- Best sheep herding dog breeds
- What Is The Job Of a Sheep Herding Dog?
- What Makes the Best Sheep Herding Dogs?
- Can Herding Dogs Be Good Family Pets?
Are you a livestock farmer and looking for the most loyal sheep herding dogs? Look no further because we have made a selection of the ten best sheep herding dog breeds.
Some of the smartest canines you will ever meet are sheep herding dogs (sometimes also known as stock dogs). These breeds love their humans and are full of life. If you are a sheep farmer or simply you want a dog that leads an active lifestyle, a sheepherding dog breed could be the most suited choice for you.
Best sheep herding dog breeds
Below we have selected 10 breeds of dogs famous for the fact that over time they have proven to have the best skills in sheep herding. These dog breeds are highly intelligent, energetic, sociable, have a great personality, and not least, they are extremely loyal to their owners.
1. Border Collies
While they might not be the best apartment dogs, border collies are one of the best sheep herding dogs.
The border collie is a medium-sized herding dog breed originated in the Anglo-Scottish border of Northumberland, bred for herding livestock, particularly sheep.
Apart from the fact that the border collies are considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds, they are also extremely energetic and active. They rarely need moments of quiet. In general, the dogs in this breed must always have an occupation to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Border collies normally reach a weigh between 30 and 55 pounds once they are fully grown. Their high energy level, along with their intellect, devotion, and loyalty to their owners, propels border collies to the top of the best herding dogs.
In recent years, the popularity of border collies as a family pet has grown massively. However, you need to know that border collies will often become anxious, depressed, and frustrated if left alone, ignored, or if they have an idle lifestyle. Sheepherding gives them exactly what they need.
2. German Shepherds
Despite their popularity, the German shepherd not a very old dog breed. Sources say that the first occurrences of this breed appeared around the 1899s in Germany.
This breed was originally produced for herding sheep, but because of their intelligence, docility, strength, and trainability, they were later introduced to many other jobs. At present, German shepherds are utilized as police dogs, in search and rescue activities, as service dogs in assisting people with disabilities, and more.
With a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, this medium-to-large canine is very agile and has lots of character. Not only are they very loyal companions, but they also are courageous and steady. If needed, these amazing pups will fight for you.
Because German shepherds have been used since their origins as sheep herding dogs, we can say that they have this activity in their DNA, therefore, making them excellent for grazing sheep and cattle.
3. Australian Shepherds
Australian shepherds (also known as Aussie), despite its controversial name, are a dog breed with origins in the United States and not Australia as many people believe.
It is believed that this breed got its name by association with the Basque shepherds that arrived in the US from Australia in the 1800s. While it is not known exactly what breeds stand at the core of this dog breed, many say that the Australian shepherds might be related to border collies and English shepherds.
The reason this dog breed originally appeared is to help farmers and ranchers herding their livestock. They did their job extremely well ever since.
In fact, they are doing their job so well and their herding instinct is so powerful that they are often spotted trying to herd family pets and kids.
These medium-sized sheepherding dogs have eyes that penetrate, are highly trainable, and very smart. They are generally a healthy breed of dog that is very attentive to the surroundings. With a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, full-grown Aussies can reach a weight of 40 to 65 pounds.
4. Belgian Sheepdogs
Belgian sheepdog is a medium-sized herding dog with origins in Belgium. This breed is also known as Belgian shepherd or Chien de Berger Belge.
The members of this breed can be further classified into four separate varieties based on coat type and color:
Belgian sheepdog descends from a traditional type of shepherd dogs found throughout Western Europe that combines breeds like Dutch shepherd, German shepherd, and the Bouvier des Ardennes.
Like any shepherd breeds, the Belgian sheepdog was and is still used in herding sheep, cows, and other livestock. That's because they are highly intelligent, agile, high energy level, and other qualities that a good herding dog should have.
With a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, this herding dog will weigh between 45 to 75 pounds when fully grown.
5. Shetland Sheepdogs
Shetland sheepdog (also known as sheltie) is a herding dog breed with origins in the Shetland Islands in Scotland. The name of this breed was initially "Shetland collie," but at the insistence of rough collie breeders, this name was later changed.
Besides the fact that they are extremely hardworking dogs, a trait we meet in all stocking dog breeds, the quality that most highlights the Shetland sheepdogs is their tremendous loyalty and a very strong bond with the family. Hence, making this breed a very good choice for an affectionate family dog.
The varieties that make up this breed are not exactly known, but many say it could be the Scottish collie and King Charles Spaniel. The overall look of the Shetland sheepdog is that of a miniature rough collie.
Shelties are agile, energetic, affectionate, intelligent, and easy-to-train. Besides being a good ranching dog, because of their sensitive nature, they will provide excellent companionship for any owner who is looking for a loving dog who likes walks and long-playing times.
Weighing 15 to 25 pounds, this smaller herding dog will live 12 to 14 years.
6. Old English Sheepdogs
Old English sheepdog (also commonly known as shepherd's dog or bob-tailed sheep dog) is one of England's oldest sheep herding dogs.
They are massive, muscular dogs with a strong bone structure. Their bodies are covered by dense fur that helps them to quickly adapt to the cold mountain areas.
Despite their imposing size, they are gentle giants. old English sheepdogs are docile, protective, intelligent, fun, easy-to-train, patient, and are an extraordinary choice as family pets for households with children.
They are fabulous for herding sheep and other livestock because they are very adaptable to any climate conditions, are strong, hard-working, smart, and can put on the run almost any kind of predators that attacks the flock.
Weighing between 60 to 100 pounds, these pups live between 10 to 12 years.
7. Welsh Sheepdogs
Welsh sheepdog is a herding dog breed from Wales, United Kingdom.
Due to its great variation in the appearance of different specimens, such as color, size, body constitution, these dogs have never been officially recognized as a distinct breed by any major kennel clubs. Even so, these dogs have been utilized for centuries by the Welsh people in herding sheep and cattle.
Welsh sheepdogs are generally used for herding sheep, but can also herd goats, drove cattle, horses, and even pigs. Traditionally they were frequently utilized for taking sheep and cattle to local markets.
Even though they are considered to be a collie type breed, over the years, in Wales, the Welsh sheepdog has frequently been substituted in sheep ranching activities with border collies, a standardized breed that is also famous for its excellent livestock herding abilities. Yet, efforts are being made to keep the indigenous Welsh sheepdog as a separate variety.
This breed can have either a short or long coat, which enables them to also withstand cold climates. Besides, they have longer and stronger legs than border collies, which enables them to easily accommodate almost any terrain.
8. Miniature American Shepherds
Miniature American shepherd is a dog breed developed during the late 1960s in California, from the breeding of Australian shepherds in an attempt to maintain the characteristics of the original breed but to reduce its size. The result was a smaller dog breed, similar to Australian Shepherds.
They were even initially called "miniature Australian shepherds," but in order to receive recognition as a separate dog breed, breeders have later changed the name of this breed to "North-American shepherd," and more recently to "miniature American shepherd."
Many love them because of their beautiful multi-colored coats. They may have blue or brown eyes, with some having one of each color. These dogs are very energetic, intelligent, and super loyal to their humans.
Miniature American shepherds were traditionally used for herding smaller stock such as goats and sheep, but are nowadays very popular house pets and very frequently in canine competitions of agility, intelligence, and skills.
9. Rough Collies
One of the most famous rough collies was Lassie, the canine character loved by everyone in the TV series with the same name.
Rough collie (also known as long-haired collie) is a medium to large size dog breed with a short or beautiful long coat, that has its origins in Scotland, United Kingdom.
Based on the coat type, there are two distinct variations of this breed:
- Rough-coat collies
- Smooth-coat collies
Even though today we can mostly see these pups in dog shows and canine beauty contests, rough collies were incipiently utilized for herding sheep in various regions of the UK.
The collie will get between 50 to 75 pounds once fully grown. These fast pups love children and need to be exercised on a regular basis. They have an elegant shaped head and come in various colors from sable and white, white, or blue merle. These dogs are considered to be a healthy breed, living from 12 to 14 years.
10. Bearded Collies
Bearded collie (also known as beardie) is a breed of dogs with roots in Scotland. Because of their long, double-coated fur, people often confused them with old English sheepdogs.
The bearded collie is a hard-working dog utilized mostly in herding sheep and cattle. Their long and thick coat enables them to be excellent outdoor dogs and live comfortably even in the harshest cold climates.
They gained the nickname of "bouncing beardies" due to their unique way of facing stubborn ewes, through barking and bouncing on their forelegs.
Weighing 45 to 55 pounds, the bearded collie generally lives between 12 to 14 years. They do have a few health issues, from allergies to autoimmune disease. These dogs love to run outside, even in the worst of conditions.
What Is The Job Of a Sheep Herding Dog?
Herding dogs are not only tasked with protecting the herd from potential predators, as many may be tempted to believe.
Some of the most important roles of sheep herding dogs and herding dogs in general are:
- Protecting the herd from predators
- Keep the animals grouped together
- Help with moving the herd
- Keeping the herd within a perimeter
When animals are in the open field for grazing, they become easy targets for predators such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, stray dogs, and even domestic dogs.
One of the main tasks of sheep herding dogs is to protect the flock, keep these predators away, and alert the humans when the livestock is in danger.
Sheep are herd animals. If one leaves the flock, it will become an easy target for predators or may get lost. Hence, another important attribute of these herding dog breeds is to keep all the rams, ewes, and lambs together.
When it comes to moving a big herd of hundreds or even thousands of sheep you have a lot of responsibility and things can quickly get tricky. Most of the times, the flock feeds in the open field, without any fences or anything to keep the animals together.
Fortunately, with the help of several dogs, this task that initially may seem impossible for a single person, it now becomes manageable due to the immense help of these herding dogs which make sure to keep the animals grouped all the time.
Another difficult task of a sheep farmer when taking his flock into an open field is to keep the animals out of other people's crops. Yet again, the herding dogs are extremely useful in keeping the animals in a particular perimeter.
What Makes the Best Sheep Herding Dogs?
Different breeds have different physical features and temperaments. Below are several personality traits that any herding dog should meet.
The best sheep herding dogs should be:
Can Herding Dogs Be Good Family Pets?
While most herding dogs were bred for the purpose of caring for livestock, they have some attributes that make them lovable family dogs. However, there are some things to consider before getting a herding dog as a family pet.
Herding dogs need to be physical, as well as mentally active. The physical needs of a herding dog are due to these breeds being raised on farms where lots of hard work was put in by their ancestors. Pups should have lots of room to run around and play freely. They should reside with a family that is on the active side.
Families should want to interact with these canines, such as taking them for a walk or run or just playing fetch with them. Many herding dogs also like to play frisbee. It is also a good idea to take them to a dog park if there is one in your neighborhood.
Sheepherding dogs are not the best pet if you live in a small apartment as these dogs like to be active for a good chunk of the day. If the dog lives in tight living arrangements, they can easily become restless.
We tried to make a list of the best dog breeds for herding sheep, but it was not easy to make the selection. That's because there are so many excellent breeds suited for this task.
If you are a farmer and you are looking for a reliable and hard-working sheep herding dog, you should also take into consideration things like climate, terrain, expenses, and anything that can help you separate these breeds.
If you are just looking for a new family member, sheepherding dogs are fantastic if you have a large yard and if your can assign some of your daily free time for walking and playing with them. These dogs will grow up to be excellent protectors of their humans. Many of these dogs are compassionate, loyal, and super smart.