behaviour has numerous similarities to hunting behaviour
that is seen and observed in wolves and other wild dogs, which
cooperate to capture prey. It is the job of the pack to head off
the prey while others pursue it from behind. Thus it can be very
normal when your dog goes to bite stock, especially if you are
reaching for the animal. This behaviour is based on the pack bringing
the prey to the pack leader to "kill". Although
it is important to encourage 'non righteous' grips or 'cheap shots',
it is also very important to not take the total 'bite' out of
the dog. It may be needed at some point and sheep/stock are quick
to figure out if a dog will back up what it is asking.
is from this prey and pack drive that herding ability
has been derived. A dog attempting to control the direction of
stock and learning to do so in relationship with a human "shepherd"
is showing the beginnings of herding and teamwork. Most breeds
of dogs tend to be gatherers. This is often observed when the
dog naturally runs out to head off stock, group it, and readily
learn to move it toward the handler or shepherd. A few breeds
may be more of a natural driver, which will also try to keep stock
grouped but their tendency is to move the stock away from the
handler or shepherd. Gatherers tend to be more versatile in their
herding style. It is also generally easier to train a gatherer
to drive than a driver to gather well.
are many methods of training, but the general principles are based
on the use of the dog’s natural instinct. Thus it is important
for one to know and understand their individual breed of dog as
well as what they have been bred to do or how they traditionally
work on stock.
are also some foundational steps that can be taken to help make
the early work in herding easier for everyone! It is important
that you have a good recall and a good stop whether it be a sit
or down. It is also important to note that most upright breeds
are worked or stopped in the upright position and not a down.
The act of going up and down in many of the upright breeds is
actually much more disturbing to the stock than having a good
solid stop and stand. You can practice this away from stock, in
many situations and with distractions. Once your dog does this
off stock, you can introduce it when they are on stock.
Initially, you may find your dog has 'lost' what you have taught
it. This is natural and usually with just a little work the dogs
will once again listen to you. By using a stop you will be able
to take pressure off the sheep and they will be more likely to
settle into position more smoothly, and this in turn will help
settle the dog. With stock and sheep settled the novice handler
would be able to learn positioning and handling. One of the most
useful commands to teach your dog is a stop from motion. I often
teach this to my dogs when playing ball with them. I throw the
ball, they run to fetch it and I will get them to stop in the
middle of the fetch. Once I have the stop, they continue to finish
the retrieve. The stop in motion used in Schutzhund obedience
is also very useful and a similar concept. Be sure that your training
is done in a happy, play training fashion but firmly enforced.
Gathering is usually emphasized first, and after the dog is well
along with its basic training it is taught to drive. However,
there is also a school of thought that believes that learning
to drive should/could be taught first or hand in hand with the
gather. I personally have concentrated on getting a solid foundation
in the gather and then gradually introduce the dog to some driving.
It might also be important to consider the individual dogs style
and strength. If the dog is a natural gatherer and VERY strong
in this, it might be helpful to introduce the drive earlier so
that the dog does not get too comfortable in it’s own natural
strengths and thus making it harder to introduce the drive. Often
when you are first working your dog ad have your own sheep, you
will find many natural occasions to experience some basic driving
opportunities without putting too much pressure on the young or
inexperienced dog. (moving sheep up or down a narrow ally way,
etc). With experience and practice, the dog becomes proficient
at both the drive and gather.
good herding dog must use it's own judgement, but be responsive
and obedient to the handler. It must be bold in facing down stock,
but gentle with cooperative stock. Judgement, adaptability, trainability,
and soundness of mind and body are important qualities of a valuable
you have introduced your dog to stock you need to encourage it
to move freely around the stock. A good gathering dog will readily
go around and balance itself in relation to the handler and stock,
putting itself in a position to keep the stock grouped and moving
towards the handler. For some dogs, it is the distance they work
away from the stock that gets them in trouble (working too close)
and the handler must help them move out farther to get around
the stock at an appropriate distance in order for them to find
balance (the place the dogs needs to be to bring stock to the
handler, mostly through positioning (which can take time to learn!!!)
gives subtle guidance to the dog. The stock stick is used as an
extension of the handler's arm (not as a weapon), helping guide
the dog's movements and helping the dog to learn to keep a good
distance from the stock using their 'stop" when necessary.
As the dog learns the moves and they become familiar with them,
directional commands (go- bye; and away to me) are added. Initially
the commands follow along with the direction the dog is taking
naturally. Then, as the dog gains some experience, it is required
to move in the direction you as the handler have given.
basic commands might include "walk up" (moving up or
approach the stock) "stop”, "down”, or variations
to the stop such as "steady", "take time”,
or "easy". Basically with these you are asking your
dog to move more slowly, helping them learn how to pace themselves.
The words used for commands may vary from handler to handler and
trainer to trainer.