The Blacksheep Homestead


Is an English Shepherd the right dog for me?

That depends... Honest breeders will tell you that English Shepherds are not for everyone. As a highly intelligent, managerial working farm dog, this breed needs a strong, consistent leader, an owner who is not uncomfortable about being in charge.  The Englosh Shepherd is wired to seek the role immediately below the human leaders in the pack order, that of the right hand or beta enforcer, and is in his glory enforcing rules on the livestock (subordinate pack members) on his leaders' behalf. But in cases where the humans are not consistent or sufficiently engaged in teaching puppy the rules of the territory, an ES may make and enforce his own rules... And these may not be rules the humans are happy or comfortable with.

An English Shepherd is happiest when he feels that he has a "real job" or purpose and has regualr opportunities to earn his masters' approval. But the job does not need to be livestock herding... Keeping deer or other pests away from the orchard/gardens or squirrels out of the birdfeeders can satisfy his need to be in charge of something and/or play traffic cop. And other activities and opportunities for these dog to bond and learn to work in partnership with their owners, such as agility, obedience, SAR, therapy work, can be just as fulfilling.

How are English Shepherds with children? 

 The key to training an ES how to behave around children is to set out from day one with a strong bond, clear set of rules and set boundaries. Consistency is very important. The trickle-down from having that bond and consistent, dependable leadership is far-reaching, and can make most potential training issues *at least* much easier to deal with, if not avoiding them entirely.  

And please, carefully supervise all interactions with other people. especially small ones, until he is old enough and well-trained enough that you are sure that he will behave in an appropriate way... It is much, much easier to teach a little puppy your rules about what is acceptable and what is not, than it is to "fix" an older one after he has developed bad habits. Your English Shepherd puppy is also much less likely to engage in inappropriate behaviors like herding/jumping/nipping when he has been well-exercised *before* allowing to him to play with little children.

In teaching pups not to mouth, jump on, or herd children, you must first understand that this is a game, just the way puppies play with each other, and not aggression, and the way to make it stop is to make the game *not fun*. Some trainers will tell you to cry out like hurt puppies when your puppy mouths you, but this is what another puppy would do, not his mother or other leader/teacher, and will often just reinforce his idea that you are "fair game" for him to mouth and roughhouse with whenever he wants. I taught my kids NOT to run and squeak- which will only further excite and encourage puppy to play harder and the "game" to escalate- instead that they should stop in their tracks, turn and face pup, and in a growly, low voice say "noooo", as they step into pup's space, claiming it as their own, backing him off.  

One pup or two? 

Unfortunately, ES pups raised together seldom, if ever, reach their full potential, or may take so much more time and effort in terms of training and damage control it would have been more effective and more expedient to raise one at a time.

These dogs are highly intelligent and driven to seek a job or purpose, and when a well-bred ES pup is properly bonded to his human leaders, he will be motivated to be a good little pack member and help and impress them with his knowledge and obedience of their rules. When bonded to another dog instead, what the humans might think about what he is doing is no longer pup's first concern.

This is especially unfortunate in a farm setting where livestock, especially poultry, and other small vulverable animals or property can become toys for the two pups to play with and harass and/or damage instead of tend/protect as a properly bonded and trained ES should. Not as troublesome in a pet/companion setting, but then most people do not attempt to keep working-bred stockdogs as pets unless they are prepared to make up for the lack of more traditional work/outlets with plenty of exercise and by regularly engaging their dogs in equally rewarding activities.

English Shepherds have been selectively bred for many, many generations to bond closely and act as the farmer's "right hand" and companion throughout the workday, so generally do not do well kenneled or otherwise left to their own devices for long periods. If you are considering two pups as company for one another because your situation is one where pups would be spending more than a few hours a few times a week alone in confinement, you would probably have better results with different breed. 

Two pups *will* roughhouse and run and keep each other exercised, which is a good thing, provides a deeply satisfying outlet and makes it easier to teach them not to try to play too roughly with us... But the company of another dog is not an adequate substitute for properly bonding/training and engaging your English Shepherd. If you would like to have two ES, I recommend raising one to fully trained/well-socialized maturity before adding a second pup. Then your adult dog will enthusiastically help you teach the youngster your rules :-)

Potential Owner Questionnaire

1. Please describe the ideal dog for your present needs:

2. Put the following characteristics of farm dogs in order of greatest importance to least importance (making a note of any of these characteristics that do not matter or behaviors that you would rather not have, and then describe as completely as possible how your ideal dog would fit in these categories):

a. Size

b. Looks

c. Herding ability (What kind/style of herding ability do you prefer?)

d. Hunting ability

e. Guardian ability (What would your ideal dog's specific behaviors be in this category?)

3. Describe a typical day for your dog:

4. Please list human members of your household, including ages. How do all these people feel about getting a new puppy?

5. Describe the best dog you ever had and what you liked most about him, as well as any characteristics that could be improved to make a better dog to fit your present situation:

6. Please list numbers and classes of livestock and any other animals/pets residing on the property, including age, gender and reproductive status of any other dog(s):


7.  Do you intend to breed your English Shepherd? Why? And if so, please describe your previous experience breeding dogs, and your goals as a potential breeder of English Shepherds.  In your opinion, what specific traits and qualities are the ones most important to preserve in the ES breed?

Please add any description that you feel would help us to understand exactly the kind of dog that you want. Use more sheets if necessary:  

Please provide your physical address, phone number, email address, and a vet reference.







Thank you for this valuable information!  







You may copy this form, paste it into an email and send to:


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