Types of Herding Dogs

Types of Herding Dogs (Guide)

Herding dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are adept at herding in various terrains and weather conditions. They have different flock management styles, such as the border collie, which uses its stare to keep the herd together, and the Australian cattle dog, which drives the animals forward. Other breeds like the Australian shepherd and Shetland sheepdog do a combination of herding techniques. These dogs are highly intelligent, trainable, and active, but they require mental and physical exercise to prevent unwanted behaviors. Here are 17 well-known herding dog breeds.

Key Takeaways:

  • Herding dogs come in various breeds, each with its own unique qualities and characteristics.
  • Border collies are considered one of the most intelligent herding breeds, requiring a job to fulfill their mental and physical needs.
  • Australian shepherds are athletic dogs that excel in herding and various dog sports.
  • Bearded collies are intelligent dogs from Scotland that have high exercise needs and require consistent obedience training.
  • Belgian Malinois are known for their endurance and hard work, often employed in law enforcement.

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian cattle dogs are highly intelligent and energetic herding dogs that have been developed in Australia for working in extreme weather conditions. They are known for their exceptional herding abilities and make excellent companions for active owners.

These medium-sized dogs have a smooth double coat that comes in colors like blue and red with black and tan markings. Australian cattle dogs measure 17 to 20 inches in height and weigh 30 to 50 pounds. With a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years, they are known for their hardiness and resilience.

Australian cattle dogs are known for their keen instincts and natural herding skills. They are quick learners and respond well to training, making them highly versatile working dogs. In addition to herding, they excel in various dog sports and activities that challenge their intelligence and agility.

Characteristics of Australian Cattle Dogs:

  • Highly intelligent and trainable
  • Energetic and active
  • Require mental and physical exercise
  • Strong herding instincts
  • Hardy and resilient

Australian cattle dogs are often described as hardworking, loyal, and protective. They thrive in homes where they are given a job to do and ample opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation.

Height 17 – 20 inches
Weight 30 – 50 pounds
Coat Smooth double coat
Colors Blue and red with black and tan markings
Life Expectancy 12 – 16 years

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd, despite its name, was developed in the United States. These herding dogs are known for their brilliance and athleticism, excelling in herding activities and various dog sports. With their medium-length coats, Australian Shepherds come in a range of colors including black, blue merle, red, and red merle. They have a moderate size, measuring between 18 to 23 inches in height and weighing 40 to 65 pounds. The Australian Shepherd has a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years, making them a loyal and dedicated companion for many years to come.

Distinctive Traits of Australian Shepherds

  • Intelligence: Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs with a strong desire to please their owners. They are quick learners, making them highly trainable for various tasks.
  • Energy Level: These herding dogs are known for their high energy levels. Daily exercise and mental stimulation are essential to keep them happy and prevent destructive behaviors.
  • Herding Instincts: True to their heritage, Australian Shepherds have a natural herding instinct. They will often try to herd anything in their surroundings, including children and other pets.
  • Loyal and Protective: Australian Shepherds are renowned for their loyalty and protective nature towards their families. They make excellent watchdogs and will alert their owners to any potential dangers.

Quote: “Australian Shepherds are incredibly versatile and excel in various dog sports, such as obedience, agility, and flyball. Their athleticism and intelligence make them a top choice for active individuals or families.”

Whether you’re looking for a herding dog or an active companion, the Australian Shepherd is a breed worth considering. With their intelligence, loyalty, and incredible athleticism, they will surely bring joy and excitement to your life. Remember to provide them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and well-balanced.

Characteristic Description
Size Medium-sized, measuring 18-23 inches in height
Weight 40-65 pounds
Coat Medium-length, with colors including black, blue merle, red, and red merle
Life Expectancy 13-15 years
Traits Intelligent, high-energy, strong herding instincts, loyal, protective

Bearded Collie

The Bearded Collie is a remarkable herding dog breed originating from Scotland. These intelligent dogs are known for their high exercise needs and lively temperament. They require consistent obedience training from a young age to overcome their somewhat stubborn nature.

Bearded Collies have a distinctive appearance with their straight, coarse, shaggy coat that comes in various colors such as black, blue, brown, or fawn. This breed measures 21 to 22 inches in height for males and 20 to 21 inches for females, with a weight range of 45 to 55 pounds.

With a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, Bearded Collies make loyal and affectionate companions for active individuals or families. However, their exercise requirements should not be underestimated, as they need ample mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and unwanted behaviors.

Bearded Collie Characteristics:

  • Origin: Scotland
  • Coat: Straight, coarse, shaggy
  • Colors: Black, blue, brown, fawn
  • Height: 21-22 inches (male), 20-21 inches (female)
  • Weight: 45-55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

“Bearded Collies are intelligent and lively dogs that require consistent training and mental stimulation to thrive.”

These versatile herding dogs excel not only in herding tasks but also in various dog sports and activities. Their energy and enthusiasm make them a great choice for owners who can provide the necessary physical exercise and mental challenges that Bearded Collies require.

Consider the Bearded Collie if you are looking for an intelligent, active, and affectionate companion that can excel in herding or enjoy an active lifestyle.

Characteristics Details
Origin Scotland
Coat Straight, coarse, shaggy
Colors Black, blue, brown, fawn
Height 21-22 inches (male), 20-21 inches (female)
Weight 45-55 pounds
Life Expectancy 12-14 years

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is a versatile and highly capable breed of herding dog. Known for their endurance and hard work, these dogs are often employed in law enforcement and military roles. They possess remarkable intelligence and require adequate training to channel their energy effectively. With a short coat and noble appearance, they come in colors like fawn, mahogany, and red, with a distinct black mask.

Belgian Malinois measure between 22 to 26 inches in height and weigh between 40 to 80 pounds. Their compact yet muscular build allows them to perform demanding tasks with ease. These dogs have a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years, providing their owners with many years of loyalty and companionship.

“The Belgian Malinois is a highly intelligent and energetic breed, making them an ideal choice for various working roles. With proper training and socialization, these dogs can excel in herding, search and rescue, and protection tasks.” – Expert Dog Trainer

Distinguishing Features of the Belgian Malinois

  • Short coat in colors like fawn, mahogany, and red with a black mask.
  • Medium to large build, measuring between 22 to 26 inches in height.
  • Weight ranging from 40 to 80 pounds.
  • Life expectancy of 14 to 16 years.

Table: Comparison of Belgian Malinois with Other Herding Dog Breeds

Characteristic Belgian Malinois Australian Shepherd Border Collie
Size Medium to large Medium Medium
Coat Type Short Medium to long Medium to long
Colors Fawn, mahogany, red Various Various
Herding Style Driven and focused Stalk and gather Stalk and gather
Trainability Highly trainable Highly trainable Highly trainable
Activity Level High High High

With their exceptional qualities and capabilities, the Belgian Malinois is a breed that thrives on mental and physical challenges. Whether serving in a working role or as a dedicated companion, these dogs bring loyalty, intelligence, and unmatched determination to their tasks.

Border Collie

The Border Collie is a highly intelligent and versatile herding dog breed. Known for their intense focus and remarkable problem-solving skills, Border Collies are considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. They are often used in competitive dog sports, such as agility and obedience trials, but their true passion lies in herding livestock. With their natural herding instincts and keen sense of direction, Border Collies excel at managing and controlling flocks.

These working dogs have a medium-sized body that is well-muscled and agile. They come in various coat types, including rough and smooth, which can be black and white, red and white, or tricolor. Border Collies require regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep their active minds engaged. They thrive in an environment that provides them with plenty of opportunities to work and play.

“The Border Collie’s intelligence and willingness to please make them highly trainable, but they can also be demanding and require a firm and consistent hand in training,” says renowned dog trainer, Jane Smith.

The Border Collie at a Glance:

  • Height: 18 to 22 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 17 years
  • Coat Type: Rough or smooth, medium-length
  • Colors: Black and white, red and white, tricolor

Border Collies make loyal and loving companions, but they are best suited for active individuals or families who can provide them with the mental and physical stimulation they need. If you’re looking for a highly trainable and versatile herding dog, the Border Collie may be the perfect choice for you.

Characteristic Border Collie Australian Cattle Dog Australian Shepherd Bearded Collie
Height 18 to 22 inches 17 to 20 inches 18 to 23 inches 21 to 22 inches (male), 20 to 21 inches (female)
Weight 30 to 55 pounds 30 to 50 pounds 40 to 65 pounds 45 to 55 pounds
Life Expectancy 10 to 17 years 12 to 16 years 13 to 15 years 12 to 14 years

German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog, also known as the GSD, is a highly versatile and intelligent breed that has excelled in various roles, including herding, search and rescue, and law enforcement. Known for their loyalty and trainability, German Shepherds are celebrated for their working abilities and make excellent herding dogs.

Appearance and Size

Average Height: 22 to 26 inches

Average Weight: 50 to 90 pounds

Life Expectancy: 7 to 10 years

German Shepherds have a distinctive appearance, with a medium-length double coat that comes in colors such as black and tan, black and red, and solid black. They have a strong and well-muscled body, giving them a regal and confident appearance.

One of the key characteristics of German Shepherds is their impressive size. They are classified as large-sized dogs, with males typically measuring between 24 and 26 inches in height and females measuring between 22 and 24 inches. Their weight ranges from 50 to 90 pounds, depending on their size and overall build.

Temperament and Training

German Shepherds are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and courage. They bond strongly with their families and are protective, making them excellent guard dogs. However, they require early socialization and proper training to ensure they grow up to be well-behaved and adaptable companions.

Due to their herding background, German Shepherds possess a strong work drive and are willing to learn and take on various tasks. They excel in obedience training and can quickly learn complex commands. Their intelligence and trainability make them ideal candidates for search and rescue operations, as well as other working roles.

Exercise and Care

German Shepherds are energetic dogs that require regular exercise and mental stimulation. They thrive in an active environment and are happiest when they have a job to do or tasks to complete. Daily walks, playtime, and opportunities for mental challenges are essential for their well-being.

In terms of grooming, German Shepherds have a thick double coat that requires regular brushing to prevent matting and shedding. Their coats naturally repel dirt, so frequent baths are not necessary unless they get particularly dirty. German Shepherds are moderate shedders and may require more frequent brushing during shedding seasons to minimize loose hair in the household.

Pros Cons
Highly intelligent and trainable Require consistent training and socialization
Loyal and protective Can be prone to certain health issues
Excellent working abilities Require regular exercise and mental stimulation
Adaptable to different environments Moderate shedding

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a versatile and hardworking herding dog breed that originated in Iceland. These dogs excel in herding livestock and are well-suited for various farm duties. With their unique characteristics and capabilities, Icelandic Sheepdogs make valuable assets to farmers and ranchers.

Known for their adaptability and endurance, Icelandic Sheepdogs have a waterproof, double-thick, bushy coat that protects them from harsh weather conditions. They come in a range of colors such as black and white, chocolate and white, and gray and white, adding to their distinctive appearance.

With a height ranging from 17 to 18 inches and a weight between 25 and 30 pounds, Icelandic Sheepdogs are of medium size. Despite their compact build, these dogs possess agility and stamina, enabling them to navigate challenging terrains while herding livestock effectively.

Key Characteristics of Icelandic Sheepdogs:

  • Highly adept at herding livestock
  • Excellent endurance and adaptability
  • Waterproof, double-thick, bushy coat
  • Colors include black and white, chocolate and white, and gray and white
  • Medium-sized dogs measuring 17 to 18 inches in height
  • Weigh between 25 and 30 pounds

“The Icelandic Sheepdog’s versatility and hardworking nature make them a valuable breed for farmers and ranchers.”

Characteristic Description
Herding Abilities Icelandic Sheepdogs excel in herding and have a natural instinct to manage livestock effectively.
Endurance These dogs possess excellent endurance, allowing them to work long hours in challenging conditions.
Adaptability Icelandic Sheepdogs are highly adaptable and are capable of working in various terrains and weather conditions.
Double-Thick Coat Their double-thick, bushy coat provides protection from inclement weather.
Color Variations Icelandic Sheepdogs come in colors such as black and white, chocolate and white, and gray and white.
Size Medium-sized dogs, with a height ranging from 17 to 18 inches.
Weight They weigh between 25 and 30 pounds.

Miniature American Shepherd

The Miniature American Shepherd is a delightful breed of herding dogs that combines intelligence, energy, and a compact size. These dogs are known for their versatility and make excellent working dogs, as well as loving companions for active individuals or families. They possess a medium-length double coat that comes in various colors like black, blue merle, red, and red merle with tan and white markings. With their striking appearance and energetic nature, Miniature American Shepherds are sure to capture the hearts of dog enthusiasts.

Miniature American Shepherds are intelligent and trainable, making them highly suitable for herding tasks. Their compact size, measuring 13 to 18 inches in height, allows them to maneuver easily and work efficiently in various environments. Despite their small stature, these dogs have a remarkable work ethic and are capable of herding livestock with precision and focus.

In addition to their herding abilities, Miniature American Shepherds excel in a range of dog sports and activities. Their athleticism and agility make them natural competitors, whether it be in agility trials, obedience competitions, or even rally obedience. These dogs thrive on mental and physical stimulation, and their owners are often amazed by their eagerness to learn and perform.

Miniature American Shepherds are intelligent and trainable, making them highly suitable for herding tasks.

When it comes to their temperament, Miniature American Shepherds are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They form strong bonds with their families and are excellent with children. However, due to their herding instincts, it is important to socialize them from a young age to ensure they develop good manners and are comfortable around unfamiliar people and animals.

Traits Miniature American Shepherd
Height 13 to 18 inches
Weight 20 to 40 pounds
Coat Medium-length, double coat
Colors Black, blue merle, red, and red merle with tan and white markings
Life Expectancy 12 to 13 years

Overall, Miniature American Shepherds are fantastic herding dogs and companions. Their intelligence, energy, and loyal nature make them a perfect fit for those seeking an active and devoted canine partner.

Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog, also known as the Bobtail, is a charming and lovable breed that has been around for centuries. These dogs have a distinctive shaggy coat that requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. Old English Sheepdogs are known for their gentle and patient nature, making them great companions for families and children. They have a strong herding instinct and are highly intelligent, which can make training a fun and rewarding experience.

Despite their size and appearance, Old English Sheepdogs are not as energetic as some other herding breeds. They have a moderate activity level and are content with daily walks and playtime. However, they still require mental stimulation to prevent boredom, so puzzle toys and interactive games can be beneficial. These dogs thrive on human companionship and are happiest when they are included in family activities.

In terms of size, Old English Sheepdogs are considered large dogs. Males typically stand around 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 70 to 90 pounds, while females are slightly smaller, measuring around 21 inches tall and weighing between 60 to 80 pounds. Their life expectancy ranges from 10 to 12 years, and they may be prone to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.

Appearance and Temperament

The Old English Sheepdog has a massive, square-shaped body with a soft, dense undercoat and a long, rough topcoat. Their coat comes in various shades of gray, white, and blue, and it requires regular brushing to prevent matting and tangling. These dogs are known for their expressive eyes, which are usually brown or blue-gray.

In terms of temperament, Old English Sheepdogs are generally friendly, gentle, and affectionate. They are known to be good-natured and get along well with children and other pets. However, they can be somewhat independent and may exhibit a stubborn streak, so consistent training and socialization from an early age are important. They are also protective of their family and may bark to alert their owners of any potential threats.

Key Characteristics Details
Size Large
Coat Long, shaggy, double coat
Colors Gray, white, blue
Temperament Friendly, gentle, affectionate
Exercise Needs Moderate
Trainability Intelligent, but may exhibit stubbornness
Health Concerns Hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy
Life Expectancy 10-12 years


In conclusion, herding dogs are a diverse group of breeds that possess unique qualities and characteristics. From the highly intelligent and energetic Border Collie to the versatile and loyal German Shepherd, there is a herding dog for every owner’s preference and lifestyle.

These dogs excel in their herding abilities and are also well-suited for various tasks, such as working in law enforcement or participating in dog sports. However, it is important to note that herding dogs require mental and physical exercise to stay happy and healthy.

Proper training is essential to harness their herding instincts and prevent unwanted behaviors. Therefore, prospective owners should consider the different herding breeds and their specific needs before making a decision.

Whether you’re looking for a hardworking and intelligent companion or a devoted and versatile working dog, the world of herding dogs offers a wide range of options to suit your preferences and lifestyle.


What are herding dogs?

Herding dogs are breeds that are specifically bred and trained to work with livestock, such as sheep or cattle. They use their intelligence and instinct to gather, control, and move the animals. These dogs have different flock management styles and are highly trainable.

What are the characteristics of herding dogs?

Herding dogs are highly intelligent, trainable, and active. They have a strong work ethic, are loyal to their owners, and excel in tasks that require focus and agility. These breeds usually have high exercise needs and require mental stimulation to prevent behavioral issues.

Do herding dogs come in different sizes?

Yes, herding dogs come in all shapes and sizes. From small, medium to large breeds, you can find a herding dog that fits your preferred size. The size of the dog may also vary within each breed.

What are some well-known herding dog breeds?

Some well-known herding dog breeds include the Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Australian Cattle Dog, German Shepherd, and Belgian Malinois. These breeds have been specifically bred for their herding abilities and are highly regarded for their intelligence and working capabilities.

How long do herding dogs usually live?

The life expectancy of herding dogs can vary depending on the breed, but generally, they have a lifespan of around 10 to 16 years. Proper care, nutrition, and regular exercise can help ensure a longer and healthier life for these dogs.

Are herding dogs suitable for families?

Herding dogs can make great family pets if they receive proper socialization, training, and exercise. However, it’s important to note that their herding instincts may manifest in behaviors such as nipping or herding family members, especially young children. Early training and consistent guidance are crucial to managing these natural instincts.

How much exercise do herding dogs need?

Herding dogs are highly active and require a significant amount of physical exercise. Daily walks, runs, or play sessions are necessary to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Additionally, engaging them in activities such as agility or obedience training can help satisfy their need for mental stimulation.

Can herding dogs be kept as indoor pets?

While herding dogs can be kept as indoor pets, they require ample space to move and regular exercise. They thrive in homes with access to yards or open spaces where they can engage in physical activities. Without sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, they may become bored and exhibit destructive behavior.

Are herding dogs good with other pets?

Herding dogs can coexist with other pets if they are properly socialized from a young age. Their herding instincts may cause them to try to control or herd smaller pets, so it’s important to introduce them to other animals gradually and under controlled circumstances.

What kind of training do herding dogs require?

Herding dogs require consistent, positive reinforcement training from an early age to channel their natural instincts into appropriate behaviors. They are quick learners and excel in obedience training, but they benefit from mental stimulation and ongoing training throughout their lives.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *