General Characteristics of Herding Dogs

Since we are considering a Border Collie as a new member of our family, I thought it would be helpful to go over some general characteristics of Border Collies and other herding dogs. A herding dog can make a great family pet if you know what to expect.

The most notable characteristics of a herding dog are his intelligence and high energy. If you are considering getting a herding dog as a pet, be prepared to give him plenty of physical and mental exercise. Without one or the other, a herding dog can develop a number of behavior problems including digging, barking, chewing, and more. Provide physical exercise with walks, runs, fetch, disc throwing, and/or agility. Provide mental exercise with obedience training and fun dog games like hide-and-seek.

Because herding dogs tend to be very intelligent, they are also easy to train. It is not at all necessary to use negative reinforcement training with a herding dog. They respond very well to reward-based training, especially if the reward is a certain treat or toy. Training in this way goes far in developing a strong bond between a person and his herding dog.

With that being said, a herding dog can develop such a strong bond that separation anxiety can become a problem. If you are considering getting a herding dog, be prepared to crate train him right from the start. And desensitize him to you leaving him alone as soon as you can in order to minimize separation anxiety issues.

Herding dogs generally love to chase things. They were bred to chase down livestock and drive them back into the group. Sometimes small animals such as a cat can be a problem for a herding dog. Even children can be an issue for them. If a child is running, the herding instinct may kick in and the herding dog may chase down and try to ‘herd’ the child back ‘in line’. However, with proper socialization and desensitization a herding dog can do very well with small pets and children.

The love loyalty earned from a herding dog is a wonderful thing. Years ago when I was a girl I had a Shetland Sheepdog name Cassie (pictured above). She was the most intelligent and most devoted dog I have ever had. Her loyalty to me tended to make her skittish towards strangers which only got worse as she got older. But she didn’t have separation anxiety and she didn’t try to ‘herd’ me or other children or pets. Cassie can never be replaced but if I decide to get another herding dog, I hope he/she is at least half as loyal and intelligent as she was.

To learn more about herding dogs, check out some dog breed books at our Dog Lover’s Book Store.

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