Herding dogs are some of the smartest dog breeds in the world. The herding breeds are mostly high energy dogs that love human company and need an active lifestyle.
We are all familiar with the popular Border Collie, star of the obedience ring and the agility circuit. However, there are some previously unusual herding dogs now reaching a wider audience.
Trending herding dogs!
One of the rising stars of the herding world is the Blue Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog.
But there are many more dogs involved in herding and guarding livestock.
From the pocket sized Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie, a working sheepdog from the remote regions of Northern Scotland, to the stumpy legged Corgi, bred for herding cattle, to the giant livestock guardian dogs of Europe (officially included in the working dog group) many dogs have their roots in their role as working farm dogs.
The most popular herding dogs!
The herding dogs group includes a range of sheepdogs and cattle dogs, bred to help sheep and cattle farmers move and manage their stock.
They include some of our best known and most popular dog breeds as well as some rare and unusual dogs
We’ll start with the most popular and work our way along!
#No. 1 The German Shepherd Dog
The most popular herding dog in the USA today is the German Shepherd Dog.
Known for its loyalty, intelligence and protective nature, the GSD is also one of the more controversial herding dog breeds. Concerns have been raised over the changing shape of the Shepherd and weakness in the hindquarters of some show dogs.
However, there are working GSDs with strong backs and hindquarters to be found in almost all regions, with the breed remaining a popular choice for military and police work across the world.
Here is a selection of our articles that include pictures and information about the German Shepherd Dog
- A Complete Guide To The German Shepherd Dog
- German Shepherd Dog Names
- The Best Food For GSDs with Sensitive Stomachs
- The White German Shepherd Dog
- The German Shepherd Pitbull Mix
- The German Shepherd Husky Mix
- The German Shepherd Lab Mix
- The Border Collie GSD Mix
- The GSD Rottweiler Mix
#No 2 The Australian Shepherd Dog
Next in popularity is the Australian Shepherd Dog.
The 16th most popular dog breed in the USA, the Aussie is an active, intelligent and strikingly beautiful sheepdog that has grown slowly but steadily in popularity each year.
This is still an actively working breed in its native homeland.
You’ll find more information about the Australian Shepherd Dog in these articles
#No 3 The Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Hot on the Aussie’s heels and also growing in popularity is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Corgis were bred for driving herds of cattle, but are more often kept as pets these days. Corgis are perhaps best known for being a favorite of the British royal family.
Pembroke Corgis carry a gene that causes tail-lessness in some puppies and are smaller and lighter than their Cardigan Corgi cousins
Sadly, the disproportionately long back and short legs of the Corgi predispose this breed to painful back problems
#No 4 The Shetland Sheepdog
The fourth most popular herding breed and at number 24 in the dog breed popularity stakes overall is the gorgeous Shetland Sheepdog.
Looking for all the world like a miniature version of the Collie, this is a little dog with a big heart.
Smart and hard working, The Shetland Sheepdog will also warn you if strangers are about and is quick to bark.
#No 5 The Collie
Collies (known as Rough Collies in the UK) come in at position 37 out of all dog breed registered with the AKC, and are the fifth most popular herding dog breed.
Those of you old enough will remember Lassie the TV screen hero of the 1950s and 60s.
Lassie was actually played by several different Collies, but this is another smart, easy to train breed that loves to please their owner.
#No 6 The Border Collie
Border Collies need no introduction either with their huge fan base in agility circles. These are bright working dogs that need a job to do or they can get into mischief.
Border Collies are the 38th most popular dog breed in America overall, and are widely believed to be one of the cleverest dog breeds in the world.
#No 7 The Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois at number 47 in the AKC’s breed list is becoming increasingly popular not only as a pet, but also as a service dog and working trials competitor.
Similar in some ways to the German Shepherd the Malinois has a better conformation with strong hindquarters and is replacing the GSD for service work in some regions
#No 8 The Blue Heeler
The Blue Heeler, or to give the breed it’s formal name – the Australian Cattle Dog – is our eighth most popular herding breed.
Bred for driving cattle in the harsh conditions of the Australian Outback this is a tough and resilient dog with a sharp brain and a huge fan base.
The Blue Heeler is also a dog with a great conformation. Upright ears help keep ear infections away, and a balanced well proportioned body is great for strength and speed
It’s a breed that also has Dingo blood running through it’s veins! You can find out more about the history and origins of the fascinating Blue Heeler in the links below
- Blue Heeler – A complete guide to the Australian Cattle Dog
- Blue Heeler history and origins
- Great Names For Blue Heelers
- Blue Heeler Pictures
#No 9 The Cardigan Corgi
We have another Corgi – the Cardigan Corgi – in ninth place.
These short legged cattle dogs are a larger, sturdier version of their Pembroke cousins with bigger ears
They have a natural long tail.
#No 10 The Old English Sheepdog
The shaggy Old English Sheepdog is our tenth most popular herding dog and comes in at number 75 on the AKC ranking list of dog breeds
Famous in the UK for featuring in a popular TV advert for Dulux paint in the 1970s, this hairy herding dog is sometimes still known there as a Dulux dog.
This is not a breed for those that want a dog with a ‘wash and go’ coat. The Old English Sheepdog needs regular thorough grooming or clipping to avoid matted fur
#No 11 The Bouvier Des Flandres
Next in eleventh place we have one of the big boys! The Bouvier De Flandres.
One of our largest herding dogs this all purpose farm dog that can reach heights of 27 inches or more.
Like the Old English Sheepdog the Bouviers is a shaggy breed that needs thorough grooming.
In some regions you’ll find breeders that still crop the ears of these dogs, but in most areas we are thankfully moving back to the natural ears that you see in this photo.
#No 12 The Belgian Tervuren
Following on in twelfth place in our herding dogs list is the Belgian Tervuren.
This striking dog is essentially a long haired version of the Malinois with a beautiful long coat in a rich fawn or red color
The Tervuren has a dark mask and ears sometimes spreading down over the shoulders and beyond.
#No 13 The Bearded Collie
The Bearded Collie at number 126 resembles a leaner, lighter version of the Old English Sheepdog.
#No 14 The Belgian Sheepdog
The Belgian Sheepdog at number 129 in the list of most popular dog breeds in the USA is a long haired black version of the Malinois.
The Laekenois, the Malinois, the Tervuren and the Belgian Shepherd were once a single breed.
These are all intelligent dogs popular with obedience and working trials competitors
#No 15 The Briard
The Briard at 132 is another shaggy sheepdog with a very long coat that needs regular grooming and/ or clipping.
As we go down the list you’ll find that we are now moving on to some rather more unusual dog breeds that you might not be as familiar with.
#No 16 The Beauceron
Coming in at 141 in the AKC popularity stakes the Beauceron, like the Bouviers De Flandres is another very tall herding dog.
But the similarity ends there.
The Beauceron has a neat shortish coat and coloring that more closely resemble that of the Doberman.
Herding Dogs – behavior
There are two different styles of herding behavior in dogs.
Some of our herding breeds are used to drive livestock forwards and to keep them on the move.
These dogs include our cattle dog breeds. And their behavior often includes a tendency to nip or bite at the heels of the animals they are herding.
Then there are the dogs which instinctively ’round up’ livestock and move them towards their human partner. This is the behavior which we find so valuable in our sheepdog breeds.
Because sheepdogs, like gundogs, have been bred for generations to work as a team with a human handler and to take directions at a distance, they include some of the most intelligent dogs on the planet.
Sheepdogs are often intensely busy dogs and prone to obsessive behaviors if their emotional need to work and solve problems is not satisfied.
Some of our herding breeds were also once used to guard and protect livestock, and may have well developed guarding instincts that need to be properly managed
Herding dogs – Summary
Smart, loyal and hard working, herding dogs need to be thoroughly trained, and kept busy to be happy.
They are not the right dog for couch potatoes, but will thrive in an active family or with an enthusiastic trainer.
The short legged Corgis and some lines of German Shepherds are prone to conformational problems, but overall this is an athletic and healthy group of dogs.
Let us know if you are a fan of herding dogs, and tell us about your dog in the comments box below!