The following directions for training shepherd dogs, given by Dr. N. H. Paaren, will be found of great value to those desiring such information: ‘Most men professing to train young Collies display much ignorance of the nature of the breed, and of the aptitude of the particular individual for its peculiar work; and hence many dogs are made unfit for useful service. Every Collie pup has a natural instinct for work among sheep, nevertheless pups should be trained with an old dog. Their ardent temperament requires subduing, and there is no more effectual way of doing this than keeping them in company with an experienced dog. A long string attached to the pup’s neck, in the hands of the shepherd, is often necessary to make it become acquainted with the language of the various evolutions connected with work.
With this contrivance he may learn to “Come in!”, “Come in behind!”, “Lie down!”, “Be quiet!”, “Speak to them!”, “Get over the fence!”. He will, if due patience and constancy is exercised, learn all these terms, and others, in a short time. The bitch is generally more acute in learning than the dog, and is not so apt to be lazy, though the dog will hear the greater fatigue. The quietly-disposed shepherd mostly prefers the bitch, and is chary of working her when in pup.
The best time to begin the training of a pup is about the sixth or eighth month of its age. ‘When a year old or more, before his training is begun, he will never amount to much. The most sensible and easily trained pups are those which are got by pure-bred and well-bred parents, and from well-broke ancestors on both sides of the kennel. A Shepherd’s dog takes as much pleasure in driving sheep as some curs do in following a wagon; and it is as natural for a Shepherd’s dog to run back and forth behind a flock of sheep as it is for a setter to raise his forefoot at the sight of game; but beyond this they have to be taught. Before taking the young dog into the field, he should be perfectly familiar with you. He should know his name, and mind you when called upon. If he is not attentive, or does not come immediately, speak sharply to him, or lightly box his ears, but never jerk him by them; practice this until he will come at your bidding, even if he knows he is to get a flogging. Never punish the dog unless he knows why he gets punished. Do not whip him before you are satisfied whether he understands your order, or whether he disobeys from unwillingness.
All orders should be accompanied by a motion with the hand in the direction you wish him to go. If he does not come when called upon, or refuses to go in the direction you send him, continue to give the same order, and make the same motion until you can get up to him, and then punish him, if he deserves it. Never let him go without correction when he disobeys, and then, an hour after, when he has forgotten all about it, whip him because you have finally got hold of him, and are angry. In order to give your dog confidence in you, and make him attached and obedient, your conduct should be such as to make him think you a right good fellow. A few whippings may possibly be necessary with certain dogs in the course of training, but the whippings should be few and far between, and always with moderation, and with a feeling of due regard for humanity; otherwise your dog is apt to become dogged, morose, sullen, and a coward.
The rudiments of training of a Shepherd dog consist in bringing him to promenade back and forth from one side of the flock to the other at the motion of your hand. The next step will be to have him pass up the side of the flock — yourself and the dog supposed to be at the rear of the flock. Your dog is supposed to be conversant with the meaning of this motion of your hand and arm; so when you point forward with your left hand and arm, you must continue calling out the words, ‘ Away up!’ until he gets hold of your meaning, and goes up along the left of the flock. Having nothing else to do, exercise your patience and improve your voice by a constant reiteration of your commands — always throwing your arm out, as you would in directing a man who was beyond the reach of your voice. Idleness is the progenitor of laziness and vice, wherefore, in order to prevent your pup from acquiring either of these habits, keep him constantly occupied, by putting in almost your entire time in making him do something, provided, of course, that you do not worry the flock or tire your dog too much. By degrees, the dog will be urged up towards the head of the flock, and partly around. While there, change your position at the rear of the flock, towards the right — supposing you wero at the left, and your dog had been sent upon along the left side — and call him down towards you along the right side, by making a motion towards you, and crying ‘Come in!’.
A sweep of the arm from the side you wish him to start to the other, is the proper motion, when you want him to go ahead and around them, and the motion should be accompanied with the cry ‘ Around them!’ It requires some time and patience to bring the dog up and ahead of the flock. It will come by degrees; and if your pup is possessed of some good, hard dog sense, it will not take him long to know that ‘ Up! Away up!’ means that he shall go for the head of the flock. Always call his name in giving any order, and always make the motion with your hand. If he does not quite understand your meaning, he will most probably stop on his way up and look around at you, to see what comes next, when you must repeat your motion, and cry, ‘ Up! Away up!’ until he goes ahead.
If you are driving a flock along a fenced road, or in a field along a fence, and you want your dog to go ahead of them, get over the fence yourself, and motioning and calling the dog’, ‘Over and up! ‘ he will mount the fence, when he fathoms your meaning, and go ahead inside the fence, or outside, as directed. If you want him to stay at a certain place, away from you, teach him to ‘ Stop there!’ or ‘ Lie down!’ If you wish to go ahead of your flock yourself and have the dog remain behind, go ahead along one side; and if the dog wants to follow you. drive him back with threatening motions, and the words ‘Go behind! ‘ and when he has got back to place, keep an eye on him, and say occasionally ‘ Drive them up! ‘ and ‘ Speak to them! ‘ By practicing this a short time on a fenced road, the dog can be taught to bring the flock up after you, in whatever direction, even on a wide field.
It is not desirable to have the dog barking much of the time. You must teach him to ‘ Keep quiet!’ and to ‘ Speak to them!’ In order to make him speak to them whenever you wish him to, make a big fuss yourself, and so get him excited, when, by singing out ‘ Speak to them!’ you can set him barking. This is especially desirable when he is bringing up the rear, when crossing a railroad, driving them over a stream, or into a yard. In training a dog, a shepherd must be careful in not letting him get the habit of crowding the sheep too much, whether they are on the move or are grazing in the field. Some Shepherd dogs acquire the habit of taking hold of the legs of the sheep, whereby the skin is apt to break, if the wool is not of some length. If the dog is trained to catch any sheep that is pointed out to him, he should be taught to take hold at the side of the neck near the shoulder, not at the ear, and least of all, at the throat.
In Texas, they have a way of training dogs with sheep. A pup is taken from its mother before its eyes are opened, and put with a ewe to suckto, After a few times the ewe becomes reconciled to the pup, which follows her like a lamb, grows up among, and remains with, the flock; and no wolf, man, or strange dog can come near the flock of sheep; and the flock will follow the dog to the fold regularly at half-past seven P. M., if you habitually feed him at that time.
It would be quite possible to cause the dog to perform all his duties by means of the motions of hand and arm alone, and without words, but the voice keeps up an understanding between the man and the dog, and helps to while away many a long hour. Too much use of the voice, however, is apt to make the dog unmindful and regardless of it. As to the names of dogs, they should be short and emphatic, not exceeding two syllables, for long names are difficult to pronounce when quick action is required.
Most young Shepherd dogs make a great noise, bustle about in an impatient manner, or run fiercely at the sheep, biting their ears and legs, and they generally overdo their work. Great harm may accrue to sheep by allowing the dog to work in these ways. Whenever sheep hear a dog bark that is accustomed to hound them every day, they will instantly start from their grazing, gather together, and run to the farthest fence, and a good while will elapse before they will settle again. And even when sheep are gathered, a dog of high travel, and allowed to run out, will drive them hither and thither, without any apparent object. When a dog is allowed to run far out, it gets beyond the control of the shepherd; and such a style of working among wether sheep, puts them past their feeding for a time; with ewes it is very apt to cause abortion; and with lambs, after they are weaned, it is apt to overheat them, induce palpitation, and a considerable time will elapse before they recover their natural breathing.”
A Shepherd dog should be taught to keep quiet unless ordered to bark, by saying ” Speak to them! ” and should be also trained to bark when thus directed. Barking is seldom necessary, except when penning sheep, when sometimes a quick, sharp bark will do more towards getting the leaders of the flock in, than continued barking would. Give him short and easy lessons, being sure that he thoroughly understands one before giving him another, otherwise he will become confused in his teaching. Always demand obedience to all calls, giving him daily lessons, and using invariably the same signs and calls, so that he will be able to understand them, giving him at all times kind and just treatment.
excerpted from: American farming and stock raising: with useful facts for the household, devoted to farming in all its departments
by Charles Louis Flint