Sheepdog Training 1 – How to train a sheepdog

Close-up photo of Border Collie mother and daughter, Mossie and Reiver

How to train a sheepdog – a beginners’ guide to training a farm dog to herd sheep

First uploaded Feb 8th 2003 – revised October 2022

Introduction to our training articles

Struggling on our knees in the base of an overgrown hedge one day, Gillian and I had a thought. We realised there needed to be more information for beginners to sheepdog training. We were vainly attempting to extract some Texel-cross ewes from the base of the hedge. They’d wedged themselves among the thorny branches and were stubbornly refusing to come out. Who could blame them? Our over-zealous trainee dog Dot, had been giving them a hard time, and they’d had more than enough of it.

The last straw!

The last straw came when, trying to ignore the pain inflicted by countless thorns. Using every ounce of our strength, we triumphantly heaved the first ewe into the open field. Dot, who we’d dragged by her collar into the hedge to help us remove the sheep, suddenly shot out from beside us under the hedge, and drove the sheep back into it!

Sheep taking shelter under the branches of an overgrown hedge - How to train a sheepdog
Sheep will use cover like this to shelter from a dog. The space under this hedge is much higher than the one where Dot’s sheep took shelter

We had already studied most of the books and videos available at the time. We were also fully aware of how to get a dog to lie down behind the sheep. Or even to flank right or left. But none of the instructions we’d encountered mentioned how to reach such an advanced stage from where we were now!

This article was written in 2003. Now it’s 2023 and, most of the information currently available on herding and is written by sheep farmers or sheepdog trials champions. All are excellent trainers, of course. They go to great lengths to instruct us on the tiniest intricacies of training a sheepdog. What they overlook however, is the fact that these days a growing number of handlers are part-time smallholders with regular employment outside agriculture altogether. Additionally, not being experienced farmers or shepherds, these newcomers simply don’t understand much of what the instructor’s talking about.

Experience of sheepdog training as a novice

They need more detailed background information which the top handlers and trainers take for granted. Especially information which is second nature to the professional shepherd or sheep farmer. A source of information on training sheepdogs – created by someone who’s experienced the difficulties of sheepdog training as a complete novice.

Perhaps most importantly, they need to see things that typically go wrong, and how to correct them.

Use the Next >> (or index) links at the foot of each page to move on to the next article.

20 years later…

Twenty (20) years later, Gill and I are proud to have seventy four (74) Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials, watched by sheepdog trainers, farmers and shepherds throughout the world. Watch the preview video below.


Next >>


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