It’s no secret that dogs have been a staple throughout our evolution, and even since prehistoric time man has employed the help of dogs throughout his life. In present day, herding dog breeds are still among the most popular and most sought after dogs in the world. This is because of how the way they get the job done, combining intelligence and cunning along with resilience and a lot of willpower, making sure that each and every single individual from that herd is not only accounted for but also safe and protected.
It goes without saying that there is a lot of variation between these breeds, and each and every one of them works in a separate way, fulfilling different roles and managing different tasks in order to keep the herd rounded out.
That being said, let’s look at a few of the most popular choices when it comes to herding dog breeds.
The German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is currently amongst the most popular dogs in the world, and often times one of the first breeds to be identified by people that have only the basic understanding of dogs and dog breeds. This is mostly because of the popularity of the breed and the fact that you can literally see one anywhere and everywhere.
From law enforcement, to bomb disposal, to service dogs and even the military, the German Shepherd has made a name for itself, even going as far as to grace the silver screen with its presence. However, the name gives it away – it is still a shepherd, a herding dog, and one of the most intelligent herding dog breed out there.
These dogs have been and are still being used by shepherds all over the world because of their intelligent and cunning nature, making them able to spot out danger and keep track of the herd without having to go through much trouble in order to do so.
They are also strong and though fighters when it comes down to it, often being declared a dangerous breed in certain countries. This has proven vital many times throughout their herding careers, some stories still circulating about how these dogs managed to bring down wolves and even bears.
Something very important to note about this dog is the fact that it not only has the looks and the brawn, but it also has the brain to back it all up. Literally, this is one of, if not the smartest dog out there, being able to see and understand the world more or less as we manage to.
There are a couple of limitations here and there, as well as figure out human behavior traits, personality patterns and even increased flexibility and adaptability as a result of it. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that this dog often tends to consider itself above the master, if not trained properly from a very young age, and will often challenge you for supremacy. Granted, it can get really annoying over time, but at the same time it will keep you both on your feet.
Because of the increased level of intelligence, this dog also tends to get bored a lot, and when it gets bored, you get pranked. Indeed, your German Shepherd will play pranks on you when bored, or when simply looking for a bit of fun to brighten up the day. However, it is the same intelligence that makes him or her more or less the alpha dog in every single situation that it can get itself into.
The Rough Collie
Yes, you guessed it! Lassie is on this list too! The iconic dog made famous by Hollywood is also one of the best herding dog breeds out there. However, make no mistake about it, this dog might seem posh and sophisticated, but it is not afraid to get down and dirty with the rest of them.
The Rough Collie was initially an English breed, created in order to help their masters with herding livestock and other tasks around the farm, which include but are not limited to protection, guarding, keeping animals in line and in check.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that this breed is also highly intelligent, and able to pick up not only on human behavior but also on the general situation around, thus being able to identify potentially dangerous and chaotic situations before they actually happen.
This does not come easy though, and in order for these dogs to be up to snuff, they had to be trained extensively, which is not an easy thing to do considering that the nature of this dog is a rather peaceful and tender one.
Throughout the ages, the Rough Collie has managed to not only impress but also live up to even the highest of expectations, making it a lot easier for farmers to herd their livestock over generally large distances without having to worry about a thing.
Don’t let the dog’s appearance fool you though. It might be great with kids, fun loving, playful and generally shy and tender with other humans, but when it comes down to showing teeth, this dog will never back away. Regardless of the danger, be it human or animal, the Rough Collie will stand his or her ground in a rather ferocious manner.
Something very important to note about this dog is the fact that in order to make sure that it will manage to live up to its standards and reach its full potential, he or she will need a lot of training from an early age.
There is no risk of uncalled for aggression, no risk of randomly biting people or ferocious temperament, but in order to keep the dog’s mind on track, as well as make it strive for more each and every time you work it, proper and detailed training is required.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Who would have ever guessed that this tiny, cute and generally ballistic dog is actually a great herding dog? The Welsh for starters, and this little corgi did not fall short of expectations. Granted, one of the main things that goes through our minds is the fact that herding dogs should provide some sort of defense against harm when it comes to the herd, and seeing how this little dog is not even able to reach our knees, it might seem too much of a challenge for it.
That being said, have you ever heard a corgi bark when it comes to danger? To put in shortly, this is more or less a siren on 4 short legs, making it incredibly easy for the owners to keep track of the dog as it runs around keeping the herd together. Granted, you might lose sight of the dog through tall grass, however you will constantly hear it doing its job.
It’s a very nimble dog, full of energy and always looking for ways in which to blow off steam, in this case a lot of it. The corgi’s body also provides it with a huge advantage when it comes to keeping other animals in check – a lot of speed. Due to its small, stubby body, and the shape of its hind legs, it is more or less able to run around and even start hopping like a rabbit, building momentum and shooting across the fields like a small orange cannonball with ears.
This is indeed a generally funny sight to behold, however it has proven useful and valuable to these dogs over time, being able to catch stragglers and keep even the most stubborn of animals in check, preventing them from drifting off and away from the herd.
One last thing to note about this breed is the fact that it needs a lot of attention growing up. If you want to make it grow up into a proper herding dog instead of an apartment pet, don’t try and address the ballistic and frantic temperament that it sports from an early age.
The Icelandic Sheepdog
Like with every single dog breed classification out there, herding breeds have to have their odd one out. The Icelandic Sheepdog is the one in this case, and even though it has a rich and long legacy, dating all the way back to the ancient Vikings, this dog breed still has its head up in the clouds.
As mentioned earlier, it was initially used by Vikings in order to help protect their sheep and other livestock, not from wolves, bears or other people specifically, even though it also did that, but mostly from birds. That’s right; these dogs had the main duty of keeping the birds off of other animals, and for good reason! These birds were more or less pests, often leading to great losses in terms of livestock for the Vikings, and this nifty medium sized dog was a four legged blessing upon them.
Even to this date, when birds are no longer a problem for the livestock, you can still see these dogs looking up at the sky and barking at birds, often times trying to chase them away as they try and land. Regardless, it is still a rather prominent and strong herding dog, mostly because of its keen senses and general awareness.
It can also double as a very efficient guard dog, making it all the more annoying for other people to hop your fence or break into your house. The dog’s temperament, on the other hand, is rather peculiar to say the least. It is rather friendly, all be it difficult to adapt to strangers, it is generally playful as long as it is not bored, and generally likes playing with other animals as long as they are not birds.
It is rather intelligent and can even make out certain communication traits and features that we humans use most of the time, and can even figure out behavioral patterns. That being said, this dog is also a prankster. Make no mistake about it; when this dog gets bored, it will manage to make its own fun, and if you thought that the German Shepherd or the Husky were severe pranksters, you should see what the Icelandic Sheepdog is able to do. He goes as far as to drag chairs out from under you as you are about to sit down, just to get a reaction out of you.
On a more serious note, this dog is not exactly suited for apartment life and requires a lot of exercise and room to run around, so if you live in an apartment or have a small yard, this might not be the dog for you.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Don’t worry, this breed has a lot more going for it than a rather difficult to pronounce name. At first glance it might not seem like much – just another medium sized mild tempered and friendly dog; that is of course until it hits the fields.
Make no mistake about it, it might not look the part, but it is a herding dog through and through, and it also has the reflexes and instincts to match. First and foremost, the thing that might not be easy to spot is the fact that this dog is intelligent, and it can pick up on a lot of things, often times even understanding what you are saying to it or what you want it to do.
Second thing that you will notice, especially if you go for a walk or a run with it, is the fact that it has an absurd level of stamina, even for a dog. Literally, this dog could run and exercise for a very long time.
Third and final thing that you will manage to see for yourself, is the fact that it has a large amount of energy. Combine this with the stamina and intelligence and you have yourself one of the most easy to handle herding dogs that you could have. This is because of the fact that this dog is very enthusiastic, loyal and above all else smart, meaning that it enjoys working with his or her master. No matter what you put the dog through it will always stay by your side, and no matter what situation might come its way, you can count on it to do a stellar job.
Something very important to note here is the fact that the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, even though it is a mountain dog, it is not a big one. In fact it is a medium-sized dog, so don’t expect it to be willing, or able for that matter, to take on things like wolves and bears.
Its coat is a very thick but at the same time sleek and streamlined uniform that gives it something that very few dogs have – little drag resist, meaning that it can reach some fairly impressive speeds. That being said, there are often times when livestock tend to wander off and stray from the herd, and it is the herding dog’s job to chase them back to the herd.
Being able to outrun the livestock and wrangle them back into the herd is a skill that is rather invaluable to a herding dog, and this one is able to do it without much effort. Do keep in mind though that the dog has to be focused in order to do so, and without proper training, it will end up being rather easily distracted, and you might end up chasing after it.
One last thing to note about this dog is the fact that its general temperament is a rather mild one. However, it can fluctuate and vary depending on your own. As with any working dog breed, it is rather tough and independent, but the Entlebucher can still be influenced by the behavior of the master, so show some control and restraint. Otherwise you will not only stress the dog, but will also cause him or her to lose most of his or her focus at the tasks at hand.
There are a lot of benefits to owning a herding dog, especially when it comes down to controlling, managing and protecting a herd. They don’t necessarily make for the best pets sometimes, and they are rarely suited for apartment life, however they are able to contribute a lot when it comes to improving your life.
They are all generally loyal, smart and rather playful, however they all need a lot of exercise, a lot of training and a lot of care in order to make sure that the dog you are getting in the long run will be more of a blessing than a curse.