25 Herding Dog Breeds That Love to Work and Play

herding dogs

Herding dog breeds are a special type of dog. Not only do they historically date back hundreds of years as protective watchers over livestock, they’re also amazing family pets. They’ve been serving in these roles seamlessly, in all types of climates, with all types of animals, from chickens and other poultry to sheep, cows, and even horses.

When you take a look at the dog breeds as a whole, you’ll notice that herding dogs share a lot of common characteristics, including athleticism, intelligence, loyalty, and fast learning. These breeds are energetic; most have medium to high energy levels and need a lot of exercise if they’re not actively herding or participating in canine sports — which they also do very well!

These pups also tend to become destructive if they’re not properly stimulated, and their herding instincts never go away, so don’t be surprised if they try to herd you one day! 

However, herding dog breeds have some of the biggest hearts. They love to look after their people as well as their flocks. As someone who has owned at least two of the herding dog breeds on this list, I can fully attest to that once you adopt one, you’ll want them all.

Herding Dog Breeds 

There are many herding dog breeds that you can adopt if you’re looking for a very active dog. Here are our recommendations.

1. Australian Shepherd

sheep dog breeds

The Australian Shepherd is borne of a European herding dog breed with American and Australian influences. Intelligent and hardworking dogs, Australian Shepherds are popular with cowboys and tend to be their preference for herding dogs.

I only recommend the Australian Shepherd for experienced owners because they’re notorious for pulling a fast one!

They’re jokesters and very smart, so they try to get away with a lot. Think of owning Australian Shepherds as having additional kids.

2. German Shepherd

herding dogs

When you think of the German Shepherd, it’s hard to imagine it chasing after cattle — after all, they typically chase after the bad guys! This herding dog is regularly seen as a police and military dog. These German dogs undoubtedly possess a commanding and impressive demeanor.

Originally bred to work on farms and herd livestock in Germany, the German Shepherd eventually made its way into the guard dog territory due to its high intelligence and trainability. Plus, with one look, you can tell it means business!

However, there’s a flip side to this herding dog breed, as well. A great family dog, the German Shepherd will protect its loved ones and show off its goofy side at home. Sometimes, you can spot a rare white German Shepherd.

3. Australian Cattle Dog

sheep dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is known for its agility and strength and do well in competitive games if it’s not put to work on a farm or ranch.

These pups, as one of the Australian dog breeds, are cattle herders. They’re extremely athletic and energetic and are well-known for outsmarting their owners. They simply can’t help it!

The Australian Cattle Dog needs a lot of mental stimulation to keep it from getting bored and destructive.

4. Bearded Collie

herding dog breeds

The Bearded Collie is a true beauty, with long fur that flows gracefully in the wind; it could be a model dog! It’s a droving dog that hails from Scotland and prefers to be outside.

They are willful but friendly and are independent thinkers. This means you might have to put just a little more effort into training them, but not because they’re not smart. Bearded Collies simply need to be kept on their toes, and they tend to get bored easily, so change it up, and you’ll see the change in them.

However, they’re highly affectionate dogs that love their families. They do well with children and will always keep you amused with their antics. They are often confused with Old English Sheepdogs in appearance — don’t worry, it got me, too!

5. Old English Sheepdog

herd dogs

The Old English Sheepdog looks much like the Bearded Collie but is the more muscular and calmer of the two. Like Bearded Collies, Old English Sheepdogs are drovers designed to herd sheep or cattle.

The Old English Sheepdog is excellent with children, so if you have a house full of kids, you’ll want an Old English Sheepdog. It is a very watchful pup that’s protective with a loud bark.

While they may not have extremely high energy levels, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to exercise Old English Sheepdogs! These beauties are hard workers who take pride in their tasks, so put them to work! 

6. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

sheepdogs breeds

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi might not look like it with its short stature, but it’s one of the most popular herding dog breeds there is. One of the things that make Pembroke Welsh Corgis so cute is their short but strong legs. And believe it or not, these pups are very athletic.

The Pembroke Corgi is quick and agile, and because they’re originally bred to herd cattle, they are also independent thinkers and fearless.

These herding dogs are very active and need lots of activity if they are simply pets. However, don’t let this put you off buying the breed. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a very loving and affectionate dog, and you can’t ask for a more loyal pup.

7. Border Collie

sheep herding dogs

Hailing from the Anglo-Scottish border, the Border Collie dog breed is a British herding dog breed. While it’s great at herding livestock and sheep, the Border Collie is also a great family pet if you have the time to devote to exercising and exhausting it.

Border Collies do very well in agility competitions and other canine sports. You can expect the Border Collie to be a bit standoffish with strangers. 

Border Collies do well when you provide them with mental stimulation, but when they’ve been worn out, they turn to their families — nothing like a great Border Collie snuggle.

8. Shetland Sheepdog

types of herding dogs

Also known as Shelties, Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the best all-around dogs on this list. This gorgeous pup gets its name from the Shetland Islands.

At first glance, you might do a double take and notice that they look a lot like Border Collies. But, there’s one notable distinction: they are smaller in size. Shetland Sheepdogs are very affectionate dogs who love their families. They’ll also keep you safe with their wariness of strangers and penchant for barking.

The Shetland Sheepdog is kept on farms and ranches and can herd chickens, ponies, and sheep. 

9. Belgian Laekenois

herding dog

The Belgian Laeknois hails from Belgium and is one of the four native breeds of the country. It has a rough coat that requires lots of grooming, and as part of the herding dog breeds, it needs a lot of exercise to keep it sated.

However, the Belgian Laekenois is a very good family dog that gets attached to its owners and does very well with children.

Training is a must, and you might find that this herding breed needs more than some of the others. But it is very intelligent and eager to please. 

10. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

small herding dog breeds

What? There are two Corgi breeds? Indeed. Cardigan Welsh Corgis were specifically bred to herd cattle, but like their cousins, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, they also make excellent family pets.

Unlike the Pembroke, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi has a tail, and that’s basically its own distinguishing feature, other than its sometimes brindle coat.

If you have kids and other animals, early socialization is key with a Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

11. Miniature American Shepherd

herd dog breeds

The Miniature American Shepherd strongly resembles an Australian Shepherd, just in smaller stature. These pups are extremely intelligent and love to work, so much that you’ll notice immediately that they’re self-starters.

Miniature American Shepherds are versatile, energetic, and rugged, and they can withstand hard work even on rugged terrain, as that’s what they were designed for.

These companion dogs love horses, so if you have a farm, don’t be surprised to see the two animals together. 

12. Polish Lowland Sheepdog

large herding dog breeds

This shaggy pup is one you will want to pet over and over again because of its soft fur. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a herding breed that does best with a job to satisfy its mental stimulation needs.

They serve as watchdogs and companion dogs, but they do have a stubborn nature. You’ll also need to invest in grooming for this pup, at least brushing it two to three times a week to avoid tangles and mats. 

13. Belgian Sheepdog

farm dogs breeds

One look at the Belgian Sheepdog, and you’ll think it has a flair for fashion. Its gorgeous fur literally flows in the wind, and it has a tall, proud stature.

However, it is built for hard work and is popular in the police and military fields, as well as on farms and ranches.

This herding dog breed is notorious for always giving 100%, and they bond very closely with their owners. They seek out human companionship and will become destructive if ignored. 

14. Pumi

cattle dog breeds

The Pumi Dog hails from Hungary and is well-known and sought after for its intelligence and agility, which make it a hard worker.

They are sheepherders that move quickly and fearlessly in moving flocks, but they also love to be around their families. After a long day of work, the Pumi will settle down with its owner for a good cuddle. 

15. Finnish Lapphund

rare herding dog breeds

Built for cold climates, the Finnish Lapphund gained its notoriety for herding none other than reindeer in the Arctic Circle.

However, once it has determined you’re not after its herd, it’s a very friendly dog that craves human companionship.

They are quick and agile and very sociable pups. With them being quick to learn and eager to please, you’ll typically have no troubles on your way to training. 

16. Beauceron

sheep herding dog breeds

One look at the Beauceron, and it’s hard not to be immediately intimidated by its imposing stature.

However, these pups are actually very gentle, and with proper training and socialization, the Beauceron makes an excellent watchdog and guardian for children and adults alike.

The Beauceron is a powerful herder and extremely intelligent and has made its home on French farms herding cattle and sheep. 

17. Icelandic Sheepdog

small cattle dog breeds

The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only breed native to Iceland. It’s a happy-looking pup, which reveals its personality as a charming, faithful pup.

At work, they were originally bred to herd horses, sheep, and cattle, but they are great indoor pets as well.

Don’t be surprised if your Icelandic Sheepdog gets into mischief, as they are naturally inquisitive and playful. However, they are also very easy to train and eager to please, which makes adding them to your family a no-brainer.

18. Collie

sheep hearding dogs

The Collie was undoubtedly made famous by the popular television show “Lassie.” However, it’s important to note that there are different types of Collie dogs, including the Border Collie and rough- and smooth-coated varieties, the former of which was the actual Lassie dog breed.

Collies are notoriously hard workers, and they are eager to please, which means they handle a lot of herding jobs very well.

In addition to sheep and cattle, this ancient breed is put to work gathering hogs, goats, and poultry.

19. Berger Picard

hearding dog breeds

Where many of the herding dog breeds on this list are stocky and muscular, the Berger Picard is on the lankier side. The Berger Picard is an independent problem-solver, so it can be hard to train, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from owning one.

It’s critical that a Berger Picard has a job. It’s bred to herd livestock, but you can certainly exercise them at home or out in a field with games and competitive dog sports.

The Berger Picard must be stimulated, such as with agility training, or it can become destructive. 

20. Puli

stock dogs

If we were giving out awards for the unique-looking herding dog breeds, the Puli would be at the top of the list. It literally looks like a living, breathing mop, though it’s more inclined to muddy your floors rather than clean them. You wouldn’t be far off as the Puli has long corded fur that will need consistent grooming.

The Puli is a sheepherder that hails from Hungary and is very powerful and successful at its job. The Puli is a very quick learner and is extremely agile, so much so that it’s called the “acrobat of the dog world.”

You can also adopt a Puli as a family pet, as long as you make sure to meet its exercise and stimulation needs.

21. Entlebucher Mountain Dog

cow herding dog

Known as the “laughing dog” of the Swiss Alps, Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are happier when put to work. These pretty dogs would look great walking next to you, but they do much better when they have a job. They have a strong sense of balance and agility, which comes in handy when they need to herd sheep and cattle.

They are also companion dogs, which means they require a lot of family time and exercise.

I wouldn’t recommend an Entlebucher Mountain dog for an inexperienced owner as it can be overwhelming in its confidence. 

22. Mudi

cattle dogs breeds

Have some stubborn livestock that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t get it back home? You need the Mudi. This herding dog breed is best when put to work on Hungarian farms, and you’ll be glad you did.

This dog isn’t very popular, though. And actually, its numbers have declined to just a few thousand in the world. They’re mostly found in Hungary and Finland.

You can put the Mudi to work as search and rescue dogs as well. They are very versatile, agile, and alert. At home, you’ll find that they love nothing more than to cuddle up with you. With training, they do well with children and other dogs. 

23. Belgian Malinois

cattle herding dogs

The Belgian Malinois dog is another Belgian breed of herding dog that is built strong and muscular. These gorgeous dogs are more than just their looks though. As one of the several varieties of the Belgian shepherd, they’re extremely smart pups that are easily trainable and do very well in obedience competitions.

The Belgian Malinois loves to work and can actually herd sheep for hours on end. With its family, the Belgian Malinois isn’t the most affectionate, though don’t let that stop you from adopting one. It will bond with you and show devotion.

It goes without saying they are excellent guard dogs. However, with training and socialization, they thrive with other dogs and children. 

24. Bouvier des Flandres

large cattle dog breeds

The Bouvier des Flandres always makes me do a double-take. They’re gorgeous, but they’re also hard-working and versatile and can perform many tasks on a farm as they initially worked as cattle herding dogs.

This breed is definitely better in homes with older children and can be good with other pets as long as they are supervised. Their large hearts and character tend to draw you in.

If you own a Bouvier des Flandres, get out there and do some agility training and spend ample time on its development; you’ll be glad you did. 

25. Briard

best herding dogs for cattle

If you’re looking for a herding dog breed that has it all, you’ll find it here in the Briard. These dogs are very loyal and serve as amazing watchdogs over children, who, believe it or not, they adopt as part of their flock.

Because they’re so tireless and devoted to their jobs of herding sheep, it doesn’t take many to round up a group of several hundred.

All in all, they’re amazing, loving dogs that do well when they have people who can handle their zest for life.


Are Herding Dogs Friendly?

Yes! Most of the herding dog breeds are very friendly, particularly with their people. Many do show wariness with strangers, but that often depends on the individual dog’s temperament.  

What Is the Difference Between a Herding Dog and a Working Dog?

Until 1983, the two groups were combined. Today, they’re recognized for their own unique talents. Herding breeds are used for livestock, while working dogs tend to have high-profile jobs in the military, police, security, and search and rescue fields. 

How Many Breeds Are in the Herding Group?

According to the American Kennel Club, there are currently (in 2023) 32 breeds in the Herding category.

Final Thoughts 

When it comes to herding dog breeds, it’s important to understand their needs. These pups have boundless energy. They love to romp and play and can tire even the most active person out.

By providing mental stimulation and exercising them regularly, if you’re not putting them to work, you’ll end up with a partner for life.

I cannot stress enough that herding dog breeds do best in active homes with people who know how to handle them. Many are not recommended for inexperienced or first-time pet owners. Unless, of course, you want to end up as the next viral video!

Christina Drury
Meet Christina Drury, a dedicated animal enthusiast, and proud pet parent. She has a deep-rooted affection for all creatures, and Christina has called the Buckeye State home for the past four years. As a seasoned writer, she possesses a versatile writing style that spans various niches, yet her heart truly belongs to animals. With her innate connection and expertise, Christina is committed to crafting engaging and insightful content for animal-related issues.

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