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Australian Shepherd Herding


Australian Shepherds were originally bred to herd livestock, typically sheep. But they will also herd cattle, ducks, geese, hogs, and even children. Herding is an instinctive desire to keep a group of livestock in an organized group and move them in a desired direction. Most Aussies are ‘fetching’ dogs, which means they want to gather their livestock and bring them back to their handler.

You may have seen pictures, etc. of a shepherd walking down a road or across a field with a flock of sheep following behind. This is accomplished by having a dog following behind the sheep and keeping them moving toward and in whatever direction the shepherd chooses to walk. This sense of balance that the dog has to the shepherd is innate in most Australian Shepherds and only needs to be directed and controlled to have a useful assistant on the farm. It is generally agreed that herding training should begin around 1 year of age.

Supervised exposure to stock may be done earlier than 1 year, but should be done in a very controlled environment, with very dog gentle livestock, and sessions should be kept very short and positive. Prior to 1 year a dog is not physically or mentally mature enough to take the rigors of herding training; and if started too early, the pressures placed on a started dog will often turn a young dog off. If you have not trained a herding dog before, it is definitely advised that you start your exposure and herding training with a knowledgeable herding instructor.

More damage can be done by turning your dog loose randomly to ‘chase’ livestock than by waiting months to attend a herding clinic or get enrolled in organized herding classes. In addition to a local Australian Shepherd club, check to see if there is an All-Breed Herding club in your area. They may have additional information regarding herding facilities, trainers, clinics, classes, etc. Herding can be a wonderful form of exercise and enjoyment for both you and your dog. And there is nothing quite like watching a dog and handler team working together to move a flock of sheep in from a large field or to move a herd of cattle through chutes on vaccination day.

Just remember, herding is not something you can just do every once in a while when you feel like it. Herding involves a commitment of time and money. Unlike obedience where you can practice in your backyard or at almost any park and where an 8 week training session may run $30.00 – $80.00, herding has to be done at a facility that has livestock, which may require lots of driving on your part, and where fees will range from $5.00 – $20.00 per training session on your own and $200.00 – $300.00 for a intensive 3 day herding clinic with a qualified instructor.



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