How to train a border collie dog

You just bought a Border Collie, and you want to train your pet.


You just bought a Border Collie, and you want to train your pet as a sheepdog.

That is fine, and Border Collies are up to that task, but you should first understand the nature of your dog--of all dogs.  All dogs are descended from wolves. If they were to follow their natural instincts, they would just as soon catch and eat the sheep, as to herd them.

    It is because of the selective breeding of dogs that the hunter instinct when it comes to sheep has mellowed. They can now be trained to tend to sheep.   

     If you want to train your Border Collie to work sheep, it might take a long time. Nevertheless, your dog might learn quickly at times.

     It might help to know that dogs usually don't disobey their masters willingly. They often might not know what you want, and it might seem as they are disobeying. It might take awhile for them to bond with you before they can properly learn. When a dog doesn't understand what you want, his natural instincts might take over; he might do what comes naturally.

     To start with, your puppy should first learn to be around people, before you try to teach him to herd sheep. Give him plenty of time with your family, plenty of time with your children, if you have any.

     Also your puppy should learn his name right away. Say his name often, with a gentle voice. Spend time with him at the same time, so he will gradually learn you are talking to him when you say his name.

     Teach him that no means no, but don't punish him. Say that word harshly if he is doing something you disapprove of. Give him praise with a gentle voice, when he does something you do approve of. Pat his head. You might even want to give him a treat.  
     If you want your Border Collie to be a working dog, and not merely a pet, teach him good kennel habits. Crate train your puppy. He might resist the crate at first, be he will learn that is his area and will feel safe there. At the same time, give him a lot of time out of the kennel, to roam free, to perform his duties.

     Some people do let their dogs roam free. This can create problems for a working dog. Your dog might roam free and be hit by a car.

     If your dog is allowed to run loose, being killed by a car might not be the only problem. It might chase the horses, cattle, sheep, or even cars. If you reprimand your pet, it might relate working to punishment. If your dog is put with other animals and not properly trained, it might always consider its duties as work, and might relate work to punishment. Although it might herd sheep, it might never reach its full potential.

     These problems can be avoided by putting the dog in a kennel and not letting it roam free. Once your dog is properly trained, if your dog is chasing another animal, or doing something you don't want, you will be able to stop the behavior and call your pet back to you.

     Before your dog is trained to keep the sheep, do not put his kennel where he can see the other animals all day. This can make him nervous.  Move the kennel to where he can't see the sheep.

     You should also teach your dog to not constantly bark. Yell, "No," at him harshly. If you have been teaching him no already, he should no what the word means. If he does not listen, grab him by the nose and say, "No!" He should learn to be quiet whenever you say the word by the time he is three to four months old.

     If you have an electric fence, you want to keep your dog away from it. If the dog is shocked by it while he is watching the stock, he will think the stock shocked him, not the fence.

     When your dog is around sheep for the first time, he should only be around sheep that are used to dogs. Praise your young pet. Get the dog excited about the stock. Two training sessions of ten minutes a day is better than one session of twenty minutes.

     When he is around sheep the first time, remember his natural instincts. He may have a short attention span of a few seconds. A dog's first instinct would be to trap, kill, and eat a sheep. If you start training your dog at an early age, you can discourage such behavior. At first, he will ignore any commands you give. Don't yell at him. Stay calm.

     A working dog must learn the "down" command, probably even before he is around sheep. Force the dog to actually lie down and say the command. Do this over and over, until he gets the idea.

     Teach him in a small area. Use your body to block him and tell him to "lie down." In this manner most dogs learn to stop on their feet. If your dog learns this, you will be able to stop unwanted behavior, pertaining to your stock.

     Don't expect him to know what you want him to do instinctively. Your sheep may be getting away, while he may lie down and expect you to pet him.

     He may notice that when you are on the other side of the sheep, your voice is kind and gentle, as it is at home. When you are on his side of the sheep, he may notice that your voice is gruff, and he may not like that. He may start to think that you don't know how to trap and kill sheep.

     When your dog notices these things, he will be starting to turn into a sheepdog. In a few months, you may have a good sheepdog.  

     When your dog is around sheep the first time, he may lie down and stare. More likely, he will run through the sheep or circle them. If he is still and stares, you should circle the sheep yourself. Your dog will probably understand and will follow you. The way you position yourself will greatly influence your dog's actions. By anticipating your dog's moves, you will be able to better to teach him the way to go.

     Drive the sheep yourself. You will be able to learn then how the sheep will react to your dog. If you first practice this in a small area, you will be better prepared to deal with the sheep and train your dog.

     A piece of chord can be useful in training a dog. It should be twice as long as the lead dog, thick and soft. Thread the chord through your dog's collar. Hold both ends in your hand. Walk the dog to the sheep, using the chord.

     If your dog is on a chord, it will be less likely to struggle. You can hide the chord in the palm of your hand. You can hide the chord until it is attached to your dog's collar. He will be less likely to run if he can't see the chord.

     As you walk toward the sheep, the dog might struggle, trying to keep up with the sheep. Tell him to lie down. If he doesn't obey, he will still have to stop, if you pull back gently, but firmly.

     Keep walking toward the sheep. He will probably again try to struggle to keep up with the sheep. Repeat the same procedure to make him obey. He will eventually learn that he is not to reach the sheep, unless you want him to.

     Dogs can be fast learners. This is especially true, if they want to get to the sheep.

     When your dog does lie down on command, reward him by letting him go. If you have to continue to put him on a lead to get him to obey, he will not learn obedience, with or without the lead. It is good to first say the "lie down" command firmly at first, then gently.

     Before you release the lead, get as close as you can to the sheep. Watch whether the dog circles the sheep, before you decide how to train him. If the dog calmly circles the sheep in one direction, consider yourself lucky. When he is on the opposite side of the sheep, encourage him to stay there by using warm and friendly words. Growl when he is on the wrong side.  Make your dog go both ways around the sheep.

     Encourage your dog to stay a few feet from the sheep, rather then closing in on them. When your dog closes in on them give your "come bye" command in a soft voice.

     If your sheep want to leave the area, build a circular pen out of hurdles or fencing. If you have to drive the sheep into the pen, have the dog on the lead, or out of sight. Sheep don't like dogs.

     You can teach the dog to drive by having the hurdles opened against the fence. The hurdles will direct them into the fence. If your take your dog with you on a lead, he will begin to understand what you are doing. When you are doing this, use whatever term you use for driving sheep and repeat it to him over and over.

     With the sheep in the enclosed area, you can teach the dog to encircle the flock. You can even stand in the middle of the sheep as you do this. Use whatever term you are teaching the sheep to circle, whether "come bye" or whatever.

     Whenever your dog is sufficiently trained, bring him into the center and start using your circling command. Also use your "lie down" command. Your sheep will learn the safest place to be is by you. Whatever your dog does, show your pleasure when he is on the correct side of the sheep and growl when he is not. Eventually he will get the idea.

     If your dog is standing or lying down and staring at the sheep, and does not move, this can be a good thing, if he does not do that too much. It is a bad thing, if he stops obeying commands. If this happens, move the sheep.
     You might be able to teach the dog to drive in one session, in another way, with a little luck. Stop the dog at the other side of the sheep from you. Walk to one side of the sheep and turn to face the sheep and the dog.

     Look at your dog and use whatever command you want to use for driving, although he will not know what the word means--yet. He will understand that you want something. He might flank the sheep in an opposite direction. Stop him instantly, but don't be angry. Bring him back to his original position and attempt to teach him several times. If he walks toward the sheep at all, lavish praise on him. With any luck, the sheep will walk forward, and you can repeat the procedure. If you repeat this procedure over and over, he will start to understand.
     If your dog likes to grip, or grab at the wool, you should reprimand him before he actually grips, not after. He will give out warning signs. His tail might rise; he might pick up speed; his eyes might change. Correct him before he actually grips.

    Your dog needs to know when he has been good. He must know when he has been bad. Dogs don't really understand words, at least unless they have been trained through repetitively hearing the words, but they do understand voice inflection. Make certain you praise your dog with an excited happy voice when he does something well. Tell him, "No!" harshly when he disobeys.

     Whatever you do, don't yell at your dog for returning to you. Make it feel as though it is always safe to return to you--even if he chases another animal, even if he won't return at first, and you have to chase him down.  

     Whatever you do, don't nag your dog. If your dog doesn't do what you want after one or two commands, stop and enforce your words. To do otherwise is actually to teach him to disobey.

    Learn when you are teaching too much at one time. If your dog suddenly goes to get water, or if he lies down in the shade, you have taught too long.

     If your dog is starting to do something you don't want, or is losing interest, forget training him a week or two. Then come back and try to train him again. You may find the unwanted behavior has disappeared.

     Try to teach your dog one or two things at a time. Don't try to teach eight or ten things at once.

     With patience and a lot of work, your Border Collie has the potential to be an excellent sheepdog. Some people do buy the dogs as pets, and there are a lot of books and websites on how to train any kind of a dog as a pet. Because many people do buy a Border Collie to herd sheep, that has been the focus of this article.