There’s a reason herding dog breeds make excellent family pets. They’re used to a little chaos! Dogs bred to herd livestock enjoy observing the goings-on in their households and being part of the action. In fact, many have been known to display their herding instincts when playing with kids, subtly corralling them in an effort to protect them. Herding dog breeds are also energetic and need plenty of exercise. Denying them a yard or park in which they can burn energy sets them up for destruction and depression. Families or folks in the market for dogs who are in tune with their people, obedient and smart should definitely consider a herding dog breed.

History of herding dog breeds

At their core, canines are predators. Thousands of years ago, when humans began domesticating livestock, they quickly realized they needed help corralling goats and sheep to ensure survival (reliable food sources can’t be roaming all over the place). Over time, humans were able to domesticate dogs too, weakening the canine instinct to kill after the hunt. Dogs were then used to keep farm animals organized. Dogs became adept at moving large numbers of livestock and protecting them from predators.

Some, like the Australian Cattle Dog, earned the nickname “heeler” because they nip at the heels of livestock to keep them moving. Others, like the Beauceron and Border Collie, guide from a distance and can often inspire livestock to move with a steady staredown.

Many herding dog breeds originated in areas with large, rolling pastures and unforgiving terrain that made it difficult to track and move herds. Areas like France, the United Kingdom and Australia can thank herding dogs for boosting their economies (without anyone to drive the cows to market, how would we make brie or harvest meat?). The skills necessary to maintain control and watch over herds include intelligence and stamina. Herding dogs are also strong, proud and alert. Obedience and agility training comes easily to them. They’re also incredibly in tune with their humans, responding quickly and accurately to commands.

For this reason, tons of herding dog breeds have gone on to excel at other jobs, like serving with the military, working in police K-9 units and becoming guide or service dogs. It makes sense, then, that the dog breeds in the Herding Group all used to be part of the Working Group, according to The American Kennel Club. In 1983, the AKC created a new classification specifically for pups with herding instincts. A few breeds, like the Anatolian Shepherd, remained in the Working Group because over time they became more specialized in guarding, rather than herding.

Common traits among herding dog breeds

Aside from their boundless energy and keen intelligence, herding dog breeds are social and happy pets for the most part. A terrific bonding activity for people and herding dogs - especially if there’s no livestock to corral - is agility training. There are even sheep herding competitions dogs can participate in! These are smart animals who need mental stimulation.

Owning a herding dog breed means teaching commands like “Stay,” “Hold,” or “Leave it,” early on. Movement will distract them easily and the instinct to chase will be strong. Luckily, these dogs are often incredibly obedient and eager to please.

RELATED: The 26 Best Kong Fillers to Keep Your Pup Engaged and Happy

Herding Dog Breeds Australian Cattle Dog
Tara Gregg / EyeEm/Getty Images

1. Australian Cattle Dog

Height: 17-20 inches

Weight: 35-50 pounds

Personality: Alert, Loyal

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Activity Level: High

Life Expectancy: 12-16 years

Also known as a Blue Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is exactly what it sounds like: a rugged pup from the outback known for herding cattle. Bred in the early 1800s by combining Collies, wild Dingoes and Dalmatians, Aussie Cattle Dogs were key players in Australia’s beef production and economy. They’re also super energetic and intelligent, so consistent exercise and mental challenges are necessary.

Herding Dog Breeds Australian Shepherd
Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

2. Australian Shepherd

Height: 18-23 inches

Weight: 40-65 pounds

Personality: Smart, Athletic

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Talk about a dog who thrives on routine! Australian Shepherds (who were actually bred over time in Australia and California), are known for being perfect companions for cowboys - both on the range and in rodeo shows. Due to their smarts, Australian Shepherds are versatile canines who have worked in roles as varied as therapy animals and search-and-rescue pups.

Hunting Dog Breeds Beauceron
stobi_de/Getty Images

3. Beauceron

Height: 24-28 inches

Weight: 70-110 pounds

Personality: Intelligent, powerful, loyal

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate to High

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

This ancient French dog breed is incredibly muscular and athletic. Beaucerons aren’t for the faint of heart or anyone new to owning and training a dog due to their strength and energy. The American Beauceron Club says they began as sheep and cow herders near Paris back in the 1500s. Today, when trained and socialized, they make excellent watch dogs.

Herding Dog Breeds Belgian Laekenois
Kathryn Doomy/Getty Images

4. Belgian Laekenois

Height: 22-26 inches

Weight: 55-65 pounds

Personality: Alert, Affectionate

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

As one of the newest dog breeds to compete at the Westminster Dog Show, the Belgian Laekenois makes quite an impression. Not only are these large, rough-coated dogs incredibly sweet, they are smart and love performing a variety of tasks. For instance, Belgian Laekenois pups have worked as messengers in both World Wars and spent time guarding laundry hanging in the fields of Belgium.

Herding Dog Breeds Belgian Malinois
Sue Zellers/Getty Images

5. Belgian Malinois

Height: 22-26 inches

Weight: 40-80 pounds

Personality: Smart, devoted, confident

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years

Though similar in build and temperament to Belgian Laekenois, Belgian Malinois have short, waterproof coats. They’re known for being one of the healthiest dog breeds around and are eager to work for - and alongside - their families. Basically, do not neglect these pups' outdoor time, playtime or snuggle time. They will become destructive and sad!

Herding Dog Breeds Belgian Sheepdog
IzaLysonArts / 500px/Getty Images

6. Belgian Sheepdog

Height: 22-26 inches

Weight: 45-75 pounds

Personality: Sensitive, Intelligent

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy:12-14 years

Can you tell we’re just working our way through all of Belgium’s native dog breeds? The Belgian Sheepdog is truly a sight to behold. They are big dogs with serious, regal statures but are sensitive souls at heart. Bred to herd cattle for dairy farmers, Belgian Sheepdogs are deeply loyal to their family members. These days, you may see them working as police dogs or at airport customs, sniffing out contraband.

Herding Dog Breeds Belgian Tervuren
Eric Metz/Getty Images

7. Belgian Tervuren

Height: 24-26 inches

Weight: 45-75 pounds

Personality: Confident, possessive

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Ah, the fourth native Belgian dog breed. Belgian Tervurens spent a lot of time herding livestock and protecting them from predators; this protective streak is very present today. This makes early socialization and training a must for Belgian Tervurens! Get ready to teach them tricks to keep their minds sharp, as well.

Herding Dog Breeds Bergamasco Sheepdog
Rosmarie Wirz/Getty Images

8. Bergamasco Sheepdog

Height: 22-24 inches

Weight: 57-84 pounds

Personality: Independent, Mellow

Activity Level: Low

Shedding Factor: Non-shedding

Life Expectancy: 13-15 years

This is a long-haired dog breed from Italy with an incredibly easy-going disposition. But first, that coat! It’s actually non-shedding and relatively self-sufficient after you (or a groomer) separates it into mats around the dog’s first birthday. These coats kept Bergamasco Sheepdogs warm and protected as they herded sheep in the Italian Alps.

Herding Dog Breeds Berger Picard
ernstboese/Getty Images

9. Berger Picard

Height: 21-26 inches

Weight: 50-70 pounds

Personality: Athletic, stubborn

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

This is a very old breed who has spent centuries herding livestock in the Picardy pastures of France. Berger Picards were featured at the first official dog shows in France in the late 1800s and have since become energetic, lively pets (albeit stubborn, so be sure to teach commands early and use them often).

Herding Dog Breeds Border Collie
Katharina Dudas/Getty Images

10. Border Collie

Height: 18-22 inches

Weight: 30-55 pounds

Personality: Energetic, Smart

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Where to begin? Not only are Border Collies great with kids and families, but they are also healthy and intelligent. Many Border Collies still compete in herding events, as documented by the Border Collie Club of America. This is a great way to work their bodies and minds. Relatives of Icelandic Sheepdogs, these pups are adept at corralling sheep on the rocky terrain of the British Isles.

Herding Dog Breeds Bouvier des Flandres
~User7565abab_575/Getty Images

11. Bouvier des Flandres

Height: 23-28 inches

Weight: 70-110 pounds

Personality: Intelligent, active

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Known in part for looking a lot like bears, Bouvier des Flandres initially worked as cattle herding dogs. Over time, farmers in northern France and Belgium realized these strong, dedicated canines could do much more and put them to work on other areas of their farms. Today, they can be found in police K-9 units, at home keeping their family safe, and even working as guide dogs.

Herding Dog Breeds Briard
hanbr/Getty Images

12. Briard

Height: 22-27 inches

Weight: 55-100 pounds

Personality: Protective, sweet

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Low

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Briards are the long-haired cousins of Beaucerons. Bred to both herd sheep and protect them from sneaky predators, these dogs developed a keen sense of awareness and dedication to their families. Both Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson were fans, so you know Briards bring a lot to the table.

Herding Dog Breeds Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Kurt Pas/Getty Images

13. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Height: 10.5-12.5 inches

Weight: 25-38 pounds

Personality: Adaptable, Sweet

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Another kid-friendly, family-oriented breed is the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America says these dogs have been in Wales for nearly 3,000 years. Adept at moving large herds of cows and sheep, not to mention scaring away rodents, Cardigan Welsh Corgis are charming, adaptable pups.

Herding Dog Breeds Collie
关心/Getty Images

14. Collie

Height: 22 - 26 inches

Weight: 50 - 75 pounds

Personality: Devoted, Athletic

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Collies are possibly the most recognizable dog breed. The long, fluffy hair! The thin, smiling face! The Lassie references. Collies originated in the Scottish Highlands where they herded sheep. Today, they are incredibly sweet companions for kids and growing families. They also love to learn, so don’t be afraid to teach them tricks or skills as part of healthy training.

Herding Dog Breeds Finnish Lapphund
Eerik/Getty Images

15. Finnish Lapphund

Height: 16-21 inches

Weight: 33-53 pounds

Personality: Calm, Friendly

Activity Level: Low to Moderate

Shedding Factor: Moderate to High

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

This European dog breed has a unique past as a reindeer herder. Finnish Lapphunds are made for cold, snowy weather. They’re also incredibly empathetic and eager to please. If you’re looking for a cuddly, obedient, yet active pup, look no further than a Finnish Lapphund.

Herding Dog Breeds German Shepherd
Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/Getty Images

16. German Shepherd

Height: 22-26 inches

Weight: 50-90 pounds

Personality: Loyal, Confident

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate to High

Life Expectancy: 7-10 years

German Shepherds definitely have confident, impressive presences. It’s impossible to ignore one of these big dogs—though they’ve been known to ignore anything but the task at hand. This German dog breed was developed in the late 1800s to become the perfect herder. The result? A German Shepherd whose sheep herding skills are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to jobs it can perform.

Herding Dog Breeds Icelandic Sheepdog
Merril Buckhorn/Getty Images

17. Icelandic Sheepdog

Height: 16-18 inches

Weight: 25-30 pounds

Personality: Curious, Friendly

Activity Level: Moderate

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Another great family dog! Icelandic Sheepdogs like to play with people and other pets. Developed in Iceland by settlers from Norway, these dogs are definitely tough and willing to go the distance for their people. The Icelandic Sheepdog International Cooperation says their population is on the rise after dwindling in the mid-1800s.

Herding Dog Breeds Miniature American Shepherd
Jodi Jacobson/Getty Images

18. Miniature American Shepherd

Height: 13-18 inches

Weight: 20-40 pounds

Personality: Smart, sweet

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

Bred by folks who wanted a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd, Miniature American Shepherds have become extremely popular pets in recent years. Not only does their sweet disposition make them excellent dogs for people with anxiety, Miniature American Shepherds travel well and are always up for an adventure.

Herding Dog Breeds Mudi
Sabine Schurhagel/Getty Images

19. Mudi

Height: 15-19 inches

Weight: 18-29 pounds

Personality: Energetic, intelligent

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Low

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Look out—Mudi’s are known as some of the naughtiest dogs out there (according to Instagram research by Protect My Paws)! When they aren’t making mischief, these smart, active pups are probably daydreaming about their histories as sheep herding dogs in the Hungarian countryside. Mudis, when trained, are exceptional watch dogs.

Herding Dog Breeds Old English Sheepdog
dewollewei/Getty Images

20. Old English Sheepdog

Height: 21-24 inches

Weight: 60-100 pounds

Personality: Smart, Sweet

Activity Level: Moderate

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-12 years

Old English Sheepdogs have a rich history as working, herding dogs in England. Easily identified by their shaggy white and gray coats, these lovable pups are great with people of all ages and adaptable to many environments. Old English Sheepdogs have also been dubbed “Bobtails” and do require an extra bit of grooming to keep them in good health.

Herding Dog Breeds Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Anita Kot/Getty Images

21. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 28-30 pounds

Personality: Playful, Affectionate

Activity Level: Moderate

Shedding Factor: High

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

Unlike their Cardigan Welsh counterparts, Pembroke Welsh Corgis do not have long tails. It’s thought this trait emerged after Cardigan Welsh Corgis were bred with Flemish spitz-style dogs. In any case, today these pups are super friendly, sociable dogs. Despite their short stature, Pembrokes are skilled at herding both sheep and cattle.

Herding Dog Breeds Puli
sssss1gmel/Getty Images

22. Puli

Height: 16-17 inches

Weight: 25-35 pounds

Personality: Obedient, loving

Activity Level: Moderate

Shedding Factor: Non-shedding

Life Expectancy: 10-15 years

With one of the more remarkable coats in all of the dog kingdom, it’s a wonder Pulis aren’t huge show offs. In reality, these humble smarties enjoy learning commands and protecting their families. Their coats keep warmth in and harsh weather out. Happy to hang out at home with you or frolic in the yard, Pulis just wanna be near you.

Herding Dog Breeds Pyrenean Shepherd
s5iztok/Getty Images

23. Pyrenean Shepherd

Height: 15 - 21 inches

Weight: 15 - 30 pounds

Personality: Playful, Affectionate

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 17-19 years

Another family-friendly pup! Though bred to herd sheep in the unforgiving Pyrenean Mountains, the good-natured Pyrenean Shepherd is anything but hardened. Eager to play and learn, they happily join in activities whether or not they get an invite.

Herding Dog Breeds Shetland Sheepdog
mccun934/Getty Images

24. Shetland Sheepdog

Height: 13-16 inches

Weight: 15-25 pounds

Personality: Playful, friendly

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Shetland Sheepdogs are affectionate and social dogs—unless they don’t know you. Once you prove friendly and safe, they’re all in. Bred on the Shetland Islands of Scotland to herd sheep, chickens and even ponies, these dogs are super smart. Though related to Collies, they are much smaller (and more apartment friendly).

Herding Dog Breeds Spanish Water Dog
Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

25. Spanish Water Dog

Height: 15-20 inches

Weight: 30-50 pounds

Personality: Active, Protective

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
More often than not, water dogs are considered retrievers or part of the sporting group. The Spanish Water Dog, however, was bred to hunt waterfowl and herd sheep. This dual focus gives modern pups a penchant for work - they love having stuff to do! Deny them a job or exercise, and you’ll have a very unhappy Spanish Water Dog on your hands.

RELATED: How Many Dog Breeds Are There?

From Around The Web