Sheepdog training broken down into chapters

Choosing a pup

To be successful at training a sheepdog you must choose the right puppy for the work. You will spend a lot of training so working with the right tool will enhance your success and pleasure. I have used the Volhard Test to select my puppies for over twenty years and the results have been impressive.

A guide to choosing the right type of pup using the Volhard Test. Each puppy is tested thoroughly and scored out of 6.

Duration: 3.52


Misty being taught to stand

Basic Obedience

Basic obedience needs to be worked on prior to any other aspects of training so that when you introduce your dog to sheep they will maintain a degree of self-control. This will ensure the sheep are kept stress free and ensure safety for the dog as well.

The first steps in training your dog. Basic obedience is a crucial prerequisite to working with sheep – this is when trust is harnessed. Obedience training methods have progressed significantly and Nij demonstrates how simple and effective they can be.

Duration: 18:04 secs

Whistle Commands

Using a sheepdog whistle will enable you to offer greater clarity when working in difficult weather conditions or terrain. It also prevents our having to shout, which might inadvertently upset your dog. The Logan whistles which I use are a quality whistle, made from a variety of materials like stainless steel, aluminium etc. Like any other tool, it will take practice to perfect it and get consistent pitches and tones.

Is a whistle really necessary? This video explains what sort of whistle to buy, why it’s needed, when to use it and how.

Duration: 5:45 secs

Gripping and Confidence

Gripping and Confidence are the most challenging aspects of sheepdog training because they affect the welfare of the sheep and the dog. A dog that lacks confidence or loses confidence will be easily bullied by sheep thereby making it difficult to manoeuvre them.

This video addresses the causes and solutions for gripping, which is a very common problem in young dogs.

Duration: 9:04 secs

The Round Pen

When introducing your dog to sheep, there are many important exercises you can undertake inside and outside of the Round Pen. Training for flanking, stopping your dog and teaching whistle commands begins here. “The Pressure on/off” technique and the “Reverse Square Flank” offer new alternatives to all trainers.

Most of my fine-tuning for trials with my older dogs takes place around the Round Pen, as it’s so much easier to recreate problems and to quickly address them. There is also a health benefit to the Round Pen when working with dogs that are coming back from injury. Dogs can be run evenly between the sides so that the impact on their muscle groups is evenly spread. One of my favourite uses of the Round Pen is to practice driving both inside and outside.

If you have sheep both inside and outside the pen, and you are working from a distance, dogs of all ages can get very confused as to the commands you are giving and this can help to make the dogs more pliable.

Duration: 18:32 secs

Training in An Open Field

Once training in the round pen is successfully achieved you can progress to training in an open field. This brings forth many advantages such as giving the dogs and sheep more room, thereby allowing training to progress so much quicker. You will also be able to offer a greater variety of exercises.

The transition from working in the round pen to an open field can offer new challenges which consolidate early training and broaden your dog’s experience.

Duration: 5:56 secs

Outrun Training

Extending the Outrun

Extending a dog’s outrun can offer many new and exciting opportunities for young dogs to develop their understanding. Sometimes testing a young dog can reveal their true potential.

Duration: 9:15 secs



Flockwork offers perhaps the greatest opportunities for progressing and gives meaning to a dog about the different elements they have been taught. A dog that can gather a large flock of sheep saves the farmer time and money.

Duration: 4:58 secs



The journey from puppyhood to young adult is filled with excitement and adventures, mistakes and mishaps. If all was perfect, life would be very boring indeed. Sometimes the very elements which cause the greatest anguish can lead to our greatest successes.

Duration: 4:09 secs


Practical Shepherding provides comprehensive guidance on selecting and training a sheepdog for farm work and sheepdog trials. Nij demonstrates many techniques and methods which have proven so successful in building strong foundations and trust with his dogs.

There are clear diagrams, guidance notes and tips to make it easy to follow and apply the methods. There is also an accompanying booklet providing further notes and clarification of the points contained in each chapter. It is ideal for both newcomers training their first dogs and experienced handlers who are experiencing problems.

The chapters follow Todd and Mist over 18 months; from birth, their first time with sheep, and culminating in working on a sixty-acre park with a large flock. Whilst Mist lacks confidence early on, Todd is more feisty and challenging. The subject of gripping sheep, amongst many others, is discussed at length. There is something here for everyone.

Training a sheepdog is like any sport, there are many highs and lows. There is a need for commitment, self-belief and belief in the young pup. Above all, the handler must have confidence and calmness and retain hope when there appears to be none. Training a dog is about trusting the eye, being prepared to move and, when the time is right, offering guidance and support. Above all, there must be a celebration of success and a willingness to remember that it is natural for young pups to make mistakes.

Duration: 3:26 secs