Herding Dogs: Typical Behaviour, Temperament, Problems & Training

Have you chosen a great dog, maybe even a puppy, and realized with horror that it belongs to the herding dog division?

No panic! Of course, this does not mean that you now have to buy a complete herd of sheep to ensure that your dog is used to its species’ needs!

How a typical behavior of herding dogs is expressed, what you should consider when training your herding dog, how you can keep him busy and busy, you will find out this and much more helpful information in our article.

In a nutshell: the typical behavior of herding dogs

Herding dogs have a very long tradition. The dogs were and are used by shepherds to keep the herds together and to look after them, that is, to steer them.

Herding dogs work on instructions, but sometimes they also make decisions independently. A herding dog must NEVER injure an animal in its herd while working.

Herding dogs and herd guard dogs are often confused with each other. But each division has its own task!

Due to the fact that herding dogs belong to the working dogs, i.e. to the dog breeds which are bred specifically for work, they have a high willingness to work and drive.

In the meantime, thanks to their characteristics, these dogs have also gained great popularity in the field of dog sports, dog fun and as an active family dog.

Speaking of dog training: would you like to learn more with your dog? Dan, check out our dog training bible! Here you will find many great exercises, which can also be easily integrated into everyday life!

What is a herding dog?

Herding dogs were originally bred to herd, guard and herd livestock. This required fast, agile dogs that quickly subordinate themselves to humans.

A resulting division are the paddock dogs. They serve to select individual animals from a herd or to drive the entire herd into a pen.

The Border Collie is probably the best known and most widespread breed. In contrast to the original herding dogs, paddock dogs are allowed to bark during their work.

Many breeds of herding dogs are used in dog sports today. Since they are extremely fast, nimble and willing to learn, almost all herding dog breeds are suitable for these areas.

Herding Dog Temperament & Traits

All breeds of herding dogs have good stamina, are obedient and very self-confident. Due to their fine instincts and their sensitive nature, they are able to react to the smallest gestures.

Herding dogs are the Ferraris of dog breeds. For someone who wants to do agility, fun or even serious dog sport, this breed is just about perfect.

It is not for nothing that herding dogs are usually found on the podium at agility events, for example….

These are the characteristics of herding dogs at a glance:

  • obedience
  • self-assured
  • sensitive
  • agile
  • intelligent
  • alert
  • willing to work
  • persevering

Typical behavior of herding dogs

Unfortunately, the original function of a herding dog is largely underestimated. Of course, the herding instinct can be suppressed or even diverted.

However, one should always keep in mind what these dogs are originally bred for.

“Genetics cannot be brushed aside”

Even if you have bought a herding dog: Such a dog must NEVER be let into a herd without thorough and competent training. The statement “he has herding in his blood” can be deadly, since herding is a weakened form of hunting and not all dogs know the limits.

Herding dog training

Herding dogs are usually really little nerds. They love learning and working. Therefore, depending on the dog’s experience, training is relatively easy for the most part.

It is not only the physical workload that is important with such energetic dogs. Learning to be calm and, above all, mental work is almost more important.

Herding dogs are used relatively quickly to become ball junkies. These dogs would run until they drop dead. It is therefore your duty to ensure an optimal balance between rest and action!

If you teach your little pup to be quiet from the start, you’ll have a much easier time later.

Herding dog problems

Since herding dogs are extremely sensitive and perceive the finest signals, stressful situations often arise in everyday life.

Recurring stimuli that regularly appear in everyday life should therefore be positively documented as early as possible.

Since the herding instinct is a weakened form of the hunting instinct, this important point should not be neglected.

Anyone who does not want their herding dog to look after the family should offer them an alternative task such as dog sports.

Utilize & employ herding dog

With herding dogs it is extremely important that the balance between the physical and mental workload is given.

All active activities such as agility, Treibball or even draft dog sports are physical activities. Quiet tasks such as tracks, mantrailers or a dummy search are activities that keep the mind busy.

The third and almost most important point is relaxation.

If these three points are in balance, a long, contented life as a herding dog can lead to a long, happy and, above all, contented life, even without sheep.

Herding dog breeds

Herding dogs include the world’s most popular dog breeds, such as:

  • Border collie
  • Australia Shepherd
  • German shepherd dog

Border collie

The Border Collie is probably the best-known representative of the herding dogs and originally comes from Great Britain.

The Border Collie is still very often used today, alongside the Kelpie, to work with sheep and is highly valued.

Thanks to their characteristics, Border Collies can now also be found worldwide in dog sports, where they are usually found among the top three.

An ideal dog for an ambitious owner.

Australian Shepherd

Unfortunately, the Australian Shepherd is currently a fashion dog thanks to its appearance and the wide variety of coat color variations.


Blue Merle and Red Merle are very popular color combinations. However, before purchasing, it should be considered that this color development is actually a genetic error. In some countries, breeding according to Merle colors is considered torture breeding. Furthermore, very serious complications can arise, for example, from anesthesia, which can lead to the death of the dog.

German shepherd dog

The German shepherd was very often used for herding in the past. Nowadays it is only very rarely found in this area.

His courage, his willingness to work, and his absolute loyalty have meanwhile brought him popularity in other areas.


Herding dogs are very motivated, eager to work, and also sensitive dogs.

They are suitable for active people who want to pursue goals with their dog or who simply like to spend a long time outside and do something with the dog.

Like all dog breeds, they need structure, consistency, and fairness in training.

However, one should always keep in mind that these little whirlwinds are sometimes subtly reminded that a time-out is perfectly fine once in a while.

Are you looking for inspiration about what you can learn with your herding dog? Then I recommend our dog bible. Here you will find many great suggestions, tips, and new tricks!

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