Sheepdog – get to know the most popular breeds of shepherd dogs
Intelligent, caring, dexterous, and uniquely charming – shepherd dogs are extremely popular not only as guides and herd protectors, but also as family companions. A shepherd dog has innate qualities that make it an ideal defender, guardian and herd leader – they are resistant to changing conditions, alert and active. Due to their nature, these breeds can be quite demanding.
Learn more about sheepdogs and discover the 14 most popular breeds.
Shepherd dog – features
Shepherd dogs are an extremely wide group of dogs that differ not only in appearance and size, but also in innate abilities, instincts, and predispositions. However, they share many common features that make them excellent herd guardians and herders.
Common features of sheep dogs:
- dexterous, active and durable,
- intelligent and willing to cooperate,
- resistant to weather conditions,
- caring and vigilant,
- able to work in silence,
- with excellent hearing and eyesight,
- moderately aggressive (enough to command respect and defend the herd when necessary, but not enough to pose a threat).
According to the FCI division, which takes into account the common features and purpose of the breeds, the first group consists of sheepdogs and herding dogs. It is divided into section 1, i.e. shepherd dogs, and section 2, i.e. herding dogs.
A short history of sheep dogs
Where did the idea of cooperation between dogs and humans in guarding herds come from? As we know, domesticated dogs have accompanied humans in hunting for centuries. The history of their cooperation in guarding herds begins around 8-7 thousand years BC, in the western part of Asia and in what is now Iran and Iraq, when humans domesticated sheep and goats. Dogs, previously used to help in hunting, have found a new use as herd guards.
Initially, their main task was to defend herds against predators, which is why they were mainly strong-built, brave dogs with a strong herd instinct. Over time, they also began to be trained to herd cattle and lead herds – shepherd dogs can lead a herd from one place to another and at the same time make sure that no individual gets separated from it. Then agility and obedience began to be important, because a herding dog must be able to work with a person.
Currently, shepherd dogs most often serve as companions. Due to their caring and intelligence, they are considered excellent family companions.
The 14 most popular breeds of sheep dogs
Shepherd dogs are extremely popular due to the features described earlier. This extremely diverse group also attracts attention with its charming appearance. For this reason, shepherd dogs are popular characters in many books and family films. Get to know the 14 most popular breeds.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is an extremely popular herding dog that cooperates perfectly with people – it learns quickly. In the past, these dogs worked mainly in sheep grazing, but now they accompany families. The Bernese Mountain Dog is very loyal, protective and very attached – including to children. Unfortunately, the breed is not long-lived. Interestingly, these dogs were originally bred with a split nose.
Border Collie dogs are undoubtedly one of the most popular breeds of sheepdogs, both in Poland and around the world. They are skillful herd guardians, as well as extremely agile and active sports dogs. They have a unique temperament, are cheerful by nature, and extremely intelligent. They enjoy good health and live quite a long time. It is worth mentioning that Robert Plant, the singer of the famous band Led Zeppelin, had a charming dog of this breed, which inspired their song.
The German Shepherd is a breed that needs no introduction. They are extremely popular companion, guard and working dogs. They are very popular in the services, including as patrolling and tracking dogs. These strong, tenacious and intelligent dogs constantly need something to do. They cooperate perfectly with humans. Interestingly, they can have both short and long hair.
Interestingly, the Tatra Sheepdog is one of our five native Polish breeds recognized by the FCI. They come from the Podhale region, where to this day many of them act as guardians of sheep herds, guarding them against predators and theft. These charming giants with white fur have an extremely calm and balanced temperament. They are extremely sensitive and intelligent.
The Shetland Sheepdog, also called the Sheltie, is a small, agile dog with a very observant and alert nature. Unfortunately, this also translates into their barking behavior – these charming dogs with thick, lush fur can be noisy. These dogs are considered very intelligent – they rank fifth in the dog intelligence ranking. They excel in dog sports thanks to their dexterity. They also make very good family companions.
Australian Shepherds, also called Aussie, are agile and intelligent herding dogs with unique charm. They come in various colors, but the most popular are the colorful, eye-catching blue merle. They are skillful guardians of herds of cattle and sheep, as well as dog athletes. They perform very well in dog sports such as agility and dog frisbee.
The Scottish Shepherd is a very popular breed. These delightful dogs with an elongated muzzle and thick coat have become a symbol of canine loyalty thanks to the touching story of Lassie the dog from the movie “Lassie Come Back!” They are devoted and intelligent family companions, as well as exceptionally skillful shepherd dogs. In the past, they often worked on herding sheep.
The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a breed of extraordinary size, muscular build and enormous strength. These fearless and tenacious dogs resembling bears come from the Caucasus. They have an extremely strong defense instinct, which is why they often act as property guards. Due to their independent nature, they require an experienced caregiver. It is worth knowing that an appropriate permit is required to own the breed in Poland.
Komondor (Hungarian Shepherd Dog)
The Hungarian Shepherd Dog, also known as Komondor, undoubtedly attracts attention with its unique appearance – its long hair resembles dreadlocks covering its entire body. Interestingly, these dreadlocks begin to form only around the 8th month of the dog’s life. They have a strong character, so they require a firm and experienced guardian. In the past, they guarded herds of cattle.
Polish lowland sheepdog
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a charming breed with quite luxuriant hair, which is bred in several types of sizes. These dogs are extremely versatile as shepherd dogs – they are excellent at both guarding and herding the herd. They are extremely lively, intelligent and observant, and at the same time sensitive. All dogs of this breed share a common ancestor, a famous shepherd dog named Dragon.
Welsh corgis are one of the smallest shepherd dogs, which, despite their small size, are characterized by extraordinary energy and a lively temperament. Their characteristic features are short legs and large, pointed ears. These dogs used to be dogs for herding cattle. They gained enormous popularity thanks to Queen Elizabeth II, who owned about 30 dogs of this breed throughout her life.
Large Swiss Mountain Dog
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is an extremely versatile and agile breed. These dogs are strongly built and muscular. Interestingly, in the past they worked not only as shepherd dogs – they also served as guards and accompanied traveling traders. They are extremely alert, but not noisy – if you are looking for a quiet and friendly, but attentive guard, this breed is the perfect choice.
Malinois (Belgian Shepherd Dog)
The Malinois, or Belgian Shepherd Dog, is a strong and efficient breed of dog that, despite its strong defensive instinct, can also work as a herd dog. These dogs are very confident and tenacious. It is worth remembering that this breed is for an experienced owner – dogs of this breed that are not properly trained and socialized may be aggressive.
Kangal (Turkish Cattle Dog)
Kangal, or Turkish Shepherd Dog, is one of the national Turkish breeds that is perfect as a guard dog. These dogs are intelligent and independent, and at the same time extremely territorial and have a strong temperament. In Poland, they are registered as Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, and a permit is required to own them. Their courage and fierceness can scare away even cheetahs. Dogs of this breed were given to farmers in Nambia and Kenya in 1994, where they significantly reduced losses caused by attacks by these predators, thus reducing the need to kill cheetahs, which stopped attacking herds guarded by kangals.
Shepherd dog – what is worth knowing?
Shepherd dogs are extremely active by nature and need constant activity. Of course, it doesn’t have to be about guarding the herd – but even if your pet serves as a companion animal, its innate needs should be properly taken care of. Ensure appropriate intellectual stimulation and a dose of activity – for example through dog sports.
Due to their active nature, these dogs also require an appropriate diet – rich in ingredients such as protein and fats, as well as ingredients supporting the maintenance of appropriate weight and muscle mass, such as L-carnitine, or those that care for joints, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Food intended for active dogs will be helpful.
It is also worth remembering that not all dogs are suitable for apartments – usually due to their size. Most sheepdogs will feel best in a house with a garden, under the care of an active, attentive and experienced owner.
It is not without reason that shepherd dogs are considered excellent family companions – they are intelligent, alert, protective and dexterous. However, not every dog will be a suitable companion for a family with children, especially toddlers – even due to its size.
Before you decide to adopt a dog of a specific breed, learn more about their needs and characteristics to easily find your dream pet that will fit into your home.
Advantages and disadvantages of sheep dogs
Although they are generally considered extremely charming, like any type of dog, sheepdogs also have their advantages and disadvantages. Of course, some of their features will be a disadvantage for some owners and an advantage for others, but it is worth remembering that these are demanding breeds. Before adopting a shepherd dog, it is worth considering your choice carefully so that the pet can receive proper care and feel happy in its new home.
Advantages of sheep dogs:
- they have excellent hearing and eyesight,
- active and skillful,
- they love fun,
- resistant to changing conditions.
Disadvantages of sheep dogs:
- require a lot of attention,
- they need a permanent job,
- they tend to dominate and have problems with subordination,
- tendency to herd moving objects – bicycles or cars.
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