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 family’s flock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 world—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 active—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 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.
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 leader—weak training might
allow for aggressive tendencies to emerge in this huge breed.
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.
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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