Beginners Guide to Buying a Sheepdog

A large percentage of people coming here for training, do not possess a suitable dog. Therefore we have drawn up a few guide lines to help those that may want to progress further with another dog.

We can divide the Border Collie into four groups

  1. ISDS registered (International Sheep Dog Society)
  2. Non-registered farm type dog,
  3. Kennel Club registered
  4. Other herding breeds or cross breeds


To clarify the types of dog

  1. ISDS registered dogs will have been bred specifically as working stock dogs. The breeding is carefully monitored by the ISDS and has been selectively bred by competent shepherds and farmers over the last 100 years. All breeding dogs must pass an obligatory eye test.
  2. Farm type non-registered dogs are not usually selectively bred and frequently carry major faults I.E. casually bred and ofter mongrel heritage!
  3. Kennel Club registered dogs are no longer bred for work, mainly show standard, confirmation, and colour The instinct has become very diluted and in most cases extinct.
  4. Other herding breeds have usually been bred for specific terrain and specialised jobs, not always suitable for the novice handler as the basic instinct is more complex.

The next hurdle is deciding whether to buy

A puppy
Starter dog
Fully-trained dog

Obviously finance will be the deciding factor in most cases, however it is sometimes false economy to buy a puppy.



  1. Inexpensive to buy
  2. Will bond with owner more easily and can be socialized to suit the enviroment


  1. Cannot start to be trained for several months until it shows instinct and is sufficiently mature both mentally and physically.
  2. Cost of vaccination, worming,micro-chipping and food will probably bring it to the same price as a starter dog. It can always be sent away for training by proffesionals which makes it even more expensive.
  3. May not always work, temperament will not be developed sufficiently to assess its potential at such a young age

Remember, buying a puppy is always going to be a gamble, as it may not turn out to be suitable for your needs, and temperament either too strong, or too weak. Not all dogs however well bred ,will possess the necessary instinct. ISDS dogs have a greater chance of being successful due to more careful breeding.



This covers quite a broad spectrum and starter dogs can be aged anything from 8 months to approx 18 months. They can be just going round sheep showing basic natural instinct to a dog having a stop,left and right flanks and maybe starting to drive.


  1. You can see the formed temperament and instinct.
  2. Continue training immediately to suit yourself.


  1. Not fully trained,therefore handler must be knowledgeable enough , or be able to have experienced help close at hand to continue the training.
  2. One single cash outlay, it may be more expensive.
  3. Unable to do proper job on as needs further training.

Although more expensive, only the same financial outlay at the end of the year after keeping a puppy for the same period.



  1.  You can go out immediately and do a job of work, very essential for most larger farmers, as time is precious. Many hours are required to fully train a dog.


  1. If you do not have the required skill to train a dog or are too busy.
  2.  Very expensive to buy. Handler must be able to work a fully trained dog correctly on voice and whistle commands or the dog will deteriorate.

It is very difficult to decide whether to buy a puppy,starter dog or fully trained dog. Obviously finance will be a deciding factor in most cases, however sometimes it is false economy to buy a puppy.

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