The herding group is comprised of dogs that were originally bred to help shepherds in the fields tend to both sheep and cattle. These dogs operated both independently and as a team following the shepherd’s orders to move the animals. While many of these breeds can and do still actively herd, the majority live amongst people as ordinary pets.
There are traits common to most of the members of the herding group, and even the household pet retains many of them. The dogs that are currently listed in the American Kennel Club’s Herding Group: Australian Cattle Dog (sometimes called a Blue Heeler), Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Beauceron, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Canaan Dog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Old English Sheepdog, Norwegian Buhund, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puli, Pyrenean Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, and the Swedish Vallhund.
Herding Dog Pluses: Herding dogs as a general rule are very intelligent. They have a long line of being bred to work closely with people, and this trait still runs through today. They make excellent working and training partners. The Border Collie and Shetland Sheepdog are two of the most commonly seen dogs in both agility and obedience competitions. Herding dogs are also known for being very loyal to their family. This probably has a lot to do with the closeness of the relationship between the dog and its shepherd as well as the bond to the dog’s flock. Today, it means that these dogs bond tightly to their family. In many cases, like with the German Shepherd Dog and Belgian Malinois, the dogs are very affectionate with their family but aloof with strangers.
All herding dogs are very cognizant of their surroundings and make excellent alert dogs. Not all of them have natural guarding and protection instinct like the German Shepherd Dog, but all members of the herding group bark to alert family of changes in their environment or new people. This sensitivity also makes them sometimes bark at things that appear to have little significance like a trash can on the curb!
Herding Dog Cautions: These dogs are not for everyone, and many of the members are not for the first time dog owner. Many herding dogs can be independent. The Australian Cattle Dog is known for being independent and free-thinking, sometimes frustratingly so. Training is a must! Herding dogs will out-wit and out-think you, and a less experienced owner won’t know what to do. They do not require and should not have a heavy hand, but they do need structure in their lives and good obedience training.
It is essential that herding dogs are heavily socialized as puppies and continuing as adults. They can be more sensitive as a general group than any other. Some members, like collies or Shetland sheepdogs can be excessively shy or nervous without socialization. Others, especially those with guarding instinct, can become suspicious of strangers and have issues with aggression. Territorial aggression is not uncommon in herding dogs, as they are sensitive to those entering the ‘flock.’ Socialization is key to keeping all of these traits in check.
Many herding dogs are not appropriate for small children. Herding is all about controlling movement. It directly stems from prey drive, only the dogs have been bred to short circuit the prey drive and chase sequence. They are easily triggered by movement, and the running of small children with sound usually gets the dog to chase and attempt to herd. These dogs can and will use nips, generally to legs, to control the person’s movement and get them to stop. This desire to chase means a fenced yard and on-leash walks are important. Too many of these dogs have been killed chasing cars or have created a problem by chasing joggers or bikers.
In Conclusion: If you’re a more experienced dog owner, a member of the herding group might be a perfect match. While every dog is an individual, remember that as a general rule, herding dogs are vocal and like to talk, can be mouthy or nippy, are intelligent and easy to train, and are very active and need stuff to do.
Nemisa herding at 8 years of age
Selene and Kathy Madden ( teacher) herding the sheep
Marie-Paule & Ch. Oksana of the Coastline at work
Foot work of a talented young male named UNGAR
At 7 months of age:
Dela and Mary
Wiley, herding at 5 months
Wiley, herding at 5 months
Wiley, herding at 8 months
Dela, 4 years old
Michelle Holmes and her bitch, Bre getting her PT.
Bre is a great granddaughter of Igor and Nemisa.
July, 2010, Marie Paule and Arista at work
November 2010, Cumano Herding
Fendi (13 months) - At Herding Lesson 2011
CH Franklin of the Coastline, herding to his title PT, achieved at 19 months
Wiley tending sheep with Nancy, 2012