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Herding dogs are one of the oldest group of dogs who were first used when ancient people began keeping livestock.
Farmers did not depend on fences to keep their herds together, and they didn’t have trucks to transport them to market. Instead, they relied on their dogs.
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Some herders fulfilled many jobs, serving as guardians, herders, drovers or even hunting dogs. Examples of these multi-tasking dogs include the German Shepherd Dogs, Bouviers des Flandres, Briards and Old English Sheepdogs.
Many others were used primarily to keep the flocks and herds together and serve as a companion for the shepherd or rancher.
From the time that ancient people began to keep livestock up to and including the present, farmers needed a way to protect their animals from predators.
Most found that these dogs also served the role of companion. These dogs were preferred because they had a particular kind of predatory instinct which was to herd without harming.
Since they were often left alone with the flock for periods of time, they also needed to possess the ability to make decisions independently
This group of dogs was needed all over the world, where people raised livestock. Many breeds developed separately as a result of the region where they lived.
Small Shetland Sheepdogs were perfect for herding the miniature sheep and horses found in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Australian Cattle dogs could withstand the heat of the outback and still surviving the long stock drives.
Shepherds depended on the dogs to guard their flocks against predators, keep them together and when the time came, drive them to market.
Each breed has its own way of keeping sheep and other types of livestock in tightly packed herds. The Border Collie, for example, uses his hypnotic stare. Others use loud, stern barks. Almost all use that characteristic nipping at the heels to make their charges obey them.
These fundamental traits that make them perfect for guarding, herding and driving herds of livestock, are now being employed for 21st-century jobs.
German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois, for example, are sought after as police, military and assistance dogs. They also perform search and rescue.
In rural parts of the world, these dogs are still doing predominantly what they have done for centuries: Help the farmer.
The classification of the Herding group has been in existence since 1983 when the American Kennel Club separated their Working group into two distinct categories.
Part of this decision was based on the logical reclassification of breeds. Many dogs that were once in the working group were identified as either sheep or cattle dogs. These “herders” were placed in the working group initially because they were versatile and could do many different jobs such as guarding, pulling carts and sleds, and even hunting.
You are likely to run across the word, Pastoral, especially if you live in England. The Kennel Club uses this label to include their sheepdogs, cattle dogs, and flock protection dogs.
It means basically the same as Herding, but the groups are not identical.
The abilities that these dogs possess are a combination of extensive early training and natural instincts.
While most have a strong desire to please, many are stubborn. Those that possess a strong desire to protect will be reserved around strangers.
Having been developed for a very long time to make independent decisions while working, don’t be surprised if they disobey a command if they think it is in the best interest of the situation at hand.
They are territorial, intelligent, and courageous. They strong problem-solving ability may be one of those characteristics that distinguish them from other breed groups.
Most of all, they love attention and have the energy to spare.
As long as they receive adequate physical and mental exercise, they can live in a variety of settings including the city, suburbs and country.
Most do very well with children, but children should be taught how to treat and respect dogs.
There are quite a few books written on this subject and include histories and breed profiles to training manuals for those who want to training their own dog for work in the field as well as dog events.
Here are a few that I picked out.