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How to Train Your Australian Shepherd Dog to Herd Cattle

How to Train Your Australian Shepherd Dog to Herd Cattle
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Time icon6-9 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

Australian Shepherd dogs were developed to herd sheep and cattle. So training your Australian Shepherd to herd cattle should be easy right?  

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!

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Defining Tasks

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.

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Getting Started

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.

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The Modeling Method

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1

Teach verbal commands

Teach your dog off-leash herding commands such as 'come by', 'away to me' and 'that’ll do', so he is familiar with these commands.

2

Introduce dogs

Introduce an experienced cattle herding dog to your Australian Shepherd, that knows and responds well. Allow dogs to become well socialized and comfortable playing together.

3

Introduce to sights and sounds

In a controlled environment, either a corral or small pasture, start working with the experienced dog and cattle that are used to being herded. Keep you trainee on a lead by your side. Allow the new dog to become accustomed to the sights and sounds of the cattle and the other herding dog working.

4

Practice on-lead

When your Australian Shepherd is interested but calm, take your trainee dog on a long lead around the cattle, providing the commands, 'come by', 'away to me', 'stop', and 'that’ll do'.

5

Work together

When the trainee is comfortable performing these tasks on-lead, take the trainee off-lead and let him work with the experienced dog and the cattle. The experienced dog will help model behavior. If your Australian Shepherd becomes over excited, go back to working with him on a long lead.

The Teach Commands Method

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Come by

Put your dog on a leash and have an assistant throw a favorite toy out for your dog. Give the command “come by” and run to the left with your dog on the leash, clockwise around the toy. After running by, pick up the toy and reward with play.

2

Away to me

Give the command “away to me”, run with your dog on a leash to the right of the toy, counterclockwise. Reward with play. Repeat frequently.

3

Teach other commands

Teach your dog to 'lie down', 'walk on' to walk toward the toy, and 'that will do', to back away from the toy. Reward with play or treats.

4

Remove leash and practice

Remove the leash and practice verbal commands with toys frequently until well established.

5

Introduce cattle

Introduce your Australian Shepherd to a few cattle in a controlled environment, like a round pen. Provide verbal commands and let your dog get used to practicing them on live cattle.

The Domestic Birds Method

Effective

0 Votes

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Effective

0 Votes

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1

Teach verbal commands

Teach your Australian Shepherd herding commands such as 'come by','away to me', 'lie down', 'that will do”' and 'walk on'.

2

Introduce birds

Put chickens, ducks or geese in a pen and give your dog the “walk on” command to approach the birds. Keep your Australian Shepherd on a long lead at first if necessary.

3

Inititiate directions

When your Australian Shepherd gets within 10 feet of the birds, say “come bye” or “away to me”. If your dog circles the birds in the correct direction, praise, say "yes" or "good". If the dog continues to approach the birds directly say, "lie down", make him wait and repeat again.

4

Practice

Practice 'come by', 'away to me', 'lie down', 'walk on' and 'that will do' with your Australian Shepherd and the flock of birds for several days until your dog gets used to handling live animals and following your direction.

5

Introduce cattle

Transfer herding directions used with birds to a herd of cattle in a controlled environment, such as a round pen.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 01/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Lucy

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Australian Shepherd

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7 Months

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Question

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I just wanted some advice. we have other work dogs, but this is our first Australian Shepherd

March 2, 2022

Lucy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aubrey, I'm not sure what types of working dogs you already have and how new or advanced in herding training you already are. I am guessing you have other working dogs like livestock guardians. If so, assuming this is your first herding dog, 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/ 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. If you are curious about Australian Shepherd as herders specifically. Aussies tend to do a lot of ducking in, barking, and even holds if an animal is especially stubborn when working cattle. Teaching pup to respond to you and using a long training leash while first working pup around the cattle is generally recommend. I would also be picky about which animals you train pup on, even starting pup on smaller livestock first if you have other types of animals. Choose gentler, less reactive livestock animals for initial training to protect pup and avoid stressing more sensitive, calving, or aggressive animals. Keep pup away from the animals unattended, to prevent chasing, unstructured interactions with the animals when not in training or at least supervising early on. Aussies are more sensitive than many cattle herding breeds but they also have a pretty strong stubborn streak. They have a need for a lot of consistency and follow through on your end with training but respect should be earned through structured obedience and follow through, challenging pup intellectually in a beneficial way, opposed to overly harsh physical corrections, to get a dog who is most willing to work for you and will trust you and respect you enough to take instruction from you when pup wants to have their own ideas. Aussies also tend to do body blocking, where they will sometimes use their own shoulder or side to ram into the animal sideways to encourage movement. Because there can be a lot of up close interaction while herding from some dogs, you need to watch to make sure pup is good at staying low and dodging potential kicks. If needed, you use the long training leash to encourage pup to stay back a little further from the animals, and this is one reason why gentler or smaller livestock can be good to start on initially, still spending time having pup around the cattle with you from a distance to avoid fearfulness of them in the meantime. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 3, 2022

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Aspen

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Australian Shepherd

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8 Months

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We have horses, no cattle anymore, but some birds. She is very active, but she likes to chase bikes and I don’t want her to accidentally bite someone. How do I train her to not chase the bikes. Also, how do I train her for agility training and loading horses? She is a very overly protective of me and my children, even when it comes to my husband. We have tried some Commands but my one child constantly gets in the way and overly involved: I just fear that it’s slowing down her progress. Any advice is helpful.

May 31, 2021

Aspen's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Courtney, For the agility, check out Zak George's agility introduction videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og3B6BNQR3o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPoRzA6t_oA For the bite chasing, I recommend checking out James Penrith from taketheleaddogtraining. He works with dogs who chase livestock. Even though the bikes aren't alive, the underlying reason for the chasing is the same. https://www.youtube.com/user/taketheleadvideo/search?query=livestock%20chasing When working with kids, often giving them their own job they can own (even if that means making up a job and getting creative) can help direct their desire to be involved into something that's appropriate in that training session, instead of them getting in the way, it helps involve them in appropriate ways. Often protectiveness is partially due to a lack of respect for you, so I would definitely pursue obedience practice and structure with pup, getting pup to work for you and the kids to earn things they want, like Sit before petting, Down before feeding, Wait before going outside, ect...Check out the Working method and other methods in the article below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 1, 2021


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