How to Stop Your Dog From Herding

This border collie is focused and ready to give chase.
i Border Collie 2 image by Lee O'Dell from

Herding dogs, like border collies and Australian cattle dogs, are very intelligent. They also have very strong working instincts, which may compel them to “work” at home by herding family members or other animals. This behavior may include chasing, nipping and barking. Fortunately, you can train your dog to stop in a few basic steps.

Teaching the Recall

Step 1

Stand approximately 10 feet away from your dog. Allow him to explore and behave normally.

Step 2

Crouch down and hold a treat out in your hand.

Step 3

Call his name. As soon as he focuses his attention on you, issue the “come” command in a friendly and inviting voice. Your dog will come, because of the treat. It’s important to time the “come” command so he associates the sound of the command with the act of approaching you.

Step 4

Praise the dog verbally. It’s essential the dog learns that coming to you when called always has a positive outcome. Repeat the exercise every day, gradually increasing the distance from which you perform the recall. Once he understands what it means, perform the command without the treat and crouching gesture.

Discouraging Herding

Step 1

Observe the dog. Note any stimuli that cause him to exhibit herding behavior, such as people running, bicycles or other pets going by.

Step 2

Note any gestures he makes that typically signify he’s about to start herding. Herding dogs typically crouch down and stare at their subject before attempting to herd them.

Step 3

Put the dog on a long, slack leash.

Step 4

Create a controlled environment in which to expose your dog to stimuli likely to make him herd. Remove all distractions such as toys and food. You can do this indoors, but if you have a secure yard, that’s preferable. The more space the better. Have some friends or adult family members recreate the circumstances that are most likely to make your dog herd. For example, get them to run past the dog.

Step 5

thenest article image

working class dog 2 image by Lee O'Dell from

Monitor the dog's behavior and gestures. Wait until he gives a sign that he's about to start herding, such as crouching down.

Step 6

Issue the “come” command. Time the command so he hears it before he begins to chase.

Step 7

Observe his reaction. If he comes straight away, issue lots of verbal praise. If he ignores you, use the leash to gently prevent him from giving chase and say “no.” This way he learns that responding to the "come" command has a positive outcome, while indulging his herding instinct has a negative reaction. Repeat the exercise for 20 minutes a day until you are confident he will respond to the recall. Once you are confident, practice the exercise without the leash.

the nest