How To Properly Train Herding Dog Breeds (+ Pros and Cons)

Training a dog, regardless of its breed, is a rewarding journey that strengthens the bond between the pet and the owner. While many dog training techniques are universally applicable, certain breeds, especially herding dog breeds, may require specialized training methods. Herding dog breeds, known for their intelligence, energy, and responsiveness, have distinct traits that can affect their training needs. Whether you’re training a herding dog for competition, to work on the farm, or simply as a loyal family pet, recognizing and adapting to their unique traits is crucial for success.

Start with the Basics

Training for herding dog breeds, like all dogs, should start with basic commands. “Sit,” “stay,” “come,” “down,” and “heel” form the foundation of any good training regimen. These commands are essential for establishing control and ensuring your dog’s safety. Herding dogs, with their keen intelligence and eagerness to please, often pick up on these commands quickly. However, their high energy levels and strong work ethic mean they may become bored with repetition, so keep sessions short, engaging, and varied.

Moving on to Signals

After mastering basic commands, transitioning to signals is a natural next step for herding dogs. These breeds are incredibly responsive to hand signals and whistles, which are especially useful in herding and working environments where verbal commands may not be heard over long distances. 

Start with simple signals for basic commands and gradually introduce more complex sequences. Consistency is key – ensure that each signal is distinct and always corresponds to the same command. If you are training your dog to work on the farm, be sure they have a firm grasp on the signals before introducing them to an actual herd. Otherwise, they could become overly excited and end up haphazardly chasing the livestock rather than herding them.

Herding Dog Habits

Every dog breed has its own unique characteristics and herding breeds are no different. Here are some things to keep in mind when training this type of dog.

Herders Aren’t Food Motivated

Unlike most dogs, herding breeds won’t necessarily come running for treats or the sound of food filling their bowl. They are more interested in working than eating. This can present a challenge when using treats as a reward during training. It can be helpful to conduct initial training sessions in a quiet environment with little activity. A calm environment combined with patience and persistence will eventually pay off. They will come to understand that treats are a reward and you will be able to increase the level of activity surrounding your dog’s training.

Unique Sensitivity Issues

In addition to their extreme intelligence and high energy levels, herding breeds have unique sensitivities that serve them well in the field but can be an issue elsewhere.  


Herding dogs are highly sensitive to spatial changes, a trait that’s beneficial in managing livestock but can manifest as herding behavior towards people or other pets in a home setting. Training should focus on managing this instinct by teaching commands like “leave it” or “back off” to control inappropriate herding.


Many herding breeds are sensitive to noise, which can be an advantage when responding to commands in noisy environments but may also lead to anxiety during thunderstorms or fireworks. Desensitization training can help reduce their anxiety by gradually exposing them to these sounds at a low volume, increasing it as they become more comfortable.


Motion sensitivity is another hallmark of herding breeds, as they’re bred to notice and react to movement. This can lead to chasing cars, animals, or bicycles. Training herding dogs to respond to “stop” or “stay” commands can help manage this instinct. Engaging in activities that fulfill their need to chase, like fetch or agility training, can also provide a constructive outlet for this behavior.

herding dog training

Pros of Herding Dog Breeds

Intelligence and Trainability: Herding dogs are among the most intelligent and trainable breeds, capable of learning complex commands and tasks.

Versatility: Their ability to learn signals and perform various roles makes them suitable for numerous activities beyond herding, including search and rescue, agility, and obedience competitions.

Loyalty and Work Ethic: These breeds are known for their strong loyalty and desire to work, traits that make training a productive and rewarding experience.

Cons of Herding Dog Breeds

High Energy Levels: The high energy of herding breeds can be challenging to manage, requiring regular, vigorous exercise to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.

Sensitivity: Their sensitivity to noise and motion can lead to anxiety and require additional training to manage.

Instinctual Behaviors: Herding instincts, such as chasing and nipping, may need to be carefully managed, especially in family settings.

Achieve Success with Professional Dog Training

Training herding dog breeds presents unique challenges and rewards. Whether their job is work, competition, or companionship, herding dogs are capable of extraordinary achievements when given the proper training and support. With a deep appreciation for their unique traits and a commitment to nurturing a strong, respectful bond, herding dog owners can unlock the full potential of these remarkable animals.

herding dog training near me

Need a little help getting your dog’s training off to a good start? Beau’s K9 Academy can help. Beau’s K9 Academy stands out as the top choice for dog training in New Jersey. With extensive experience and a commitment to positive reinforcement, we tailor our approach to suit the unique needs of each dog we train. From basic obedience to advanced training, Beau’s K9 Academy works hard to ensure that the training process is enjoyable and successful, resulting in a rewarding relationship between you and your well-behaved companion. Contact us today and unleash the full potential of your dog!

Herding Dog Breed FAQs

Are herding dog breeds harder to train than other types of dogs?

Can I use food treats to train my herding dog, despite them not being highly food-motivated?

How can I help my herding dog manage noise sensitivity?

What are some activities to manage a herding dog’s high energy and motion sensitivity?

Can herding dogs be good family pets, or are they better suited to working roles?

Is it necessary to hire a professional trainer for my herding dog?