Herding dog: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Koolie working with sheep.

A herding dog, also known as a stock dog, is a type of pastoral dog that either has been trained in herding or belongs to breeds developed for herding. Their ability to be trained to act on the sound of a whistle or word of command is renowned throughout the world.[1]

In Australia, New Zealand and the United States herding dogs are known as working dogs irrespective of their breeding. Some herding breeds work well with any kind of animals; others have been bred for generations to work with specific kinds of animals and have developed physical characteristics or styles of working that enhance their ability to handle these animals. Commonly mustered animals include cattle, sheep, goats and deer, although it is not unusual for poultry to be handled by dogs.[1]

The term "herding dog" is sometimes erroneously used to describe livestock guardian dogs, whose primary function is to guard flocks from predation and theft. Herding dogs do not guard flocks but move them.

In general terms when categorizing dog breeds, herding dogs are considered a subcategory of working dogs, but for conformation shows they usually form a separate group.

As Australia has the largest cattle stations and sheep stations (properties) in the world, most of the best breeding dogs in the world are bred and found there, like the Koolie, Kelpie plus the Red and Blue Heelers, which are in high demand overseas.


Herding behavior

Dogs can work other animals in a variety of ways. Most herding breeds have physical characteristics that help them with their work, including speed and endurance. Some breeds, such as the Australian Cattle Dog, typically nip at the heels of animals (for this reason they are called heelers). The Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi were once used in cattle droves that moved cattle from Wales to the Smithfield Market in London. They were well-known farm dogs throughout Great Britain, but are rarely used for this purpose today. Other breeds, notably the Border Collie, get in front of the animals and use what is called strong eye to stare down the animals; they are known as headers. The headers or fetching dogs keep livestock in a group. They consistently go to the front or head of the animals to turn or stop the animal's movement. The heelers or driving dogs keep pushing the animals forward. Typically, they stay behind the herd. The Australian Kelpie and Australian Koolie use both these methods and also run along the backs of sheep. Kelpies and Koolies are therefore said to head, heel, and back. The New Zealand Huntaway uses its loud, deep bark to muster mobs of sheep. Other types such as the Australian Shepherd, English Shepherd and Welsh Sheepdog are moderate to loose eyed, working more independently. The Australian Kelpie is an adaptable breed that can find, hold and drive various livestock. Some strains of this breed perform better with cattle than others.[1][2][3]

All herding behavior is modified predatory behavior. Through selective breeding, man has been able to minimize the dog's natural inclination to treat cattle and sheep as prey while simultaneously maintaining the dog's hunting skills, thereby creating an effective herding dog.[1][3]

A Border Collie at work with hair sheep.

Basic herding dog commands

  • Come-bye or just bye - go to the left of the stock, or clockwise around them.
  • Away to me, or just away or 'way - go to the right of the stock, or counterclockwise around them.
  • Stand - stop, although when said gently may also mean just to slow down.
  • Wait, down or sit - stop.
  • Steady or take time - slow down.
  • Cast - gather the stock into a group. Good working dogs will cast over a large area.
  • Find - search for stock. A good dog will hold the stock until the stockman arrives. Some will bark when the stock have been located.
  • Hold - keep stock where they are.
  • Bark or speak up - bark at stock. Useful when more force is needed, and usually essential for working cattle and sheep.
  • Look back - return for a missed animal.
  • In there - go through a gap.
  • Walk up, walk on or just walk - move in closer to the stock.
  • That'll do - stop working and return to handler.

These commands may be indicated by a hand movement, whistle or voice. There are many other commands that are also used when working stock and in general use away from stock.

These are not the only commands used; there are many variations. In New Zealand each dog has a different set of commands to avoid confusion when more than one dog is being worked at one time.

Herding dogs as pets

Due to their intelligence and beauty, herding dogs are often chosen as family pets. The Collie breeds including the Bearded Collie and Border Collie are well known. Although they make good family dogs and show dogs they are at their best when they have a job to do. These dogs have been bred as working dogs and need to be active. They retain their herding instincts and may sometimes nip at people's heels or bump them in an effort to 'herd' their family, and may need to be trained not to do so.[citation needed] Their activity level and intelligence makes them excellent canine athletes. The Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie was originally used in the Shetland Islands for herding sheep, but today, like the Rough Collie, Smooth Collie and Old English Sheepdog it is more popular as a family companion dog.[1]

Breed list

Herding breeds include the following:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Renna, Christine Hartnagle. Herding Dogs: Selection and Training the Working Farm Dog. Kennel Club Books (KCB). ISBN #978-1-59378-737-5. 
  2. ^ Hartnagle, Jeanne Joy. Herding I, II, III. Canine Training Systems (CTS). 
  3. ^ a b Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy. All About Aussies. Alpine Publications. ISBN # 1-57779-074-X. 
  • "DOGS, WORKING"[1], from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 11-Jul-2005

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