Choosing a puppy

General suggestions on buying a puppy or young dog.

Always remember that there are several strands to the choosing of a new dog.

How many sheep have I got, am I likely to significantly increase my flock?
What do I want my dog to do? Is it to be a field or yard dog? Or multi purpose?
Whom do I know that can advise me?
How far am I prepared to travel to find my new dog?
Will a new older dog fit into the already established canine hierarchy at the farm?
How will I house my dog?
Do I know how to spot the dog that is going to be too strong for me to handle?
What time have I got to spend training a puppy every day?
Realistically, how much experience of training a dog have I got?
Am I able to allow the ‘bonding’ process to emerge, or do I think this is a load of nonsense?
Do I understand the ‘pack’ instinct of the dog hierarchy?
Am I prepared to be ‘top dog’?
Do I understand about the various diseases that can beset a dog?
Do I realise that certain lines of dog carry genetic disorders that cannot always be readily rectified?
Do I know how to find out about these disorders?
How much can I afford?
Obtain a copy of the ISDS Training Booklet as devised by the author of this website and obtainable from

There is always an element of luck when choosing a puppy and it is always a sensible move to see the parents working.  You will need to decide if you are happy with a non-ISDS registered pup or choose one that is registered and whose parents can be traced back five generations. If you want to eventually Trial your puppy then there is no choice but to go for the registered pup. In either case you need to see how the parents behave both towards sheep and away from sheep.  This will give you an idea about the potential temperament and natural ability of your puppy.  You need to recognise if the parents are given to being trained easily, understand their work role and by seeing them work you can ascertain their stamina.

Depending on how old it is you might even see if your potential pup has an interest in sheep. This is a random age – it varies from puppy to puppy. I remember taking a not yet 3 month old pup amongst some sheep (yes, on a lead) and he sat down and watched them!  As he got older, this continued to be a favourite occupation.

Just sitting and very obviously observing and thinking. He was never in a rush to ‘get at them’ as is the case with most young puppies. Months later this young dog, having continued to demonstrate his thinking ability, took part in Nursery Trials just shy of twelve months of age. This was a few years ago and now his progeny are being exported to places like Croatia!

Sometimes a puppy will choose its handler! That will be the one that sits contentedly on your foot and gazes upwards!

For more formal information please access the International Sheep Dog Society website where there is a list of breeders from all over the country – there will be one near you! And if you cannot find one then please contact me

Visiting sheepdog trials is another method of seeing Registered animals in action. One of the purposes of trialling is to gain prestige for working sheepdogs so that good prices can be obtained by the owner for the progeny of the champions! See Trialing section of this site.

So it is not really a question of buying one at the farm gate if you want to give yourself the opportunity of owning a dog from proven parents. ‘This’ll do’ is not the way forward as you might find that your ‘farm gate’ dog has huge potential as both a working dog and on the trialling field. It is a long and arduous process to subsequently elect your dog to become Registered on Merit if you want to enter the English National Sheepdog Trials and to breed high quality Registered puppies.

What you do need to do is to give the matter as much thought as though you were buying a new tractor.  After all, this ‘piece of kit’, this dog, is going to been trusted with the welfare of your flock and be with you for at least 10 working years, so you want the best deal.

Getting a new working sheepdog is an investment. And remember, much rests in the Bonding between you and your dog. If you do not like each other then get another dog.

Choose wisely!