Many families select herding dogs such as border collies, Australian shepherds or German shepherds as companions due to the animal's protective reputation. Reward this dog's loyalty by playing the type of games that naturally engage his herding instincts.
Fetch by Name
Begin by holding up an object and repeating the name of that object to the dog. Then place the object several feet away from the dog. Command the dog to fetch that specific object. Once the dog masters the first object, add another and another until several objects are in the field of play. This teaches the dog to focus on one specific item among many others. This skill is quite useful when herding and one member of the herd wanders off and you want to command the dog to go bring that animal back to the rest of the herd.
This game is sometimes referred to as "drive ball" because the dogs appear to be driving the ball across the field. It could be likened to soccer for dogs as the aim of the game is for the dog to work in conjunction with other canines to push large inflated balls across a field into a goal using their noses and heads as guidance for the ball direction. There is a designated field of play with eight balls in play at one time with a time clock keeping track of 15-minute sessions of play. The game was developed in Germany. Several European countries now have leagues and the sport has found its way to the United States, where teams are playing in California, Maryland and Florida.
Herd the Humans
This is an effective way to break herding dogs of the nasty habit of nipping at the animals being herded. Humans simply do not tolerate being nipped at by a dog. If the dog nips while herding humans, the human should gently bat the dog on the nose. Of course, the humans have to be willing to cooperate with the dog as it directs them. This can be a very engaging game for children and dogs as the kids will try to outsmart the dog and the dog will continue to work on getting the children to go in the direction the dog wants. Setting up a destination pen for the dog to "herd" the children to gives the dog a goal. If the dog nips, he is taken out of the game. Dogs quickly learn not to nip because they want to remain in the game engaged with the kids.
Hide and Seek
This teaches the dog to wait to spring into action until commanded. The human commands the dog to sit and wait. Then the human goes to hide. It is best to hide some place within the dog's hearing range so the dog can hear the command to go seek.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.