How to Train a Border Collie to Herd Cattle

A border collie guarding his herd.
A border collie guarding his herd. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Do you have a border collie you want to train to herd cattle but aren't sure what to do? While there are trainers who specialize in working with dogs, it can be expensive and unnecessary. With practice and patience, it's possible for you alone to train your border collie to herd cattle.

Things You'll Need

  • Border collie
  • Cattle
  • List of training commands

Determine if your dog is a "herder" or a "chaser." This will allow you to tell how much and how long training will be required. A hypnotic stare, crouched stance and snake-like moves characterize herders. Chasers lack these traits and simply like to chase and nip at the herd to get it to move into formation. Your job is easier if your border collie is a herder because a herder is largely guided by instinct. If not, be prepared to be patient and to work a little harder. The amount of coaching needed will depend on your dog's natural ability and intelligence, and your command as its trainer.

(Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Familiarize yourself with training terms. The specific commands used in herding are:

Flank Outrun Fetch Driving Pen Shed Go/Come bye Away to me Steady on Get up There Take time Listen Get back

You can also use your own terms or phrases.

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Begin training by allowing your dog to flank (or get behind) the cattle and move them into a group. Don't rush your dog but observe it to be sure it's not hurting the animals and that it's trying to approximate the distance between it and the herd.

(Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Teach your dog to pace in clockwise and counterclockwise directions (or “come bye” and “away"). This teaches it how to move the herd and how the animals react to being herded.

Practice with your dog in order for it to learn the proper pace and distance needed to bring the cattle into a group and move them to the desired destination. Should your border collie need correcting, use a physical command instead of a verbal one. Physical corrections will be remembered faster than verbal corrections.

Be firm with commands and with your dog. Border collies are intelligent and won't respond to weak commands. Use a strong, firm but nonthreatening voice. Your dog must get used to you as a training coach and feel confident in coming back to you without being punished for making the wrong moves.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be patient and use praise.
  • Don't punish your dog for coming back to you; this will confuse it.
  • Don't let your frustration show.

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