Herding

Come see us at WORKNGSD to become a part of the fascinating world of Herding. The art of herding has been around for ages, although many (dogs and people) may never have had access to this challenging and rewarding activity. If you’d like to learn how much interest and natural skill your dog has in the herding arena, contact us for an appointment and we’ll do the basic herding instinct test on the first visit. At WORKNGSD, you never have to pay more or wait for special days to have your dog’s herding instinct test done. We are here for you and your dog to serve your needs seven days a week, year-round – come check out what you and your dog have been missing!

Instinct Testing / Herding Training Availability: JANUARY – DECEMBER

Days of the Week: MONDAY – SUNDAY

Session Length: VARIES ( based on student’s level of experience and endurance )

Testing / Lesson Costs: $40* PER DOG ( I work the dog and the owner participates as well )

*For those physically unable to work their own dog, I will be working with those dogs from start to finish. Beginning this year, lessons for the dogs I train from start to finish will now be $50 to make up for the physical wear and tear on me. All other lessons where the owners participate in the training will continue to stay at $40.

Livestock Rentals to Experienced Handlers $20

“Bring Your Puppy to Work” Special: $10*

*For our WORKNGSD students only. For an additional $10, you can bring a puppy along with your regular student to give them an introduction to the livestock and the herding environment. Ask Tonya for more details if interested in this special opportunity.

To see herding training in action, watch Tonya and Tripper’s second herding lesson:

Instinct Testing: Many breeds of dogs, of all ages and personalities, have an inherent instinct for herding and are capable of becoming talented herders with the proper training. Here at WORKNGSD, the first lesson we have with your dog will be a basic herding instinct test where your dog is exposed to three “dog-broke” sheep during several brief sessions to observe his or her reaction. There are no specific age or size limits; however, your dog does need to be able to physically handle themselves maneuvering around these three sheep. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t show immediate interest or talent during this first active exposure to the livestock. While some dogs may show more natural ability from the beginning, others may take longer to get in touch with their “inner herder.”

Herding Training: At WORKNGSD, our goal is to provide our students with encouraging, positive, experiences during all phases of their herding training, as we teach them to excel at this special talent. With that goal in mind, we carefully match your dog’s level of interest, ability, and stamina with the appropriate length of lessons and level of livestock. As you can see from Tripper’s second lesson in the video above, herding training is very physically and mentally demanding on students. During herding training your dog is operating in a complex and action-filled environment, where he or she is simultaneously learning new commands and teamwork skills, learning to read both the livestock’s and trainer’s intentions, and learning to judge the situation and make independent decisions as needed – all while being in motion much of the time.

“Splash” taking a break during training

Since herding training is such a mentally and physically demanding workout, training lessons vary in length and usually consist of several short sessions combined with rest breaks, as needed. For beginners, their session lengths are usually always shorter than later lessons where the students have developed more experience and endurance. Remember, it’s always best for the lessons to end on a positive note with your dog feeling eager to come back for more training, rather than feeling frustrated or burned out from overwork – and this keeps the livestock from becoming overworked as well.

We train with “dog-broke” Cheviot sheep:

One of the sheep used in training

Cheviot sheep are intelligent, active and agile, and this makes them ideal for herding training purposes. We train with dog-broke Cheviot/Cheviot-cross sheep rated from heavy to light. Dog-broke sheep will have more respect for dogs and be less combative. A heavy rating means it takes more pressure from the dog to move them, so the dog must work closer to them. Light sheep are highly reactive and run sooner, so the dog must work them from further way. To ensure the best training environment and experience, we carefully match our students’ and livestock’s levels of experience.

Some terms used with herding training:

Edge using her “eye” to hold back the sheep

During herding training, you’ll become familiar with terms such as the flight zone and how when a dog enters this zone, the livestock will flee. You’ll learn that the livestock perceives dogs as having different levels of power, which determines the livestock’s behavior and flight zone with different dogs. You’ll watch the trainer and your dog as they read the sheep to anticipate their behavior. You’ll also see your dog practicing his or her driving, fetching, flanking, gathering, and wearing skills. Plus, you can watch your dog learn to use his or her “eye” to control the livestock’s behavior.

Herding training has several benefits for your dog:

Herding training is a wonderful way for many breeds of dogs to experience and reconnect with the purpose for which they were originally bred. However, not all owners bring their dogs to herding training to prepare them for competition in a trial situation, or for that reason alone. Some owners bring their dogs because of the following positive benefits they see resulting from the training:

Boosts confidence levels Encourages teamwork skills
Increases reasoning skills Supports greater obedience
Promotes self-control/focus Great form of exercise
Reduces excess energy Relieves boredom


For those students training to participate in Herding Competitions:

For those students who come for herding training in preparation for test and trial competitions, we have prepared a Herding Titles Chart (PDF file) with a brief overview of the American Kennel Club (AKC), American Herding Breed Association (AHBA), and Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) programs. Plus, we have listed some of the highlights of their herding programs below:

The AKC program has two test levels: HT – Herding Tested and PT – Pre-Trial Tested, and three trial levels: HS – Herding Started, HI – Herding Intermediate, and HX – Herding Excellent Advanced. The AKC issues HC – Herding Champion certificates to dogs earning their HX title and meeting certain other requirements. The AKC Herding Regulations booklet (PDF file) has more in-depth information about all aspects of their herding programs.
The AHBA program has two test levels: HCT – Herding Capability Tested and JHD – Junior Herding Dog Tested, and four trial titles in three levels: HTD – Herding Trial Dog (I, II, III), HRD – Herding Ranch Dog (I, II, III), RLF – Ranch Large Flock (I, II, III), and HTAD – Herding Trial Arena Dog (I, II, III). The AHBA awards HTCh – Herding Trial Championship titles to dogs earning advanced titles on any one of the four trial courses. The June 2017 AHBA Herding Program (PDF file) has details.
The ASCA program has three StockDog trial classes: STD – Started Trial Dog, OTD – Open Trial Dog, and ATD – Advanced Trial Dog with three stock classes: cattle, sheep, and ducks (c, s, & d). The ASCA awards WTCH – Working Trial Champion titles to dogs who receive ATD titles in all three stock classes. Plus, ASCA offers PATD – Post-Advanced Trial Dog, RD – Ranch Dog, RTD – Ranch Trial Dog, OFTD – Open Farm Trial Dog, and AFTD – Advanced Farm Trial Dog title classes. For more information, check out the ASCA StockDog Rules & Regulations (PDF file).


REMEMBER: Whether you and your dog are beginners or experienced hands at herding training, or whether you’re looking for great exercise or preparing for a herding competition, we stand ready at WORKNGSD to meet your herding training needs. Come see us soon!