Herding dogs have existed among people since the domestication of livestock. It appears that dogs made the transition from hunting to herding about the same time in history. It is not hard to imagine how two species, both needing to hunt cooperatively in groups, could have come into contact in such a way that they found one another useful allies. Both humans and canines have unique abilities that may easily have benefited one another, such as the human’s ability to plan and think ahead combined with the canine’s ability to run and outmaneuver prey. Through time, dogs learned how to help humans and refrain from killing.
Both species can be territorial, and once the dog identified with the human pack, it was only reasonable that the dog would also protect what belonged to the pack—including the animals that man domesticated. Early dogs watched over the herdsmen and their livestock to protect them from predators, such as bears and wolves, and from human thieves. With strength and stamina, some of these courageous dogs not only guarded the flocks against wild animals but also were instrumental in keeping the sheep and goats grouped together.
This brings us to three different kinds of shepherd’s dogs. There are those that protect what is identified as belonging to them, those who employ their stalking skills to manage the herds, and an intermediate type.
The types of livestock, the region, terrain, predators, and food sources are some of the variables that would have distinguished the needs of the herdsmen and what they looked for in their dogs. These desirable qualities are what set the foundations of what we call breeds.
To learn more about the different herding breeds from around the world, their temperament, working style and how to train them please refer to the book Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor. To order Stockdog Savvy or the companion series Herding I, II and III on DVD please visit our website:
For information about herding organizations please visit: