Urban and Suburban Herding Dogs

Teach basic herding commands through play.

Herding dogs need jobs to do or they can develop obsessive–compulsive behaviors. When acquired as companions, they require owners who understand how to draw out their best traits and satisfy their natural herding instincts.

A remote controlled sheep-herding machine from Hotel For Dogs. Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood. ©2008 DreamWorks LLC and Cold Spring Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Suburbanites and other people who don’t have access to livestock can still teach all the basic herding commands through herding games. Additionally, herding skills taught in a game format are fun activities to keep dogs in the city mentally and physically fit.

You can learn how to teach your dog valuable herding commands or just have fun with your dog with Stockdog Savvy and the Herding I, on DVD.

Stockdog Savvy  by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor is a practical and useful handbook for ranchers as well as the hobbyist. If you want to learn to train stockdogs for farm and ranch work in the real world or for competition, this is the book for you. Almost 300 pages illustrated with diagrams and how-to photographs galore!


Book review excerpt by Marsha Dusek, Recommended Reading Editor for The Australian Shepherd Journal, September/October 2010:

            “Not having lessons close by, however, I tried to learn however I could. I bought every book I could find on training your dog for stock work but somehow while understanding the theory; I still became a confused mess when sheep were running one way and my dog another. The success we seemed to have in those early lessons turned into confusion and doubt. Instructors had me shadow them, gave me directions through earphones, and just yelled at me but there has always been way too much going on during the lesson for it all to sink in. I feel like I can teach Cutter just about anything, but herding seemed to be so complex with everything going on at once that I found myself at a loss. Then a change in job meant I could no longer afford the time to drive to lessons a couple hours away and our stock dreams became just that for awhile.

            “But this year, after a two year break from stock and lots of time watching advanced dogs work I decided it was time to try again. So you can imagine how excited I was about a new book coming out, titled Stockdog Savvy, by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor (Alpine Publications 2010). I couldn’t wait to get my copy and I wasn’t disappointed.

            “Reading this book reminds me of my first year away at college. Despite having always been a good student, during finals I finally opened a textbook from one of my core classes and suddenly all of those lectures made so much more sense to me! Oh, if only I had done the reading throughout the semester!

            “Stockdog Savvy  is like that textbook I was so tardy in reading-it makes what you are doing out in the sheep pen so much clearer. Yes, your instructor can be telling you all of this during the lesson, but your brain can only process so much info when the sheep are moving, the dog is moving, and you are trying to make sense of it all at once. It doesn’t take the place of an instructor (though in some cases it might have to), but gives you a valuable reference away from the stock to read and reread until it really sinks into your brain. The book is written in such a practical and straightforward manner that I found metaphorical light bulbs coming on over my head with every chapter.

            “This is also an easy book to read. The authors have managed to find the perfect balance of information, instruction, inspiration and problem-solving. The book is neither too long nor too short-what you need to know is right there clear and simple.

            “First we are given a nice overview of herding dogs in general and what to look for when choosing one of your own. There are two chapters devoted to preparing your pup and laying a good solid foundation of basic commands, including games to teach flanking commands, walk ups, steady, skit ‘em, and others. These games are great for teaching the handler as well, so “go bye” and “way to me” are second nature before you’re even near your stock! And speaking of the handler, there’s a chapter just for you as well, with all those common terms and concepts that can seem so foreign to a newbie handler.

            “What follows is some of the clearest and most practical chapters on training your stock dog that I have come across. There are chapters on starting a new dog, making the most of your dog’s talent, outruns, driving skills, balance and penning, sorting and boundary training. Each chapter provides descriptions, training tips, and common problems and solutions. Along the way there are also spotlights on selected handlers and their dogs which are often inspiring.

            “The authors also provide chapters about stock savvy understanding the livestock and how they think, react, and move, as well as basic husbandry and overviews of the primary stock you will encounter. In addition there is a nice chapter dedicated to the care of your stock dog including diet, stamina, grooming and common problems and injuries.

            “Some of you may never keep stock of your own and be primarily focused on trialing and titles. Well, the authors have you covered! There are chapters on trial dogs, programs, and even what judges are looking for in the arena. So whether your Aussies have driven you to becoming a weekend herder, a hobby farmer, or you have them to help run your working ranch, there is something for you in this book.

            “While writing this, I took a break to work Cutter on our ducks. While we don’t have the space for sheep, we have managed a few ducks in our yard. As usual we went into the pen with a plan to work and then a few other things came up which we had not planned for. After coming back in I grabbed my copy of  Stockdog Savvy and looked at what we should have done in all those surprise situations. It made me realize just how much this book has become my go-to resource, especially since we can’t get to real stock lessons on a regular basis right now.


To order Stockdog Savvy or purchase the companion series, Herding I, II and III

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