My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Understanding Your Herding Dog


Created to work closely with people, think independently when necessary, work long hours and control large moving things, herding breeds are smart problem solvers. Certain breeds bark to move their charges.

These dogs need work; if you don’t supply it they will make their own. Eager to learn, they are usually a joy to train. They can also be overprotective of house and family. Individuals of these breeds can have severe shyness problems and sensitivity to noises. All need intensive, early socialization and training to grow up to be the most stable, predictable companions they can be.

Chasing Behaviors
Expect, prevent and correct car chasing, bicycle hounding and the like from these movement-stimulated breeds.

Movement Stimulated Nipping
Predictably, many of these dogs nip at the heels of humans the way they nip at the heels of livestock. Running children who emit high-pitched sounds can be favorite targets. This behavior is controllable through training and sensible management.

Unwanted Activity
Pacing, spinning, and circling are all normal behaviors if your herding dog is under exercised, and sometimes, even when he is adequately exercised. These dogs have the desire and the endurance to work all day. You must exercise them mentally with training and physically with activity – everyday. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, these dogs need to work!

Several of these breeds (Shelties, Pulik, and Beardies spring to mind) use their bark when they work livestock. Because this was a desirable trait, these dogs still tend to bark when excited, eager, happy or frustrated. Training may give you some control over barking but it is doubtful you will ever control it completely.

Highly Trainable
These breeds worked closely with humans, consequently all are highly intelligent. Some people do not realize that a well-trained herding dog responds instantly to a command, but does it in a way that makes sense in that situation. A herding dog will execute a command to “come by” (go clockwise around the flock) one way if he is rounding up a small flock of frightened sheep, and another way if he is working with a large herd of feisty young cattle. The dog will still go clockwise, but he will do so faster or slower, closer or farther away depending on what he thinks will work best with those animals. He thinks — so he may interpret your commands. They learn quickly and retain information well, but persistent training is necessary to get decent verbal control over these dogs.

Common Problems: Shyness, overprotectiveness, barking, hyperactivity, sound sensitivity, car chasing, dominance and territorial aggression, and dog fighting.

Good Home: Active, calm people with the time for exercise, training and intensive socialization. A fenced yard is a must. Owners must enjoy training, be decisive, consistent and persistent.

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