Sheepdog Training Articles for Trainers

A collection of the sheepdog training articles for trainers we have published over the years

There are over thirty pages to this article. Start by clicking an image or link below, then use the “Next” or “Previous” buttons at the bottom of every page to move forward or back. Use “Index” to return to this list. Also see our FAQ pages.

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

Sheepdog Training 1 – How to train a sheepdog

A Beginners’ Guide to Training a Dog to Herd Sheep First uploaded Feb 8th 2003 – currently under revision (October 2022) Introduction Struggling on our hands and knees in the base of a very overgrown hedge one day, it occurred to Gillian and me that there ought to be more information for beginners to sheepdog training and handling. We were … Read more
Photo of a sheepdog riving a flock of sheep into a paddock

Sheepdog Training 2 – Basic requirements

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 … Read more
Closeup photo of Dot looking out over the Welsh mountains of Corwen

Sheepdog Training 3 – What makes the dog keep working?

What motivates the dog to keep working? Some time ago, some neighbours stopped to watch a training session and asked me how I could get the dog to work so well and for so long without giving it some praise or reward. I know little of training other breeds but in the case of Border Collie Sheepdogs, the greatest rewards … Read more
Photo of a sheepdog at work

Sheepdog Training 4 – The definition of a sheepdog

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 … Read more
Border Collie Sheepdog 'Tiny' watching some action

Sheepdog Training 5 – A dog is for life

Admirable though the maxim is generally, “A dog is for life” needn’t always apply to sheepdogs” This may seem a bad point to start discussing the negative side of training a sheepdog but it’s worth bearing in mind that dogs are individuals, just as we are, and not all dogs get along with their owners! Whilst I’m cautiously in favour … Read more
Sheepdog trainer Andy Nickless greets his dog Tiny

Sheepdog Training 6 – Bond with your dog

The importance of forming a bond with your dog. A good dog, which is strongly bonded with the handler, will do almost anything it possibly can for its handler. Its number one priority in life is to please. To form this bond isn’t so difficult if you’re kind and consistent whilst leaving your dog in no doubt who’s the boss, … Read more
Close-up photo of Border Collie trainee sheepdog Cotton (looking confused)

Sheepdog Training 7 – Be firm fair and consistent

Be FIRM, FAIR and CONSISTENT with your dog. Being consistent is one of the most important factors in successful training but it can go too far. From the dog’s point of view, we should feed them at the same time every day, visit them at the same time and take them out training at the same time. They would love … Read more
Portrait photo of sheepdog Oliver

Sheepdog Training 8 – Never punish your dog for coming back

NEVER punish your dog for coming back to you. Picture a typical scene. You’re out walking your dog in the local park and he runs off to play with another dog he’s just spotted. You call him back but he’s having a great time and ignores you. You call again – this time much louder than before. Eventually you resort … Read more
Close-up photo of a young tri-coloured rough-coated Border Collie

Sheepdog Training 9 – Always welcome your dog back

Make your dog feel welcome when it comes back to you In the early stages of training, make the dog’s return to you worthwhile, even exciting. Use a pleasant tone and a little fuss to show the dog you’re pleased that he’s returned. If the dog doesn’t respond to this, it’s finding being somewhere else more interesting than being with … Read more
Close-up portrait photo of a young Border Collie sheepdog

Sheepdog Training 10 – Reading your dog’s mind

Just how do we go about reading our dog’s mind? Well, we can’t exactly do that but we can get close. This is one of the trickier parts of sheep dog training – you need to read the dog’s body language! If you study it, you’ll see that when the dog’s preparing to grip, his ears go back, his hackles … Read more
Photo of a small group of sheep standing in a field, looking towards the camera

Sheepdog Training 11 – careful thought helps cure problems

Whatever problem you’re having with your dog, you should be able to cure it Think carefully about the problem – why the dog’s doing it and how you can change the training routine to correct it. Sometimes the dog will simply be using its own initiative to try to help you. For instance, if he knows the sheep prefer to … Read more
Close-up photo of a Border Collie Sheepdog lying on the ground, looking pensive

Sheepdog Training 12 – Control your temper

Control your temper – your dog will sense your mood. If you’re training a sheepdog and you find yourself getting angry, there are two simple choices open to you: 1. Control Your Temper
2. End the session. We’re only human, and we all get cross from time to time, but there’s really no point in going on with a training session … Read more
Photo of Border Collie Preston lying on the ground with his ears looking wayward!

Sheepdog Training 13 – Don’t blame the dog

99% of the time, if things go wrong it’s YOUR fault! Of all the sheepdog training videos and DVDs I’ve watched, this is the single most important statement I’ve gleaned. It was said by Martin Penfold on the Rural Route video Starting Border Collies on Cattle, Sheep or Ducks I think Martin actually said 90% of the time, so I … Read more
Photo of a group of sheep trying to defy the sheepdog which is tasked with moving them

Sheepdog Training 14 – What does a sheepdog do?

What do sheepdogs actually DO? A good sheepdog should be a valuable assistant to the shepherd or sheep farmer. It will learn where the sheep (or other stock) are likely to be in each field, and it will gather them together calmly, and not leave any behind. A really good sheepdog will even recognise if one or more animals is … Read more
Photo of Border Collie pup Rebus looking at a sheep

Sheepdog Training 15 – Started sheepdog or puppy?

Should you buy a puppy or a partly trained dog? It’s a very long road from buying a puppy to taking part in your first trial. This can be daunting for a novice handler but, on the other hand, if you buy a puppy you can be sure it hasn’t developed any bad habits. If you buy an older dog … Read more
Photo of Border Collie sheepdog Fen looking alert

Sheepdog Training 16 – ISDS registered or farm dog

“Pedigree” or farm dog – which is best? Don’t believe for a moment that a dog must be ISDS registered to be any use as a sheepdog. This is complete nonsense and anyone who says it should be ashamed of themselves. There are fantastically good non-registered sheepdogs – some of which would be perfectly capable of winning the top sheepdog … Read more
Photo of a Border Collie sheepdog getting sheep into a pen in the middle of a field

Sheepdog Training 17 – Choosing a part-trained dog?

Choosing between a started or partly trained sheepdog. Buying a partly trained dog’s a very popular way of shortcutting the long process of getting from puppy to working stage. The most difficult stage of training is getting control initially, so when you buy a started dog, the worst has already been done. Many people don’t feel able to train a … Read more
Photo of a dog chasing a car which is on the other side of a hedge

Sheepdog Training 18 – Car chasing and other vices

Car chasing is a common cause of sheepdog and cattle dog deaths. It could be argued that car chasing is even more serious than sheep worrying, because it’s natural to try to avoid a dog which is chasing your car, so the chances of a collision with another vehicle or pedestrian are greatly increased. It’s important to do all you … Read more
Photo of young Trials-colour sheepdog Dulcie sitting on a garden chair

Sheepdog Training 19 – Suitable housing for your dog

Give your dog somewhere decent to live. In a shed outside or on your bed? Sheepdogs are amazingly tough creatures, many dogs have virtually no shelter at all – having to find a dry corner somewhere on the farm or maybe having an old steel drum as a shelter from the elements. As long as your Border Collie isn’t in … Read more
Close photo of smooth coated Border Collie Cotton standing in water and looking around her

Sheepdog Training 20 – The correct food for your dog

Take a little care over feeding your dog (and take care not to over-feed it). Your sheepdog will be your friend and your pride and joy – so rather than feed it on the cheapest food you can find, take care to find a suitable diet. Equally, don’t take it for granted that the most expensive food is the best … Read more
Photo of Sheepdog Pru who has jumped up against her gate and is gazing into the camera

Sheepdog Training 21 – Spend time with your dog

The more quality time you devote to your dog, the stronger the bond between you will be. We strongly advise owners to spend as much time as possible with their dogs. The more the dog knows and trusts you, the more it will bond, and the better it’ll work for you – for instance if your dog’s used to being … Read more
Photo of sheepdog Fen setting off on her outrun, with sheep running away in the other direction

Sheepdog Training 22 – Traditional sheepdog commands

Visit our Sheepdog Terminology page for a fuller list of traditional sheepdog commands and language used by shepherds, sheep farmers and sheepdog trials competitors. To avoid confusing the trainee dog, keep your early commands to a minimum. You can introduce more, once the dog’s skill improves. The basic commands generally used in sheepdog training are traditional. “Come-bye” tells the dog … Read more
Photo of Andy Nickless training a young sheepdog, called Smudge White

Sheepdog Training 23 – What happens when you start?

What happens when you start sheepdog training? When you first take your sheepdog pup to sheep, it’s unlikely to behave as it does at home. It might of course, but even if it does, it will gain confidence and turn into a quite different creature altogether. Remember that once the dog’s most basic instinct is aroused, it may want to … Read more
Sheepdog Carew showing good control of her sheep

Sheepdog Training 24 – The dog’s first encounter with sheep

Taking your dog to sheep for the first time. When you take your young dog to sheep for the first time, remember he may have a very short attention span – sometimes just a few seconds but more usually a few minutes. The younger the dog, the shorter the attention span will probably be. If the dog runs around the … Read more
Photo of Sheepdog Carew steadily driving three sheep away

Sheepdog Training 25 – The dreaded supermarket trolley

When is working a sheepdog like pushing a Supermarket trolley? Take my word for it, driving sheep is like pushing a loaded supermarket trolley The thing seems to have a mind of its own, and so do the sheep. If you push the trolley straight, it wants to go to one side or the other – likewise the sheep. If … Read more
Photo of trainee sheepdog Ray jumping around in an effort to run after the sheep in the background

Sheepdog Training 26 – The magic cord

Control an over-enthusiastic dog with The Magic Cord! Sheepdog training relies on your dog seeing you as its leader, so it’s important to give the dog the impression that you are in control of the situation, even when you’re not. Being on a lead can have a psychological as well as a physical effect on dogs. Once they know they’re … Read more
Andy Nickless in the training ring with puppy Rita

Sheepdog Training 27 – How to teach a young dog to stop

The secret of getting a good “stop” is: LET THE DOG GO ! Our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials include three videos to show you how to stop your dog without damaging its confidence. Find out more. It’s vitally important that the dog learns that you’re not necessarily stopping its ‘game’ every time you tell it to lie down, so at … Read more
Photo of Ezra the trainee sheepdog giving a sheep a hard time

Sheepdog Training 28 – Dog gripping or biting sheep

What to do if the dog grips or bites or attacks the sheep. Our Sheepdog Training Tutorial Videos (see below) have chapters such as Training Max – The GRIPPER (3 videos) and Starting a Strong Dog, which will help you to get control of a dog which is attacking the sheep unnecessarily. Gripping is very common in dogs when they … Read more
Very close photo of the face of a black and white rough-coated Border Collie Sheepdog lying in the grass

Sheepdog Training 29 – Dogs with “too much eye”

Sheepdog “Eye” – Condition or Habit..? If the dog’s standing or even lying down and staring at the sheep as though it’s in a trance, rather than moving when commanded, this is commonly referred to as having too much eye. On the other hand, Eye is said to be a great asset for controlling sheep – but so is positioning … Read more
Photo of Kay the Border Collie driving a small group of sheep into a field

Sheepdog Training 30 – Teaching the dog to drive sheep

How to teach your herding dog to drive sheep away. Since writing this post, our sheepdog training methods have changed. In the case of driving, quite drastically. For the latest information on our much more efficient training methods, why not subscribe to our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorial Videos (membership required). As soon as time allows we’ll update the post, but … Read more
Photo of a sheepdog trials competitor sending her dog on its outrun at Evesham Sheepdog Trials

Sheepdog Training 31 – Sheepdog trials

The Sport of Sheepdog Trials. Our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials (see Preview video below) include two lengthy videos which will help you to prepare your dog and yourself for sheepdog trials. The body which controls sheepdog trialling is the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS). Various types of trials take place throughout the UK and internationally. UK trials are as follows:
Taking … Read more
Photo of a competitor penning sheep at Evesham Sheepdog Trials

Sheepdog Training 32 – What happens at sheepdog trials?

What happens at a sheepdog trial and why? Our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials (see Preview video below) include two lengthy videos which will help you to prepare your dog and yourself for sheepdog trials. Most sheepdog trials in the UK are run to similar format. The handler and dog stand at a ‘post‘ at one end of the course and … Read more

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