11 Herding Dogs: Shepherds and Sheepdogs

Almost every region is known for one or more shepherd dogs and sheepdogs that were bred to herd livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats. These are the herding dogs. They come in all shapes and sizes and a range of fur options and colors. They have many characteristics in common but are quite diverse as well.

 These dogs were once classified in the Working Dog group by the American Kennel Club, but in 1983 a new classification was created for dogs with herding instincts. These dogs have now been split out into their own group, the Herding group.

Key traits of this group are their never-ending energy, high intelligence level, sense of loyalty, and keen observation skills. If you own one of these dogs prepare to stay busy keeping them physically and mentally stimulated. They do well at canine sports like agility training and herding competitions. Training is easy for most of these dogs as they are eager to please and compliant.

There are 30 herding dog breeds recognized by the AKC. Many are quite well known, and some are not. This article will focus on twelve distinct herding breeds of dog. Some are similar to another breed on the list, cousins almost.

11 Herding Dogs and Their Stats

Australian Cattle Dog

Height: 17-20 inches tall

Weight: 35-50 pounds

Drooling: Low

Shedding: Medium

Life Expectancy: 12-16 Years

Also known as a Blue Heeler, this breed is named well. This is a dog from Australia bred to herd cattle in the rough, rugged terrain of the outback. ACDs are distant relatives of the wild Dingo and were integral to Australia’s beef industry and early economy.

Australian Cattle Dogs are Herding Dogs bred to herd cattle in the Australian outback
Australian Cattle Dogs are Herding Dogs bred to herd cattle in the Australian outback

Australian Shepherd

Height: 18-23 inches tall

Weight: 40-65 pounds

Drooling: Low

Shedding: Medium, Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12-15 Years

These dogs were bred in Australia and California and are known for being the perfect companions for cowboys, not only on the ranch bit in rodeos too. Due to their high intelligence and ability to train they have also been used as therapy dogs and for search-and-rescue. Although good with young children, their herding instincts are strong and they may try to “herd” the children with nips at their heels. This behavior can be dissuaded with proper training at a young age.

Australian Shepherd in field of grass with little yellow flowers

Belgian Malinois

Height: 22-26 inches tall

Weight:  40-80 pounds depending on sex

Drooling: Low

Shedding: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 14-16 Years

Pronounced ma-luhn-waa, this is a people-oriented dog with a high work-drive. They not only enjoy spending time with their people but thrive on it. They are known for holding their heads proudly with their black ears and black mask. They are closely related to the Belgian Sheepdog but have a short smooth coat of fur. The Belgian Malinois is often mistaken for the German Shepherd Dog.

Belgian Malinois chasing a frisbee

Belgian Sheepdog

Height: 22-26 inches tall

Weight: 45-75 pounds depending on sex

Drooling: Low

Shedding: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-14 Years

This shepherd is dedicated, loyal, and serious. Like the Belgian Malinois, the Belgian Sheepdog or Shepherd also craves human attention. They love hard work and are highly trainable. The Belgian Shepherd is often used for police and military work. Their medium length double coat should be groomed every two weeks or so.

The Belgian Sheepdog or Shepherd desires human attention and is very trainable.

Bergamasco Sheepdog

Height: 22-23.5 inches tall

Weight: 57-84 pounds depending on sex

Drooling: Moderately Low

Shedding: Low

Life Expectancy: 13-15 Years

From the Italian Alps, Bergamascos make great family dogs. They get along well with children and other animals alike. They are known for their unique dread-lock hairdo created from three different types of fur. Their coat protects them from the cold and attacks from predators. They are known to be loving, trainable, and independent. You will love them for their wool which does require a bit of special care.

That was Part One of our article on Herding Dogs. Come back next week for Part Two…