The Working Sheepdog Website

Sheep & Cattle dog training advice, articles & information

Our blog posts which offer advice on how to train your herding dog to work cattle, sheep or other livestock

FAQ – How to progress from training, to flock work

A trainee sheepdog bringing a small group of sheep
QUESTION: How do you go from training a dog to collect six dogged sheep, to collecting a hundred or more flighty sheep, scattered around in a field? ANSWER: In a word, gradually!Good training should progress at a rate the student can cope with. If the student’s finding the work too difficult, the trainer’s pushing too hard. Just as you wouldn’t expect a trainee driver to go out onto the public highways if they’d only just learned to set a car … Read more

FREE Sheepdog Training Assessments!

Photo of a young trainee sheepdog lying down, glaring at sheep
Send us a clear video of your sheepdog, cattle dog or stock dog training session for FREE advice! Our advice is based on our interpretation of the information you provide, and intended to help you improve your dog’s work. We cannot be held responsible for any unforeseen or unintended consequences which result from your interpretation of our advice. We’re looking at ways of improving our service to visitors to The Working Sheepdog Website – and that includes assessing videos of … Read more

FAQ – Stop at the top of the outrun without command?

The top of the outrun
QUESTION: Should my trainee sheepdog stop at the top of its outrun without a command from me? ANSWER: It’s nice to think the young dog will stop at the top of its outrun without a command, and indeed, it sometimes happens. But I’m inclined to think the dog is likely to be stopping because its confidence is flagging, rather than wanting to do things perfectly! Nice though it might be to see the dog stop at the end of its … Read more

FAQ – Sticky dog biting sheep’s faces

Photo of a working sheepdog very close to some sheep which are trapped in a pen
QUESTION: My dog has become very ‘sticky’ and recently started biting the faces of the sheep, instead of responding to my commands what should I do? ANSWER: Being sticky (staring at the sheep and not responding to commands) and biting sheep, are both indications of a lack of confidence. If the dog has recently begun to get ‘sticky’ it suggests you might be trying to progress too quickly with its training. NOTE:What we refer to as a ‘sticky’ dog is … Read more

FAQ – Outruns (send the dog from your side)

Graphic image showing the relative distance between dog, sheep, and handler
QUESTION: My dog’s doing lovely long outruns when I stand between her and the sheep, but how do I get her to do them from by my side? ANSWER: The reason for standing between the dog and the sheep when you send it on its outrun, is so that you can move towards the dog and encourage it to go out wider as it comes past you. Once you’re satisfied that the dog is going wide enough without you having … Read more

FAQ – Why’s the dog’s tail position so important?

photo showing the dog with its tail in the air as it's led into the training ring
QUESTION: I keep hearing people talk about the position of the dog’s tail when it’s working sheep. What do they mean? ANSWER: When dogs are relaxed, they hold their tails in a normal downward position but when they are nervous or afraid, the dog’s tail becomes rigid, and often points upwards. In the photograph above, Andy is leading trainee sheepdog Scylla into the training ring – with Scylla’s tail straight in the air. A sure sign that the dog is … Read more

FAQ – How to stop your dog barking

Photo of an excited dog jumping up and down at the prospect of getting to the sheep
QUESTION: How can I stop my dog barking when I take him somewhere new, where there are sheep? ANSWER: Basically, there are two reasons why dogs bark: 1. ALARM – if they suspect an intruder or danger of some sort. If there really is no danger, it helps if you gently reassure the dog that all is well. Alternatively, relocating or adjusting the dog’s living quarters can help to obscure a particular view or lessen the dog’s notion of danger … Read more

FAQ – Flank around sheep both ways

Photo of a sheepdog herding sheep into a paddock
QUESTION: “How can I make my dog go both ways around the sheep? She stops reasonably well, but insists on going anticlockwise all the time”. WHY THIS HAPPENS: In a similar way to humans, a great many dogs are left or right “handed”, and as with most training issues, it’s all about the dog’s confidence. Once the dog discovers that nothing unpleasant happens to it when it goes one way around things (not just sheep) it will naturally prefer to … Read more

FAQ – Dog attacking cattle

A dog leaping up at a young heifer's face to bite it
QUESTION: My dog works cattle quite well, but dives in and grips their legs for no apparent reason. How can I calm him down and stop him gripping cattle when they’re moving OK? ANSWER: The first thing is to try giving just enough well-timed correction so that the dog doesn’t go in too hard – and avoid rapidly repeated, and high-pitched commands.You will know the situations when he’s most likely to grip, and you should also have noticed how his … Read more

FAQ – Walking the dog around sheep

Photo of a man holding a sheepdog, using a rope for a lead
QUESTION: Is it OK to walk my dog around the sheep every day? He’s not ready to work them yet but I want him to get used to being near them. ANSWER: Familiarising the dog with sheep or cattle would seem like a good idea. After all, we want the dog to be relaxed when it’s with livestock, but unless you can trust the dog to actually work the stock, it’s not necessarily a good idea. The dog’s not ready … Read more

FAQ – Dog goes out too wide

Photo of a sheepdog waiting to be sent off to gather sheep
QUESTION: My dog is generally working well but when I send her on an outrun to gather the sheep, she goes out too far. How can I stop my dog going too wide? ANSWER: Going too wide is certainly one of the better faults a dog can have. Often getting the dog to give the stock more room is the problem, but of course, if the dog’s running out too wide, that in itself can mean the dog’s not working … Read more

FAQ – Will my puppy work stock?

Photo of a puppy gazing at sheep through a fence
QUESTION: I have a young Border Collie puppy which I want to use for herding our sheep. How can I tell if he’s interested in working? ANSWER: If one or more of your pup’s parents works sheep or other livestock, there’s a very good chance your pup will too. Probably the first sign you’ll have of its interest will be when the pup stands and stares at the stock- but this is also the time when the pup’s most vulnerable … Read more

FAQ – Calling the dog away from stock

Two border collie sheepdogs driving sheep along a farm track
QUESTION: How can I call my dog away when he’s working in the ring or in a yard? ANSWER: It’s natural for the trainee dog to want to keep working. Being confined in a training ring or yard creates a lot of stress for the dog but, of course, it must come away when you want it to. Typically the dog fears the session will be over once it returns to you and, particularly in the earliest stages of training, … Read more

FAQ – My dog killed a sheep

Photo of a Kelpie dog running around a flock of sheep
QUESTION: My dogs killed a sheep today. I don’t want to have the dogs destroyed, they are working Kelpie X Collie dogs which we want to train on sheep and cattle. What can I do? ANSWER: I’m sorry to hear that your dogs have killed a ewe. I’m afraid this is what happens when people keep dogs that they don’t fully understand. I will offer the best advice I can, but it’s limited because I’m not in a position to … Read more

FAQ – My dog stops sheep going in the pen!

Training a sheepdog inside a training ring.
QUESTION: I’m trying to put the sheep into a yard but my dog stops them from going in. How can I get my dog to put the sheep right in? ANSWER: This problem is more common than you would think. One example of it is when you first begin to move sheep into another field. As the sheep go through the gate, the trainee dog will often race after them, and try to bring them back. This is because the … Read more

FAQ – Training Huntaway Blue Heeler ‘driving’ dogs

Huntaway dog herding a bunch of sheep towards some farm buildings
QUESTION: I’m getting a Huntaway to work my sheep and cattle but I can’t find any Huntaway or Blue Heeler specific training on the internet. Are they the same as Border Collies? ANSWER: The basics such as general dog behaviour and discipline around stock are exactly the same, but as I understand it, Huntaways and Blue Heelers work in a different way to collies. I believe they are intended for PUSHING big mobs of stock, whereas the Border Collie (and … Read more

FAQ – Stop the dog splitting the sheep!

Photo of a trainee sheepdog which has separated a bunch of sheep
QUESTION: My dog likes to split the sheep up and bite them. I am having trouble getting her to go round them. Can you help? ANSWER: It’s perfectly normal for your dog to split the sheep up in the very early stages of training. It shows she has the natural ability she needs to become a great sheepdog, but of course you must get her under control as quickly as possible. When I started training my first dog (Dot) I … Read more

FAQ – Can a sheepdog live in the house?

Sheepdog trainer working close to the dog
QUESTION: My dog is very enthusiastic and eager to work but she’s a bit timid and runs away from aggressive sheep. Are we spoiling her by keeping her in the house? ANSWER: Living in the house shouldn’t affect the dog’s confidence when it works sheep, but there are plenty of things you can do to help build its confidence. You need to anticipate the situations where the dog will have difficulty with the sheep, and make sure you’re as close … Read more

FAQ – Help for an inexperienced handler

FAQ - Help for an inexperienced handler
QUESTION: I purchased a fully trained sheepdog but I have never worked a dog on livestock before. Do your videos cover how to start off with a trained dog? ANSWER: Sometimes people buy a trained dog in the hope that it will know what to do, but that’s asking a lot of the poor dog! We need to give our dog a lot of guidance such as: where to gather the livestock from, and where you’ll want it to take … Read more

FAQ – Training an older dog

Close up picture of a dog close behind a sheep.
QUESTION: We have an eight year old border collie and now live on a smallholding where we will soon get our first flock of sheep. Will it be possible to train the dog to work sheep? ANSWER: In theory, you can train any dog which has the necessary instinct for herding – but there are several factors which can complicate the training an older dog. Basically, when dogs work sheep, they are using a hunting instinct which all dogs have … Read more