Herding Dog Training

Before we get into my tips for herding dog training I will give you a little background. We live in farm country and raise hair sheep. At this time Zeva (border collie) and Duke (toy aussie) are the main workers and then Casey (mini aussie) and every once in awhile Gabby the rottweiler (she is in the picture with Zeva over to your left and if you click on the picture it will get bigger.)

We live in farm country, therefore in the wintertime there are cornstalks available. A couple of the dogs and me will bring the sheep down the road and let them eat in the cornstalks or the bean stubble. The sheep get pretty full after a couple of hours and then we bring them home again. With a couple of good dogs you do not always need fencing.

My first experience with herding dog training was with a German shepherd. Steffi was a highly trained obedience dog so needless to say, even though I had no experience at the time for training a herding dog I was confident that it would be no problem.

(At the bottom of this page you will find some of my recommended resources along with a couple of awesome videos.)

You guessed it. That was the wrong assumption. It was difficult. She was young. I had very little knowledge and we had many disasters. I bought myself a couple of books and a DVD or two and started learning. I started studying the different herding styles mainly tending (how they do it in Germany without fencing) and the way they herd in England and Australia.

I learned an awful lot from my first dog though and looking back do feel a little sorry for her.

So now back to herding dog training and some of the things that I do and don’t do. I never down my dog when we are working with the sheep. Personally I do not see any sense in it. I just say stop and they stop right where they are. It just seems to work better for me and my dogs. Since we are only going to be working and not participating in any dog trials we do not have to down.

I used to teach them the AWAYYYYY and GOBY commands but do not do that anymore either. I just say bringem or go on. And then when we are done I tell them “That’s enough”.

I also do not keep my working dogs locked up as is suggested by many trainers. Some claim that it makes a better sheep dog out of them. They will not pick up as many bad habits when they are young if you just let them out to socialize, get a little exercise and do some training.

When I start a pup I take them with me when I feed the sheep or if I am just walking through them just to look them over. They will learn through your routine whether you are going to work the sheep or if you are just mingling and will act accordingly.

Before you begin herding dog training, try to get a little idea of what you will be doing with your dog. Will you be using them mainly for doctoring and sorting, bringing the sheep up out of the pasture or will you be taking them out into ditches and waterways without any fences. If you have a pretty good idea of what you will be using your dog for it just seems to make things easier.

This is the way I do it. Whether some people think it is the right way or the wrong way it makes no difference. This is what works for me.

I suggest that you get a good dog herding book and even find yourself a tending DVD to watch and then get after it. It is all about repetition and getting into a routine. If you are seriously thinking about entering sheep herding trials then it is my opinion that you find a trainer that participates in dog trials and take some lessons. You do have to train your dog differently if you want to win the ribbon.

One book I bought and recommend is Herding Dogs: Progressive Training

If you are either in the sheep business or are thinking about it Raising Sheep – How We Do It And More is pretty good (this is my opinion because I wrote it.)

And some good videos from Leerburg (here is the link http://leerburg.com/search/searchresults.php?terms=herding [I own all four of these videos as well])

And if you like fiction books please check out the book that is loosely based on our dog Zeva Zeva – My Exciting Life (A Dog’s Story) and if you like it please leave a positive review on Amazon.

Bud Williams was a brilliant man and I learned allot from him. Here are some of his tips Working with stock-herding dogs: Part 1 by Bud Williams

I really hope that you got something out of this article. Always try to remember not to take things to seriously and try to have a good time. Happy herding dog training to you.

Loading and unloading sheep in a stock trailer (Thomas Coony)

Montana Sheep Drive