How to stop your dog from herding people

Does your herding dog try to “corral” your family and friends? Here’s how to nip this bad habit in the bud.

Border collies and other herding breeds are adorable, intelligent, and so much fun! There’s just one drawback: they often attempt to herd people. Don’t hold it against them, though. These dogs have generations of instinctive herding behavior built in. Still, while this trait benefits farmers who need help moving animals from one place to another, it can be pesky or even dangerous in family settings.

It’s impossible to change instinct, but it is surprisingly easy to stop your dog from herding people. Here’s how.

Teach desired behaviors from day one

Every dog – no matter the breed – benefits from basic obedience training. Use positive reinforcement methods to teach your dog the basics including sit, come, and lie down. Get help from a professional trainer as you build your dog’s knowledge base with more advanced commands and tricks to keep your dog active and engaged – and reduce the likelihood that he’ll try to herd you.

Set the stage for success

Dogs are more likely to herd people when the activity is perceived as a fun game. This means that you shouldn’t respond to herding behavior by running, yelling, jumping, or even moving away from your dog. It also means that you shouldn’t bring your dog into situations where people are likely to respond this way; until your dog can be redirected into a desired behavior, it’s best to set the stage for success by avoiding opportunities for temptation.

Honor your dog’s herding instincts

Border collies and other dogs with strong herding instincts are happiest when they’re allowed to engage in behaviors that satisfy their innate urge to herd. The good news is that you don’t have to invest in livestock: simple games of fetch and tug work perfectly well! Have your dog sit before you throw his favorite disc or ball and allow him to go “round it up” once it’s in the air.

Keep your dog’s mind engaged

Boredom can lead to disaster, particularly in dogs with high intelligence. Herding breeds are among the smartest dogs around – in fact, Border collies are consistently ranked as the world’s most intelligent dog breed. Daily walks and runs, lots of active play sessions, playdates with other dogs, and activities such as agility are ideal. Giving your dog plenty of things to do is the best way to stop him from herding people – after all, games and toys are far more exciting.

Once your dog has stopped herding you and other family members, it’s time to introduce him to new situations and new people. Instruct your visitors to stand still and not even acknowledge your dog if herding behavior happens. Reward your dog for redirecting to desirable behaviors instead and keep repeating the lesson until he understands. It’ll take time, patience, and consistency – but in the end, your dog can and will stop herding people!


Emma Williams is a professional writer and pet parent who has written for big publishers including Canadian Dogs Annual, The Telegraph, Home Beautiful and She enjoys sharing her knowledge on pet health, lifestyle topics and pet behavior.