How to Train Your Dog to Herd

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Work

Introduction

Adding a new pup to your small hobby farm and want him to learn how to herd? Maybe this is the first time you have a large herd on your farm and you could use a little extra help?  No matter what the reason, teaching your dog to herd can be a great way to give yourself a little extra time, save you from running around the fields after a rogue critter, or to simply stay out of the rain, while he brings in the herd. These are all very good reasons to train your dog to herd.

Of course, there is the other side of the picture. Herding has become a national and international competitive sport. One that can be just as much fun for you as it is for your dog. While some breeds such as Border Collies are more naturally inclined to herd, you can train most breeds to do so. It may take a little longer but is well worth the effort. 

Defining Tasks

The act of herding is when a well-trained dog can be commanded using either hand or whistle signals to move a herd or flock of animals from one place to another on your farm or in competition. No matter whether it is a group of animals, or even people, your dog is quite capable of being trained to herd them around. Bear in mind, that this is a difficult series of commands for your pup to master and that some dogs are better suited to this than others.

Your dog will need to have mastered basic commands before he is ready to move on to complex training such as this. You should also be aware that there is a significant risk of injury in this activity, your dog needs to be a young adult, puppies are not suited to this activity. Also, be sure to have your vet give your pup a complete exam to make sure he is healthy enough for this activity. 

Getting Started

In order to get started training your dog to herd, he must first readily respond to the most basic commands, including 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'lie down'. You will also need to teach him the basic herding commands including 'come bye', which means turn the herd to the right and 'away', which means he should turn the herd to the left. The other command he needs to learn is 'walk up' which indicates he should be behind the herd driving the herd towards you. You are also going to need access to a herd or flock you can practice with, plenty of time, and patience. 

The Long Leash Method

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1 Vote
Step
1
Use a long leash
Attach your dog to a long-leash (one that is 20 to 30 feet long) and walk him up towards a small herd of animals or flock of birds while giving him the 'walk-up' command.
Step
2
Be patient
Give your pup plenty of time to get used to being around the herd and reward him with a treat when he calms down.
Step
3
Walk around
Take him for a walk around the herd on a shorter leash. He should walk around them instinctively without trying to bother them. If he does, give him a treat.
Step
4
Reverse directions
Keep using your 'away' and 'come bye' commands as you reverse directions while he is on the leash. Once he has mastered behaving like this on the leash, it's time to let him try his skills.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
Keep repeating the above until he has mastered the commands and then let the leash pay out as you back off 20 feet or so. Keep practicing the commands with him until you are fully satisfied that he can do as instructed. Keep working until you are all the way at the end of the leash. Once he can herd the animals on the leash, you can take him off the leash and keep practicing.
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The Keeping It Small Method

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Step
1
Select a herd
The last thing you want is for your herding dog to be scared of your herd, so start out small. Consider using chickens and a small training pen.
Step
2
Add chickens
In a small training pen, place a few of your calmest chickens in the center and bring your pup in on a leash. Have him sit at one edge of the pen.
Step
3
Time to Relax
Give your pup plenty of time to get used to the chickens and once he settles down, give him a treat.
Step
4
Let him meet the chickens
With him still on his leash, walk your dog towards the birds, giving him the 'walk-up' command and stop when you are two feet away. If he stops and doesn't fuss, give him a treat.
Step
5
Around and back
Walk around the flock in circles using the commands 'away' and "'come bye' to get him used to associating them with directions going around the birds. Each time he gets it right, be sure to give him a treat.
Step
6
No more leash
Once he is calm and behaves around the birds, you can take him off the leash. Continue using your commands to have your dog move the flock in the training pen. Keep repeating this training until your dog masters it.
Step
7
Moving out
Now you can move the training outside to work with a bigger flock and bigger animals. Be patient and work with your pup. In time, he will become an excellent herding dog and keep your herds under control for you.
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The Whistle Method

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Step
1
Sounds and signals
Using a loud whistle, introduce your pup to the sound and treat him when he stops being startled by the sound. The traditional whistle commands are two short blasts for the 'away' command, one short-one long for 'come bye', and a short high/low pair of blasts for 'to me'.
Step
2
Train your dog
Now take these whistle commands and introduce them to your pup as part of several training sessions. Match the command to the whistle and work with your dog until he has mastered them.
Step
3
Back to basics
Start working with these commands with small flock or herd to help reduce any excessive distraction.
Step
4
Practice on-leash
Since you are essentially introducing a new type of behavior to your dog, you need to start this process with your dog back on his leash to protect the flock or herd. Once he has shown you he can follow commands on the leash, it's time to move on to the next level.
Step
5
Back off his leash
Unhook your pup from the leash and keep him close for the first few trials. Have him work with a small flock or herd at first and work his way up to working your entire herd over time. Remember, this is going to take a little time, but be patient and your pup will master the skill.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Hoss
Australian Shepard
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Hoss
Australian Shepard
1 Year

Sometimes when on a leash my dog has been barking at other dogs, how do I stop this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shyann, How to stop her from barking partially depends on why she is barking. Is she aggressive toward other dogs, fearful of them, or simply excited? If simply excited or even fearful, first, work on teaching the Quiet command. Check out the Quiet method from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, work on desensitizing her to other dogs to teach her to be calm around them. Do this by correcting her when she gets worked up to interrupt her, but focus the most on rewarding her when she is calm and quiet or obeys your Quiet command. If she sees another dog and does not bark, calmly praise her and reward her before she has the chance to bark. If she barks before you can reward her quietness, then tell her Quiet. If she does not get quiet, correct to interrupt her barking, then praise and reward when she focuses back on you and is quiet. Pay attention to when she is calm and focused on you - remember to reward that behavior since ultimately that is your goal all the time. When you praise her, keep your tone happy and calm - soft, calm praise tends to be good. It's also important to act calm and confident during walks in general. Practicing heeling in general can help with your own attitude before you run into another dog. Work on her heel, so that she is focused on you and following beside or behind you, with her head no further than your leg. When she walks behind you she is in a following mode and less likely to react to begin with - this can make other training easier to accomplish and help her listen better when you do give her commands or interruptions. Check out the Turns method and the video linked below for Heel; Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Additional Heel video with a more intense dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

My dog did that one time, and I trained her to heel, maybe you can train him/her, I also got a shorter leash or him/her might just want to protect you. Maybe that will help.

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Question
Luna
Red Queensland heeler border collie mix
3 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Luna
Red Queensland heeler border collie mix
3 Months

I don’t really know how to train my puppy to herd sheep, we are getting sheep soon and I don’t really understand it, please help me train my puppy to herd.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, Since herding is so hands on, I suggest googling "herding workshop (your city)", "herding test (your state)", herding evaluation (your state)", "herding event (your state)", and variations of those things to either find a trainer who can give you a couple of lessons to help you understand the concepts, or find a workshop (which is like an all day weekend class) on herding. YouTube is also generally a better resource for learning than articles because the herding is a lot of directional commands, body language, and responding in your time, so it is easier to learn by simply doing and by watching others do it. How to herding series: Part 1: https://youtu.be/0oTBfqmIGLA Part 2 https://youtu.be/gLeP_cScV2w Part 3: https://youtu.be/EwWf-Ej5zgE Part 4: https://youtu.be/Wb4cPRXOpiI Review of video series to purchase: https://youtu.be/ZYODEanyncY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Well I called places near me and they said they can’t do it because they don’t do herding, can you give me some people to call and there numbers and website, that will be great.

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Question
Luna
Red Queensland heeler border collie mix
3 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Luna
Red Queensland heeler border collie mix
3 Months

I go on safari and chrome and I ask everybody but they say that they don’t do herding so if you have any people let me know, and I don’t know how to herd help please

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sally, What city are you located in? Check out the following websites to find herding events within driving distance of you. These events can be good ways to connect with others who train and own herding dogs, as well as learn more about herding by watching. http://www.ahba-herding.org/MainPage.php?AreaName=EventsCalendar https://m.facebook.com/groups/125705387027/?ref=group_header&view=group https://webapps.akc.org/event-search/#/search If you cannot find a trainer or group to help you, then I suggest puchasing a good herding video series, then joining a Facebook type group or herding forum with others who herd, where you can ask questions if you feel stuck while learning to train using a video series. you can purchase a herding how to video series at the link below. That website also contains blog articles. I suggest starting with the "first steps in border collie sheepdog training". https://www.sheepdog-training.com/product-pcategory/all-shop-items/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Peggy
Collie
12 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Peggy
Collie
12 Months

I have read that there are many techniques to teach a dog to herd a flock. I want to know if you have ever seen/heard a technique known as 'learning from experts', where an 'expert' dog performs herding and the newbie dog will learn by observing these demonstrations.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Clark, Since herding is an instinctual behavior for most dogs, one dog learning from another can be really helpful in helping a puppy grasp the basics of moving a flock effectively, but generally there will still be further training and involvement from the handler needed to teach the dog responsiveness to the handler's commands and directions (so you can tell pup how to move the animals - left, right, to you, away from you, slowly, stop, ect...) and stop unwanted behavior like biting and grabbing and chasing, that can happen during too much excitement and inexperience. Most collies will naturally attempt to gather a flock and fetch them to the person, other breeds will naturally drive livestock away from the person. What's probably being taught by an older dog is how to effectively move and gather the animals so that they do not get away from the dog. What's not often being taught is not to bite or chase, and to listen to the owner's directions to do something different than what the dog naturally what's to do. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Are the definitive guides, manuals, scientific research which explore these herding techniques? I am interested in the different styles and forms of herding.

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