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Guide for New Handlers

Newcomers to Sheepdogs

Many people are becoming interested in sheepdog handling and trialling.  Traditionally, it was shepherds and farmers who were the only people skilled to handle the dogs.  Today we have people from varying backgrounds becoming involved with sheepdogs, such as doctors, policemen, butchers, lorry drivers, builders and even a vicar, all enjoying working with their dog, and some become very good indeed.

It can seem very difficult to get involved, and it appears to be much easier if you have countryside contacts. However there is a growing number of sheepdog trainers making themselves available.  The ISDS does not have its own training scheme, but we list several trainers on our Breeders and Trainers page; and we are familiar with the people who are listed there.


Sheepdog Trainers

When choosing a trainer, our advice is to choose carefully, you might be lucky enough to find someone close to where you are located, however it is important that you feel that you can build a working relationship with your trainer, and that they have the necessary skills to train both you and your dog, and in a way that suits you both, and at a pace that reflects your experience. It is also important that you agree with their training methods. Each trainer will have their own ways in which to train, and will also have individual training methods that suit them, ones that they have adapted over the years. In addition, having regular access to sheep that you can use to train your dog is equally as important.


Understanding Training

It is important to take time to build and develop a close bond with your dog before you start training, you want them working with you and not against you, and don't expect too much too soon. Training a sheepdog is a lengthy process, and the foundation work and manners of your dog away from sheep is just as important to get right. If you have a puppy or young dog, allow them the time and freedom to enjoy this stage in their life. Introducing them to varied sights and sounds is essential in creating a well balanced non reactive dog. In addition in their early stages, introduce and teach them the recall and stand command, as these are two of the most important elements when you first introduce your dog to sheep. 


Reference Literature

Within the ISDS on-line shop there are a great selection of reference books available to assist you with training your sheepdog.

In June 2016, Farmers Weekly interviewed one of England's top lady handlers Emma Gray, asking her for some top tips on how to train a sheepdog, here is a link to the very informative interview. 


The ISDS is co-ordinating some local UK groups, especially for youngsters.  There are also some colleges that have sheepdog handling courses.  If you live in the UK or Ireland and would like to get in touch with a training scheme, please contact the office and we will try our best to assist you.


Learning to be a Sheepdog!