How to train a sheepdog – Online Tutorials Preview

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We now have 70 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

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86 Replies to “How to train a sheepdog – Online Tutorials Preview”

  1. I have a one year old dog pup that has lost his drive. He used to be very interested in hunting sheep but lately hasn’t been very interested and just lies down when told to walk on, he also has been faced with a tough ewe in the last week which didn’t help. He used to have lots of drive in him and i was wondering how i would get it back, he is from really good bloodlines and he is brilliant on come by and away so i just want to get him working fully

    1. Assuming the dog is fit and well (have you considered taking him to a vet for a check?) it sounds very much like a confidence problem. It’s covered fairly extensively in our tutorial “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough” (you need to be logged-into a full member account for this link to work).
      A good way to test whether it’s a confidence problem is to walk up close to the dog when it stops in front of the sheep. If the dog will work when you’re up close and giving encouragement, it’s a confidence problem, but if the dog is lacking “drive” when away from sheep, I suggest you take him to a vet.

  2. Hi Andy, what are your thoughts on teaching a heading dog to jump. I am getting mixed opinions from people. Some say a sheep dog should never be taught to jump due to getting caught on fences and it is bad for their joints. However I often work long distances away from the kennels so would like my dog to get on the back of the quad bike to save him running all the way there however my 7 year old collie has never been taught to jump by the previous owner. Thank you

    1. I suggest you do what you think is natural for a dog, and what suits your situation. Ignore some of the more bizarre advice you’re given. People believe all sorts of stuff about sheepdogs. One of the most common is that you should never allow a sheepdog to play! We spend hours in the field with our dogs every day, throwing balls and frisbees for them. They dig holes, and they love to jump. Dogs are fantastic jumpers, and (once they get the hang of it) they love to ride on quad bikes and other vehicles. As far as I’m aware, jumping (in moderation) isn’t bad for their joints.
      Of course whatever a dog does, there’s a risk involved, and occasionally dogs have accidents. That’s the way life is, but we don’t let it get in the way of our dogs’ enjoyment and their work. Of course, if an inexperienced dog tries to jump a high barbed wire fence, there’s a much higher risk of injury, but if you teach a dog to jump onto a quad bike, that doesn’t mean the dog’s going to try to clear the nearest wire fence (but it might).
      If you want to teach your dog to jump onto a quad bike, I suggest you watch the tutorial “Use a Reward to get Training on Board”. Logged-in members can watch it here

  3. I have just picked out two 4 week old border collies and would like to learn what commands and training I should be working on when I bring them home at 8 weeks old. When would it be good to introduce them to sheep as well. Just so they see them and get to know what they are. Then when is good age to start more sheepdog training?

    1. Unless you are experienced at training dogs, your first mistake is in having two puppies (particularly litter-mates)!

      Two pups will bond with each other rather than with you, and this can make them very difficult to train properly. Unless you have lots of spare time and are prepared to train the young dogs seperately it’s a far better idea to have one puppy, and then after six or better still, twelve months or more, when your first dog is really nicely under control, buy a second pup.

      If you do it this way, the first dog will help you train the second one!

      Starting pups on sheep is too complex to explain fully here, but it’s very well covered in our Sheepdog Training Tutorials. As you’ll see in the Tutorials Library, we even start a pup on sheep at eleven weeks, but this should only be undertaken if you know what you’re doing.

      1. Dear Andy,

        You kindly spoke to me about advising on Pumi training and the possibility of a video.

        I have a short Pumi training guide translated from Hungarian . One key paragraph is “The Pumi completely loses interest in the sheep if we don’t let it near the sheep but only to a few yards from them. The English style training method therefore will destroy the herding drive of the Pumi within minutes. In other words, if the trainer or owner position themselves between the sheep and the Pumi and they constantly drive it away from them – or rather try to make the Pumi to keep distance, the Pumi will lose interest in the whole thing in no time because the very same tools are taken away from it which enabled it throughout its whole life to work instinctively and made it capable of independently resolving complicated tasks!”
        Could you comment and advise please
        Regards
        Bridget

        1. When we spoke, I explained that I had never heard of a Hungarian Pumi (let alone train one) but I was prepared to give you my opinion. However, in view of your research, I think it’s best that you seek advice from those who are familiar with the breed.
          Good luck with training your dog.

  4. We use electric fencing to separate our pastures for rotational grazing. How can we best teach our dog (2yr old fem. BC) about electric fences?

    1. We used to use electric fences years ago, Bill. It’s not ideal.
      Inevitably the dog’s going to get a shock at some point or other, and if you have flighty sheep, they’re going to learn that they can charge through the fence at will. That’s not good either, because it teaches the sheep they can beat the fence if they want to.
      If you really must use electric fences, the only practical solution I found was to try to carry on giving commands to the dog even though it may be running off because it’s just had a shock.
      It doesn’t work all the time, but depending on the dog, you’ll be surprised how often it does work. If you have a good recall on the dog, you can call it back, and also, it’s worth walking the dog near the fence (without any sheep there) just to try to show the dog there’s nothing to worry about.
      Ideally, get some proper fencing though.

  5. What is your guidance on keeping a working farm dog (2yr old female border collie) in a kennel or in the house with the other pets (one old dog and several cats? I am concerned the dog may become too soft being in the house, forget her training; become spoiled or am I bonding with her? We currently keep her out in the kennel during the day when not working and bring her into the house at night. She is confined to the kitchen with the other dog and seems to have adapted well; maybe too well!

    1. As long as the dog’s got a keen instinct to work animals, and nobody spoils her (by playing with her so much that she loses interest in working) it doesn’t really matter where the dog lives, William.
      When you mention that she may have settled in “too well” though, I wonder what this means? If she’s showing signs of not wanting to go out to work, that’s obviously not a good thing, but it’s not about living quarters, it’s about the bond you have with the dog. If she’s working well, and does as she’s told, you shouldn’t have a problem though.

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