Bred to control a variety of livestock, Herding dogs have been developed to be well suited for their special functions. Lowslung Corgis and Swedish Vallhunds work as “heelers,” nipping at the heels of cattle to move them. Drovers, such as the Old English Sheepdog and Bouvier des Flandres, were employed to drive livestock to market. Briards and German Shepherd Dogs patrolled the boundaries of pastures to keep their charges contained, while breeds such as the Puli and Bearded Collie went in search of grazing sheep to round them up and bring them in.
Always on the move in pursuit of their duties, Herding dogs are virtually tireless canines that crave action. Agility is their middle name.
Herding breeds go from medium-small to medium-large. Short-legged Corgis and Vallhunds are approximately 30 centimeters (a foot) high. Larger dogs in the group include the Belgian Shepherd, Collie, Bouvier, Briard and German Shepherd.
Problem-solving, independent thinking and the ability to instantly obey orders has resulted in many of the Herding breeds being among the most trainable of all canines. The popular Shetland Sheepdog always ranks high in obedience competition and the German Shepherd’s versatility has seen it used as a guide for the blind or an assistance dog for the handicapped, and in drug and explosives detection, search and rescue and police work.
Intelligence, the desire to please, an action-oriented nature and a knack for rounding up anything from cattle to kids are hallmarks of the Herding breeds.