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Which Herding Dog Breed is Best for Your Family? Top 10 Picks

Updated: Mar 15

Welcoming a herding dog - working dog in general - into your family is like bringing a loyal, intelligent, and energetic bundle of joy into your home as family pets. Their herding instincts translate into being watchful guardians of kids and adults alike. But, how do you pick the perfect pooch for your lifestyle? It’s not a one-breed-fits-all scenario like other dogs. In this interactive listicle, we're going to explore the top 10 herding dog breeds that might just steal your heart.

A border collie standing next to a red herding ball on grasses near a forest

Just quick reminder that herding dogs for family companions are not limited to ten breeds, but these are some of the most popular and beloved choices among families. Each breed has its own unique qualities and characteristics that make them suited for different lifestyles and environments. So, while this list may help you get an idea of which herding dog could be a good fit for your family, remember to do additional research and consider factors such as size, energy levels, and grooming needs before making your final decision.

1. Border Collie: The Einstein of Canines

Border Collies originate from the hilly borderlands between Scotland and England, a testament to their hardy spirit and unparalleled work ethic to watch over farm animals. These astute dogs were bred to herd livestock, working alongside shepherds, adapting to the rugged terrain and variable weather with ease. Their history is a tapestry of loyalty and intelligence, as they have been perfecting their skills for centuries—skills that go beyond mere herding or moving livestock, to include problem-solving and an impressive ability to understand human commands.

Within the family setting, Border Collies are more than just pets; they're like another watchful parent, intensely loyal and protective of their human flock. They thrive best in loving, active households that can match their spirited zest for life and offer them mental stimulation. If your children dream of an adventurous companion to share in their daily escapades, a Border Collie's patient and kind temperament makes them a snug fit for families with kids. They're ready to learn and love, eager to be a part of every ball toss, every picnic, and even every quiet story time session. Be carefull

2. Australian Shepherd: The Ranch Hand

an Australian shepherd sitting next to red collieball

Much like a heartwarming tale of unwavering loyalty, the Australian Shepherd, often affectionately called the "Aussie," carries a storied legacy rooted in the rugged terrains of the American West for moving livestock. Contrary to what their name suggests, Australian Shepherds did not originate from Australia; rather, they were originally bred as the trusted companions of the Basque shepherds who journeyed to America from Australia during the 1800s. These resilient working dogs quickly became symbols of the Western rancher's way of life, revered for their remarkable herding skills to herding livestock and their innate ability to adapt to a variety of challenging environments. With their soulful eyes and expressive faces, Aussies have not only mastered the art of herding but have also woven their way into the hearts of their human companions, becoming cherished members of families far beyond the ranch.

Don't let the name fool you. Despite their name, Australian Shepherds were actually first bred in the United States, particularly in the western regions like California and Arizona. This breed has transcended borders and gained worldwide recognition for their exceptional herding skills, often being utilized not just in farms to protect livestock but also in various dog sports and competitions globally. Their unwavering loyalty is a universal trait that makes them cherished companions for individuals of all ages, from playful children to seasoned adults. Moreover, their lush double coat not only serves as insulation but also contributes to their resilience, enabling them to thrive in diverse climates ranging from scorching heat to freezing cold. This adaptability to a wide array of weather conditions is a testament to the Australian Shepherds' remarkable versatility and robust nature.

3. Shetland Sheepdog: The Loveable Lassie

2 rough collie with a herding ball in a backyard

Evoking images of the Scottish highlands and their windy moors, the Shetland Sheepdog, affectionately known as the "Sheltie," boasts a lineage as enchanting as its appearance. Originating from the remote and rugged Shetland Islands, these smaller cousins of the Rough Collie were bred by islanders who required vigilant herding dogs that were smart, hardy, and gentle with their flocks. The breed, as we know it today, is the result of crossing mainland working collies with small, intelligent, long-haired breeds—a combination that endowed the Sheltie with an extraordinary instinct for herding and a strikingly beautiful coat.

Much like their demeanor, the history of the Shetland Sheepdog is steeped in a sense of warm devotion and keen intelligence. These little dogs, with lush manes and tender eyes, found their place in homes and hearts not only as herders but also as compassionate companions bringing comfort to families. Through the years, their attentive and affectionate nature has made them beloved therapy dogs, providing solace with their empathetic presence. While being competitive in obedience and agility, it is truly the Sheltie's boundless loyalty and sensitivity that have forged their lasting legacy as cherished friends for those fortunate enough to cross paths with these soulful highland sentinels.

4. Rough Collie: The Classic Companion

A yellow and a black shetland sheep dog standing with a blue herding ball in a backyard

The enduring affection for the Rough Collie is entwined with nostalgia and tradition, harking back to the pastoral landscapes of Scotland where the breed first originated. These herding dogs grazed alongside shepherds to herd cattle on the serene, rolling hills, becoming an integral part of the pastoral communities. Their striking appearance, paired with an acute herding instinct, made them indispensable. With a lineage adorned with such steadfast partnership, these herding dog breed became a symbol of the timeless bond between humans and dogs, epitomized by the celebrated tale of 'Lassie' that captured hearts across the world and solidified the breed's image as the quintessential family pet.

In a family setting, the Rough Collie shines with the kind of radiant warmth that envelops the household in a gentle embrace. Like a benevolent guardian, they watch over children with a patient and watchful gaze, proving that their majestic beauty is matched only by the depth of their loyalty. Their intuitive connection with people means they not only thrive on companionship but enrich the lives of their humans with an unconditional love that resonates through every interaction. It's in the shared moments of joy, the peaceful co-existence, and the tender understanding that the soul of the those herding dogs blends seamlessly into the tapestry of family life, leaving paw prints on our hearts that last a lifetime.

5. Australian Cattle Dog: The Work Warrior

Born from the vast, rugged terrains of Australia, the Australian Cattle Dog, aka Blue

An Australian Cattle dog holding his blue herding ball in a grassy backyard

heeler stands as a testament to endurance and tenacity. The herding breed emerged in the early 19th century through careful crossing of domestic dogs with wild dingoes, creating a robust herder adept at navigating the challenging Australian outback. With a spirited heart and an inborn drive to work, these dogs bonded fiercely with their pioneering handlers, together wrangling livestock over expansive pastures under the blazing sun. Their journey is painted in the rich earthy tones of the outback and etched in the heritage of a nation built on determination and hard work.

In the warm embrace of a family environment, the Australian Cattle Dogs bring the same boundless energy and commitment that once drove them across the outback. To channel their natural instincts appropriately, they benefit from thoughtful, consistent training and regular, vigorous exercise to satisfy their high spirited nature. Understanding and harnessing their work ethic transforms them into extraordinary companions, eager to partake in every family adventure. It’s important to foster a nurturing space where they can express their intelligence and zest for life. When given a loving family that appreciates their unique spirit, the Australian Cattle Dog rewards with unwavering loyalty, becoming a true and faithful member of the family clan.

7. German Shepherd: The Versatile Vaunter

A German shepherd tongue out standing next to blue herding ball on grasses in backyard

The German Shepherd's lineage is steeped in a rich tapestry of loyalty and service, tracing back to late 19th century Germany. Captain Max von Stephanitz, whose vision was to standardize a breed excelling in herding and guarding, admired the incredibly intelligent nature and work ability of shepherd dogs. His encounter with a wolf-like dog named Hektor was pivotal: Hektor’s strength, intelligence, and obedience were the exemplary traits von Stephanitz deemed perfect. With careful selection and breeding, the German Shepherd Dog was cultivated, quickly gaining a reputation as a fearless protector and versatile worker.

Within the heart of a family, a German Shepherd blossoms, exhibiting profound devotion and an earnest desire to be guard dog its loved ones. Their noble demeanor and empathetic nature make them wonderful family members, but they also thrive on being given a purpose, embodying the role of guardian, playmate, and confidant with seamless grace. It is essential to provide them not just with love, but with mental stimulation and consistent guidance, for their intellect is as deep as their loyalty. When embraced with respect and kindness, German Shepherds will stand by their family's side, their warm, intelligent eyes reflecting an unspoken promise of lifelong companionship and trust.

8. Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis: The Compact Companions

Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis, though similar in name and

a Corgi tongue out standing next to a red herding ball

stature, have distinct histories and origins that set them apart. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi, bedecked in legend, was said to be the preferred mount of fairy warriors and is distinguished by its docked tail. Originating from Pembrokeshire in Wales, these corgis were treasured for their herding instincts, agility, and friendly disposition and are incredibly affectionate to their people. On the other hand, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi boasts a lineage that stretches back over a thousand years, boasting a full, bushy tail and originally hailing from Cardiganshire. These stalwart companions were formidable cattle drovers, valued for their loyalty and protective instincts.

Despite sharing the 'Corgi' moniker and the charming qualities of dwarfism – marked by short legs and robust bodies – these breeds present several variances. Pembroke Welsh corgi often sport a more fox-like appearance and are known for being somewhat more affectionate and outgoing. Cardigan Welsh corgi, with their larger ears and heavier frame, also differ in temperament, generally displaying a more reserved nature compared to their Pembroke relatives. Both breeds, however, are astute and full of character, possessing a captivating blend of courage and curiosity.

Nestled within the family unit, Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis emanate warmth and spirited companionship. Their size may be compact, but their hearts are anything but, overflowing with affection and spirited devotion. Corgis adapt well to family life, vigilant in their watch to herd sheep but always ready for a snuggle or a playful game. With a Pembroke or Cardigan by your side, you gain more than a pet; you gain a stout-hearted companion that weaves joy and laughter into the tapestry of daily life. It's essential to engage with them through consistent training and mental challenges, as their intelligent minds thrive on engagement. When their herding instincts are channeled into positive activities and showered with love, Corgis become not just pets but treasured members of the family.

9. Bearded Collie: The Fun-Loving Fuzzball

The Bearded Collie, affectionately known as the “Beardie”, hails from the rustic highlands of Scotland. With their origins traced back to the 1500s, this shaggy sheep herder breed were bred for their exceptional skills in herding cattle and sheep in any weather – a testament to their hardy nature and boundless energy. The breed's storied past is interwoven with tales of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, from which the Beardie is believed to have descended, enhancing their lineage with a rich

a bearded collie herding a blue herding ball on grasses

tapestry of herding prowess and resilience. Their history is not just one of work; the Bearded Collie has pirouetted into the hearts of many through their participation in dog sports, conformation, obedience, and agility, showcasing their versatility and intelligence.

Within the fold of family life, the Bearded Collie bounces with unbridled joy and soulful affection. These fun-loving fuzzballs make exceptional family members, their warm, approachable nature endearing them to both young and old. Their empathetic demeanor can turn a gloomy day bright, as they keenly sense the needs of their human companions, offering a comforting nuzzle or a spirited game to lift spirits. Beardies, with their trademark wagging tails and expressive eyes, have a way of inviting laughter and lightheartedness into every room. It’s their sociable character and eager-to-please attitude that make them especially good in homes with children, creating a symphony of giggles and joyful romps. As with any furry family addition, understanding and meeting their exercise needs—coupled with building strong bonds through training and play—cultivates a harmonious household where Bearded Collies do not just live, they thrive and blanket their families with unconditional love.

10. Icelandic Sheepdog: The Warmhearted Worker

With roots tracing back to the sagas of the Vikings, the Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland's only native dog, beloved for its role as a dedicated herder and guardian amongst the rugged terrain and harsh climates of its Nordic homeland. It's thought that these hardy canines arrived on the shores of Iceland with the early Viking settlers, promptly establishing their worth by protecting flocks from predators and adeptly herding sheep on the island's vast volcanic meadows. Over the centuries, these dogs were shaped by the very lands they served—vigilant, robust, and with a joyous bark that's as stirring as the Icelandic winds.

In a home environment, the Icelandic Sheepdog's boundless affection and good-natured temperament make it an ideal family companion, fostering a warm ambience where trust and playfulness are in loving supply. Their history as collective contributors in close-knit communities translates into a gentle, protective instinct among family members, especially children with whom they share an intrinsic bond. Resonating with empathy, they mirror the emotions of their human counterparts, providing comfort when comfort is needed, and jubilation during moments of happiness. To be in the company of an Icelandic Sheepdog is to experience a friend who views family not just as companions, but as its cherished flock to tend with loyalty and heartwarming devotion.

There are more other herding breeds with gentle nature warm and approachable like Belgian Malinois, Anatolian shepherd, English sheepdog or Siberian Husky. With a strong desire to work alongside their owners and a heart full of love, these dogs make exceptional companions for those seeking an empathetic and trustworthy canine companion in life.

What to do with your Herding dog?

Each herding breed brings its unique set of traits to the table. From agility to affection, they are all ready to offer years of loyal companionship—something your family members will cherish. Before deciding on a breed, consider your home environment, activity level, and the amount of time you can dedicate to training and exercise.

Herding dogs have a bark that's matched only by their boundless energy and devotion. If you're looking to add a four-legged friend to your household, these top 10 choices are the stars of their category. However, remember that every dog is an individual, and their upbringing, socialization, and training will have a significant impact on how they integrate into your family's life. Whatever your pick, brace yourself for a truckload of love, a whole lot of tail-wagging, and an unbreakable bond.

Herding dog breeds tend to herd family members as they herd sheep or cattle, so prepare for some playful nipping and chasing around the house. But don't worry, they're not being aggressive - it's just in their nature to keep everyone together and safe. It's important to provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation, such as training courses or agility exercises, to keep their minds sharp and bodies active. One other way to satisfy the instincts is to give a herding ball to your herding dog, namely the Collieball™. It is the one of the best and satisfactory herding toy for dogs that will keep them entertained and engaged.

Tips for Healty Herding Dogs

Caring for a herding dog in the family is truly a joy, and with a little knowledge, you can create a harmonious home for everyone. Here are some heartfelt tips to help you look after your energetic and intelligent companion:

a herding dog tongue out standing behind a blue herding ball in a back yard on grasses

  1. Create a Daily Routine: Herding dogs thrive on consistency. Establishing a daily routine that includes regular mealtimes, exercise, and training sessions will help your dog feel secure and understand what is expected of them.

  2. Engage in Regular Exercise: A tired dog is a happy dog, especially with herding breeds. Ensure you provide ample physical activity, such as long walks, runs, or even a game of fetch. This not only helps to burn off excess energy but also strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend.

  3. Stimulate Their Minds: Mental exercise can be just as tiring as physical exercise. Challenge their intelligent minds with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular training sessions to keep those herding instincts in check.

  4. Positive Reinforcement Training: Herding breeds are sensitive and eager to please, making them ideal candidates for positive reinforcement training. Reward the behaviors you want to encourage with treats, praise, or playtime to cultivate a well-mannered and happy pet.

  5. Nurture Their Social Skills: Encourage socialization from a young age to curb any overprotective tendencies. Introduce them to various people, animals, and environments to help them become well-adjusted and confident adult dogs.

  6. Obedinence and Agility Training: Herding dogs excel in obedience and agility training, showcasing their natural athleticism and intelligence. Consider enrolling your dog in classes or competitions to challenge and engage their minds and bodies.

Remember, each herding dog has their own unique personality, and they'll shower your family with love in their own special way. Embrace their quirks, commit to their care, and enjoy the wonderful journey of companionship they bring into your home. Keep them fulfilled with a consistent routine, exercise, mental stimulation, positive reinforcement training, and socialization to ensure they live their best lives as part of your family. So go ahead, welcome a herding dog into your home and experience the joy they bring with their warm, approachable, and empathetic nature. Therefore, take the time to understand their needs and provide.

Why You Need A Collieball™ If You Have Own a Herding Dog?

The Collieball™ is meticulously designed with your herding dog's needs in mind. Engineered from durable, dog-friendly materials, it stands up to the rigorous play that herding breeds love. The CollieBall™ consists of two layers: an inner thick exercise ball and an outer 1680 Denier ballistic fabric, providing durability, safety, and bounce. Its vibrant colors engage your dog's interest, sparking their innate curiosity - just like it did for our cherished Border Collie, Hucklerberry.. We utilize heavy-duty nylon thread with double stitching along with a heavy-duty zipper featuring a detachable puller, preventing any accidental entanglements. It's not just a toy; it's a companion for your pet that enriches their playtime with variety and excitement.

For herding dog breeds, the Collieball™ serves as an invaluable tool for both physical exercise and mental stimulation. These intelligent and active breeds require more than just physical exertion; they need tasks that challenge their minds and mimic the problem-solving aspects of herding. The Collieball's unpredictable movements engage their natural herding instincts, allowing them to strategize, predict, and react, all of which provide a wholesome workout for their minds. This level of engagement helps to prevent boredom and related behavioral issues, making the Collieball a must-have for any herding dog owner who wants to keep their canine companion happy, healthy, and mentally sharp.

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5 Kommentare

14. März

The pictures of the Shetland Sheepdog and Rough Collie are mixed up.

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13. März

I would like to add the Catahoula, they are great for herding. They also can hunt by site, nose in air, and nose to the ground. These dogs excel at most any task they are trained in. They are also very intelligent.

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14. März
Antwort an

I have had 5 Aussies and 1 Catahoula. The Catahoula is a nice dog but Aussies they are not.

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13. März

Most of the aforementioned breeds have the true herding instinct has been bred out of them.

I personally like the.

“ Hangin’ Tree Cowdog “

They are bred to work and still be great family members

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14. März
Antwort an

There are Aussies bred to work, to be show dogs, or just be pals. You just need to do the research and find what works for you.

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