Herding breeds like German or Australian Shepherds or Border Collies are great! But they weren’t bred to be house pets. Here’re a few things you should know.

Herding breeds can make good pets, but owners should take their breeding into account
Herding breeds can make good pets, but owners should take their breeding into account
Photo by Crystal McClernon on Unsplash

Not all dog breeds were originally bred to be companions. Some breeds, like the German Shepherd, Sheltie, Border Collie, or Corgi, were bred by farmers to herd or guard livestock. While some dogs are still used for this purpose today, many families also have herding dogs as pets.

Herders can make good, loyal pets, but they weren’t bred to be in the house all day. If you’re considering getting a dog from a herding breed, here’s a few things you should know.

Herding Breeds May Be Territorial

In my article on German Shepherds, I discussed the breed’s tendency for territorial behavior. While this trait may be especially prominent in German Shepherds, most dogs of any breed have at least a little bit of a territorial streak. Herding dogs in general will tend to be fairly territorial.

If you’re raising your herder to be a herder or a guard, territorial behavior isn’t necessarily a bad thing – after all, your herding dog is supposed to be protecting something! If you got them as a house pet, though, you’ll want to address their territorial behavior while they’re a puppy.

If you get a herding breed, make sure to socialize them early so that they’re comfortable around other dogs and strangers. In addition, be careful not to reinforce any territorial behaviors your puppy might show. If they learn that being pushy doesn’t work, they likely won’t continue doing it.

Herding Breeds May Attempt to “Herd” You Or Your Family

My Australian Shepherd, Charlie, did this a lot when we first got him as a puppy. When we took him for walks or introduced him to new people, he would attempt to “herd” us. It was adorable for a little while, but it’s generally a bad idea to let that behavior go unchecked. You don’t want your adult herding dog trying to corral you while you’re out for a walk.

The first step is to ignore it when it happens if your dog is still a puppy. If you react to their herding attempts, you’ll reinforce the behavior. If the behavior doesn’t work, they usually stop doing it. Good obedience training and plenty of exercise can also help prevent herding behaviors.

Herding Breeds Will Need a Lot of Exercise

Dogs from herding breeds were bred to be active, energetic dogs with a lot of stamina. They had to be active if they were going to be working all day. However, when it comes to having a herding breed as a house pet, high energy can mean high maintenance.

If you’re considering getting a herding dog as a pet – especially a dog on the larger side – be aware that they’ll need a lot of space and a lot of exercise. Aside from the health benefits of frequent exercise, your dog will need mental stimulation as well. A bored herding dog is a badly behaved herding dog.

Dogs like Australian Shepherds or Border Collies make great family pets, but they weren’t bred to be house pets. If you’re thinking of getting a dog from one of these breeds, it’s important that you take that into account.


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