheepdog Mel, demonstrates how to get sheep out of a tightly packed pen.
ANIMATION: Showing the ‘danger area’ when a dog approaches sheep on a fence.
There are plenty of sheepdog training tips and advice in the tutorial ‘An Insight Into Pack Behaviour’.
‘Get Off The Fence’ shows how to teach your dog to get sheep away from tight places.
Tips on being a suitable trainer
Are you a suitable trainer?
When a herding dog is confronted with farm stock it can be very difficult to control.
You’ll need to be strong-willed, to control the dog and protect the livestock.
If you find it hard to assert yourself, you may find sheepdog training is not for you.
You don’t need to treat the dog harshly, but at times you’ll need to be strong-willed.
The better you earn the dog’s respect as its pack-leader, the easier training will be.
Training the dog will also be far easier if you’re fairly fit.
If you lose your temper, your dog’s training is also likely to get worse rather than better.
Which breeds and types of dog make the best herding dogs.
If you simply want to push stock in one direction, there are many breeds to choose from.
If you need a dog to gather sheep and bring them to you, Collies and Kelpies are ideal.
For more information on sheepdogs, watch the ‘Sheepdog Selection and Preparation’ tutorial.
What type of sheep is best for sheepdog training?
Sheep that are not used to being worked by dogs, often cause problems for trainers.
Farm animals see dogs as predators. Their natural reaction is to run away from them.
Sheep running away or scattering, cause huge problems for untrained dogs.
Sheep will quickly trust a calm, predictable dog, but greatly fear an erratic one.
What are dogged sheep, and how can they help train my dog.
‘Dogged’ sheep can be excellent for starting a dog off.
As the dog’s training improves, you’ll need ‘flightier’ sheep, which will move away.
How to manage if the sheep won’t go away.
The ‘Driving’ tutorials will help you to teach your dog to drive sheep away.
ANIMATION: Showing two handlers simultaneously training their dogs to do outruns.
Watch the ‘Outrun’ tutorials to find out how to teach your dog to go out and fetch sheep.
What to do if you can’t obtain any ‘dogged’ sheep.
Types of sheep to avoid when training your dog.
Watch ‘The Dog’s Confidence’, and ‘Sometimes Nice Is Not Enough’, to learn how to cope with stubborn sheep.
And watch the ‘Sheep’ tutorial, to find out a lot more about sheep.
Tips for creating a suitable training area
How a few simple changes can make training easier.
How to modify your training area to make training as easy as possible.
Why we recommend using a temporary training ring to start a dog on sheep.
There’s much more information in ‘The Training Ring’ tutorials.
The dog’s confidence is also important for working sheep and cattle dogs.
Sheep are particularly quick to learn if a dog lacks confidence.
If the dog approaches in a calm, confident manner, the sheep will respect it.
You should make sure the dog always wins any confrontation with the stock.
What to do if your dog is struggling to move sheep or cattle.
Watch the tutorials ‘Sometimes Nice Is Not Enough’, and ‘The Dog’s Confidence’.
Learn your commands. Ways to remember your commands and get them right.
Make sure you know your flank commands, and keep commands to a minimum.
The ‘Learn Your Commands’ tutorial will help you to remember your commands.
Watch ‘What Shall I Do Next’, for advice on the sequence of training we recommend.
A brief summary of the main points in this tutorial.
Who said it was easy!
Nobody would claim that sheepdog training a dog to work sheep or other livestock is an easy matter. But by understanding what is going on and why, and by paying attention to just a few basic details, we can make the process so much easier for both dog and handler.
Andy addresses nine valuable sheepdog training tips frequently overlooked by novice trainers. They include safety, the difference between training a dog to herd sheep compared to obedience and other forms of dog training, the dog’s hunting instinct and pack behaviour. He also asks you to consider whether you’re a suitable trainer…