🐾 Lifestyle

Herding Dogs

a black and white icon of a calendar
February 17, 2021

Key Takeaways

Herding dogs encompass an entire group of dog breeds, all bred with specific characteristics.

Herding dogs may be large or small, from the little Shetland Sheepdog ("Sheltie") to the big, bobtailed Old English Sheepdog. They must display the ability to keep other animals together, and this instinct is inborn. 

Owners who keep herding breeds as family pets speak of the dogs trying to keep children or other pets in a small group! Herding dogs might be trained to herd animals as diverse as ducks, sheep, goats, and cattle. 

Interestingly, it's the behavior of the predatory wolf that is honed and refined to produce the herding dog's distinctive actions. The herding dog goes into hunting-type behavior with the animals it is herding - it circles the group, identifies and retrieves stragglers (whereas a wolf would single out a straggler to attack and kill), nips at the animals' heels, and/or "stares them down." 

Herding dogs work from the rear or the front, with those that work from the rear engaging in the heel-nipping to push the animals onward, and those that work from the front using the stare or "strong eye" to turn the animals back. 

What Breeds Are Herding Dogs?

The main dog breeds that are in the herding group are:

Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog was first known as the Australian Heeler, although it is still called the Blue or Queensland Heeler today. Despite what some people may believe, there is no difference in temperament between blue and red Australian Cattle Dogs. The Australian Cattle Dog, or simply Cattle Dog, is a breed of herding dog originally developed in Australia for droving cattle over long distances across rough terrain. This breed is a medium-sized, short-coated dog that occurs in two main colour forms. Wikipedia

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts.. The Australian Shepherd, often known simply as the "Aussie", is a medium-sized breed of dog that was developed in the United States, and identified as a breed in the early 20th century. Wikipedia

Border Collie

The Border Collie is a working and herding dog breed developed in the Anglo-Scottish border county of Northumberland, for herding livestock, especially sheep. Considered highly intelligent, extremely energetic, acrobatic and athletic, they frequently compete with great success in sheepdog trials and dog sports. Wikipedia

Belgian Sheepdog

The Belgian Sheepdog is a highly trainable herder whose versatility and intelligence is the stuff of canine legend. The Belgian Shepherd is a breed of medium-sized herding dog from Belgium. While predominantly considered a single breed, it is bred in four distinct varieties based on coat type and colour; the long-haired ... Wikipedia

Bouvier des Flandres

The Bouvier des Flandres is a herding dog breed originating in Flanders, Belgium. They were originally used for general farm work including cattle droving, sheep herding, and cart pulling, and nowadays as guard dogs and police dogs, as well as being kept as pets. Wikipedia

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi, unlike the Pembroke, possesses a tail. The Cardigan springs from the same line of dogs as the Dachshund. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is the older of the two corgi breeds and is a separate and distinct breed from the Pembroke. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is one of two separate dog breeds known as Welsh Corgis that originated in Wales; the other is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. It is one of the oldest breeds of the British Isles. Cardigan Welsh Corgis are known to be an extremely loyal dog breed. Wikipedia

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was recognized by the AKC in 1934 along with the Brittany, Bullmastiff, and Lakeland Terrier. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the younger of the two corgi breeds and is a separate and distinct breed from the Cardigan. The Pembroke is the more popular of the two corgis breeds. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a cattle herding dog breed that originated in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is one of two breeds known as a Welsh Corgi. The other is the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and both descend from the line of northern spitz-type dogs. Wikipedia

Collie (the "Lassie" type)

The Rough Collie is a long-coated dog breed of medium to large size that, in its original form, was a type of collie used and bred for herding sheep in Scotland. More recent breeding has focused on the Collie as a show dog, and also companion. Wikipedia

German Shepherd

Despite its wolf-like appearance, the German Shepherd is a relatively modern breed of dog, with their origin dating to 1899. As a herding dog, German Shepherds are working dogs developed originally for herding sheep.

Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog (OES) was developed as a drover’s companion that could work in the climate of the English countryside. His thick, double coat makes him instantly identifiable, and he is a loving, family pet that needs plenty of human attention. Here are ten interesting facts about this member of the Herding Group. AKC.org


No other breed can be mistaken for the Puli, a compact but powerful herder covered from head to tail with profuse, naturally occurring cords.

Shetland Sheepdog ("Sheltie")

he Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is an extremely intelligent, quick, and obedient herder from Scotland's remote and rugged Shetland Islands. Shelties bear a strong family resemblance to their bigger cousin, the Collie. AKC.org

Some of these animals are kept as pets, too. 


Training herding dogs is an exacting task. While the breeds' instincts are there, trainers must refine and discipline these instincts to make the dogs into good herders. They usually begin with basic commands like any dog owner - sit, stay, heel, etc. But the herding dog trainer needs to make sure these commands are mastered, not optional. 

Next, herding calls are added, such as "That'll do," and "Come by." "That'll do" is sort of like "at ease" - the dog is to stop performing the given command and return to the trainer. "Come by" tells the dog to turn clockwise. 

When the dog is mature enough to handle these commands without hesitation or fear, the dog can slowly be introduced to the herd of animals. At first, the trainer uses a leash and a whistle to keep the dog in check. He or she trots along with the dog to show the dog the proper positions and directions. Gradually, the trainer will forego the leash and continue going with the dog. Then the trainer works toward giving the commands and standing by while the dog performs its herding duties. 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info. Clicking any of the links on this website does not increase the cost or affect the price for any item you purchased. Our main purpose is for informational purpose and not for just earning.

A Modern Dog Care Free Essential Guide

Modern Paws a FREE Ebook for Modern Dog Parents at www.scruffythedog.com
No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy