Not so fast, herding cattle is a complex and difficult job. Even a dog developed and bred for this purpose will need lots of training and direction to be able to successfully gather and move cattle where his handler wants them. The very intelligent and athletic Australian Shepherd is capable of the job, but you will need to develop a strong relationship and communications with your dog so you can work together as a team to complete the job at hand. Also, remember that your independent, high-energy Australian Shepherd may have some ideas of his own that are not compatible with what you are trying to accomplish. You will need to work with him to ensure he understands what to do and also, what not to do, so he stays safe while working!
An Australian Shepherd needs to learn to respond to a variety of verbal commands or signals from their handler in order to successfully herd cattle. Verbal signals such as “come by” and “away to me” to indicate direction are frequently used with cattle herding dogs of all breeds, including Australian Shepherds. An Australian Shepherd’s job when herding cattle involves gathering cattle together and then directing the herd to a designated location, usually to handling facilities that involve having the herd go through a gate, into a pen, so that cattle owners can separate cattle, prepare them for transportation, or provide medical treatment. An Australian Shepherd will need to know a variety of commands including commands to go right or left around cattle, and when to back off or stop herding cattle. Your dog will also need to learn to work safely around cattle, knowing how close he should get and when he needs to back off to avoid getting kicked or panicking cattle. If trained and used correctly, an Australian Shepherd can be a valuable tool to farmers and ranchers moving and handling cattle, saving time and putting less stress on animals.
Because Australian Shepherds are highly motivated to herd and respond well to praise it is easy to get your Australian Shepherd to want to herd cattle. However, treats can be used to reward your dog for following direction and responding to verbal or hand signals. Also, a long lead line is frequently employed during training to guide your dog and prevent a young excited dog from getting too close to cattle, which could result in injury to your Australian Shepherd or cattle. Access to smaller animals like chickens to practice herding and other herding dogs that can model behavior are beneficial for training your Australian Shepherd how to herd animals and is a valuable stepping stone to working with cattle. Safe enclosures that can be used during training are also recommended to provide control and safety to animals.