What are the Pros and Cons?
Could your farm use a herding dog? While there are lots are reasons to love these dog breeds, there are a few considerations you should examine before choosing one. Let’s take a look at some of these pros and cons—remember, you “herd” it here first!
In general, canines are smart, but many herding breeds are among the most intelligent dog breeds. In one famous ranking of dog breed intelligence by author Stanley Coren, dogs in the AKC Herding Group make up eight of the top twenty smartest dog breeds. This intelligence makes them easy to train, and they tend to learn commands very quickly. They’re naturally good at figuring out basic logistics.
Herding dogs also tend to be an athletic group, and when this is combined with their natural intelligence, it can help them excel in work around the farm, but also in fun dog sports like agility.
Naturally, the majority of herding breeds live in homes where their herding instincts are not specifically put to use. That said, if you do have sheep, cattle, goats, or even poultry, a herding dog can provide some seriously helpful assistance.
Be aware: herding dogs naturally possess herding instincts, but training is still required to hone the skills into something that can be used on the farm. Once this process is completed, herding dogs can perform amazing work, moving entire groups of animals or singling out individuals for veterinary or other care.
Variety of breeds
Border Collies might be the first breed to come to mind, but there is actually an incredible variety of breeds in the AKC Herding Group. There’s the bold appearance of the Australian Cattle Dog, the beauty and power of the German Shepherd, the classic dignity of the Collie, the unstoppable determination of the Welsh Corgi, and many others with plenty of looks and styles to meet your preference.
Despite some of their shortcomings (see the Cons below!), a herding dog will bring fun, spontaneity, and delight into your life. While every dog is special, there is something about the all-around package of intelligence, enthusiasm, and charm that puts the herding dog breeds in a class by themselves. They’re always ready to play, always ready for the next adventure.
The same drive and work ethic that make herding dogs good at their job can be a problem, too. Herding breeds tend to bring intensity to everyday life. This can make them tons of fun to play with, but it can also be difficult to get them to “shut down” and relax. If you’re looking for a dog that will happily relax and sleep while you watch TV, consider a Greyhound rather than a herding dog.
Making up work
In the same way, your herding dog may actually “invent” work if you don’t give him enough to do. Sometimes these “jobs” aren’t helpful—herding children or other pets, barking at delivery boxes until you open them, guiding people to the ringing telephone. Herding dogs can be stubborn. And they love to play, but again, the play might be a little too intense for all situations.
In some cases, a herding dog with no outlet for its energy can even become a little aggressive. Farm work, if you have some, is ideal, but you can also fulfill your herding dog’s need for speed with games, walks, and routine exercise—both mental and physical.
A good many of dogs in the Herding Group possess long coats that require extra maintenance to keep them looking good.
And now, the choice is yours! There’s a vast world of fun to be had with herding dogs…as long as you don’t mind having a canine instruct you on the proper way to do almost everything!