When they’re not herding animals (or your family), you can find the typically athletic members of the Herding Group excelling in sports like agility, flyball, tracking and of course, herding trials. Created in 1983, this group is the newest AKC classification, and its breeds used to be members of the Working Group.
From the intelligent Border Collie to the outgoing Pembroke Welsh Corgi, here are all of the dog breeds of the Herding Group. Just remember, dogs are individuals, so you may come across a Bearded Collie who doesn’t bounce when he greets you or an Australian Shepherd who isn’t always full of energy. And, while these dogs are athletic, it’s important to get clearance from your veterinarian before starting any sort of activity with them, particularly strenuous ones. In fact, that’s something all dog owners should keep in mind, regardless of breed.
Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog, sometimes known as a
Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, is a tough herding dog from the land down
under. He is often known for being smart and independent, making him generally best suited for
owners who are equally as headstrong. It is also important to remember the ACD
is meant to work long days and herd unruly livestock, so choose
this breed if you are a high-energy person who enjoys long periods of daily
activity. He is compact and muscular, generally
standing 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder and weighing 44 to 62 pounds.
In their homeland of Australia (as well as in
the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world), thousands of Australian Kelpies
are employed herding livestock every day. The Kelpie is a medium-size dog, usually
weighing 31 to 46 pounds. Although he generally loves the great outdoors, the Kelpie is
by no means a yard dog. He is bred to work with people, and if your Kelpie is a
family pet, he should live indoors — that is, when he’s not out with you
playing, working or showing up the other local dogs at agility and
The Australian Shepherd is not from Australia
and was, in fact, developed by Basque shepherds in the U.S. The Aussie
is typically smart and energetic, so you should be prepared to keep him busy – if
his job isn’t to herd, long daily walks, jogs or hikes, plus
some home training sessions should meet his physical and mental needs. You
might think an Aussie needs a home with a big backyard, but with his
medium size (normally between 35 and 65 pounds), he can probably adapt to condo or
Beneath the Bearded Collie’s shaggy coat lies a
sweet dog who is typically independent and athletic. Like all dogs, the Beardie comes in
a range of temperaments, from low-key to lively, but whatever her personality, she's likely to greet you with kisses and a wagging tail. The Beardie can be a
devoted and intelligent family member. Along with her heritage as a herding dog
comes a loud bark that often makes her an excellent watchdog. The Beardie is a
medium-size dog and can weigh anywhere from 45 to 55 pounds.
The Beauceronis a shorthaired, French herding
breed, commonly used on sheep. Like all farm dogs, he once served multiple
purposes, from driving flocks to guarding his property and family. The
Beauceron is a large dog, regularly weighing 70 to 110 pounds, with a
protective personality. He is also normally active, assertive and independent –
qualities that make him ill-suited for most novice dog owners. However, with
appropriate training and early socialization, he can be an excellent companion
for an active family.
The rough-coated Belgian Laekenois, pronounced
lak-in-wah, is named for the town of Laeken, where he originated. He is the
rarest of the four Belgian herding breeds (that in their home country are all
considered a single breed) and the only one not yet recognized by the American
Kennel Club. He is a medium-size dog, regularly weighing 45 to 65 pounds, who is often devoted to protecting his family and property.
Often mistaken for a small German Shepherd, the
Belgian Malinois (pronounced mal-in-wah) is a distinct breed. His native
country Belgium is home to four herding breeds that vary by color and coat
type. Named for the town of Malines, where he originated, the Malinois is the
short-haired variety. He is a medium-size dog, ordinarily weighing between 40
and 80 pounds, who can have a protective personality and a knack for tracking. The
Malinois is a popular choice for police, military and search and rescue work –
that's why many of these dogs were conscripted into World War I. He is also generally a high-energy
dog who needs plenty of daily exercise.
Her black, long-haired coat gives the Belgian
Sheepdog an air of elegance, but don’t be fooled – there’s a lot more to this
dog than beauty. She’s usually highly energetic and needs a job that makes use of her intelligence. It’s important to understand that the Belgian Sheepdog’s activity
levels necessitate much more than a simple walk around the block. Choose this
breed if you are a high-energy person who enjoys active daily exercise. She
is an indoor/outdoor dog, frequently weighing anywhere from 40 to 75 pounds,
and should have access to a securely fenced yard; however, she should be with
her family when they are home.
Sporting a mahogany coat with a black overlay and
black mask, the Belgian Tervuren is a strikingly handsome member of the four herding
breeds native to Belgium. The Terv is usually demanding of attention and has an
intense desire to be with his people. He is often an excellent watchdog with the size
(typically 40 to 65 pounds) and ability to be protective when necessary. He will
need early socialization and training, as well as plenty of exercise, to be at
The Italian Bergamasco is a large sheepdog,
typically weighing 55 to 85 pounds. His corded or matted coat comes in all
shades of gray, and it is meant to offer limited protection from bad weather and predators he
might have to drive off in order to defend his flock. These days, the
Bergamasco is primarily a family companion or show dog, though some still have
a strong herding instinct. He is typically gentle with his family, and, without a flock,
is likely to be instinctively protective of them.
With his rough, shaggy coat, Groucho Marx-style eyebrows and bearded face, this rare, French sheepdog – the Berger Picard
(pronounced bare-ZHAY pee-CARR) – certainly looks like a mixed breed.
However, the breed’s appearance in the 2005 film “Because of Winn-Dixie” put it
on the path to American citizenship. In the ten years since the movie’s
release, fans of the Picard have begun importing, breeding and exhibiting the
dogs, even forming a breed club. Because of this, the Picard is set to achieve
AKC recognition in 2015. He is usually energetic and athletic, normally weighing 55 to
Arguably considered the world’s best herding
dog, the Border Collie is generally a smart, intense workaholic. She usually thrives on order and
values employment. Popular for her good looks and medium size (primarily 30 to
45 pounds), a good BC can be the
companion of a lifetime, and can be an ideal dog for an owner who can keep
her busy with dog sports – agility, flyball, flying disc games, herding trials,
obedience or tracking.
Bouvier des Flandres
Thanks to his bushy eyebrows, walrus-like
mustache and full beard, the Bouvier des Flandres sports a unique look.
This herding dog is typically intelligent and independent – and he’s usually happiest when he has
a job to do. The Bouvier was created in Belgium as a large (often 70 to 100
pounds) multipurpose farm dog who could drive cattle, pull carts and serve as
a watchdog. While he’s still capable of these tasks today, the Bouvier is
primarily a family companion or show dog. He does enjoy the outdoors, and Bouviers are generally devoted to their people. When his family is at
home, he should be, too.
The Briard has a long history in France as a
guard dog and herding breed, but these days, he is primarily a family companion
or show dog. While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be
further from the truth. Briards are typically devoted to their people, including children. And this impressive dog can weigh anywhere from 70 to 90 pounds or more. When a
Briard is the right match for you, the reward is a dog his fans lovingly describe
as a heart wrapped in fur.
The Canaanis said to have originated in the
biblical land of Canaan, where he was used to guard camps and flocks. After the
Romans came, however, the breed became feral. They were redomesticated during
World War II, proving to be intelligent sentry dogs, messengers and land mine
detectors. This medium-size dog (normally weighing 35 to 55 pounds) is often an
intelligent, independent thinker with natural watchdog instincts – he typically patrols
his property and circles and barks at intruders, not permitting them to
approach unless given the OK by his owner.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan is best described as a Corgi with a
tail, but he differs from his cousin, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, in other ways.
The Cardigan has larger, more rounded ears and he comes in a variety of colors,
including tricolor (black and white, with tan or brindle points), blue merle,
brindle, sable and red. He regularly weighs between 25 and 38 pounds, and despite his small size, he was once used to drive cattle by nipping at their
heels. Today, the Cardigan is more of a companion and a show dog, but he still often has strong herding instincts.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
The hardworking Catahoula Leopard Dog, the
official canine of Louisiana, was developed to catch and drive wild hogs and
cattle to market. He even sports webbed feet to swamp crawl through
his home terrain. Today, he’s still more of a working dog than a pet, but when
he’s off duty, the Catahoula Leopard Dog can be an excellent family dog who is both
protective and affectionate. The breed’s activity level varies among individuals, but it’s generally safe to assume he’s going to demand a great
deal of exercise. He can weigh anywhere from 50 to 95 pounds and can usually adjust to
indoor or outdoor living, as long as he has plenty of human companionship.
Collies are arguably one of the best family dogs. They are typically devoted to the entire family, eager to please, housebreak easily and need less grooming than you’d think. Many people aren't aware that there are actually two types of Collies. The most common is
the Rough Collie, the classic Lassie, with a long coat. The Smooth Collie
sports a short, dense and flat coat that has a lot of undercoat. In the show ring, they are considered the same
breed and are judged by the same standard. As a herding breed, the Collie is
bred to work long days and needs quite a bit of exercise. They typically weigh
between 50 and 70 pounds.
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is one of four farm dogs native
to Switzerland. He is the smallest of the four Swiss mountain dogs, ordinarily
weighing 45 to 65 pounds, and takes his name from the Entlebuch valley, where he
originated. He is often called the smallest of the four, but don't let that phrase fool you — he's physically powerful and was originally used to herd cattle and other
livestock. Generally, he's happy being part of an active family that loves
him and considers him worthy of doing a job.
The Finnish Lapphund was originally developed by
the Sami, a seminomadic people native to Finland, to help herd reindeer. These days she is a popular companion in her home country and is
beginning to make a name for herself in North America. Because the Lappie comes
from the far north, she is generally intolerant of heat – keep her indoors on hot or
humid days. She is a medium-size dog (customarily weighing 33 to 55 pounds) who
needs exercise that will challenge her mentally and physically.
The German Shepherd is known for being adaptable and intelligent – so much so that he has done almost every job a dog
can do, from leading the blind and detecting illicit drugs to bringing down criminals and serving in the armed forces. He also tends to be a natural
protector who is versatile and athletic. His size (which can
be anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds), herding skills and unforgettable movie role
as Rin Tin Tin, have given him legendary status among canines. As a family dog,
German Shepherds are usually good with children and can make great companions when they are
given early socialization and training.
This Nordic breed is said to have come to
Iceland on the longboats of early Viking settlers. The Icelandic Sheepdog has
the typical pricked ears, curled tail, thick coat and fondness for barking of her
Spitz relatives. The Icie is generally friendly and playful and tends to get
along well with people – including kids – and other dogs. Males are often more
laid-back and cuddly than females, but both tend to thrive on human companionship. The
Icie is a small dog, commonly weighing 20 to 45 pounds, but don’t let that fool
you; she may be best suited to a home where she can enjoy the outdoors with active
people who take her hiking, camping or compete in dog sports with her.
This dog once stood on the prow of a Viking
longboat, waiting to be one of the first to disembark to the New World. The
Norwegian Buhund has since served as as a multipurpose farm dog in his homeland
of Norway and made a name for himself as a hearing assistance dog and agility
and obedience athlete. Like all Spitz breeds, he is characterized by prick
ears, a foxy face, a thick coat and a tail that curls tightly over his back.
He is a medium-size dog, with a weight that typically ranges from 26 to 40 pounds.
Old English Sheepdog
His hair may be the first thing you notice, but
it's the Old English Sheepdog's personality
that stands out. On the surface, he can be a silly charmer, but
underneath his shaggy coat is an independent thinker. The OES evolved from a
multipurpose farm dog to a companion and show dog without losing his strong
herding instinct. While his mature size (ranging from 60 to 100 pounds) might make
you think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be further from the truth. An
OES should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family
is home, he should be in the house with them.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke is the Corgi without a tail. In
addition to the lack of a tail, the Pembroke stands out from her cousin, the
Cardigan Welsh Corgi, in other ways, including her smaller, more pointed ears
and wedge-shaped head. Her weight typically ranges from 25 to 30 pounds, making
her a little smaller than the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, as well. The Pembroke originated in
Wales some 1,000 years ago and was employed as an all-around farm dog. She
herded livestock, killed rats and other vermin and barked in alarm at strangers.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Also known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny, or
PON, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog helped shepherds move sheep and kept watch
over the flock. At 35 to 55 pounds, he is about half the size of his close
relative, the Old English Sheepdog. The PON is typically energetic, silly and smart and
requires an owner with a sense of humor. He also needs someone willing to put
in quite a bit of time and effort into grooming.
This corded wonder is a Hungarian herding breed
who looks rather like an old-timey floor mop. The Puli is a small to
medium-size dog (usually weighing between 25 and 35 pounds), often with a sensibly
suspicious nature that can help make him a good watchdog. These days, he is
primarily a family companion or show dog, but he is first and foremost a
herding dog and will probably use those instincts if given the opportunity. Early
socialization and training are important to help a Puli learn the difference
between what is normal and what is actually a threat.
The Pyrenean Shepherd is the smallest of the
French herding breeds. As his name indicates, he is native to the rugged French
Pyrenees mountains, but During World War I, Pyr Sheps were taken from the mountains to aid in the war effort. They delivered messages, sought out wounded
soldiers and performed guard duty. He comes in two looks: rough coat and
smooth face. This is a small dog of 15 to 32 pounds, typically with an oversized personality
and energy level. He is generally not the choice for a novice dog owner, but
can make an excellent companion to someone willing to put in the time and
effort to train and socialize him.
The Shetland Sheepdog has Collie in his ancestry
and once went by the name Miniature Collie, but is his own distinctive breed. The
Sheltie tends to be an active, fun-loving dog who typically weighs less than 30 pounds. His
gentle disposition, athleticism and keen intelligence tend to make him a dog who lives
to please and loves to show off.
Sweden’s national dog is multitalented. Through the
centuries, the Swedish Lapphund has worked as a hunting dog, guard dog and
reindeer herder. This is a rare breed that is little known outside of Sweden,
as only about 1,200 of the dogs exist. The medium-size Lapphund normally weighs
33 to 53 pounds, wears a thick double coat in brown, black or black and brown
(with or without white markings) and has prick ears, a wedge-shaped head and a
waving tail that curls over his back as he moves.
The low-slung dog resembles his Corgi cousins,
but the Swedish Vallhund is a distinct breed that has existed for some thousand
years. In his homeland of Sweden, the Vallhund was a valued farm dog used to
herd livestock by nipping at their heels. He has many good qualities, including
his size (ordinarily 20 to 30 pounds) and easy-care coat. He tends to be energetic and
requires early training and socialization to avoid becoming overly suspicious
or fearful of anything new or different.
Vetstreet.com delivers advice from veterinarians, trainers and pet experts who are dedicated to giving you the most trusted, authoritative information for keeping pets healthy and happy. Our Find A Vet service connects you with leading veterinarians in your area. Launched in 2011, Vetstreet.com features veterinarian-reviewed medical advice and has quickly become one of the top animal health and lifestyle sites on the web. See more.