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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are the proud adopted family of a Border/Aussie cross who wandered into our lives about 2 months ago.

I believe she is a cross. My mother has a Border/Aussie cross and they have very similar body types and coats as opposed to my mother's pure bred Aussie ... anyway, I don't think it matters much.

She does have the herding instinct, because when my horses are feeling a little frisky, they like to run from me in the field instead of being caught. She has been pretty helpful when this happens and will chase them back up the hill to me, and she will keep doing this until either they stop running away, or I tell her to stop. She has also caught on pretty quickly when I wanted to corner them in the paddock.

However, I have never had a herding dog, and now that I do I'm wondering how to train that instinct.

Horses don't really like to be "herded" so I don't really want to gather them up and get them in a pen.

What I have in mind is something like keeping them from leaving the yard when I let them out to "mow the lawn". ;)

Their only escape would be the driveway, so I was wondering how I can train her to keep them passing a certain barrier on the driveway ... kind of like guarding a gate.

Any referrences or suggestions?
Remember, I'm a newbie to the herders.

I've trained dogs before... just not one this smart. And boy is she smart. She's out smarted me a couple of times. :eyeroll:
 

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However, I have never had a herding dog, and now that I do I'm wondering how to train that instinct.
Our last few dogs have been Shelties--Shetland Sheep Dogs--so we know herders! I suppose if you wanted your dog to do specific things, you might train formally, but otherwise, believe me, your dog WILL herd!! Our boys herd everything from our Westie to my kids when they were younger, to the mailman, who one of them once nipped on his ankle when he wasn't moving in the direction he wanted! Fortunately, the mailman understood. It was completely natural behavior: think how dogs herd sheep, moving them in the direction they want with nips and barks.... We've found our dogs are naturally working dogs: they just need a job description, and off they go. They're very obedient. Lovely dogs. So is yours, sounds like. Our Westie boy is far less inclined to behave in this way. "What's in it for me?" is his first response to any request. Very different.
 

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What I would do is google "herding instinct test" and your city. See if you can find somebody nearby to help you out. Herding is pretty complicated, so you will need somebody to mentor you.

Most who offer herding instinct tests and lessons have a flock of sheep or goats that they will work your dog on, so you don't have to use your horses to practice. Sheep are a lot easier and safer anyway....Horses will kick. Sheep are much more passive.
 

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110% find a nearby trainer that would be willing to work with your dog. I'm the type who generally feels comfortable teaching herself things, and once I dug into herding it became very apparent to me that it's not the kind of thing you should expect to be able to do well (at all) without coaching for both dog and handler. It's very complex and considered harder to train for than a lot of other dog activities, and the safety of stock also has to be taken into consideration.

If your dog's style is more similar to a BC's I'm sure there are a lot of good resources, but most of my research is more toward loose-eyed dogs' thinking and herding styles so I will drop a few good resources in that or a neutral vein for you:

Working Aussie Source Stockdog LibraryWorking Aussie Source Stockdog Library.

Stockdog Savvy


It sounds like you want your dog to keep a boundary for you, so perhaps also look into the HGH Tending style of herding usually associated with GSDs, etc.*

All of that said, you should know that relatively few professional herding instructors are going to like the idea of you using a dog to control horses, so maybe be prepared to have faces made at you. It's considered quite dangerous for both dog and horse - horses pack a punch that is above and beyond what a sheep or cow will generally dish out and are thin-skinned/easily injured.

* The fact that it's associated with continental shepherds and not BCs/Aussies shouldn't deter you too much from sourcing learning material from that style... as long as the dog has basic herding instincts (desire to group stock rather than single out one prey item to chase and desire to control the animal's movement) they can often learn to do a little of more or less any style of herding with the right guidance, even if it's not where their strongest talent lies.
 
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I agree with finding a good teacher. I've been going on this journey with my ES, and we've just gotten to the point where he's ready to begin regular lessons. I feel like I've muddled through obedience pretty well by using this sight and some good books for guidance, but herding is a whole other can of worms. The most difficult situation (which I am in too!) is having a green dog on green stock. Training your dog on broke sheep under a watchful eye will let you make progress much faster and more safely with fewer undesirable behaviors.

I'll also second the warning about letting your dog work horses. They are faster and can kick so much harder even than cows. If one clips your dog it could do permanent damage, or at least put her off herding altogether. I would at least take her to some lessons and get her suitability for such work assessed by an experienced trainer.

Lots of people train BCs, but it can be hard to find someone willing to work with loose-eyed dogs like aussies. Further, many trainers don't think twice about using very aversive methods when training herding. But it's definitely worth the effort to find a good one if this is something you want to pursue.
 

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Also agree with finding a good trainer. Step 1 of herding is having a dog with a good instinct, which your dog seems to have. Step 2 is finding someone who can teach you how to control that instinct at close and far distances. THAT is difficult.

I would also be weary of using the dog to herd horses. I have seen many dogs who have been injured or killed by a horse being a little agitated. It only has to happen once for there to be major injuries or death. I also would no be willing to leave horses in a yard without a fence hoping the dog keeps them in, as a dog can be easily over powered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you all for the suggestions. I'll look into finding someone in my area who has some experience and can help me out.

And I agree with all of you that I don't want her to "work" the horses necessarily. They can kick and injure her badly - I am very aware of this - and she can bite a pretty important part of a horse's leg. Plus, my main goal is for the horses and her to get along well on trail rides and in the pasture. If they were combative towards her, I wouldn't even be thinking about it, but my herd is pretty laid back and they just kind of trot away from her.

I have an ornery little pony who will convince the others that its a lot more fun to watch Mom chase them around the pasture for an hour than it is just be caught. Ponies are of the devil, btw.

I've had other dogs get rough with my gelding and he will put his head down and chase them. And I have a donkey who has done the same to my brothers lug head lab.

However she is so calm and steady, I noticed that they respond to her "pushes" instead of turning on her - so the light bulb lite up above my head and I thought she could help me out. Also, I'm 7 months pregnant and need all the help I can get! ;)

AND if she is a working dog, I need to find her some work. I don't have sheep or goats, so I'm looking for productive ways to get her busy. Other than chewing up a box or two in the garage while we are gone, she hasn't shown any signs of needing to release her pent up energy. We are very active ... but now that I'm getting closer to my due date, I can't take her on long bike rides or hikes. I have to get creative.
 

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A colt cost my eldest BC bitch her right eye. Kick to the head. Just be careful, also your gelding putting his head down and chasing, he might bite your dog or much worse stomp on her. I understand your dilemma, just be careful. You might consider getting the book "stockdog Savvy" it's a very good book that's not so heavily biased towards BC's.
 
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