Herding Dog Breeds – Cattle Dogs and Sheep Dogs

Herding dog breeds are numerous and varied, as they came into existence to help solve problems in specific areas of the world. Some are more versatile to be able to accomplish a variety of tasks, while others are focused on a solitary task.

About Herd Dog Breeds

Most herding dogs are bred to excel at herding large groups of animals, such as sheep or cattle. Agility, certain body builds and their level of dedication to their owners are varied but are a big factor for each breed. The style of each animal is different as well; each breed approaches livestock differently and handles the job they are to do in a certain way.

Now, this is helpful information, but if you are a family person who is wondering what breed of dog to introduce to your spouse and children, none of this is telling you much about the right breed of dog for your family, or indeed, whether one of the herding dog breeds would be the right choice at all.

So how can you decide? Well, read on to learn more and hopefully you’ll be able to make a thoughtful decision.

Types of Herding Breeds

Herding Dog

A herding dog is bred to work with sheep, cattle or to perform other kinds of work

Among the many types of herding dogs are cattle dog breeds, sheep herding dogs and other working dogs – some of which are not recognized by kennel clubs as of yet.

This makes researching to find the ideal dog for your family a bit more challenging, but it is not impossible. There are herding dogs of all sizes, colors and coat lengths. The most well-known members of the herding group dogs are:

  • Australian Cattle Dog

  • Australian Shepherd

  • Bearded Collie

  • Beauceron

  • Belgian Malinois

  • Belgian Sheepdog

  • Belgian Tervuren

  • Border Collie

  • Bouvier des Flandres

  • Briard

  • Canaan Dog

  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi

  • Collie

  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog

  • Finnish Lapphund

  • German Shepherd Dog

  • Icelandic Sheepdog

  • Norwegian Buhund

  • Old English Sheepdog

  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog

  • Puli

  • Pyrenean Shepherd

  • Shetland Sheepdog

  • Swedish Vallhund

What to Expect from a Herding Dog

There are herding dogs that are known for agility and for protectiveness. These dogs are hard workers and as such, they need a lot of attention and exercise to avoid potential issues. Most are not apartment dwellers and require yard space to run and romp.

Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle dog is prone to a few disease issues but can thrive in an environment where it can run and make the most of its genetics

If all of these conditions fit with your expectations, perhaps a herding dog would fit into your family’s lifestyle. Now, how do you choose the right breed? Here are a couple examples to provide an idea of what type of dog you would get when choosing a herding dog.

A Quick Look at Cattle Dogs Featuring the Australian Cattle Dog

One of the most common cattle dog breeds is the Australian Cattle Dog. A medium-sized canine, an Australian Cattle Dog can grow to be 30 to 35 pounds. The dogs are smart, devoted and a protective, making them a great asset as a guard dog. However, how do they do with children?

They are a good choice as they can be trusted with children and will be a great addition once they understand the hierarchy of the household.

As with any breed, there are a few potential negatives. The Australian Cattle Dog is prone to hip dysplasia and also deafness. If permitted to be the alpha of the family, they can be aggressive with other dogs and people, and they can have nipping problems unless a natural tendency to herd is nipped quickly at the outset of the behavior.

They are not a good dog to have if the family lives in an apartment and only has limited room to run and exercise. Also, for a busy family, an Australian Cattle Dog may not be a good choice. They need a lot of exercise and attention, as well as challenges to keep them from becoming bored and misbehaving.

Consider the Most Popular of the Sheep Herding Dogs – The Border Collie

Border Collie Puppy

A Border Collie puppy can make an excellent pet if you understand its tendencies

A Border Collie is a second example of a herding dog, or an example of a sheep herding dog. The Border Collie is another medium-sized canine that requires lots of exercise and attention to prevent behavior issues. Border Collies are also motion-sensitive, which means they may unexpectedly chase cars or small children running through the yard. This unpredictability and their desire to herd, which outweighs any other instinct, makes this breed a less appealing choice for families with young children. For a family with older kids, however, Border Collies can make excellent pets.

Pick and Choose from Members of the AKC Herding Group

Many of the dogs common to the AKC herding category are everyday family pets. These breeds include the German Shepherd and the Welsh Corgi, among others.

The German Shepherds are a larger breed, reaching 60 to 85 pounds and standing up to 26 inches high. They are devoted to their master, so they are a good guard dog and can be a good family pet. However, due to their size and protective tendencies, a family with small children may want to avoid this breed as well. The German Shepherd also tends to have issues getting along with other dogs, making them a bad choice for multiple dog homes.

In contrast, the Welsh Corgi is a small breed, only growing to around 30 pounds. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi has a history of being used to guard children, can live up to 14 years and are known for their agility, like other herding dogs. While some Cardigans become devoted to one person, they can still be a wonderful addition to the family as a watchdog and companion.

Take All Factors into Consideration before Choosing a Herding Dog Breed

Regardless of the herding dog breed, it is important to consider the family’s needs, abilities and potential issues when considering the addition of any dog to the family. Herding dogs do need a lot of room, exercise and attention and can be problem dogs if not cared for properly.

However, they can be a wonderful family pet if the family is prepared for the challenges of including a herding dog in the household. They can be very devoted, are very intelligent and can surprise you with their affection and ability to avoid trouble if they know their boundaries.

Careful research and consideration is vital when adding a new furry family member. Remember to weigh the future as well. Dogs are a part of the family for over a decade, and responsible pet owners know they are in it for the long haul.

Avoid adding to the stress already felt by animal shelters and avoid having to find a new home for a pet that doesn’t fit in with your family. Best of luck if you decide to consider herding dog breeds for your family, you’ll indeed be getting a wonderful pet.