Relevant sheepdog skills and their prices – UK

The various levels of a sheepdog's skills and their prices can be confusing

In recent years UK sheepdog and cattle dog prices have increased dramatically, despite the fluctuating prices of farm animals sold at market.

To put an accurate price on a sheepdog can be very difficult but we try to be fair to ourselves as well as the customer. Our price will reflect the dog's potential as well as its skill level at the time of valuation. Age can also make a big difference to the price of a sheep or cattle dog, with younger animals normally valued higher than older ones.

Strong looking smooth coated prick-eared collie at the ready
Dan - a powerful sheep and cattle dog

Started Sheepdog Prices:

A started dog is exactly what the title says. It's not a highly trained dog, it's a dog that knows just the bare essentials of the job. The hardest part of its initial training has been done for you by an expert but there is still much to do. You should only buy a started dog if you are prepared to put in quite a lot of time to continue the dog's training.

If you buy a started dog, you should get a dog which can be fairly easily encouraged to go around the sheep rather than through them, although the dog may still go through the sheep if you don't take it close to the sheep before you send it off. The dog may well be quite hard to stop, but in a young dog that's normal.

A good stop will normally develop as the dog's training progresses.

You can ruin a young dog by putting too much pressure on it to stop. You can also ruin a young dog by confronting it with aggressive sheep.

Generally, a started dog will cost upwards of £1,400.00 (GBP).


A border collie sheepdog stalking its sheep
A Part-trained sheepdog is ideal if you're not a confident trainer

Part Trained Sheepdog Prices:

What we call a part trained or intermediate dog is one that will do a medium outrun (say, 50 metres or so), and bring the sheep to you fairly reliably without having to be commanded too much.

This gather may not be perfect by any means, but it should be practical and workmanlike. The dog should keep the sheep together and not circle or go through them unless commanded.

It should stop fairly easily and be capable of balancing the sheep whilst bringing the sheep towards the handler (rather than just following them).

A dog with this kind of skill level will normally cost upwards of £1800.00 (GBP) although a dog with relatively little experience but which shows really good potential can cost much more than it's current skill level suggests.

If you buy an intermediate dog you should be able to get the dog doing useful work just a few days after you have bought it, but be prepared to continue its training. Further training will obviously be much easier than it would with a started or completely untrained dog.


Cattle and sheepdog Mel herding sheep towards the camera in golden sunlight
A “fully trained” sheepdog can be put to work quite soon after purchase, although it's full potential will not be realised until it's settled properly into its new home

“Fully Trained” Sheepdog Prices:

Firstly, understand that there is no such thing as a “fully trained” sheepdog. A dog which is perfect for one person, is only partly trained for another. For example, many farmers would describe a dog as “fully trained” if it will simply go out into the field and bring the sheep to a yard. Others want the dog to do so much more: shedding, penning, driving, help with lambing and so on. One person's part-trained dog is another's highly skilled worker. It all depends on the level of work you expect of your dog.

The term “Fully Trained” also suggests there is no further need for training but this is not the case. Just as with humans, dogs find ways to “cut corners” and make life easier for themselves and sometimes this will lead to inferior work. Ideally a farmer or shepherd should watch the dog's work and correct it when required. The training process never stops.

Because the term “fully trained” is so widely used, however, for the purpose, of this article, we class a dog as “fully trained” if it has the following qualities when working on a medium sized flock:

  • Good outrun  -  at least 200 metres. For farming purposes, the dog should go out wide in order to gather all the sheep in a field, widening out as it gets closer to the sheep, and then coming in behind the sheep to the point of balance. It should collect all the sheep it's been sent out to gather. (A good sheepdog trials dog should go out in a pear shape and not run straight to the hedge and follow it, as a farm dog might do).
  • Steady fetch  -  the dog should bring the sheep towards the handler in a steady fashion, using its own initiative to keep the sheep together without the need for many commands.
  • Stop. The dog should have a good stop and know the difference between the need to stop immediately and maybe just check its pace or slow down as the situation and the handler require.
  • Flanks. The dog should know its flank commands and turn out squarely, keeping a constant distance between the sheep and itself whilst moving around them. The handler should be able to command the dog to widen out or come in closer if required.
  • Driving. In our opinion, a “fully trained” sheepdog should be competent at driving the sheep for at least 100 metres. It should be easily controlled while driving and certainly not looking back at the handler as this is a sign of lack of confidence.
  • Shedding and holding. The dog should be able to shed and hold sheep when required and have the confidence to push sheep up in a pen.

Expect to pay more than £3,000.00 (GBP) for a dog with these qualities.

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