FAQ – Will my puppy work stock?

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 to being put-off working altogether!

When a puppy begins to stare at the sheep, there’s a very good chance it will work.

Generally, most pups from parents which work livestock will work stock themselves when they grow up, but there are a few points to look out for along the way.

The first, and perhaps most important rule, is never let the puppy be frightened or harmed by the stock. It’s tempting to allow your puppy the freedom of the farm, but it’s a bad idea. As well as the obvious danger from machinery, or more recently of being stolen, unconstrained puppies are very curious creatures, and they’ll investigate every corner of the farm. If they happen to get close to sheep or cattle, eventually, the stock are likely to chase them away, and might even injure the pup.

Strictly keeping the dog away from the stock would seem to be the obvious answer, but it’s not. Keeping the dog away from animals on the farm can result in the dog losing interest in working. In fact, even walking the dog around livestock on a lead, will often result in the dog getting the idea it’s not allowed to work them!

We’ve found over the years that once the pup begins to take an interest in our sheep, it’s best to keep it away from them most of the time, but occasionally deliberately take the youngster to the sheep under close supervision, and encourage it to run around after them.

photo of two Border Collie puppies standing close to a bunch of sheep
Puppies can be extremely vulnerable when they get close to sheep

This works very well in theory, but its success depends on the owner or trainer being able (and close enough) to prevent the sheep from attacking or threatening the young dog. This is not as easy as it sounds. You need to be really close to the dog at all times, and very alert to any threat from the sheep.

There’s a lot more detail on how to care for your young sheepdog in our “Starting a Young Puppy” Tutorial.

This post is one of our Sheepdog Training FAQs
Click here for the full list of frequently asked questions.

Clear, inexpensive, sheep and cattle dog training instruction

Over 70 clearly explained, easy to follow sheep and cattle dog training videos for first time sheepdog trainers, farmers, and shepherds. Watch the preview here!

For English Subtitles: click CC on player


For a very small monthly (or annual) subscription, watch many hours of expertly presented sheepdog training lessons. Not just theory – we show you what should happen, and what to do when things go wrong. Signup now You may cancel payments at any time and continue to watch for the period paid for.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *