Sheepdog Training 4 – The definition of a sheepdog

Photo of a sheepdog at work

At what point does a trainee dog becomes a sheepdog?

Some would say a dog becomes a sheepdog when it’s fully trained but we disagree. We believe there’s no such thing as a fully trained sheepdog! Dogs are learning throughout their entire lives and sheepdogs are no exception. Furthermore, who is to say when a dog is fully trained?

A dog which fulfils every requirement of one owner, might fall well short when given a task which is routinely performed by dogs on other farms, but which this particular dog has never experienced at home. Further training, might well put the situation right – proving the point that there’s no such thing as a fully trained sheepdog.

To decide whether a dog is a sheepdog or not, imagine your sheep had escaped (“surely not,” I hear you cry – “our sheep NEVER escape”) and are roaming your neighbour’s fields.

Your only dog is the youngster you have at home, just in the early stages of his training. Would you take that dog to help get the sheep back in, or would you call a friend and ask him to bring his dog – leaving the trainee secure in the kennel where he can do no harm? If you’re confident enough that you and the trainee can get the sheep back into your field, then (in our opinion) he’s a sheepdog.

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