15 Popular Herding Dog Breeds You Need To Know About

Herding dogs are a favorite of many active pet parents because of their fun-loving personalities. They are energetic, intelligent dogs that excel in training while also making great companions and performance competition dogs.

While many are not used for their original purpose of herding, they still need jobs to do and should be provided adequate mental and physical stimulation.

What Defines a Herding Dog?

Herding dogs, also known as “pastoral breeds,” are dogs that are trained for herding purposes. They can herd animals like sheep, cattle, and even reindeer. Each herding dog breed has a unique way of herding the livestock. Some nip at heels while others get in front of the animals and stare them down.

Up until 1983, the American Kennel Club grouped these breeds into the working dog category. Yet, they differ from other working breeds due to their instinctual habits of controlling the movements of other animals.

Sheep herding dog

What Dogs Can Compete in Herding Competitions?

According to the American Kennel Club, any dogs on their list that are nine months or older can compete in competitions. The list includes the dogs classified as herding breeds, along with some working breeds like Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, and Samoyeds.

Popular Herding Dog Breeds

Herding dogs come in a wide range of sizes and appearances, but they’re all excellent companions for active families. Here is a herding dog breeds list including 15 dogs that you’re sure to fall in love with.

#1 – German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd herding dogs
  • Height: 22 – 26 inches
  • Weight: 50 – 90 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 7 – 10 years
  • Personality: Intelligent, brave, active

The German Shepherd Dog has been one of the most popular canine companions in the United States for many years. They are loyal, intelligent, and energetic dogs that enjoy spending time with their families. Also used as police and military dogs, they are noble guardians and will look after their families.

#2 – Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd on adventure
  • Height: 18 – 23 inches
  • Weight: 40 – 65 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Personality: Energetic, focused, smart

This breed originated in the United States, despite its name, and it’s a very popular herding dog. They excel at various dog sports such as obedience, herding, and agility. Plus, they make great running and hiking companions. Always ready for fun, the Australian Shepherd needs an active home.

#3 – Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog relaxing in grass
  • Height: 13 – 16 inches
  • Weight: 15 – 25 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Personality: Playful, energetic, obedient

The Shetland Sheepdog is a big dog in a small package. They are active, intelligent, and love working with their humans. They enjoy training in sports like agility and obedience, and they make a great companion for someone looking for an active, smaller dog.

#4 – Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi herding dogs
  • Height: 10 – 12 inches
  • Weight: 22 – 30 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 13 years
  • Personality: Loving, active, alert

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are known for their adorable looks and strong personalities. Despite their size, there is a lot of dog in that tiny package. They are very active and intelligent dogs that need a job to do. Even with short legs, they make great hiking companions and enjoy many performance dog sports.

#5 – Collie

Rough Collie outside
  • Height: 22 – 26 inches
  • Weight: 50 – 75 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Personality: Gentle, intelligent, devoted

The Collie is recognized by the character Lassie, who shows the breed in its best form. Collies are gentle dogs that are deeply loyal to their families. They are not as active as many of the other herding breeds, but they do still require adequate exercise and mental stimulation.

#6 – Border Collie

Border Collie on snowy hill
  • Height: 18 – 22 inches
  • Weight: 30 – 55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Personality: Energetic, intelligent, affectionate

The Border Collie is probably one of the most widely used sheep herding dog breeds today. They are still very strong herding dogs across the world and are one of the most popular breeds for performance sports like obedience, agility, and disc dog. They are quirky dogs with unique personalities and are generally not recommended for novice owners.

#7 – Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog jumping into pool
  • Height: 17 – 20 inches
  • Weight: 35 – 50 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 16 years
  • Personality: Active, curious, alert

The Australian Cattle Dog is a stubborn, energetic breed that does best in an active home. They make great hiking and running companions. They’re also easily trained and competed in performance dog sports. They are often stubborn, as required for their work herding cattle, but form very strong bonds with their families. Also, they’re healthy dogs with one of the longest lifespans.

#8 – Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois running

  • Height: 22 – 26 inches
  • Weight: 40 – 80 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 14 – 16 years
  • Personality: Intelligent, dedicated, confident

The Belgian Malinois is arguably one of the most versatile dog breeds today. They are used widely in police and military work as well as competing at high levels of many performance dog sports. They are active and intelligent dogs that need a job to do. Although not recommended for novice owners, they are one of the most affectionate dog breeds and make wonderful companions for a truly active family.

#9 – Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi in Snow
  • Height: 10 – 12 inches
  • Weight: 25 – 38 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Personality: Loyal, loving, smart

The most notable difference between a Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgi is their tails. Pembrokes are naturally born without a tail while Cardigans have long, fluffy tails. These little dogs might look cute and cuddly, but they’re also just as smart and active as the other herding breeds. Their short legs don’t hold them back from running around and alerting their humans of danger.

#10 – Old English Sheepdog

Fluffy Old English Sheepdog
  • Height: 20 – 24 inches
  • Weight: 60 – 100 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Personality: Gentle, adaptable, smart

Old English Sheepdogs are one of the shaggiest breeds. Despite looking like a giant teddy bear, these dogs also love to explore and exercise regularly. However, they’re calmer than most herding breeds, and they have a gentle demeanor. They are especially kind and patient when living with young children.

#11 – Puli

Puli unique herding dogs
  • Height: 16 – 17 inches
  • Weight: 25 – 35 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 15 years
  • Personality: Intelligent, loyal, affectionate

The Puli (Pulik when plural) is a breed with a unique appearance, due to the dense cords in the dog’s coat. Their fur naturally grows that way but requires lots of grooming to maintain. Even with all that heavy hair, Pulik are agile dogs that are light on their feet. They have a similar coat to the Komondor, which is a unique working breed.

#12 – Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres tongue hanging out
  • Height: 23 – 27 inches
  • Weight: 70 – 110 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Personality: Affectionate, versatile, focused

These herding dogs came from Belgium, where they did all kinds of farm work, such as sheep herding, cattle droving, and cart pulling. They have a wavy weatherproof coat to keep them protected while working hard. They are focused and protective, but they also have a big heart. Today, they can still make versatile working dogs, especially through guarding and police work.

#13 – Australian Kelpie

Australian Kelpie herding dog
  • Height: 17 – 20 inches
  • Weight: 31 – 46 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 13 years
  • Personality: Loyal, intelligent, energetic

Kelpies are highly regarded when it comes to sheep herding. They have impressive herding instincts, along with a surplus of energy and commitment. These dogs can withstand harsh heat and dry conditions since they originated in Australia. The world’s most expensive dog was a Kelpie that sold for $35,200.

#14 – Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie fur blowing in wind
  • Height: 20 – 22 inches
  • Weight: 45 – 55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 14 years
  • Personality: Friendly, energetic, smart

Bearded Collies are a popular family dog today, but they were once herding dogs for Scottish shepherds. They have long, silky coats that look similar to Old English Sheepdogs. They look like they might be lazy dogs, but they’re usually very outgoing and love to run around and play with both humans and dogs.

#15 – Swedish Vallhund

Swedish Vallhund outside
  • Height: 11 – 14 inches
  • Weight: 20 – 35 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Personality: Friendly, alert, energetic

At first glance, the Swedish Vallhund looks like a mix between a Corgi and a wolf, but it’s actually its own breed. These short canines have endless energy, and they love meeting new people. They’re adaptable to different living situations, as long as they still get plenty of time to run around and play.

Is a Herding Dog Right for You?

Many herding dog breeds are popular due to their appearance alone, but these canines aren’t best for every family. Most of these breeds require intense physical activity and mental stimulation. Long walks, hikes, training sessions, agility courses, and puzzle toys are all great tools to help handle a herding dog’s energy. If you’re not looking to go on long outdoor adventures or spend lots of time teaching a dog new tricks, then a herding breed might not be the best choice for you.

Before you adopt any dog, make sure you do your research. Even mixed breeds can have the high energy of these herding dogs. So, make sure you select a dog that’s a good fit for your home and lifestyle.

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