Whether it’s loyal Lassie or the dignified Rin Tin Tin, we’ve all fallen in love with a herding dog at some point in our lives. These doggos are no doubt adorable, but they have a lot more to offer than what meets the eye.
But before bringing a herding hound into your life, it’s important to make sure you’re fully capable of meeting their unique needs.
Below, we’ll dive into exactly what you can expect from these helpful hounds, explain some of the group’s most defining characteristics, and introduce you to all 30 breeds that form the group.
Herding Dog Breeds: Key Takeaways
- Herding dogs were originally part of the working dog group, but they were separated into their own group by the AKC in the 1980s.
- The AKC currently recognizes 30 herding breeds, and though they all share several common traits and tendencies, they also differ in many ways and form a rather diverse group.
- While there are a handful of obscure herding breeds that you probably won’t see at the dog park, the group also contains some very popular breeds, such as corgis, German shepherds, and several different collies.
History of Herding Dogs
These livestock-focused four-footers were originally classified as a part of the working dog group up until 1983. However, they have a long history that dates back to the 1570s when dogs were first used to assist sheepherders with a variety of tasks.
The highly intelligent dogs can pick up subtle hand signals or movements, making them very attentive and well suited to watching over a flock. These dogs served as expert herders and protected their respective flocks from predators.
Though many of these dogs are more likely to corral your children than cattle nowadays, they still share many of the same instincts as their ancestors. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the group’s tendencies so that you can support and train your herding hound in the best possible way.
General Characteristics of Herding Dogs
While every dog is an individual, many herding breeds end up sharing a lot of the common characteristics listed below.
Herding dogs are remarkably intelligent and require a good degree of mental stimulation. While you may not have a flock of sheep, you’ll want to have lots of puzzle toys and outdoor excursions lined up to keep your herding doggo happy.
These dogs are also highly trainable, so feel free to teach them the most complicated tricks you can find.
However, this intelligence can be a double-edged sword, as it means that your herding hound might be a bit craftier when it comes to getting into things he shouldn’t.
Therefore, it’s imperative that you start a consistent training schedule early on to make sure Fido starts off on the right paw.
Many of these dogs prefer having an activity to focus on, and they usually like to lead a pretty active lifestyle.
While there are some exceptions, most herding dogs will appreciate having access to a backyard or park where they can run around and expend some energy.
If you’re looking for a hiking buddy, a herding dog might be an excellent pick. These pups are ready for action and also bond closely with their owners, so they’re happy to stay by your side while traversing your favorite trail.
These dogs are known for being highly alert since they’re accustomed to watching over full flocks. You might even find that your herding dog guards you, your home, and your family instinctively.
Because many herding breeds have the tendency to be protective, you’ll want to make sure that they get lots of early socialization so that they aren’t wary of strangers.
Herding dogs are super loyal and people-centered. That being said, you’ll want to introduce them to other dogs at a young age to make sure that they’re friendly around other four-footers.
These breeds love being around their humans and will often bond with one person in particular. However, they can make great family dogs as well as single person dogs due to their loyal nature.
As long as they get enough mental and physical stimulation, these pups are energetic, friendly, and all-around great companions.
Types of Herding Dogs: 30 AKC-Recognized Herding Breeds
Without further ado, here are the 30 AKC recognized herding breeds. Each one of these canine cuties has something special to offer.
1. Australian Cattle Dog
These pups are compact, smart balls of muscle usually weighing anywhere from 35 to 50 pounds. The Australian cattle dog, sometimes called a blue heeler (due to some blue coloring in the coat), is super alert and happy to be your running buddy.
You’ll definitely want to make sure you keep this breed occupied — if not properly entertained, Australian cattle dogs and Australian cattle dog mixes can easily get into mischief due to their high level of energy and intelligence. In addition, these dogs sometimes are wary of strangers, so be sure to socialize them early on.
These ever-alert medium-sized dogs are happy hounds for anyone with an active lifestyle. They’re distant relatives of the Australian dingo and have a unique, multi-color look that is sure to instantly win over your heart.
2. Australian Shepherd
These blue-eyed beauties were a favorite of California ranchers, and well-known for their ability to seamlessly herd cattle. You’ll find that these dogs never quite sit still and are up for almost any adventure.
This intelligent breed is highly trainable and ready for action. Aussies bond closely with their owners and family making them incredibly loyal.
You’ll definitely need to prioritize exercise with Australian shepherds as well as Australian shepherd mixed breeds: They crave action and intensity, so a walk around the block isn’t going to cut it.
Australian Shepherds are likely to warn you if they see anyone suspicious approaching. In addition, they can be somewhat standoffish towards strangers, so make early socialization a priority.
3. Bearded Collie
This shaggy companion with long, luscious hair originated from Scotland as a versatile herding companion. These goofballs are super affectionate, playful, and serve as excellent family dogs.
Bearded collies, sometimes called “beardies”, are crazy cute canine clowns, who constantly bounce off the walls. These energetic pups are sure to keep you entertained, though you’ll want to impose a regimented training routine early on to keep their mischievous antics under control.
These intelligent dogs require a great deal of regular grooming due to their impressive coats, so you’ll want to make sure you have shed-friendly furniture.
The Beauceron is highly-dignified with his alert, obedient nature. These pups are confident watch dogs originally hailing from France.
These dogs do best with an assertive, confident owner in their lives and thrive with consistent training. Luckily, the Beauceron is a quick learner and works to please and protect his family and property.
Like other herding dogs, Beauceron pups need an outlet for all of their energy. Make sure your pooch gets plenty of exercise and stays occupied throughout the day.
5. Belgian Malinois
These confident dogs are closely related to the Belgian sheepdog and have a high work drive making them excellent police service dogs. The proud, alert herders are very affectionate toward their family.
This smart breed is eager to please, making them highly trainable and people-oriented. The Belgian Malinois needs a lot of exercise to stay happy, so they’ll do best in active families.
They may become exceptionally bored and destructive if not sufficiently stimulated, so be sure your lifestyle will mesh well with a Malinois before adding one to your home.
The Belgian Malinois is easy to keep clean with his low maintenance coat. You’re sure to fall in love with this hardworking, loyal pooch— just make sure you prioritize socialization early on with kids and other dogs.
6. Belgian Sheepdog
As the name suggests, Belgian sheepdogs are expert flock herders and are known for their versatility and beautiful long coats. These passionate pooches are full of life and eager to please.
You’ll find that the Belgian sheepdog absolutely adores doling out kisses to his favorite family members. In addition, this breed is pretty friendly to other dogs and kids, so they make great companions for homes with more than one pooch.
These dogs are always ready to learn new tricks, and they require a job or regular physical activity to remain happy.
If you get one of these cuties, you’ll have to set aside some time for regular grooming. That beautiful coat won’t brush itself!
7. Belgian Tervuren
These fluffy four-footers are total workaholics and enjoy being around their humans. You’ll want to make sure these floofs get plenty of exercise to ensure that they don’t develop destructive behaviors out of boredom.
This beautiful, medium-sized breed is incredibly versatile, enabling them to serve as anything from a livestock guardian dog to a service dog. These dogs are highly trainable and do well with owners committed to teaching a plethora of tricks.
This breed can be somewhat shy though, so be sure to socialize early and often so that you can raise a well-rounded pooch.
8. Bergamasco Sheepdog
This ancient breed is characterized by its long, mop-like coat. You’ll find that these social butterflies are super loyal and highly vigilant.
These dogs develop close bonds with their families and are great around kids. However, they can also be fiercely independent, so it’s important that any Bergamasco sheepdog undergoes proper training.
Though it is grandiose, the coat of the Bergamasco sheepdog is super low maintenance as an added plus.
While this breed might be somewhat standoffish towards strangers, once they warm up to you, they’re total lovebugs. These intelligent pups are ready to take on whatever job you have in mind.
9. Berger Picard
Picards, also known as Picardy shepherds, are total sweethearts that love to be around their family. This lively breed is known for their standout ears and lively, trainable personality.
These sensitive dogs need lots of attention from their peeps and athletic activity to stay happy. Berger Picards are great around kids and have a general good-natured disposition.
These loyal pups are incredibly observant making them great watchdogs. However, this breed is known to be wary towards people outside of their families, so make sure to socialize them early on.
10. Border Collie
Border collies are absolutely adorable and are known for their undeniable intelligence and affectionate nature. They are hugely people-oriented and love saying hello to anyone and everyone.
These pups require intense exercise on a daily basis to stay at their best, so they make excellent running or hiking buddies. This workaholic breed is very observant and highly trainable.
You’ll want to make sure your border collie meets lots of people and is exposed to all kinds of day-to-day stuff as a puppy to ward off any potential shyness.
Border collies and most Border collie mixes certainly aren’t laid back and many owners would label their own collies as hyperactive, but they’re bound to settle down for a good cuddle after a long workday.
If you’re looking to get one of these companions, make sure you’re ready for a lot of activity.
11. Bouvier des Flandres
These brave, beautiful dogs love their families and have a strong, muscular build. They are total workaholics and are wildly intelligent making them highly trainable creatures.
While the bouvier des Flandres is super affectionate with and loyal to his family members, the breed has a tendency to be aloof around other people and dogs.
With a strong-willed attitude and thirst for adventure, these dogs are up for any athletic activity, as long as it’s right by your side. These smart dogs are family companions and watchdogs all in one adorable package.
Briards are stunning working dogs from France that have a long, glossy coat and endearing demeanor that’s sure to melt your heart.
These muscular mutts have a strong work drive and are bound to serve as fearless watchdogs for your home.
These distinguished doggos bond closely with their families and do well around kids that they’re raised with. They’re likely to be protective of their loved ones and sure to alert you whenever a stranger (or squirrel) is approaching your doorstep.
The briard is extremely intelligent, making the breed highly trainable. These bearded buddies are sure to find a place in your heart with their unparalleled loyalty and zest for life.
13. Canaan Dog
Canaan dogs are closely related to their wild ancestors, so they’ll need a strong-willed owner to thrive. With proper training, the Canaan dog is eternally devoted to his family members.
The Canaan dog is sure to enjoy going on a run or hike with his owner on a regular basis.
These dogs can have protective tendencies, so they’ll need to be introduced to lots of people and pets early in life to reduce their natural wariness of strangers and other dogs.
Luckily, these dogs are super responsive and highly alert making them easy to train. This ancient breed is sure to make a confident, loyal companion.
14. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh corgi is a distinguished pup, with a long tail that resembles the floppy sleeves of your favorite sweater. Though these dogs only weigh about 20 to 35 pounds, they pack in a lot of energy for their size.
Cardigan Corgis love to vocalize and are sure to bark whenever they get the chance. While this breed is intelligent, they can have a stubborn streak, so make a point to start a consistent training schedule early-on.
When brought up with them, Cardigan corgis and corgi mixes are excellent companions for kids and serve as loyal watchdogs for any family. These affectionate pups are sure to give you lots of kisses after a long game of fetch and entertain you on a daily basis.
Collies are undoubtedly devoted companions as shown through the tales of Lassie. These graceful dogs have a beautiful coat that speaks to their confidential nature.
These dogs are excellent family furry-friends, as they’re great around children and want nothing more than to be with their owners. They are also highly intelligent and eager to please by learning as many tricks as possible.
Collies love to exercise and will enjoy homes where they get the chance to run and play every day. With a gorgeous coat and a heart of gold, these primetime pups are bound to steal your heart.
16. Entlebucher Mountain Dog
These confident cuties are agile and ready for any athletic adventure. The Entlebucher mountain dog has a relentless work ethic and requires strong training to ensure a happy home life.
These farm dogs are protective of their packs and naturally possess a strong herding instinct. Entlebucher mountain dogs need a lot of socialization and focused training early-on, so they might not be best suited for first-time owners.
However, once you’ve trained the Entlebucher mountain dog, he is sure to act as your loyal companion for life. These enthusiastic pooches are smart and lively workaholics, who’re always ready to rock!
17. Finnish Lapphund
These dogs, affectionately referred to as “Lappies”, are friendly, alert pups. The Finnish Lapphund once served as a reindeer herder, but they now act as devoted companions to their families.
Since these Nordic dogs have a naturally thick coat, they’re best suited for colder climates. They’ll also do well in family settings since the Finnish Lapphund craves company and doesn’t like being left alone.
Finnish Lapphunds may be wary of strangers, so prioritize socialization with other people and dogs during puppyhood. Though you’ll have to deal with a considerable amount of shedding, Lappies are bound to steal your heart with their sweet, obedient nature.
18. German Shepherd
The German shepherd ranks number 2 on the list of most popular dog breeds as of 2019 and it’s easy to see why. These well-rounded dogs are incredibly loyal and up for almost anything, as long as it involves being around their families.
German shepherds are super athletic and appreciate having dedicated time to play and run around on a daily basis. These dogs are eager to please and easy to train with their natural intelligence.
That being said, these German shepherds and German shepherd mixes can have the tendency to act wary or aloof toward outsiders.
However, with proper socialization, these courageous canines are bound to make the perfect, balanced companion.
19. Icelandic Sheepdog
These handsome herders are densely coated with beautiful, multi-color coats, which help them stay warm in cold weather. Icelandic sheepdogs are exceptionally friendly and are happy to play a game of fetch or frisbee.
You’ll find that Icelandic sheepdogs rarely like to leave your side. These canine companions are great family dogs with their devotional disposition.
These confident pups are charming and ready to learn any trick you can think of. Though they have big personalities, these fairly medium-sized dogs will only weigh around 30 pounds.
20. Miniature American Shepherd
These good-natured dogs look very similar to Australian shepherds, only smaller. At just 20 to 40 pounds, these dogs sure pack in a lot of energy for their somewhat small size.
Miniature American shepherds are a lively, enthusiastic bunch that will require regular play and exercise to stay content. The smart dogs are easy to train but have a strong herding instinct that needs to be properly addressed especially if you have small children at home.
These agile workers are eager to please and are fiercely devoted to their families. You’re sure to fall in love with these compact companions.
21. Norwegian Buhund
These quick-learning dogs are bound to keep you on your feet with their athletic, lively personalities. Their thick coats are built for snow, so these puppers will do best in colder climates.
If you already have a Norwegian buhund, you know that these canine companions are eager to please. The energetic breed loves to be around his family and will give lots of cuddles at the end of a long play session.
The active breed is highly trainable and will do best in households where there is always someone around to play with. These friendly pups are super playful and always ready for the next adventure.
22. Old English Sheepdog
Old English sheepdogs are known for their distinguished shaggy coat. These good-natured goofballs are comedians of the herding group with their playful, comical attitudes.
While you’ll need to invest a lot of time into grooming these cuties, their loyal, loving dispositions make all your efforts well worth the hassle.
Old English sheepdogs and Old English sheepdog mixes are generally super friendly and do well in homes with kids and other pets.
These versatile companions make a great addition to any family with their versatile nature. You’ll want to make sure these bouncy bundles of joy get frequent, consistent training and exercise to tame their endless amounts of energy.
23. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
You might not expect it, but these popular pups were originally bred to herd sheep, horses, and cattle. However, these pint-sized pooches have tons of expendable energy and love to learn tricks and play.
These intelligent dogs are highly adaptable, and they are one of the few herding breeds that might do well in an apartment.
However, they still need a healthy amount of exercise each day, so make sure you have a park close by if you’re thinking of taking in one of these cuties.
Pembroke Welsh corgis are loving, trainable dogs, but they are also independent thinkers that may lead them to be stubborn at times.
You’ll find that these adorable doggos make excellent watchdogs, ready to let out a warning bark at the first sign of trouble.
24. Polish Lowland Sheepdog
These shaggy sweethearts are highly intelligent, trainable dogs. The Polish lowland sheepdog is a proud loyalist to his family, but he can sometimes be wary of strangers.
With a strong work ethic, these dogs love to learn new tricks and run agility courses — both of which will keep him mentally and physically stimulated. These devoted dogs are likely to bond with a few special people.
When trained properly, Polish lowland sheepdogs can be great around kids, though they do have a strong herding instinct, so you’ll need to be cautious around small children.
With proper training, Polish lowland sheepdogs make excellent additions to any family.
This dreadlock-coated dog is energetic and lively. The puli is likely to turn heads with his mop-like appearance and also serves as a loyal furry family member you’re sure to fall in love with.
You’ll want to make sure you have a large yard for these pups to run around in— the puli certainly loves to play and has intense exercise needs that must be met by his owners to stay happy.
These confident canines are super affectionate towards family members though they may be unsure of strangers at first. Your puli will probably love participating in obedience and agility tasks on a regular basis.
These agile dogs from Hungary are compact and fearless sheepherders. The pumi is agile, intelligent, and confident with its free-willed personality.
Pumis thrive on endless work and play so it’s imperative that they’re taken in by someone with an active lifestyle. Their curly coats are easy to maintain and don’t shed very much, making them pretty tidy pups.
These dogs love to learn new tricks and make great watchdogs. These corkscrew-curled cuties are happy to give affection to their families.
Pumis are also pretty alert, so they make dedicated and loyal watch dogs.
27. Pyrenean Shepherd
Pyrenean shepherds are a lively bunch with a relentless work ethic and friendly disposition. These dogs need lots of regular exercise to stay happy and appreciate participating in sports and agility activities.
Though Pyrenean shepherds are super affectionate with family members including kids, they might not be the best in multi-pet households due to their general wariness of other dogs. These intelligent pups make excellent watchdogs and are happy to protect the ones they love most.
With their playful attitudes, beautiful coats, and friendly faces, Pyrenean shepherds can steal your heart in an instant.
28. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog, affectionately referred to as “Sheltie,” is highly intelligent and eager to please. He loves learning new tricks and wants nothing more than to be right by his owner’s side.
Sensitive Shelties crave companionship and thrive in family settings, though they can be shy around strangers. These dogs are also highly athletic and love regular exercise and agility tasks.
With a strong herding and flock-protecting instincts, Shelties are likely to bark at anything that moves. You’ll want to make sure that you train your pooch appropriately to make sure that these herding hounds grow up with good manners.
29. Spanish Water Dog
These active, upbeat pups are known for their unmistakable coat of wooly curls. Spanish water dogs are lively family companions and, as the name suggests, they love to swim whenever they can.
Spanish water dogs have seemingly endless energy, so they’ll need to be placed in a particularly active home. This intelligent breed loves to learn so you’ll enjoy teaching your Spanish water dog new tricks.
These protective pups are incredibly loyal to family members. However, they can sometimes be wary of strangers, so be sure to start socialization early on.
30. Swedish Vallhund
These friendly, sometimes-foolish dogs are sure to make you smile. The Swedish vallhund is playful, loving, and incredibly lively.
Swedish vallhund dogs enjoy going on long walks and hikes to burn off their energy, and they are likely to be incredibly vocal. This breed loves to learn, so long, positive training sessions are bound to bring you and your buddy closer.
These dogs need lots of early socialization, exercise, and basic obedience training to bring out their best. For experienced dog owners, the Swedish vallhund is an amazing companion.
Best Homes For Herding Dogs
Ready to welcome a herding hound into your life? Here are a couple of things to take into consideration to make sure Fido fits perfectly into your lifestyle.
- They Need a Fenced-in Playing Area — By nature, herding breeds are athletes and need room to run around and expend some of their ever-lasting energy. Frequent park trips can help, but they can’t compete with a backyard that’s always available. Consider installing a dog-proof fence if you have a herding breed!
- They’re Best for Experienced Owners — Herding breeds can sometimes be difficult to train due to their independent thinking and strong instincts. Therefore, a hound from the herding group might not be the best pick if you’re a first-time dog owner.
- They Love Living an Active and Athletic Lifestyle — Owners of herding dogs must be able to provide daily exercise and interaction for their dogs. Herding pups are workaholics, so they enjoy having a job or task to complete. These dogs bond closely with their owners, so ideally, someone will be around to keep your pooch entertained. Be sure to schedule regular hikes and pick up a bunch of puzzle toys if you’re looking to welcome one of these furry friends into your life.
- Be Cautious With Small Kids — Many of these breeds are prone to herding just about anything, including your toddler. While herding breeds can make excellent family companions, they’ll need to be trained and introduced to children carefully.
Having a herding dog is an extremely rewarding experience. These loyal companions are always ready to put in a hard day’s work and show you how much they care by being eternally devoted to your family.
Do you have one of these herding hounds? What is life like with these intelligent, working companions? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!