Sheepdog Training 2 – Basic requirements

Photo of a sheepdog riving a flock of sheep into a paddock

Basic Requirements of Sheepdog Training. Some of the details you should address if you wish to train a sheepdog

Safety first!

It’s the responsibility of the sheepdog trainer or handler to ensure the safety of the dog, the livestock, and most importantly, any bystanders or assistants in the vicinity.

Dogs get very excited when they are first introduced to livestock, and they can be extremely difficult to control. Think carefully about what you intend to do, and don’t do anything that you’re not absolutely sure, will be safe.

If you want the dog to work cattle, we recommend you start it off on sheep or smaller animals first (if possible). Starting a dog on livestock can be a haphazard affair.

Out of control!

Frequently the dog and animals run out of control, so it’s safer to start the dog on smaller animals, and then move on to (potentially more dangerous) cattle when the dog’s working more steadily.

If you have no choice but to train the dog on cattle first, make sure the dog will stay by your side when around cattle. If necessary, keep the dog on a short leash or rope, until you have really good control. Keep the dog with you, so that it’s driving the animals away, rather than towards you.

Farm stock

Apart from the dog itself, you’ll need some farm stock for it to work with. Sheep, cattle, or ducks or are the usual animals to start your dog with, but all manner of other animals including goats, geese chickens and turkeys are commonplace.

It’s a long-term project

The most important attribute a dog trainer can have is PATIENCE – The next is DETERMINATION

If you want to train a border collie to work sheep, you should understand that it’s a long term project. Put aside any desire for instant gratification and results. Having said that, every dog is an individual, and sometimes a dog’s progress can be meteoric. Don’t expect it though.

How tough are you?

A Sheep or Cattle Dog Can Be A Tough Cookie! – To train one, sometimes you need to be even tougher!

Just as with humans, some dogs are sensitive and some are hard. A working border collie can be a tough cookie – to train one, you sometimes have to be even tougher. Not cruel – just determined. Be prepared to be assertive on occasions.

Don’t blame the dog when things go wrong

Before you can properly train your first sheepdog, you should have some knowledge of the way their minds work and be prepared to take the blame for nearly everything that goes wrong because it will, in all probability, be your fault.

It’s quite rare for a dog to be deliberately disobedient – more usually, they simply don’t understand what we want them to do, so their instinct takes over. Just as often, our lack of understanding of how the dog’s mind works and our high expectations turn to frustration when the poor dog doesn’t deliver the result we wanted

There may be times when your dog ignores your commands and you would be justified in thinking he’s just being disobedient – but the reason he’s ignoring you is because he’s not sufficiently bonded with you yet. He doesn’t respect you sufficiently.

Work on gaining his total respect before anything else. It’s up to you to demonstrate that by doing as you say, the job will be more efficient. And pleasurable for all concerned. This can take an awful lot of patience and understanding with some dogs – and be quite a quick process with others.

You may be interested to know that we produced our own sheepdog training DVD called “First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training” aimed specifically at beginners who want to learn how to train a sheepdog. The (2x) DVD set is different to others because it shows things going wrong (sometimes badly wrong) and then shows you how to put them right. It also spends time explaining how and why sheepdogs herd sheep and there’s advice on choosing the best kind of sheep and which to avoid if possible.

For various reasons, we recommend our Online Tutorials but if you prefer DVDs, watch a preview below.

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2xDVD set. Watch the Preview Here


Learn how to train your first sheepdog with the 2xDVD set that shows sheepdog training as it really is! As well as clear instruction on what to do, you’ll see things going wrong and how to put them right. More info

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2 responses to “Sheepdog Training 2 – Basic requirements”

  1. Bill Barclay avatar
    Bill Barclay

    I was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire with Suffolk sheep. The farmer had a dog which was not much use really, I have attended and watched many trials and have become the proud owner of a working Collie (I hope) puppy 12wks old.
    I need as much info as I can get regards the training of my pup for working. This would be a hobby for me , I have a local farmer willing to allow me to use some of her sheep for training.

    1. Sounds good Bill. I’m sure you and your new pup will get along fine.
      Could I just mention our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials?
      There’s well over seventy videos for you to watch, and they cover starting a young pup on sheep (with care) as well as difficult dogs – right through to sheepdog trials standard. If you’d like to know more, watch the preview.
      Once you get started with the dog, and it’s under reasonable control, you can send us a short video, and I’ll give you my assessment of what you and the dog are doing right, or wrong.

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