As a group, herding dogs show remarkable intelligence, agility and energy. As working dogs, they thrive on activity and sense of purpose. Some of the breeds in this group make excellent family pets, but families need to be cautious of heel-nipping varieties who might try to herd the little ones.
Best Herding Dogs for Families
Extremely versatile and highly intelligent, German shepherds have remained among the top five most popular dog breeds in America for more than 50 years. Although they have the second most powerful set of jaws in the domestic canine world, they are extremely self-controlled when given proper training. German shepherds are excellent with children once a relationship is established. This large breed dog can even adapt well to apartment life if given adequate opportunities for exercise. Because of their size, strength and fearlessness, German shepherds must have loving, consistent obedience training. They make excellent family pets.
Shelties look like miniature collies. These little beauties adapt well to many living environments, but need a lot of exercise. They are seasonly heavy shedders, and their dense double coat needs to be brushed often. According to AKC statistics, Shelties rank in the top 20 of popular dog breeds. They make good pets for active families.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembrokes are the most popular of the two small breeds known as corgis. These short-legged, short-tailed bundles of energy are amazingly agile and are very competitive in the show ring. They thrive as house pets and are devoted to their families. Pembrokes are easily trained and have fun-loving personalities. They are also very good with children; however, they tend to nip when they get over-excited in play. Pembrokes require routine brushing and are seasonly heavy shedders.
Known for their mild-mannered temperament, collies are devoted family companions and especially fond of children. Although they are medium-large dogs, they can live in small spaces if given enough daily exercise. These intelligent dogs are eager to please and very trainable. Though they have long fur that needs to be brushed at least once a week, collies are noted for their lack of doggie odor.
Old English Sheepdog
Rambunctious, fun-loving and extremely furry, old English sheepdogs are jolly gentle giants who make excellent family pets. Though well mannered, this breed's comical antics and large size can create havoc in small spaces. The coat of the OES requires consistent maintenance to prevent matting, but if groomed regularly, he should be no more difficult than other long-haired breeds to maintain.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigans have longer tails than Pembroke Welsh corgis, but they are equal in their fun-loving energetic personalities. They need regular exercise whether they live in apartments or out on the farm. These small, short-legged companion dogs love spending time with their families and are extremely affectionate. They are best suited for families with older children, however, since they tend to nip the heels of younger kids.
Independent, self-assured and eager to please, briards make excellent family pets if time and effort is put into their training. Briards are home-bodies who are wary of strangers. They are a large breed with a unique J-shaped tail. During World War I, briards were used to find wounded soldiers. For a time, their numbers dwindled but they have made a comeback. Briards, like other herding breeds, need activities to keep them busy. They are not easy to train due to their independent personalities, but they are devoted and faithful to their families. They require frequent brushing to prevent matting.
Pulis wear a signature dreadlock hairdo and look very much like a mop when lying around the house. In action, though, their corded coat is fascinating to watch. Pulis are bundles of energy who retain their puppy-like personalities throughout their lives. This medium-sized breed is an excellent pet for families with older children. They thrive on farm life, but can also adapt to living in the suburbs. Their coat is high maintenance, especially when bath-time rolls around, but they are light shedders.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
PONs, as they are called in the U.S., are lively loyal companions. They learn quickly but have a stubborn streak that requires patient training techniques. PONs love to bark and are very territorial. They can adapt well to most lifestyles due to their medium size. PONs are affectionate and loving toward their families, especially children. They require daily brushing to prevent mats.
Courageous, calm and intelligent, beaucerons are happiest when they have a job to do. They are eager learners and easily trained. Their calm temperament makes them especially well-suited for families with small children. Because of their medium size, they can adapt to most living environments, but like other herders, they need plenty of exercise. They have short, low-maintenance coats.
By Jenny Newberry
About the Author
Jenny Newberry, a former teacher with 25 years of experience, is a professional writer and photographer and holds a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary and special education from the University of South Alabama. She is also a history buff, praise and worship pianist, pet enthusiast, avid crafter and hobby gardener.