How to Train Your Dog to Not Herd

Hard
1-3 Months
General

Introduction

Does your dog nip at your heels, chase children, or round up other pets? These actions are typical herding behaviors. Really it's no surprise that some dogs have such a strong herding instinct, because that's what they were bred to do.

If you have a Border collie, Australian cattle dog, or even a corgi, then it is no surprise they want to round things up. After all, their distant ancestors were selectively bred because they showed such skill in thinking on their paws and keeping sheep or cattle in order.

The only thing that's changed is the dog has come out of the barn or kennel and into the home --often bringing a deep instinctive drive to herd with them. But if their herding habit means rounding up kids then safety becomes a big issue. Therefore for the sake of all involved, it's best to take control and teach your dog not to herd.

Defining Tasks

Success in training a dog not to herd, means interrupting their behavior so they return to your side (or perform a command such as 'down'). The idea is to teach rock solid obedience of a command that is incompatible with herding. For example, 'come' has them run back to you, while 'down' has them lie down and stop moving.

The urge to chase and herd is deep-seated, therefore it's as well to start training in a place with few distractions. And when you move out into the park or fields, keep the dog under control on a longline. Remember, the act of chasing is a huge reward for the dog, so you need to prevent this source of satisfaction so he's ready to listen to you.

As with most training, start as you mean to go on with a puppy. However, if your adult dog has an ingrained herding habit, don't despair. You can break the habit but it will take longer, so be patient.

Getting Started

You will need:

  • A longline
  • Tasty treats
  • Patience

Training a dog to stop any ingrained behavior takes considerable time and dedication. Aim to practice with the dog at least twice a day, for around 15 minutes. Keep the sessions fun and stop before the dog gets mentally tired. It's also a great idea to end on a high note, with a command the dog already knows, so he's left feeling good about himself.

The Exercise & Stimulation Method

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Exercise & Stimulation method for Not Herd
Step
1
Understand the idea
Train all you like, but if the dog is brim full of energy and bored to boot, your efforts will fall on deaf ears. Key to training is getting the dog in the right frame of mind so that he listens to you and isn't distracted by boundless energy in need of release.
Step
2
Exercise
Give the dog plenty of physical activity and exercise. If necessary, keep him on a longline so you have control should he spot something worth rounding up. Games such as fetch are great, as it tires the dog and also teaches him to come back to you.
Step
3
Puzzle feeders
Keep the dog mentally stimulated. Instead of feeding from a bowl, use puzzle feeders so he has to work out how to get his grub. You don't necessarily have to buy special equipment, because scattering his kibble on grass or hiding small plates of food around the house are super-fun for him.
Step
4
Mouthing outlet
Herding dogs like using their mouths. Provide an outlet for this with regular games of tug. In addition, give him chews or chew toys to occupy his mouth when he's resting.
Step
5
Training as mental stimulation
Basic obedience training is also great mental stimulation. Be sure to use reward-based methods and keep things fun, and he'll adore this one-to-one time with you.
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The Rock Solid Recall Method

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Rock Solid Recall method for Not Herd
Step
1
Understand the idea
When a dog will 'come' on command, you have the power to interrupt inappropriate behavior such as herding.
Step
2
Use a longline to learn
Have the dog on a longline, with 10 feet or so of freedom. Let him explore and sniff, but when he happens to turn toward you, get his attention and offer out a treat in your hand. As he walks to you to get the treat, say "come" in a firm but happy voice.
Step
3
Build the link between 'come' and a reward
Repeat. The dog learns that when he hears the command "come" and approaches you, he receives a treat.
Step
4
Work with different distances
Vary how far away the dog is when you give the "come" command. Always be super-enthusiastic when he responds. Practice in different places, and from different distances, until he obeys regularly. Then try off lead in a quiet place or the yard.
Step
5
What NOT to do
What NOT to do is also important. If the dog takes an age to respond, never chastise him when he does come at last. You want him to only link 'come' to good things, not bad.
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The Spot and Prevent Method

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Spot and Prevent method for Not Herd
Step
1
Understand the idea
Most dogs have signature behavior that signals they are about to start herding. Learn what your dog's signature is and then interrupt him before he starts herding.
Step
2
Tune into his body language
With the dog on the longline, watch him closely. You want to identify what it is he does immediately before herding. For many dogs, this is crouching down, chin low to the ground, eyes focused on what he is about to herd.
Step
3
Identify triggers
Also take note of what it is that triggers his herding behavior. Sometimes it's an actual object such as sheep or your ankles, other times its movement, such as someone running or a cycle whizzing past
Step
4
Recreate the trigger in a controlled way
Get a friend to recreate a herding situation (for example, running past the dog). Watch your dog's body language and as he prepares to sprint away, give the 'come' command. If he does as instructed, give him lots of praise and a tasty treat as a reward
Step
5
What to do If he ignores you
If he ignores you, then restrain him on the longline and say a firm "No". Ultimately he learns that coming to you earns him nice things.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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