Dogs have been helping humans for a very long time. One of the jobs that dogs have been doing for centuries is herding. Herding dogs also go by other names, including sheepdogs, shepherd dogs and working dogs. However, they can all do the same job – herding animals!
What are herding dogs?
Herding dogs get their name from their ability to round up different groups – or herds – of farm animals, including sheep, cattle and goats. When a farmer needs to move large groups of farm animals from one location to another, such as between different fields, it’s impossible to do it by yourself. Having herding dogs makes it much easier. This is because herding dogs use their instinct to move and direct the animals. To do this they may bark at them, circle around them and nip at their heels (without hurting them!). Some dogs are so skilled that they only need to stare at the animals that they are looking after to get them to move!
Check out this awesome video of sheep being herded by Border Collies.
Some of the skills that herding dogs have include:
Gathering: This is where the handler sends the dog to the animals to get them to start moving.
Driving: where the dog takes the animals away from the handler.
Penning: where the dog moves the sheep into a pen.
Singling: separating one or two sheep away from the main group.
Breeds of herding dogs
It takes the right sort of personality for a dog to be a good herding dog. This means that some breeds are better suited to doing this job than others. Some of the breeds of dogs that are most often used as herding dogs include:
Bearded and Border Collie
Old English Sheepdog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Although every dog is different, herding dogs share some of the same personality traits. For example, most herding dogs are very clever, have lots of energy and are very active, love humans and are protective.
Does a dog have to be trained to become a herding dog?
Even if your dog is one of the breeds listed above, or another breed well known for having good herding instincts, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically going to be great herding dogs. In this video, the Border Collie is the one being herded! Just as any dog needs basic training, a herding dog will also benefit from some training to build communication between you which is essential for successful animal herding. Training should usually begin when a herding dog is around a year old and should continue every day to keep their skills sharp!
For other fun facts about herding dogs, or to see more blogs from our ‘dogs with jobs’ series, sign up to the Zara Dog Dog Club today!