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Training Australian Cattle Dogs

Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and independent thinkers who tend to react to aggression with aggression.  A Cattle Dog needs to be trained or they will find their own things to do which may not please you. A positive style of training rewarding with food, toys or life rewards is the most effective way of training a cattle dog.

Cattle Dogs independent thought means they respond very well to clicker training where their behaviour is shaped to what you want – cattle dogs just love to work out what behaviour is going to get them that reward.

Teaching “give me your paw” with Tili @Dragonstones Cattle Dogs

So how do we train using Positive Training

The basic principles are:

  • Reward (Positive reinforcement) to increase the behaviours you want
  • Ignore (Negative punishment) to stop behaviours you do not want

Know what behaviours you want from your dog:

  • Reinforce by rewarding what you like
  • Ignore what you don’t like
  • Completely and utterly ignore them – look or turn away and remain completely passive, or calmly walk away, or leave area
  • Redirect the dog to a behaviour you can then positively reward after ~ 5 secs
  • Manage the situation by getting the dog out of the situation before the bad behaviour starts, walk away to gain distance, crate or put dog in a no trouble area
  • Break down each behaviour into tiny pieces (approximations) 
    You want the dog to go lie on its mat 
    – show interest in mat
    – move towards the mat
    – put one foot on the mate
    – put two feet on the mat
    – put 3 feet on the mate
    – put 4 feet on the mat
    – get on mat
    – lie down on mat
    – lie on mat for longer and longer time (increment of seconds)
    – send to mat from further and further away (increment of half a step) 
    – and then go lie on the mat while more and more distracting things are happening
  • Raising the criterion once each step is learned
  • Remember the 3D principle and raising only one of these criteria at a time:
    • distraction
    • distance
    • duration
  • When raising one criterion you need to lower the other criteria
  • Learned behaviour is one that occurs correctly in at least 8 out of 10 tries out of 10 trials in different locations with varying degree of distraction
  • Keep sessions short and successful – ideal 3-5 sessions of 3-5minutes working on a behaviour/ set of behaviours at a time.
  • Always stop when the dog wants more
  • Proper timing is everything – mark &/ reward in half a second, late or early timing might mark the wrong behaviour
  • Dogs need down time at the end of a session to think about what they learnt
  • Remember attention good or bad is a reward

The Clicker

  • A clicker is a device that makes a short sharp sound, there are a number of different models of clicker on the market.
  • The click marks the end of the behaviour Whatever you want the dog to repeat now or again in the future, the click will mark that behaviour – the paying attention, the response to your call, the self control etc
  • For every click there will be a reward – within 5 seconds of the click in the beginning.

Training Resources

Some of our favourites.

Web Sites:
For all you need to know about clicker training –

Sylvia Trkman’s training –

Bertilsson, Eva & Johnson Vegh, Emelie, 2010. Agility right from the start.
ISBN 978-1-890948-41-2

Dennison, Pamela, 2005. The complete idiots guide to: Positive Dog Training.
ISBN 1-59257-483-1

Donaldson, Jean. 2005 The Cluture Clash.
ISBN 1-888047-05-4

McDevitt,Leslie. 2007. Control Unleashed. Book & DVD’s

Miller, Pat. 2008. The Power of Positive Dog Training.
ISBN 978-0-470-24184-4

Parsons, Emma. 2005. Click to Calm, Healing the agressive Dog.
ISBN 1-89090948-20-9

Pryor, Karen. 1999. Don’t shoot the dog: The new art of Teaching and Training.

A good source for DVD’s is or directly from the person presenting the DVD.

Sylvia Trkman

  • Heeling is jut another Trick
  • Cik & Cap
  • Tricks for a great Bond

Susan Garrett

  • Success with one jump
  • Crate games

Susan Salo

  • Foundation Jumping
  • Advanced Jumping
  • Puppy Jumping

Greg Derrett

  • Great Dog shame about the handler
  • Great dog great handler – a winning combination
  • On course to Excel

Moe Strenfel

  • Foundation training for Agility

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