Games to play with herding dogs 2023

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Games to play with herding dogs

Olivia_Hoover | Editor | E-mail

As the name suggests, herding dogs have a strong natural instinct to herd livestock, a task for which they were originally bred. Unfortunately, there probably aren’t any sheep in your backyard for a grayling to gather, which leads to behavioral issues in your hardworking, pup. Prevent your dog from grazing your pet’s shoes, children or other pets by engaging him in games that play into his natural herding instinct.

Games to play with herding dogs Credit: Gravity
Games to play with herding dogs Credit: Gravity


And fortunately for the puppies born to herd, there is a game called treibball just for them. Giant fitness balls of different colors and sizes serve as a flock for your shepherd to “herd” into the soccer goal. This competitive team sport in Germany has been specially designed to provide herding dogs with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Typically, in training and game sessions, eight dogs can play, each attempting to kick balls into a goal within 10 minutes. If you don’t want to join a local treibball group to compete, you can simply play this game with your pup one-on-one in your own backyard. Set up a soccer goal and teach your dog to ride fitness balls on it on command.

Fetch and Flyball

Part of a herding dog’s behavior is to find and gather moving objects or animals in a designated space. By playing in this behavior, the object-stimulating game of fetch provides action fun, even though it’s not farm animals, and allows your fetch to bring the object to you, which means it will “nurture” you. Fetch doesn’t have to be boring, your dog is constantly chasing after the same old game or game of tennis, bringing it back to you, spice it up a bit by substituting a movable disc for it to pick up and retrieve. You can also try flyball, which is a competitive sport that combines fetch with speed. The game involves your pup chasing a tennis ball as part of an agility course that he must complete in a certain amount of time.

Hide and seek

Many herding breeds do well when it comes to search and rescue because of the ability of their ancestors to round up stray animals on the farm. Take advantage of this by teaching your dog to play hide and seek with people and toys. Tell your pup to stay in one room while you “hide” him in another and then call him. When he finds you, reward him with delicious treats and praise. Increase the difficulty during back-to-back games by hiding under covers or behind furniture, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You can also have your pup find his favorite toy, let your steamer smell the toy and put it in an easy place for him to find it. Praise and treat him when he does, making each successive time more challenging for him.

Agility work and herding

Herding dogs such as border collies, German shepherds and various types of sheepdogs are highly intelligent and hard-working. But if you don’t engage them in the activities, they will take their natural instincts and apply them in destructive ways. This is why you must play games daily with these high energy puppies to keep them out of trouble. Consider entering a herding dog in professional agility competitions with complex courses for mobility. Training for agility competitions allows you to work on obedience while giving your shepherd an outlet for his energy. Another option is to enroll him in herding tests and trials offered by the local herding club or the National Breed Club. You can find this information on the American Kennel Club website. That way, your urban or suburban pup can herd farm animals just as his ancestors did.

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