We've herd it all before...

Updated: Sep 20, 2018

Something I was asked a lot lately was about how to stop a herding breed dog from herding. As someone who has trained rescue border collies for wildlife management I can safely say that the simple answer is: you don't.

Herding is an instinct, just like eating and drinking and sleeping. It is an integral part of your herding breed dog; ingrained in their psychology and bred into them for hundreds of years. It can, however, manifest in a number of inappropriate ways including chasing cars/bikes/skateboards, preventing small children from moving, and nipping people that are running around.

The key to preventing unwanted types of herding, such as those listed above, is to understand the herding instinct and provide an appropriate outlet for it. Most of the rescued border collies I've trained were surrendered to rescue for things such as those listed above. Once they were taught to herd geese instead, and were rewarded for doing their jobs, their attempts to herd other things naturally went away as they now had a good outlet for their instincts.

Now I know you folks don't work at my job and I would not recommend you teach your dogs to chase a federally protected species, especially if you don't know what you're doing. However, there are other ways of giving your dog an outlet for their herding drive.

The biggest outlet for herding and prey drive is a simple game called "Fetch". I'm sure most of you have heard of it before. Fetch is literally the dog chasing something and bringing it back, which is exactly what herding is. That is why dogs like border collies and German shepherds can get SOOOO ball/toy crazy! If your dog doesn't know fetch, they can learn. My first working border collie came to us at 5 years of age. Had never seen a toy before. With some practice and patience and encouragement, she was one of the most toy driven dogs in our company.

Another option if your dog isn't super keen on fetch is called a flirt pole, which is pretty much a cat wand on steroids. This allows YOU to provide an appropriate moving target for them to herd. Spend time redirecting them to this toy when they're feeling "herdy" with the kids or cars etc, and they will start looking to you to play when the kids are running around or a car is driving past instead of moving in to chase and round them up.

There are also trainers that hold herding classes and will help you give a REAL outlet for your dog's herding behavior. There aren't many and you may have to travel a bit though depending on where you live.

Herding dogs like Cattle dogs, Aussies, border collies, and German shepherds can make amazing pets! We just have to understand where they are coming from and make sure we give them what they need to feel happy and fulfilled!


(Photo of working border collie, Bree, feeling very happy and fulfilled while on duty at her airport)

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