Herding Dog Breeds - Collies, and Sheepdogs, and Cattle Dogs, Oh My!
There are some pretty amazing dogs in the Herding Dog Breeds group. If you have seen the movie, Babe, you probably recognize what the Border Collie is doing in the photograph to the left.
By simply "giving eye" (or staring at the sheep), along with making barking sounds, this amazing breed is able to keep the flock together. It is somewhat like "ruling through intimidation," but it is very successful for herding breeds!
Herding dog breeds were all bred to do similar tasks throughout history. Can you imagine how relieved farmers and ranchers were when they learned of a way to keep their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle together as they drove them from ranches and farms to market?
It is pretty amazing to watch a small dog, like the Corgi (right), nip at the legs of huge steers and help direct a whole herd, simply by leaping up and nipping.
Breeds who are members of the Herding Group have both very good and very challenging behaviors, when looking at the attributes of a good family dog.
One of the very good things about herding dogs is that they were bred to work closely with people. They are extremely intelligent breeds that take direction well in training , and they also problem-solve well on their own.
But their intelligence and need to work is so intense, they can bore quickly if not given interesting work to do or puzzles to solve. If you offer challenging training that creates new learning opportunities, and lots of room to run, you will create a happy herder. If not, weird behavior will follow. Herding dog breeds will pace, stare, spin and will pretty much drive you crazy if you do not offer them appropriate challenges.
Your children *ARE* little lambs, that is for sure, but herding breeds will actually *TREAT* them like sheep or cattle, nipping at their heels as they race by, or herding them into the time-out corner! They often will attempt to herd your other animals, as well, which can cause conflicts with your pets.
This trait something that you can work with in training, but be prepared to have both patience and time to fix this inherited herding behavior to work better in your household.
Lucky for you, the majority of these dogs are gentle and many are quite affectionate and playful, too.
AKC Herding Group- Dog Breeds List
Currently, there are twenty-four members of the herding dog breeds that make up this American Kennel Club group:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Bearded Collie
- Belgian Malinois
- Belgian Sheepdog
- Belgian Tervuren
- Border Collie
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Canaan Dog
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Entlebucher Mountain Dog
- German Shepherd Dog
- Icelandic Sheepdog
- Norwegian Buhund
- Old English Sheepdog
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Polish Lowland
- Pyrenean Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Swedish Vallhund
Our Favorites from the Herding Group
From this group, we have two herding breeds that we highly recommend for families with children, and three additional breeds that we can recommend with some reservations.
First, let's look at the two breeds that we like the very best for family dog choices - the Bearded Collie and the Collie (both the Rough-Coated and Smooth-Coated varieties)
You might have seen Tim Allen's remake of The Shaggy Dog, but I bet you didn't know that the real lead in the movie was the Bearded Collie who was his alter-ego.
Bearded Collies, or "Beardies" as they are often called, are big, bouncy and definitely shaggy. If you are someone who cannot commit to spending a lot of time brushing your dog, don't even consider this breed. You will also need to spend some time with your dog, socializing and training him, because like other dogs in the Herding Group, the Bearded Collie will nip at the heels of your children in attempts to herd them, and will be tempted to chase your kids, bikes, cars - and many other moving objects!
That being said, with training, Beardies are delightful family dogs. They are boisterous and gleeful, and they love to play. Although gentle by nature, they are fairly big and will easily knock a toddler over by accident, so they are best for kids who are steady on their feet!
To the right, you will see a picture of a Rough-Coated Collie, made famous in the 1960's in the Lassie TV series.
Collies are easy to train and loyal to their families. They jump a lot (and high!) and are prone to chasing, so be sure that you can confine them properly. Socialization is important. What better way to help socialize a dog than take him through a training class! Your Collie will learn what you expect, which will build needed trust in you as you spend time learning together.
Collies generally enjoy other animals, which is good news if you already have other pets.
Prepare to spend time brushing and grooming your dog if you choose the rough-coated variety. Smooth-Coated Collies require minimal coat care.
Although we generally love to recommend shelters, be sure to find your Collie through a reputable breeder or possibly a Collie Rescue that is very familiar with the dogs it is placing. Because of the popularity of the breed due to the Lassie television show, unscrupulous breeders have created some high strung dogs with behavior problems. If you find a good Collie, your family will have a devoted friend for life!
Other herding dog breeds that we can recommend with reservations are:
- the German Shepherd Dog
- the Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- the Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)
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