All About Sheepdog Breeds How to Choose From the Herding Dogs Breeds

All About Sheepdog Breeds

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From Croatia to Wales, Sheepdogs have helped on farms for ages, and are widely recognized as great family pets as well. Learn about the different types of Sheepdogs.

Sheepdogs take their name from what they were bred and trained to do -- work with sheep. This work can involve herding sheep as they are moved, or guarding sheep from predators or poachers. Many sheepdogs also manage other animals, such as horses or cattle, and they often become integral working members of a farm team. Though these breeds are perfectly suited for working with livestock, many are also capable of taking on the job of loving pet. Active, intelligent, watchful, and trainable, a sheepdog may be the perfect addition to your familyโ€™s flock.

Belgian Sheepdog

During WWII, these dogs performed amazing feats on the battlefields, serving as message carriers, ambulance dogs, and weapons transporters. Today, this breed makes a wonderful pet to owners who can provide them with plenty of stimulation. The Belgian Sheepdog needs lots of exercise, and makes a great search and rescue dog, therapy dog, guide dog, or watchdog.

Catalan Sheepdog

A smart and faithful breed, the Catalan Sheepdog is an excellent companion pet, but tends to be wary of strangers. These dogs excel at dog sports and agility training, and require a good deal of exercise for their active personalities. Today, the Catalan Sheepdog is still commonly used for sheep herding.

Croatian Sheepdog

The Croatian Sheepdog is an alert and energetic breed. These dogs are cautious of strangers and make excellent watchdogs. Their athletic bodies and sharp minds crave exercise, stimulation, and challenging tasks. This breed has a tendency to choose one special master to obey.

Himalayan Sheepdog

The rustic Himalayan Sheepdog is a mountain dog. This breed originated in Nepal, and is rarely seen outside of India and Nepal. Observant, territorial, and fearless, these dogs are often used for herding purposes, but also make great companion pets. The Himalayan Sheepdog requires ample outdoor space, and is not recommended for homes with other animals.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Loving, playful, and curious, Icelandic Sheepdogs are so adored in their native country of Iceland that they are portrayed on postage stamps. These are ideal family dogs who are very social, eager to please, and patient with children.

Old English Sheepdog

This large and fluffy dog (pictured above) has a friendly, gentle, and adaptable personality that is well suited to homes with children. The Old English Sheepdog is also very intelligent, and highly trainable.

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

A classic working dog, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is attentive, loyal, and full of life. Their medium size makes them a good fit for any type of home, and they are good watchdogs who are often suspicious of strangers. Not a low maintenance pet, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog requires daily brushing to prevent coat mats.

Polish Tatra Sheepdog

The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a herding dog through and through. These dogs are very independent and prefer to be outdoors, but become devoted to their family and offer protection with booming barks and self-guided vigilance. These dogs do best with regular obedience training, and get along well with other pets as well we children. This breed is still regularly used for the herding and guarding of livestock.

Shetland Sheepdog

Small and agile, the Shetland Sheepdog is one of the most obedient dog breeds. Affectionate, devoted, and extremely intelligent, these dogs are celebrated for their amazing capabilities of tracking, herding, guarding, and performing tricks.


Welsh Sheepdog

The Welsh Sheepdog is an active-minded dog who likes to be occupied with a task. These dogs are very protective of their owners, and will do just about anything to please them. This breed can be trained rather easily, and will act obediently as long as there is an outlet for their vast amounts of energy. Today, these dogs are still commonly used for herding livestock.

Shepherd Dog Breeds

Shepherd dogs are in the family of herding breeds, dogs that have been carefully bred for their useful hunting instincts while minimizing aggressive tendencies. Shepherd dogs are named after their long histories spent herding sheep and cattle around the worldโ€”some are still used on farms or ranches. They are popular pets because of their intelligence and responsiveness to commands. When trained for herding they can learn 20 or more complex commands for rounding up the cattle, looking for lost sheep, or splitting the herd into groups.

While you may not have sheep at home, that doesn't mean your shepherd won't find something to herd. Many pet parents find that their shepherd dog is subtly trying to herd them or their kids. Shepherds tend to be large, athletic, and high energy, so it's important to keep them mentally and physically activeโ€”you can even use mock herding exercises at home!

In order to stay out of trouble, shepherd dogs require careful, firm training. All of these dogs look to the pack leader for decisions and guidance, so you need to be their pack leader. The best pet parents for shepherd dogs have experience raising and training dogs as well as the time to train them and keep their bodies and minds exercised. These dogs require a lot of time and effort, but the payoff is an intelligent friend who will be a joy to play with and will keep the family and home safe.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds (pictured above) have been promoted from herding sheep to police dogs because they are so smart, loyal, and easy to train. Because they love to work hard to please their pack leader, it's important to include challenges in their daily exercise, like fetching balls and Frisbees. While some people think these dogs can be aggressive as police dogs, a German Shepherd trained early and well will be a docile pet and protector for the family.


Australian Shepherd

Surprising given their name, these dogs originated in Europe, but they were first introduced to North America as coming from Australia. These medium sized shepherds have a beautiful multi-colored coat, and they are very fast with the ability to change directions easily, traits that make them better at herding cattle than sheep. Part of their herding style is to nip at the feet of animals, so if they try to herd your family, you may get nipped in the heels.

Caucasian Shepherd (Ovtcharka)

Ovtcharkas have been herding sheep and cattle in the Caucasus for centuries and it's easy to see why this giant, brave, and independent dog is good at herding and protecting. Caucasian Shepherds require firm training with authority and so they know that the pet parent is the pack leaderโ€”weak training might allow for aggressive tendencies to emerge in this huge breed.

Belgian Shepherd

Belgian Groenendael Shepherds, like German Shepherds, also have a history of police work and served in World War II as message-carriers. These dogs are highly intelligent, but require very careful training, purposeful exercise, and early socialization or they can become stubborn or shy. Once you have them running and fetching, you'll notice they tend to run in circular patterns, rather than straight lines.

Anatolian Shepherd

These sheep-colored dogs originated in Turkey and are better guard dogs than herding dogs. Since they are very wary of strangers, they will try to protect the family unless they recognize that you, the pack leader, have decided to welcome the stranger. It's very important to train these dogs while they are young because once Anatolian Shepherds become adults they become more independent and protective.

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