Herding dogs are dog breeds that have been selectively bred and developed to herd, gather, and protect livestock. These dogs have been used for thousands of years to help sheepherders and cattle breeders when livestock was less domesticated and vehicles couldn’t be used to transport the animals.
Herding dogs are smart, get along well with people, and love having a job to do, making them easy to train. They are sometimes also referred to as stock dogs, shepherd dogs, and sheepdogs.
Common examples of herding dogs include the border collie, the German shepherd, and the Pembroke Welsh corgi.
Herding dog breeds are one of the seven dog types recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
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Herding Dogs Overview
There are 30 types of herding dog breeds that are recognized by the AKC.
While all herding dog breeds share modified predatory behaviors that have been refined into the herding skills known today, every herding dog is unique in its own way. Some have wiry and long coats, while others have short and smooth hair.
Common physical traits in these dogs include an athletic build and a durable coat that can withstand harsh weather.
Herding dogs exist in a range of sizes. Small breeds, like the Pembroke Welsh corgi and pumi, weigh around 30 pounds and only grow up to 18.5 inches tall. Large herding dogs, such as the Beauceron, can weigh up to 110 pounds.
Large Herding Dogs
The largest herding dog breeds, the bouvier des Flandres and the Beauceron, weigh between 65 and 110 pounds and reach 27.5 inches in height. However, most large herding dogs weigh 50 to 80 pounds on average and grow 24 to 26 inches.
The most well-known large herding dogs are the berger Picard, border collie, German shepherd dog, Belgian malinois, and old English sheepdog.
The Berger Picard herding dog weighs between 50 to 70 pounds and grows up to 26 inches. Males are larger than females.
These dogs are renowned for their rugged appearance and have wiry, medium-length coats. The breed’s coat comes in fawn or brindle, with some dogs having white or brindle markings.
Berger Picards are loyal, hard-working, and good-tempered. These dogs are easy to train but do have a stubborn attitude at times. As a high-energy breed, they require at least an hour of exercise every day.
The border collie reaches up to 22 inches in height, on average. Male border collies weigh between 30 and 44 pounds, while females weigh between 25 and 41 pounds.
The most distinctive border collie look is black with white markings, however, this breed comes in all kinds of colors and color combinations, including black, white, blue, blue merle, red merle, brindle, red, and sable merle.
Their coat type is either rough (short-haired) or smooth (long-haired).
These dogs are intelligent, affectionate, and highly trainable because of their eager-to-please nature. The border collie is one of the most energetic herding dogs, requiring at least two to three hours of exercise per day.
German Shepherd Dog
The German shepherd male dog has a height between 24 to 26 inches and a weight of 80 to 88 pounds. Female German shepherd dogs grow to around 22 to 25 inches tall and typically weigh between 55 and 77 pounds.
German shepherds have medium, thick double coats. Their coat color varies, but the most recognizable look is brown and black. The coat coloration must be rich and vibrant to pass the AKC’s breed standard.
Courageous, approachable, and alert, these dogs enjoy human companionship and are easy to train. German shepherds have high energy needs and should be exercised for at least two hours per day.
On average, Belgian Malinois males reach 24 to 26 inches in height and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females are 22 to 24 inches tall and weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.
Belgian Malinois have short, rough double coats that are usually fawn or mahogany with black markings.
Intelligent, inquisitive dogs, these dogs are one of the easiest breeds to train. They need at least 90 minutes of exercise per day, ideally split up into three separate walks.
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English sheepdog is easily recognizable to dog owners because of its shaggy appearance. Old English sheepdogs weigh between 60 to 100 pounds and are at least 21 inches tall.
This dog breed has a long double coat that’s typically gray and white while other possible coat colors include: blue and white, blue merle and white, and grizzle and white.
While this breed is sometimes stubborn, they’re adaptable, smart, confident, and easy to train with the right approach. Most Old English sheepdogs need at least two hours of exercise every day to thrive.
Medium Herding Dogs
Medium-sized herding dogs have a height range between 17 inches and 23 inches, and an average weight of 35 to 55 pounds.
The most popular medium-sized herding dog breeds include the Australian cattle dog, Finnish Lapphund, bearded collie, and Australian shepherd.
Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian cattle dog weighs between 35 to 50 pounds. Males have a height range of 18 to 20 inches while females are smaller, standing at 17 to 19 inches tall.
Australian cattle dogs have smooth double coats that are either blue-gray or red, with mottled or speckled markings.
Although stubborn, Australian cattle dogs are intelligent and easily trained by the right owner. These dogs are active and require over two hours of exercise every day.
Finnish Lapphunds grow up to 21 inches in height and weigh between 33 to 53 pounds, with females being smaller than males.
Markings, such as tan points and tri-color hues, are common in the breed’s medium double coats and come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, cream, and tan.
The Finnish Lapphund is devoted, social, and eager to please, making them highly trainable. These dogs need moderate exercise, ideally between one to two hours of exercise per day.
The bearded collie herding dog weighs 45 to 55 pounds and has an average height of 20 to 22 inches. Bearded collies have silky, long coats that are either black, blue, brown, or fawn with white markings.
This breed is affectionate, lively, and loves to be vocal. While these herding dogs do have a stubborn nature, they’re quick learners and respond well to consistent training. Bearded collies must be exercised daily for at least an hour.
Australian shepherd males grow up to 20 to 23 inches and weigh 50 to 65 pounds. Female Australian shepherds are smaller than males, weighing 40 to 55 pounds with a height between 18 and 21 inches.
This herding dog has a medium-length, moderately-coarse coat that comes in several hues, like black, red merle, and blue merle.
The Australian shepherd makes a wonderful companion, thanks to the breed’s intelligence, affectionate nature, and high trainability. This breed is active and must be exercised for at least two hours every day.
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
This medium-sized herding dog grows up to 21 inches, on average, and weighs between 40 and 65 pounds, with males being larger than females.
Entlebucher mountain dogs have short double coats and are either black, white, and tan, or black, white, and yellow.
Entlebucher mountain dogs are loyal, intelligent, and eager to work, however, this breed likes to be independent and requires a firm and experienced owner to reach its full potential. The breed has moderate activity needs with at least one hour of exercise per day.
Small Herding Dogs
Small herding dogs are 10 inches to 18.5 inches tall and weigh around 15 to 34 pounds. The most well-known small herding dog breeds are the Pembroke Welsh corgi, Shetland sheepdog, and Cardigan Welsh corgi.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh corgis are the smallest AKC-recognized herding dog, having an average height of 10 to 12 inches and weighing up to 30 pounds.
They have medium double coats which come in red, black, tan, fawn, and sable, and often have white markings.
These herding dogs are energetic and require an hour of daily exercise at a minimum. Pembroke Welsh corgis are easy to train due to their intelligence and eager-to-please nature.
Shetland sheepdogs have an average size of 13 to 16 inches and weigh between 15 and 25 pounds.
These herding dogs have double coats, with the outer coat made up of long, straight hairs with white or tan markings, and the coat, itself, is either black, blue merle, or a shade of sable.
Shetland sheepdogs are bold, confident, and playful. These dogs are intelligent and highly trainable. As an active small breed, these dogs require at least an hour of exercise.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh corgi is around 10.5 to 12.5 inches tall and weighs between 25 and 38 pounds, with males being larger than females.
These dogs have medium double coats with harsh outer hairs. While the breed’s coloration varies, common colors include red, sable, and brindle, often with white markings.
Cardigan Welsh corgis are loyal, even-tempered, and adaptable. These herding dogs are energetic and need regular exercise with at least one hour of physical activity daily.
The Pumi has a height of between 16 and 18.5 inches. Male Pumi dogs weigh 50 to 65 pounds, while females weigh less, at 40 to 55 pounds.
These dogs have a unique curly coat consisting of both soft and harsh hairs. The breed’s standard colors are black, fawn, gray, silver-gray, white, and brown.
Pumis are affectionate and lively dogs that love being given a job to do. Thanks to their hardworking nature and intelligence, this breed is easy to train and should be exercised for at least one hour per day.
Herding Dog Mixes
Herding dog mixes are common and have a diverse range of sizes, colors, coats, and personalities due to having attributes from both parent breeds.
Every herding dog mix is unique in its own way. Some mixes are more like one parent in appearance or personality than others.
Should You Get a Herding Dog Breed?
Herding dog breeds make wonderful companions for pet owners who can meet the dogs’ exercise needs and devote lots of time and energy to their care.
Herding dogs aren’t suitable for those who prefer a laidback lifestyle or spend most of their time away at work.
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