Herding is a fascinating and enjoyable challenge. Few activities offer the variety of situations and the opportunity for real teamwork between handler and dog that are a part of herding. The herding dog must cooperate with the handler, yet use its own initiative and judgment. It must be able to work with gentleness, yet show strength in facing up to a stubborn animal. The background of the Collie is that of an adaptable, level-headed all-rounder. Collies are capable of being keen herders while remaining sensible, flexible family companions, whether as working dogs on a ranch or farm or helping out a suburban owner who keeps a few sheep, goats, or ducks as a hobby.

Participation in herding helps preserve the special heritage of the Collie and opens up new opportunities for owner and dog. The qualities that make a good herding dog -- trainability, adaptability, loyalty, soundness of body and character, agility, grace -- are important in many areas, and contribute so much toward making the dog an outstanding companion as well.

Annual Collie Herding Reults

Throughout the country there are local herding clubs that provide clinics, work days, trials and tests. Several organizations provide herding title programs in which Collies regularly participate. These include:

The Australian Shepherd Club of America
This program offers trial classes with three levels of difficulty held on either of two arena courses. The "A" course requires taking stock from a pen, guiding them through obstacles and repenning. The "B" course starts with a small outrun or gather, then the stock are guided through obstacles and penned in a free-standing pen, followed by a repen. Started Trial Dog (STD), Open Trial Dog (OTD), and Advanced Trial Dog (ATD) can be earned on sheep, cattle and ducks; small initials after the title indicate the type of stock. The Working Trial Championship (WTCh.) is earned when the Advanced title on all three types of stock has been achieved. There is also a Ranch Trial course (RTD) held in a ranch setting, a Post-Advanced class (PATD) held in a large field, and a Ranch Dog (RD, RDX) certification earned by a dog being judged on proficiency in its regular work at home. ASCA trials are open to all approved herding breeds.
Get more information from the ASCA

The American Herding Breed Association
This program offers two types of trial classes, each with three levels, and also includes a test program. The Herding Trial Dog program, with levels HTD I, II and III, takes place on a standard course with outrun, lift, fetch, wear and/or drive and pen; trials may be held in arenas, although the course is not designed as an arena course and larger fields are preferred. The Herding Ranch Dog program, with levels HRD I, III and III, takes place on ranch/farm courses which vary in detail while including specified requirements. Both HTD and HRD titles require two qualifying scores under two different judges. Progression of difficulty in the trial classes echoes the progression in the training of a versatile herding dog.

Titles may be earned on sheep, ducks or cattle, which a small initial after the title indicating the type of stock on which the title was earned. A herding trial championship is earned by obtaining additional qualifying scores after the HTD III or HRD III title is earned. Test levels include the Herding Capability Test (HCT) and the Junior Herding Dog Test (JHD), both of which are run on a pass/fail basis and require two passing runs under different judges. These events are open to all herding breeds.
Get more information from the AHBA.

The American Kennel Club Test/Trial Program
This program offers test, pre-trial and trial classes. At the test (HT) and pre-trial (PT) levels, titles are earned with two passing runs. At the trial level, three qualifying scores under different judges must be earned for each of the three classes -- Started (HS), Intermediate (HI) and advanced (HX, for Herding Excellent). A herding trial championship (HCh.) can be earned after completing the Herding Excellent title. There are three different types of

trial courses, and titles are not differentiated by type of stock or course. The "A" course takes place in an arena and requires working livestock through obstacles and into a pen. The "B" course is a modified Border Collie course requiring an outrun, lift, fetch, wear/drive, pen and, in the advanced class, a shed. The "C" course is meant to reflect herding as done in Europe with large flocks in unfenced areas. Ducks, sheep or cattle may be used on certain of the courses. All AKC Herding Group breeds, plus Samoyeds and Rottweilers, are eligible.
Get more information from the AKC

The American Working Collie Association
An organization specifically oriented toward Collies, the American Working Collie Association, also offers Herding instinct certification (HC), earned by passing a sanctioned herding instinct test, and a Herding Trial Championship (HTCh.), earned by accumulating 15 points in intermediate and advanced classes on a variety of courses. Information can be obtained from: The American Working Collie Association, 208 Harris Rd., FA 1, Bedford Hills, NY 10507, (914)241-7094. The AWCA has general information available about its programs, including the herding program rules.
Get more information from the AWCA

International Sheepdog Dog Society (Border Collie) Trials
ISDS-type (Border Collie) trials emphasize work done at substantial distances from the handler. The course requires a sizable outrun, followed by a life and fetch. The stock are taken through two or three sets of free-standing panels and put into a small free-standing pen. At the novice levels, the handler may accompany the stock throughout the course, but at the higher levels the handler remains in a fixed position until moving to the pen to assist the dog in penning. The higher levels also include "shedding" or separating designated sheep from the group. Specific requirements may vary from trial to trial, as may the name of the class. There are many regional variations in Border Collies trials, and local trials that differ somewhat from the ISDS-type trials.

Because the requirements and judging in these trials favor a wide-running, strong-eyed dog able to work a t great distances from the handler on fairly flighty sheep (the type of work needed in the hills of the Scottish/English Welsh bore regions) breeds other than Border Collies are not commonly seen at these trials, but often the trials are open to other breeds.
ISDS Course Description/ISDS Guidelines for Judges

This list covers some of the books, magazines and videos available regarding herding and the herding breeds. Many other interesting titles are available.

Books can be ordered through bookstores, directly from the publisher, or from suppliers specializing in sheepdog items who advertise in herding magazines. In addition, herding books often are available at book booths at dog shows and herding trials. If titles are not in a local library, they can be borrowed through inter-library loan.

  • Anybody Can Do It, by Pope Robertson. Rovar Publ. Co., 522 East 2nd St., Elgin, TX 78621.
  • The Farmer's Dog by John Holmes. Popular Dogs Publ. Co. Ltd., 3 Fitzroy Square, London, WIP 6JD, U.K.
  • Herding Dogs: Progressive Training by Vergil Holland. Howell Book House, 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023.
  • Lessons from a Stock Dog by Bruce Fogt. The Working Border Collie, Inc., 14933 Kirkwood Rd., Sidney, OH 45365.
  • Sheepdog Training, an All-Breed Approach by Mari Taggart. Alpine Publications, P.O. Box 7027, Loveland, CO.
  • Training and Working Dogs for Quiet, Confident Control of Stock, by Scott Lithgow. Univ. of Queensland Press, Box 42, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia.
  • A Way of Life: Sheepdog Training, Handling and Trialling, H. Glyn Jones talks to Barbara C. Collins, Farming Press Ltd., Wharfdale Rd., Ipswich, Suffolk, UK.
  • Working Sheepdogs, by John Templeton. U.K.


  • The Shepherd's Dogge, Woolgather Farm, Box 843, Ithaca, NY 14851.
  • The Stockdog Journal, 10123 150th Street, Alden IA 50006.
  • The Working Border Collie, 14933 Kirkwood Rd., Sidney, OH 45365.

Videos are available in the U.S. and Canada from various suppliers specializing in sheep and sheepdog items who advertise in herding magazines.

  • Training and Working a Border Collie, Parts 1 & 2, Tony Collins, Great Britain.
  • Come Bye! and Away! -- Early Stages of Sheepdog Training, and That'll Do, with H. Glyn Jones, Great Britain.
  • Herding I (an overview), Herding II (young dog work), Herding III (advanced penning and shedding), Jeanne Joy Hartnagle; Canine Training Systems, Ltd., 7550 W. Radcliffe Ave., Littleton, CO 80123.
  • Stockdog Training Fundamentals Part I and II, by Mike Hubbard. Available through Border Collies in Acti


  • Training Whistle Commands, Hubert Bailey, GA.

In addition

  • Raising Sheep the Modern Way, by Paula Simmons, and Raising the Home Duck Flock, by David Holderread; Storey Communications, Inc., Schoolhouse Rd., RD#1, Pownal, VT 05261.
  • Sheep! Magazine, Rt. 1, Helenville, WI 53137.

Shepherd's crooks, whistles, sheepdog- and sheep-related crafts, gifts and other items can be obtained from suppliers advertising in herding magazines or sometimes through local feed and tack stores.


The Collie originated in Scotland and England as an all-purpose farm and herding dog. The working Collie of the 1800's evolved into the "show" Collie that we know today. The Collie was expected to do whatever it was called upon to do, depending upon the particular farmer's needs. The Collie could herd any type of livestock, whether out in the pasture, in the barnyard, or on the road, as well as protect the stock, farm and family. The versatility of Collies made them valuable workers. In addition to gathering and moving stock at home, they also were used for droving, taking stock from farm to farm or to the city markets; frequently the drover went on ahead and the dog brought the stock along behind, sometimes even working out of sight of the drover.

The Collie is well known for its easy-going temperament. To work stock, however, the dog must be able to handle all situations which might arise. The Collie is very adaptable and can learn to handle ducks and lambs gently and slowly, yet use appropriate force when needed with cattle and rams. It is intelligent, imaginative, laid-back, and easy to train if the herding instinct is strong. The Collie is rarely aggressive without provocation. It rarely grips without cause, but often uses "body checks" or pushes the stock with its nose. Many Collies can be barkers until confidence is built through training. Some have soft temperaments and can easily be turned off by a correction or even a harsh voice. While such dogs do not have an ideal temperament for a working dog, they can be trained with careful handling.

 Trainability and Working Style
The Collie is a versatile herding dog, capable of working a variety of livestock in different situations. The majority of Collies are naturally gathering (fetching) dogs which cast out and gather up the animals and bring them to the handler; a few will naturally drive, pushing stock ahead of the handler. Many Collies work quietly, while others may tend to bark. Collies usually work in an upright posture. They generally show little or no "eye," although some individuals may show "eye" in varying degrees.

A good working Collie will keep the herd or flock well grouped and moving, combining speed, agility and strength of mind, and determination with the power to shift stubborn animals and to find those who stray. A desire to follow the wishes of the handler and also to use initiative round out the profile of the herding Collie.

When working stock, the dog should tend to pace itself to the stock, slowing down and regrouping the animals should they split or become agitated, moving the animals at a walk or trot rather than at a run. A dog which does not crowd the stock but works at a reasonable distance away from them can control the herd or flock in a calm and orderly fashion. Those dogs which have a tendency to move close to the stock should be encouraged to work further away. At the halt, the dog may remain on its feet, sit, or lie down. All are acceptable, as long as the stop is complete. For a large dog such as the Collie a stand or sit may be less awkward than a down.

These instinctive tendencies may not be immediately discernible in an adult dog because of lack of experience or the conditioning of other training, and they are often not apparent in puppies too young for training. However, with

increased exposure to livestock, Collies with an inherent herding instinct will begin to display clearly defined herding skills which are easily molded and developed through sensitive training, appropriately geared to their basically gentle nature.

Behavior During Initial Exposures to Stock
The majority of Collies, upon first exposure to stock, will attempt to circle the stock, often barking. Being inexperienced they may split the stock or attempt to single one out, often just to see what it is. Almost all Collies quickly begin gathering/fetching behavior when guided by an experienced trainer. Collies often "shoulder," push or body-check stock, and sometimes will push or punch at them with their nose or feet, but rarely is any Collie a danger to stock through biting. Dogs which are too "soft" in temperament may be hesitant to leave the owner's vicinity, although they are interested in the stock; sometimes this may give an appearance of "driving," but with proper introduction to stock these dogs usually begin to circle and fetch. Gathering/fetching is the usual behavior seen in most untrained Collies. Because they are easily trained and versatile, Collies are quick to learn any type of herding task. Collies show a good ability to read stock and to balance or control the direction of the stock in relation to the handler. They are quick to pick up new ideas, both good and bad, but may turn off if the handler pushes them too hard during a lesson. A Collie which has been trained to herd usually will work at an easy gait, often a relaxed trot, and will walk up in a straight line rather than moving back and forth excessively. Barking, which is common, will lessen or stop altogether with experience. A good working Collie can be taught to grip noses if challenged by aggressive stock, and will stop immediately on command as well.

Undesirable Traits in the Inexperienced Dog
Most undesirable traits are those seen in a dog with little or no herding instinct. Undesirable behaviors include chasing stock, continually splitting the stock, gripping or biting for no reason, lack of interest, quitting or leaving when being directed by the handler or when challenged by stock, timidity and refusing to leave the handler's side to approach the stock.

Undesirable Traits in the Trained Dog
The level of experience should be kept in mind. A Collie with considerable experience usually works silently, calmly, and is obedient to the handler unless the handler gives an incorrectcommand (a Collie's herding instinct often will override an incorrect command). Undesirable traits include working too close to the stock, splitting the stock, constantly circling the stock, disobeying a correct command, uncalled-for gripping or excessive force, losing contact with the stock or quitting. Also undesirable is a dog who cannot think for himself but needs to be told every move to make.

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