How To Train Herding Breeds (The Right Way)

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Do you have a herding breed dog that needs to be trained? These smart and spunky dogs are known for their intelligence, ankle biting, herding, and absolutely loveable personalities. That being said, it can be hard to know how to train herding breeds: they do require a specific set of training tools considering their herding ingrained instincts.

Follow along to find out how to train herding breeds, so that you can enjoy their lovely personality!

Herding Breed Traits

So assuming you have trained your dog on the basics such as walking calming on a leash, greeting humans politely, and being comfortable with other dogs, we will dive into herding breed-specific traits and then teach you how to train them further. 

Why do you need specific training for your herding breed? This is a great question! All herding breeds have similar traits ingrained in their genetics: 

  • Ankle Biting

    • Biting your ankles to especially try to herd you around.
    • Especially small children, other animals, joggers, or even bikes!
  • Herd

    • These dogs will run circles around you and try to get you to go where they want to go. You rule the roost and they need to know that. Herding dogs were bred to herd animals, so of course their natural instinct will be to herd.
  • High energy

    • These herding pups were meant to be farm workers, hunters, and hardcore activity dogs. These vigorous exercise requirements may seem overwhelming but it is possible! You need to be able to provide some outlets for them to release that energy. 
  • Resource Guarding

    • Herding dogs are known to be slightly possessive of their items, they’re used to being the boss.
    • In addition to resource guarding their toys/food these dogs tend to resource guard their owners against strangers and other animals. These pups need to learn how to properly socialize!
  • Destructive when bored

    • These dogs are smart and they need their brain to be working actively. You need to train your dog against these destructive habits or it will cost you a lot of money. 
  • Loveable family dogs

    • These dogs are loyal to the core. But with that may come some separation anxiety. We are here to help you work on fixing that!
  • Strong-willed

    • Herding dogs need an owner that will take charge, or they will figure out that they are the boss, and that won’t turn out well.
  • Barkers

    • Herding breeds are used to barking at the animals they’re herding to communicate. This might not be ideal for a home, but there are ways to limit the barking. 

Before we dive into how to train herding breeds into the perfect indoor dog, let us break down what breeds specifically are herding dogs.

Herding Dog Breeds

Some of the most common herding dog breeds are:

  • Australian shepherd, cattle dog, and heeler

  • Border collie

  • Collies

  • Corgis

  • Shetland sheepdogs (or shelties)

Most people might consider the above breeds to be all comprehensive to the “herding dog community”. This is not the case!

See below for a list of some additional herding breeds (this is not all comprehensive):

  • Afghan Hound

  • American Blue Lacy

  • American Indian Dog

  • American Pit Bull Terrier

  • American White Shepherd

  • Appenzell Mountain Dog

  • Australian Kelpie

  • Beauceron

  • Belgian Laekenois

  • Belgian Malinois

  • Belgian Shepherd/Groenendael

  • Belgian Tervuren

  • Bergamasco Sheepdog

  • Berger Picard

  • Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Black Mouth Cur

  • Black Norwegian Elkhound

  • Blue Lacy

  • Bohemian Shepherd

  • Bouvier des Flandres

  • Briard

  • Canaan Dog

  • Cao de fila de Sao Miguel

  • Cao da Serra de Aires

  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi

  • Cattle Collie Dog

  • Collie

  • Cumberland Sheepdog

  • Corgis

  • Croatian Sheepdog

  • Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

  • Dakotah Shepherd

  • Danish Swedish Farm Dog

  • Dutch Shepherd

  • English Shepherd

  • Fila Brasileiro

  • Florida/Cracker Cur

  • German Shepherd Dog

  • Giant Schnauzer

  • Hangin’ Tree Cowdog (picture needed)

  • Hovawart

  • Icelandic Sheepdog

  • King Shepherd

  • Koolie

  • Lancashire Heeler

  • Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog

  • Malinois X

  • Mountain Cur

  • Mountain View Cur

  • Mudi

  • New Zealand Huntaway

  • New Zealand Heading Dog

  • Norwegian Elkhound

  • Norwegian Buhund

  • Old English Sheepdog

  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

  • Polish Owczarek Nizinny

  • Puli

  • Pumi

  • Roman Rottweiler

  • Rottweiler

  • Saarlooswolfhond

  • Schipperke

  • Shiloh Shepherd

  • Smithfield (photo needed)

  • Spanish Water Dog

  • Standard German Spitz

  • Stumpy Tail Cattle dog

  • Swedish Vallhund

  • Texas Heeler

  • Tibetan Spaniel

  • Welsh Sheepdog

  • Villano de las Encartaciones

How To Train Herding Breeds: The Basics

You have identified that your dog is indeed a herding breed, and they need training. The first steps you need to take if you have a brand new herding dog or puppy:

  • Teach them to walk calmly on a leash

This is one of the easiest ways for a family to manage their high energy herding dog, take them on daily walks. It is healthy exercise for both the dog and the humans!

  • Ensure they are comfortable in multiple environments

Your dog needs to be shown the world (or at least some of it). If your dog only knows his house, he will be likely to resource guard the area. This will result in barking and socialization issues. 

  • Teach them to greet humans politely

Be strict with your dog, do not allow them to jump on you, beg for food, or do anything you would not want them to try with a stranger (because they WILL try!).

These basic tricks are essential for teaching your dog additional tricks. Sit, stay, and come can also be extremely beneficial for safety measurements. If your dog is strictly trained, they will be less likely to run out into the road or be in dangerous situations!

Herding Breed Training and Outlets

Once you have taught your herding breeds the basics, you are ready to get into the individualistic training methods for your herding pup. Many of the training methods require the owner’s participation, money, and time. Make sure that you are prepared for the commitment before you bring home your herding dog.

One of the most irritating parts of owning a herding dog is the constant ankle-biting, ouch! Luckily, if you teach your dog to sit, this can be an easy fix. As soon as your dog starts to bite your ankles, grab one of their toys, tell them to sit. Once they sit, give them their toy. This will teach them that they get something positive once they sit, and stop biting. 

One of the best ways to train your dog against herding, is to teach your dog that they can herd. You heard that right. Teach your dog to herd as a sport! You can ask a local farmer if they need a herding dog to help out (give your dog a daytime job!). Another method is taking your dog to a trainer who can work with them to learn competitive sports and herding. If neither of those plans work for you, you can get your dog a herding ball to push around the yard.

Like mentioned above, herding dogs can be trained to do sports, herding, etc. An option to get your dog’s energy under control would be to teach them to do obstacle courses. This would help with their energy levels and keep their mind active. This includes jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and more!

Another exciting activity to do with your dog is dock diving. This is a fun activity for your dog, if they love the water. Throw in a floating toy or ball into a lake or swimming pool and encourage your dog to “go fetch”. This is a great activity to watch, and it will tire out your hard-working pup in no time!

To prevent resource guarding with your herding dog, allow your dog to eat and chew without being bothered, practice trading up with your dog’s chews and treats, teach your puppy how to drop it and leave it, manage your dog’s environment, and properly socialize your dog. 

Your herding dog will get bored easily, this is a given. One way to avoid your herding dog from destroying your whole house would be to provide them with multiple forms of positive stimulation throughout your house.

Give them safe bones to chew, fill a toy with peanut butter (make sure the ingredients are safe), or give them a puzzle to solve! It will be cheaper in the long run to give your dog the toys he needs than allow them to rip up your brand new sofa!

A very common trait with herding breeds is their fiercely loyal nature to their owners. If you bring a herding breed home and expect it to be alone all day, this might not be the dog for you. Herding breeds love spending time with their owners and family and if they aren’t able to do that, they will develop separation anxiety. 

Some common signs of separation anxiety include:

  • Shaking when you leave
  • Barking and crying while you are away
  • Tearing up the house and being destructive while you are away
  • Developing health issues (throwing up, diarrhea, stomach issues) as a result of you being away from them

It is important to help your dog with these issues, you do not want them to be miserable. Many veterinarians recommend CBD oil to help your dog calm down when you can not be with them. Another helpful idea is to get your dog a sibling (only do this once you have fully trained your first dog, and you are emotionally and financially secure enough to take on another fluffy pup). If these methods do not work, see your veterinarian or a separation anxiety trainer for more help. 

Your dog is going to be strong-willed, that is a given. The best way to combat this is to train, train, and train! Your dog will respect you as the alpha if you teach them that is the case. Breeding dogs crave learning, and as their owner it is your responsibility to teach them. Make it fun, teach them cute and funny tricks in addition to the more strict, and boring training. 

Dogs bark, it is something you should probably expect when adopting ANY dog, but herding dogs tend to bark a bit more than normal. Training your dog to be social can cut out the barking completely, but not always. If your dog is trained to be comfortable around people, dogs, and other animals it is unlikely for them to feel the need to bark.

Obviously, this is not always the case and you want a solution for recurring barking. Do not encourage the barking by yelling at your dog, this will make him think you are barking alongside him. Instead, do something your dog would not like; put them in time out in another room, lightly spray them with a water bottle, or in severe cases you can buy a bark collar (we recommend bark collars that vibrate or make a loud noise, not shocking). 

Continuing Herding Breed Training

Training herding breeds is a lifelong commitment. Continue training your herding breed throughout their entire lives in order to give them a satisfied life. Have you ever heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? This phrase does not necessarily compute with herding dogs.

These dogs will be constantly craving outlets, learning opportunities, and owner encouragement. Herding dogs are an impressive species and can be utilized for so many important aspects of life. Although, one of their most important jobs is to be a loving member of your family, so let us help them get there! After all, a dog is only as good as its owner’s training.

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