Guild of Shepherds & Collies

Herding Communication

Dogs are loving, loyal, and eager to please.

Dogs are loving, loyal, and eager to please. They want to succeed as much as you do, and they are listening to everything you say and watching everything you do. By listening to and respecting them, you can create a successful and fulfilling partnership, and take your herding to new heights. 

Positive communication skills are the key to any relationship, and they are essential for a successful partnership between you and your dog. Herding requires laser focus from your dog, and full attention from you. There’s so much going on, especially in a competition, that it’s easy for your dog to get distracted. However, your dog will automatically follow your lead if you are focused on him or her and sending clear, consistent signals. Herding is a delicate dance that requires a strong connection to succeed.

Your dog is not just listening to what you say but following your every move. It takes practice, but it is of the utmost importance that you learn to be aware of your body language and pair it with your dog’s keen observation skills, to send a strong, crystal clear message every time. For example, your posture, where you look, how you breathe, and how tensed or relaxed you are, all send essential messages to your dog. The trick is making sure all those messages are saying the same thing.

Dogs are masters of using their senses. They can see your tiniest movements, hear your softest requests, and sense how you’re feeling at all times. When you ask your dog to perform, it is essential that you make your requests calmly and with confidence.

Imagine listening to another language. You might be able to pick out a few words but mostly you will hear the raw emotion and cadence of the voice. So it is with your dog. Herding is a complex activity with a lot of moving parts. Both you and your dog are excited and ready to go. It is important to direct that energy into herding and not allow it to make you or your dog nervous and on edge.

Dogs whose herding instincts have been carefully preserved through dedicated breeding are natural herders. Imagine a pack of wolves working as a team to quickly and effectively reach their goal. Each member of the pack knows his or her place and is in constant communication with his or her fellow pack members. All are following the leader, who quietly and confidently brings them to success.

These natural abilities are already bred into your herding dog. The key is creating a trusting partnership and learning and improving together, until you are perfectly in sync.

When you achieve that ideal partnership, each of you will flow through the moves of herding, in pure harmony. You will enter a higher state of being, in which your senses are alive and you communicate as naturally as you breathe. You will feel peace, energy, and a bond as strong as steel between you and your dog.

It’s a long, challenging road to get there...but it is so worth it!!

About the Author

Kathy Kawalec lives on a little piece of paradise in Manhattan, Illinois with her husband Joe, pack of border collies, sheep, cats, ducks, guineas and chickens.

Training and competing with her beloved border collies in international level sheepdog competitions around the country is Kathy's passion. She is a holistic and positive dog trainer, coach, author, entrepreneur, and is passionate about helping people and the dogs they love be brilliant together!

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