Adoption Choices: Herding Dog Breeds

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If you're looking for a hard-working, devoted furry friend, a dog from the herding breed may be perfect choice for you.

There are many herding dog breeds, from a tall German Shepherd to a short corgi, and while these pups are some of the most loyal, they also have traits that may not make them the right choice for certain people and families.

Smiling black and white Border Collie looking upSome of these breeds, such as the border collie, are popular choices for a pet because of their joyful, energetic qualities. Before meeting and falling in love with one, see if their personalities and care requirements match with what you can provide for your new fur baby.

What Are Herding Dogs?

Herding dogs were once classified for their ability to round up different herds of farm animals including cattle, sheep and goats. They were originally turned to ensure that none of the farm animals strayed from their territory, and then would "herd" them together so they would move as one. These dogs were vital to helping farmers tend to their livestock, as well as protect them from predators. There are a number of dogs within the herding classification. Below are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Border collie
  • Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Pembroke Welsh corgi
  • Shetland sheepdog

For a full list of breeds within this classification, click the AKC link in the below paragraph.


Herding dogs, also classified as working dogs, share characteristics and physical traits, such as agility, speed and loyalty. Overall, they are smart, happy, energetic and athletic animals that need to be active. The American Kennel Club notes, "these intelligent dogs make excellent companions and respond beautifully to training exercises," making them an excellent choice for active individuals and families.

A dog's specific temperament depends upon his breed. The collie, for example, is a sweet and gentle dog (the most famous being television star Lassie, a rough collie). PetMD points out, "Collies are a gentle and predictable breed, rarely misbehaving and easily trainable — which is perfect for families that are unfamiliar with dogs." Collies and other herding dogs retain a strong herding instinct (they especially love to round up young children), that may manifest as nipping or biting at your heels. While this is undesirable behavior, the good news is that dogs in this group are highly trainable, and with time and patience, you can curb your dog's undesirable behavior.

Physical Needs

Traditionally, herding dogs were raised to work on farms and ranches, moving along cows, sheep and goats, but now it's rare that the average household pet interacts with farm animals, particularly pets in urban areas. Despite living the good life in a house or apartment, he is an athletic animal, and hanging out in the living room just won't do. He requires an outlet for his energy.

Black Australian Shepherd dog standing in grass

Therefore, think carefully about your living arrangement and how frequently — and easily — your pup can run around in large, open spaces. Unless you have regular access to a dog park or other outdoor venue that allows dogs to run free, a herding dog may not be the best option for you. He can become restless in cramped quarters, particularly because he has such a strong instinct to herd. Homes with a large, enclosed yard are the perfect environment for a herding dog, where he'll thrive on interaction with his pet parent.

The ideal owner of a herding dog is someone who loves to be outside and to be active. You'll need a lot of energy to keep up with your exuberant pup. Be sure to give your fur baby a job to do so he doesn't get bored!


Old English Sheepdog puppy sitting on floor with a red ball

Generally speaking, you'll care for your herding dog in the same way you would another dog breed. You'll need to provide proper medical care, identification and licensing for your pup, feed him balanced and nutritious meals, follow leash laws and be loyal and patient.

As mentioned earlier, herding dogs are multitasking animals with a lot of energy, so plan to commit to a training program in order to prevent behavioral problems down the road. Herding dogs in particular, find training as fun stimulus to keep them and their minds active, so what you see as teaching lessons, they see as fun.

Grooming requirements are specific to each dog breed. A fluffy Old English sheepdog will need much more work than a short-haired dog. Vetstreet suggests you allow a minimum of 30 minutes per week to give your furry friend a thorough brushing. You'll also find his gorgeous fur all over the house, so factor in extra vacuuming time, too!

Herding dogs are a wonderful option for pet parents and families who have plenty of time and energy to devote to their new furry buddy. In return for welcoming him into your home, he will be your loyal, loving companion. If you are considering a herding pup, don't forget to check out your local animal shelter for possible adoption. In addition, to purebred herding dogs, many shelters have mix breeds that have herding in their lineage and retain many of those characteristics. They can be everything you wanted and you can provide them with a loving home.

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about family life, pets, and pregnancy. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien

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