Herding/Trialing Terminology for Working Sheep Dog UK

UK Glossary of Words & Sheepdog Commands used by Shepherds, Farmers & Sheep Dog Trainers

Sheepdog Commands

"Away" / "Away to Me"

Move around (circle) the sheep in an anti-clockwise direction (unfortunately, in some areas it's the opposite way)! A is for Away - Anti-clockwise


Move around (circle) the sheep in a clockwise direction (unfortunately, in some areas it's the opposite way)! C is for Come-Bye - Clockwise

"Get Back" / "Get Out"

The dog is too close, it must keep further out and give the sheep more room

"In Here"

Move through a gap between sheep to separate them - when shedding. The dog will then be expected to drive one bunch of the separated sheep away

"Lie Down"

Stop, lie down, slow down or just stand still - but often used to slow the dog down. Intelligent things Border Collies - good ones can usually tell which the handler means by the tone of voice

"Look Back"

The dog must leave the sheep it's working and turn around to look for more sheep. An advanced "look back" can be done in such a way as to indicate to the dog which direction the new sheep are located


Stand still - the dog must stop but remain on its feet - often used just to slow the dog's speed or get the dog to allow the sheep to go further ahead of it

"Take Time"

The dog should slow down - usually used when the dog's likely to push the sheep too hard and therefore panic them

"That'll do"

The dog must stop what it's doing and return directly to the handler. Switch off from working command.


Stop flanking (circling) and move straight towards the sheep

"Walk Up" / "Walk On"

Move straight towards the sheep in a calm fashion without spooking them

Sheepdog Trial Sections Terms


Standing at "the post", the handler sends the dog away towards the sheep to start the run. The dog should go out in a pear shaped run, getting wider as it approaches the sheep. Towards the end of the outrun, the dog should move in behind the sheep, close enough to gain control, but leaving enough room to avoid disturbing them


At the end of it's outrun, the dog should be behind the sheep. The lift is when the sheep begin to move under the influence of the dog. It should be controlled and orderly


The dog brings the sheep down the course towards the handler, making sure all the sheep pass through the fetch gates. No retry is allowed, and the sheep must not pass back through the gates


Having completed the fetch and driven the sheep around behind the handler, the dog then drives the sheep around the course, away from the handler at first


After negotiating the first drive gates, the sheep are driven across the course to the second drive gates. The cross drive must be as straight and orderly as possible

Shed / Shedding

After passing through the second drive gates, the sheep are turned towards the shedding ring where dog and handler sort out and separate a specified number of sheep. Until this operation is completed, the sheep must not move outside the ring

Pen / Penning

Part of the sheepdog trials course where the sheep are driven into a small enclosure (sometimes the pen is a stock trailer but more usually it's a fenced enclosure with a gate)

Single / Singling

At open trials, once penning is completed, a single sheep may be required to be separated from the main bunch and driven away. This operation is carried out in the shedding ring, and the sheep must not leave the ring until one has been singled out

Double Gather

At some of the bigger open trials, the dog must collect a group of sheep and bring them to a specified point. The dog is then commanded to go to another location on the trials course to collect a second group and bring them to join the first batch before continuing around the course

Look Back

The designated point at a double gather where the dog must abandon the sheep currently under its control and turn around to look for more sheep. An advanced "look back" can be done in such a way as to indicate to the dog which direction the new sheep lie in

Sheepdog Trials Hardware Terms

Drive Gates

A pair of gates or hurdles - through which the dog should direct the sheep as part of the drive in sheepdog trialling. There are normally two sets of drive gates on each course

Exhaust Pen

Enclosure into which sheep are driven after each run at a sheep dog trial. If there are not enough sheep available for the number of competitors, the sheep are allowed to collect in the exhaust pen until there are a large number, and then they are taken back to the letting out pen and re-used in the trial

Fetch Gates

A pair of gates or hurdles - through which the dog brings the sheep during the fetch at a sheepdog trial

Letting out Pen

Enclosure from which a specified number of sheep (normally between three and five) are released for each run at a sheep dog trial

The Peg

Point at which the sheep are located before each run at a sheepdog trial

The Pen

Enclosure into which the sheep must be driven during a sheepdog trial

Post (THE Post)

Point at a sheepdog trial where the handler stands. The handler must not leave the post until the sheep reach the shedding ring (below)

Shedding Ring

Marked circle where the shed and / or singling takes place

Sheepdog Trial Terms

Left Hand Drive

On completion of the fetch, the sheep must pass behind the handler in a clockwise direction and be driven towards the left hand drive gates

Right Hand Drive

On completion of the fetch, the sheep must pass behind the handler in an anticlockwise direction and be driven towards the right hand drive gates

Timed Out

Most sheep dog trials specify a time for each run. If a competitor cannot complete the course in the allocated time, they must leave the field but the run still earns points and counts towards the results. It's quite possible to win a trial even though you were timed out


If a run goes really badly, most competitors will leave the course without completing it. The run will score no points. It should be noted that even though you retire, you are normally expected to take your sheep to the exhaust pen


The judge asked the competitor to leave the course because of a rule infringement such as the dog leaving the course, or biting the sheep

Sheepdog Trials Terms

Open Trial

Trial open to anyone - will include outrun, lift, fetch, drive, shed, pen and sometimes a single

Novice Trial

Open to less experienced dogs. Rules vary but normally for dogs which have not been placed in an open - or won a novice trial. Will include outrun, lift, fetch, drive, shed and pen but not usually a single

Nursery Trial

Trial open to inexperienced dogs. Rules of entry vary but usually for dogs which have not been placed in any novice or open trial. A nursery sheepdog trial will typically include outrun, lift, fetch, drive and pen. Surprisingly, nursery sheepdog trials courses often have an outrun of equal length to novice or open trials

Sheepdogs Terms

Started Dog

Partly trained dog - usually reliably working around sheep (rather than splitting them up) and stopping reasonably well on command

Powerful Dog

A dog which commands instant respect from sheep. It will stand no nonsense - if they stop, it will just keep coming towards them in such a confident manner, the sheep will continue on their way. The dog's attitude and body language makes it clear to the sheep that they have no choice

Grip / Gripping

A case of the dog biting the sheep. Usually brought about by fear - and can be a sign of lack of confidence shown by the dog. Definitely not allowed in sheepdog trials - instant disqualification being the normal penalty but if the judge considers the sheep to have been sufficiently awkward it is sometimes acceptable for the dog to nip the nose of a particularly difficult sheep

Weak Dog

A weak dog has little confidence around sheep. It may be extremely obedient and work well with light or co-operative sheep but when faced with a difficult situation a weak dog will either stop and stare, grip or even turn away from the sheep. Sheep can interpret weakness in a dog surprisingly quickly and will take advantage of it. It is therefore af paramount importance to avoid putting a young dog in a position where it might be challenged or (even worse) attacked by sheep


A good sheepdog needs what's known as "eye". This is a kind of powerful glare the dog can fix on sheep to make them move in the direction the dog wants. A dog with "too much eye" can become entranced - standing rooted to the spot, glaring at the sheep and ignoring all commands

Square Flanks

When you command your dog to flank one way or the other, it should turn sharply and move around the sheep at the same distance from the sheep as it was when you gave the command. Many dogs insist on moving closer to the sheep when commanded to flank. This is a bad habit as it unsettles the sheep. A dog with square flanks is a joy to work

Sheepdog Breeding Terms

Brood Bitch

Female dog - usually a good mother and from excellent working lines - used primarily for breeding


The International Sheepdog Society - based at Bedford, England. Keepers of the Stud Book and governing body of sheepdog trialling in the UK


Family tree of a dog - showing generations of ancestors

Registered Dog

Dog whose birth has been registered with the ISDS. Normally, the parents must be registered before a puppy is eligible for registration

Stud Book

Books kept by the ISDS for many years - recording the ancestory of registered sheepdogs over many years

Stud Dog

Male dog - usually from excellent working lines - used for breeding

General Terms


Hill or mountain pasture - usually in the North of the UK and populated with sheep


Lightweight frames similar to a small gate which joined together, make an enclosure for containing sheep

Electric Fence

Fencing energised with high voltage (but low power and therefore harmless) electric current - often used to keep farm animals in an enclosed space


The dog moving around its sheep in a circular fashion. The dog should maintain a constant distance from the sheep whilst flanking. When commanded, the dog should stop without moving closer to the sheep

Sheep Terms

Light Sheep

Usually smaller breeds from highland, hill or mountain farms, these are sheep which are easy for a dog to move (sometimes too easy as they run away or scatter with little or no provocation). Requires a dog that is totally biddable and has a lot of instinct to work sheep.

Heavy Sheep

Stubborn sheep which are difficult for a dog to move. They will sometimes even attack a dog and can have a disastrous effect on it's confidence. Heavy sheep are normally large, lowland types which keep together well but can be very stubborn.

Dogged Sheep

After being used repeatedly for training sheepdogs, sheep become dogged. Lightly dogged sheep are very useful as they stay calm and it's easier for the trainee dog to keep them together. Extremely dogged sheep will either rush to the handler as soon as the dog is sent off to fetch them or others will bunch together tightly and be near impossible for the dog to move. Sometimes, they will crowd around the handler's legs and becoming extremely difficult to work with (and painful because they hurt your legs and tread on your feet). Dogged sheep also have a tendency to know the trail course and simply walk the course, thus allowing a dog that has no working skill to simply follow the sheep around the course making gestures that look like it is working. Ideal sheep for training a young dog on but not good for trialing purposes.