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

ribbon-method-3
Most Recommended
5 Votes
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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Effective
1 Vote
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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Least Recommended
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Valentine
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Valentine
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

I want to teach him to herd sheep, but he gets too wild and scatters them.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1131 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ozzy, I would begin the training with pup on a long training leash so you can interrupt any uncontrolled chasing behavior, then give pup more slack in the leash when their movements are more intentionally moving the animals to herd them. Once pup isn't in need of the leash, then a shepherd's staff can be a good tool to gently direct pup while they herd. I would also see if there is a herding instinct test happening within driving distance of you sometime soon. http://www.ahba-herding.org/MainPage.php?AreaName=HCT Check out these resources while starting your herding journey. Herding association - a great resource to find trainers, herding events, instinct testing, work shops, and other herdsmen in your area. http://www.ahba-herding.org/ Online forums where you can ask questions of others who have taught their own dogs, and read about their own experiences training. https://www.workingdogforum.com/forums/herding.33/ https://www.homesteadingtoday.com/threads/herding-dogs.461500/ https://www.dogforum.com/threads/herding-breeds-vs-average-house-dog.87033/ Finally, I would highly recommend starting with something like a dvd or video series to actually show you step by step where to begin. I can write things here but herding is pretty in depth and there is more than I can cover here, plus herding is best seen visually for it to make sense. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYODEanyncY https://theworkingsheepdog.com/ Ted Hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oTBfqmIGLA&t=157s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLeP_cScV2w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwWf-Ej5zgE Common commands pup will need are Away to me, fetching, Come Bye, Heel, Down, and walk up. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Izzy
Kelpie cross am
6 Months
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Question
0 found helpful
Izzy
Kelpie cross am
6 Months

I’ve only had Izzy for 1 month I got her off a couple the use to beat her up so I told them I’ll take her off there hand but she never had any training so I would like to know What’s the best to train her sit currently I have to push down on the top of her bottom until she sits but she stand up straight away while I push down to get her to sit I keep say sit but it’s she just hasn’t pick up the sit command

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1131 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jayden, Check out the article I have linked below and I recommend the Treat Luring method from there. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Once pup has learned what Sit means, you can teach pup to hold the position by adding Stay. Check out the video below on how to increase the Sit duration so pup stays. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPNz6reMVXY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Flynn
Australian Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Flynn
Australian Shepherd
1 Year

I’m wanting to teach him all the herding commands. He’s a very quick learner. He knows sit, stay, down, here, but I must train away and come bye or go bye whichever it is. He doesn’t lie down when working. Like immediately drop and I need him to do that. I’m working on walk up.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1131 Dog owners recommended

Hello Teresa, I have attached a few videos you may find helpful. I find that learning how to teach herding is best done visually - where you can either watch a video, participate in a training workshop, or pursue some hands on training with a herding instructor the first time you teach a herding dog. Come bye: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjL5dKa1z8c https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Zb-LTQx-8o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYODEanyncY&t=8s Finally, I would highly recommend starting with something like a dvd or video series to actually show you step by step where to begin. I can write things here but herding is pretty in depth and there is more than I can cover here, plus herding is best seen visually for it to make sense. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYODEanyncY https://theworkingsheepdog.com/ Ted Hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oTBfqmIGLA&t=157s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLeP_cScV2w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwWf-Ej5zgE Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Pax
Border Collie
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Pax
Border Collie
4 Months

I’m trying to teach my new pup to herd my chickens. However every time I get him close he try’s to nip at them and I’m worried he is going to hurt them. I know nipping is part of herding and it might be fine for larger animals but my chickens could get hurt. How do I teach him to herd my chickens without my chickens getting hurt?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1131 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hazel, The instinct to herd mammals doesn't always transfer well to birds, so I would definitely discourage the nipping - it could be more predatory than herding with birds. I recommend socializing pup to the birds on a long training leash, to that you can gently correct pup for any nipping and chasing for fun. Allow pup to herd when you see it with the long leash as an aid. The herding should look more coordinated and controlled - more staring, moving deliberately around the birds to gather them up, and usually doing it from further away - not getting as close to the birds to attempt a grab or nip - especially for a border collie. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Pailette
Pyrenean Shepherd
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Pailette
Pyrenean Shepherd
3 Years

Pyrenean Shepherd what are the difference in training a Aussie and Pyr Shepherd?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! From my understanding the Pyrenean Shepherd is more of a guard dog while the Australian Shepherd is more of a herding dog. Both breeds herd, but the instinct is more advanced with the Australian Shepherd. Other than that, they are nearly identical with their temperaments and behaviors.

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