How to Teach Your Herding Dog to Round Up Sheep



My name is Tyler, the proud owner and experienced publisher of Paws & Purrrs. I've always had a soft spot for our furry friends, and over the years, I've been blessed to share my life with many pets. This love for animals, coupled with my passion for sharing knowledge, led me to create this blog.

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Have you ever watched a herding dog expertly round up a flock of sheep and felt a sense of awe? These dogs are truly remarkable creatures, with an innate ability to control and manage livestock. If you own a herding dog, you may be wondering how you can teach them to round up sheep like a pro.

First, it’s important to understand that herding dogs have been bred for centuries to work with livestock. They have a natural instinct to control and move animals, which makes them great candidates for herding. However, just because your dog has the instincts doesn’t mean they know how to use them effectively.

With a little bit of training and patience, you can teach your herding dog to become an expert at rounding up sheep.

Understand Your Dog’s Natural Instincts

Understanding your pup’s inherent instincts is crucial in training them to effectively control and guide livestock. Herding dog breeds like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have been bred for generations to work with livestock, and their instincts are finely tuned for this purpose.

It’s important to recognize that these dogs have instinctual behaviors and tendencies that are deeply ingrained in their DNA. This means they may display certain behaviors without any training at all.

One of the most common instinctual behaviors in herding dogs is the ‘eye.’ It’s a piercing stare that they use to intimidate and control livestock. This behavior is not something that can be taught – it is simply part of the dog’s natural repertoire.

Other instincts include circling, nipping, and barking, all of which can be used to move livestock in a particular direction. By understanding these instincts and behaviors, you can work with your herding dog to develop their skills and become more effective at working with livestock.

Teach Basic Commands

Now that you’ve helped your herding dog understand their natural instincts, it’s time to move onto teaching some basic commands.

The three key commands you should focus on are recall, stay, and leave it. Recall is important for calling your dog back to you, stay helps them learn self-control, and leave it teaches them to ignore distractions.

With patience and consistency, you’ll have a well-trained herding dog in no time.


Do you want your pup to come running back to you every time you call their name, even in the midst of a sheep chase? Then building a strong recall is essential.

Start by using positive reinforcement to encourage recall. Every time your pup comes to you when called, reward them with a treat or praise. This will teach them that coming back to you is a good thing.

As your pup becomes more reliable with recall, gradually increase the level of distraction around them. Practice recall in different locations, with different distractions, and with different people. This will help your pup learn to focus on you, even when surrounded by sheep or other distractions.

Remember to always reward them when they come back to you, even if it takes a little longer than usual. With patience and perseverance, your pup will learn to come back to you every time, making herding much easier.


If you want to build an unbreakable bond with your furry friend and ensure they stay put, mastering the ‘Stay’ command is crucial.

In order to teach your herding dog to stay, you must first understand the importance of consistency. It’s crucial to use the same command every time, whether that be ‘Stay’ or ‘Wait’, and to use a consistent hand signal as well. You should also be consistent with your expectations and rewards. Be clear with your dog when they’re doing well and when they need to do better.

It’s important to note that some herding breeds, such as Border Collies, may have a natural tendency to anticipate commands and therefore struggle with the ‘Stay’ command. If this is the case, try incorporating a release word such as ‘Okay’ to let them know when they’re free to move.

Common mistakes with the ‘Stay’ command include not reinforcing the stay often enough, not keeping a close enough eye on your dog, and not being patient enough with your furry friend. If your dog’s struggling with the ‘Stay’ command, don’t give up! With patience and consistency, they’ll eventually master this important skill.

Leave It

Learning to tell your furry friend to “Leave It” can be a lifesaving skill, helping to prevent them from gobbling up anything and everything that catches their eye. This command can also be incredibly useful when teaching your herding dog to round up sheep. Here are some tips to help you teach your dog how to “Leave It” while practicing herding:

– Training consistency is key when teaching your dog any new command. Make sure you’re using the same word and tone of voice every time you ask your dog to “Leave It”.

– Use treats and praise to reward your dog when they successfully “Leave It”. This will help reinforce the behavior and encourage them to continue obeying the command.

– Start practicing the “Leave It” command in a calm and controlled environment, such as your backyard or a training field. This will help your dog understand what is expected of them before introducing the distraction of sheep.

– Once your dog has mastered the “Leave It” command in a controlled environment, you can start introducing sheep. Start with a small group of calm sheep and gradually increase the number and intensity of the distractions.

Remember, teaching your herding dog to “Leave It” is a process that takes time and patience. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, your dog will learn to obey this important command and become a successful sheep herder.

Practice with Obstacles

When practicing with obstacles, it’s important to use a training pen where you can control the environment. Start by introducing your herding dog to the sheep gradually, allowing them to get comfortable with each other.

As your dog becomes more confident, add distractions such as toys or other animals to increase their focus and ability to work in any situation.

Remember to be patient and consistent in your training to ensure success.

Use a Training Pen

Using a pen to train can help create a safe and controlled environment for practicing the desired behavior. Choosing the right pen is crucial to ensure that the training is effective. The pen should be spacious enough for the dog to move around comfortably and for the sheep to be able to move away from the dog if necessary. It should also be sturdy and secure, with no holes or gaps that the sheep or dog could escape through.

Setting up the pen for success involves ensuring that the dog is comfortable and familiar with the pen before beginning training. Letting the dog explore the pen on its own and becoming accustomed to the space can help reduce anxiety and increase focus.

Once the dog is comfortable, begin by introducing the sheep into the pen and allowing the dog to observe and approach them at its own pace. With patience and consistency, the dog will learn to round up the sheep and respond to commands in the controlled environment of the training pen.

Introduce Sheep Gradually

As you introduce your furry companion to the woolly grazers, don’t rush the process and take your time to let them get acquainted with each other in a gradual manner. Gradual introduction is crucial to the success of your herding dog in rounding up sheep. Here are some tips on how to do it:

– Start with a small group of sheep, preferably in an enclosed space.
– Allow your dog to observe the sheep from a distance, without any interaction.
– As your dog becomes more comfortable, gradually decrease the distance between them and the sheep.
– Watch for signs of stress or anxiety in both the dog and the sheep, and respond accordingly.

Reading sheep behavior is another important aspect of introducing your herding dog to sheep. By paying attention to the body language and vocalizations of the sheep, you can better understand their reactions to your dog’s presence. Here’s how to do it:

– Look for signs of agitation, such as raised tails or ears, or stamping feet.
– If the sheep become too agitated, take a break and allow them to calm down before continuing.
– Watch for signs of fear, such as huddling together or running away.
– If your dog’s showing signs of aggression, intervene immediately and remove them from the situation.

Add Distractions

To make your furry friend’s herding skills more effective, you can add distractions to the mix, such as toys or other animals, to make the experience more challenging and engaging.

Introducing movement is a great way to test your dog’s skills. Start by having the sheep move around in small circles and gradually increase the size of the circle. This will help your dog learn how to keep the sheep contained and moving in the right direction.

Incorporating noise is another way to add a challenge to your dog’s training. Try using a whistle or a horn to simulate the sounds of a busy farm. This will help your dog learn how to focus on the task at hand amidst the chaos.

Remember to be patient with your dog and reward them for their hard work. With time and practice, your furry friend will become a skilled herding dog.

Evaluate Progress and Refine Training

Take a step back and observe how well your furry helper is performing the task, then make adjustments to your approach as needed. Remember that each herding dog has its own learning pace, so don’t rush the training process.

You should take the time to evaluate the progress of your dog’s performance and refine your training techniques accordingly. Here are some tips to help you with this process:

– Observe your dog’s body language and behavior when rounding up sheep. If your dog seems stressed or confused, you may need to simplify the task or break it down into smaller steps.

– Try to vary the training environment by practicing in different locations and with different distractions. This will help your dog become more adaptable to different situations.

– Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, to encourage your dog’s progress and motivate them to continue learning. Avoid punishment or negative reinforcement, as this can lead to stress and anxiety in your dog.

– Practice regularly, but don’t overwork your dog. It’s important to give them rest breaks and time to recover between training sessions.

– Consider seeking the advice of a professional dog trainer if you’re having difficulties with training your herding dog. A trainer can provide you with personalized tips and techniques to help you and your furry friend succeed.

Remember that patience and consistency are key to successfully training your herding dog. By evaluating their progress and refining your training techniques, you can help your dog become a confident and skilled sheep herder.


Congratulations, you’ve successfully trained your herding dog to round up sheep! It takes patience, dedication, and a thorough understanding of your dog’s instincts to achieve this level of training.

Just like a shepherd guiding his flock, you’ve taken on the responsibility of guiding your dog towards success. But remember, training is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires constant evaluation and refinement.

Think of it as trimming a bonsai tree, where each snip and cut helps shape the final product. By practicing with obstacles and evaluating your dog’s progress, you can continue to refine their herding skills and ensure they’re always at their best.

As you continue on this journey with your herding dog, remember that you’re not just training them to be a sheepdog, but you’re also building a strong bond and trust between you and your furry friend.

Just like a shepherd and his dog, you two have become a team that works together in harmony to achieve a common goal. So, take pride in your hard work and dedication, and enjoy the beautiful metaphor of the shepherd and his loyal companion.

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