I know this is a sheep forum, but to many of us a sheepdog is very much a part of life on our operation. Maybe a sticky would be a good idea with tips on choosing and training a sheepdog, and/or links.
So you want to buy a sheepdog. A well trained working dog can be an incredible help with a working sheep operation. Before you get a dog you need to consider what kind of job he will be doing? Will you need him to gather sheep from a pasture, load the trailer? push sheep through chutes? Pen work? Guard sheep?
I highly recommend watching that breed at work before deciding for sure. Then watch the parents before choosing a pup.
Once you have decided what work your dog needs to be doing you need to ask yourself if you can train the dog to do that work. It's more difficult than it seems.
You will need to spent quite a lot of time training that dog for the first year of his life. You can't expect to just turn him loose to train himself. This happens far too often ending up with livestock being injured/killed, and the dog taking all the blame for only doing what he was bred for.
If you do decide to train, then educate yourself with books, videos, and/or a teacher you can visit for help. I highly recommend attending a few clinics or classes on herding dogs to get started before buying.
Another option is getting a trained dog, or sending it out to be trained.
Below is a video of one of my dogs penning cattle in a free standing pen , showing some bite work. They have never been in that pen before. You can see where it can be useful.
I agree with you wendle, also note the difference between a livestock guardian dog verus a herding dog. Some may not know the difference.
Before I get "Smacked" yes some herding dogs can be LGD's. However they are not bred to guard, just herd. So many of you may have a herding dog that works for you. I personally would not suggest to a new person wanting a LGD to start off with a herding dog. JM2 cents.
Do your homework on what LGD's are.
"If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest."
- Douglas William Jerrold
I was thinking about video taping my lgd too, but it's like watching paint dry most of the time as he is sleeping during the day. I figure lgd's get covered pretty well in the other forum too. Both types of dogs are very important in many operations.
Even though there is no guarantee the pup is going to follow in his parent's paw prints , choosing a pup out of good working dogs behind him increases the likelihood of ending up with something good by quite a bit. If somebody is breeding two working dogs he is more likely to know their talents and faults. If a person is breeding two dogs that don't work, but are of a herding breed, then it becomes more of a crap shoot. Do that for a few generations and who knows what you get.
I prefer to know not only the parents, but the bloodlines and some of their ancestors as well.
Livestock guarding dogs are very different from the "other" livestock working dogs -- the herding dogs. Herding dogs use intimidation and actual physical force to move livestock. These dogs are not usually left on their own with stock; they serve as the herdsman's right-hand and typically remain with him unless sent after stock. When he is sent after the flock, the herding dog uses the "predator eye" to intimidate herd animals and move them away from him. When the "eye" fails, some dogs bark or nip to force stock to move.
A herding dog, also known as a stock dog or working dog, is a type of pastoral dog that either has been trained in herding or belongs to breeds developed for herding. Their ability to be trained to act on the sound of a whistle or word of command is renowned throughout the world.
I know I just cringe every time I read an ad about a "Great Pyr crossed with a Border Collie" "Great Farm Dog" it says... (never mind the centuries of breeding for distinctive traits exactly 180 degrees opposite each other..) poor pups..
Do LGDs and herding dogs typically tolerate each otherís presence well?
I would say they do if the lgd has been around herding dogs, and then the herding dog is decent with the sheep. I have been on a farm where the lgd attacked my dog, that particular lgd was eventually put down for attacking a human. Each dog is going to be different. The dog in the video(Zeus) has grown up around border collies. He is very good at tolerating strange dogs working his sheep. He will get upset if a dog gets rough, and then bumps and mouths the aggressor. The more the dog gets aggressive I think the more Zeus will get upset. One time I had a German shepherd out for lessons. Zeus didn't like the dog right off. It turns out the dog was very aggressive and couldn't be around sheep without a muzzle. It could have gotten ugly had the dog been turned loose on
Zeus's flock. Even though Zeus looks passive in the video, he is right on the ball when it comes to protecting from coyotes.
The LGD gets aggitated when his charges are upset. The herding dog can get more excited when the sheep are upset. It will depend on the dog. Some talented herding dogs automatically take the pressure off when they see she sheep get upset.
If you are a beginner with none to little handling experience and if you want a good dog who is worth a dang shell out the bucks and get a trained dog and the human training on how to work your new purchase. Dog training is an art in and of itself, stock dog training is a cut above that and for the time and money you would put into purchasing, socializing, feeding, vetting, and training a puppy you could get a fully trained stock dog who would be an asset rather than a headache.
You get to see more of their personalities when they are older, and buying a trained dog is a guarantee that this dog will work stock, you don't get that with a puppy. Even with good working lines instinct and drive will vary among puppies, some litters more than others, so even if you spend all that time picking a good line, socializing and training you might not end up with the end product you want.
You should also know that training a green dog on stock that are not dog broken is another potential nightmare and many trainers will absolutely forbid their students to work their green or intermediate dogs on anyone else's stock to prevent the dog from being turned off. Once a dog is turned off due to aggressive stock, a bad experience, etc. they are very hard to turn back on and will often times will have to be put through the basics again.
At the very least you should have a trainer to work with who can help teach you how to work stock and a stockdog as you are training your dog. Anything less then that would be setting yourself up for a very slim chance of success IMO.
You should research the breed you are interested in, learn their herding style, and see if that will fit with what you want your stockdog to do(as has been said above). When you are researching that breed you should also look up the common health problems of that breed and see if your breeder knows what these are and even better see that the breeder tests their adult stock for such health problems. A stock dog isn't worth a dang if it develops hip dysplasia.
When finding a trainer try to find one without breed prejudice or one that is too trial focused. You need your trainer to be flexible and conscientious of your end goal, who won't discount your aussie for using his voice, or a rottie for his less than perfect pear outrun. Your own feelings about training methods will dictate what you will tolerate from a trainer but you should know that in many cases the use of positive punishment(this is the addition of a punishment not a "good" punishment) such as a loud noise from a can full of rocks, to a cane being smacked on the ground in front of the dogs face, to a cane being smacked(gently) on the dogs neck/shoulders is necessary to curb and shape the herding instinct and to protect the training stock depending on how tenacious your dog is. However you should NEVER tolerate a trainer who beats a dog, yells at them more than 5 seconds after they have stopped their misbehavior, or is excessively violent with their corrections. Your trainer should be compassionate and should want the dog to enjoy herding as a happy dog learns faster and will retain more of the lesson and look forward to future instruction.
If you choose to get a puppy most trainers will insist that your dog know some basic obedience commands before being allowed in with the stock. You should not teach your dog directional commands but a good solid down stay will be necessary for their career as a stock dog and can be trained in the absence of stock.
Lastly you should never encourage your dog to herd things they might easily harm due to a low griping(biting) impulse. A dog with little patience can easily crush a duck, a hen, or a cat in the blink of an eye.
My stock dog is the most valuable tool on my farm I'd even put him above the tractor in list of importance, but in order to use any tool correctly you have to understand how it works, and how to use it effectively. The same goes with a stock dog. The more homework you do the better your relationship will be with your future dog and the happier you will be with your decision to use a stock dog.
Just out of curiosity...could one take a "coon hound" and use it to guard sheep?
I remember as a kid, a big black and tan we had, would literally tear a limb off of someone, if they would decide to do any of us kids harm.
JMO and worth what you apid for it, but i think the homesteader or hobby farmer are the ideal place to try to keep working ability alive in herding breeds no longer widely used. if you're raising on a commercial scale you need aussies, BCs, heelers & curs. but when i get around to raising on a scale to feed just the family, i think i might try a sheltie, a samoyed or a belgian sheperd of some sort. but i will invest in professional training w/ someone that will train me more than the dog.
it's not a sport unless the animal can kill you back
be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet