A Beginners' Guide to Training a Dog to Herd Sheep
WARNING! Long Document - First uploaded Feb 8th 2003 - revised Feb 2nd 2016
There are over thirty pages to this article. Use the "NEXT" buttons at the bottom of every page to move forward, or use "CONTENTS" to return to this list.
- Introduction (this page)
- Basic Requirements
- What Makes the Dog Keep Working?
- Definition of a Sheepdog
- A Dog is For Life
- Bond With Your Dog
- Firm Fair & Consistent
- Never Punish a Dog for Coming Back
- Getting a Good Recall
- Always Welcome Your Dog Back
- Reading Your Dog's Mind
- Careful Thought Cures Problems
- Control Your Temper
- Don't Blame the Dog
- What Does a Sheepdog Do?
- Buying a Started Dog or a Puppy?
- Buying a Registered or a Farm Dog?
- Buying a Part-Trained Dog?
- Car Chasing & Other Vices
- Suitable Housing for Your Dog
- Correct Food for Your Dog
- Spend Time With Your Dog
- Traditional Sheepdog Commands
- How to Begin Training Your Dog
- The Dog's First Encounter With Sheep
- The Dreaded Supermarket Trolley
- The Magic Cord
- Teaching a Young Dog to Stop
- Gripping or Biting Sheep
- Too Much "Eye"
- Sheepdog Trials
- What Happens at Sheepdog Trials
Struggling on our hands and knees in the base of a very overgrown hedge one day, it occurred to Gillian and me that there ought to be more information for beginners to sheepdog training and handling.
We were vainly attempting to extract some Texel-cross ewes which had taken refuge by firmly wedging themselves among the thorny branches and were stubbornly refusing to come out and be worked. Who could blame them? Our over-zealous trainee dog Dot, had been giving them a hard time, and they'd had more than enough of it.
The last straw came when, trying to ignore the pain inflicted by countless thorns and using every ounce of our strength, we triumphantly heaved the first ewe into the open field - only for Dot, who we'd dragged by her collar into the hedge to help us remove the sheep but had done nothing thus far, suddenly shot out from beside us under the hedge, and promptly drove the sheep back into it!
Having already studied most of the books and videos available at the time, we were well versed with the theory of how to get a dog to lie down behind the sheep or to flank right or left - but none of the instructions we'd encountered mentioned how to reached such an advanced stage from where we were now!
This article was written in 2003 but here we are in 2016 and sadly, most of the information currently available on herding and sheepdog training is written by sheep farmers or sheepdog trials champions who go to great lengths to instruct us on the tiniest intricacies of training a sheepdog - but they overlook the fact that these days a growing number of sheepdog handlers are part-time smallholders with regular employment outside agriculture altogether. Not being experienced farmers or shepherds, these newcomers simply don't understand what the instructor's talking about.
They need much background information which the top handlers and trainers take for granted. Information which is second nature to the professional shepherd or sheep farmer. What was needed was a source of information on training sheepdogs - written by someone who's experienced the difficulties of sheepdog training as a complete novice.
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