- 1). Ingrain basic commands into a cattle dog puppy. Teaching the pup to sit, lie down, stay and come when instructed are the invaluable first steps to grooming a stock herder. You may begin with commands common to working dogs, like "That'll do" as a "work's over" signal, but work with whatever language suits you and the animal best.
Sheep accustomed to dogs are a good choice for training a blue heeler in herding.sheeps queue on sheep-run image by Piotr Rydzkowski from Fotolia.com
Train your blue heeler with sheep or cattle at ease with dogs. A dog unaccustomed to stock coupled with stock unused to dogs is a difficult situation; both are liable to act uncontrollably. Livestock familiar with herding dogs can help train a heeler as much as you can.
- 3). Wait until your cattle dog can outrun sheep or cows before training it with stock. As Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius note in "Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep," stock that can run faster than the dog may encourage the heeler to simply chase the herd. This might foster the more predatory, coursing behavior and make it more difficult to train the dog to head off a stray bunch and lead them in.
- 4). Work with the dog's instinctual herding ability. Experts suggest various ages to begin training herding dogs with stock: Many believe a dog about a year old is best able to begin the process. But supervise your dog with a suitably calm and canine-friendly group of sheep, for example, and see when his or her natural inclinations express themselves.
- 5). Begin herding exercises in a relatively confined area so you have firmer control over the situation. This also will make the preliminary work easier for the dog.
Basic herding skills involve bunching animals together and driving them toward the shepherd.Heeler Pup 14 image by Lee O'Dell from Fotolia.com
Emphasize herding basics first. First hone the dog's ability to bunch the herd together -- usually a natural talent -- then encourage it to drive the animals toward you. Once these herd-management skills are falling into place, you can progress to the more advanced practices of directional herding and switching between multiple stock groups.