Herding dogs are the most versatile, with unique traits that make them perfect for herding livestock. While these dogs can make excellent pets, they exhibit certain troublesome behaviors that can be difficult to manage. Wondering why herding dogs have a higher propensity for behavior problems?
Herding dogs are highly energetic and hard-working, are bred to herd animals, and need plenty of physical and mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming restless or destructive. Lack of physical and mental exercise can lead to weight gain, excessive barking, disobedience, whining, pacing, violent behavior, lack of endurance, and hyperactivity.
Let’s explore the traits, behavioral problems, and warning signs related to the boredom of herding dog breeds.
What Are Herding Dogs?
Herding dogs, also known as stock dogs, have been bred for generations to assist with the herding and managing of livestock. These brilliant and active dogs excel at tasks such as gathering and moving cattle, sheep, and other animals in a controlled manner.
Herding Dog Breeds List
The breeds in the Herding Group were formerly part of the Working Group until 1983. Herding dogs include the following breeds:
|Australian cattle dog
|Bouvier des Flandres
|Cardigan Welsh Corgi
|Entlebucher Mountain Dog
|German Shepherd Dog
|Miniature American Shepherd
|Old English Sheepdog
|Polish Lowland Sheepdog
|Pembroke Welsh Corgi
|Spanish Water Dog
Herding Dog Quality Traits
Herding dog breeds share some common qualities, which make them excellent stock dogs on farms or ranches and excel in competitive dog sports such as sheepherding trials and agility courses. Let’s discuss these traits.
Herding dog breeds are hard workers, capable of making split-second decisions and following commands from their owners while managing livestock. Some herding dogs may become agitated when they are around other animals, people, or objects that they perceive as a threat to their flock.
Highly Intelligent & Trainable
Herding dog breeds are incredibly intelligent and quickly learn new tricks and commands with the correct training methods. These might be the right breed for you if you want a dog who quickly learns tricks or excels at competitive sports. But remember that intelligent dogs often need more attention and care than other dogs.
Herding dogs are known for their high energy level and strong positive work ethic. They thrive in environments where they have a job, whether it be actual herding, simply playing fetch, or participating in agility courses.
Active, Agile, and Athletic
Most dogs in this category are athletic, agile, and built to run for long periods. With a few exceptions, herding dogs have incredibly high exercise needs, which can’t be met by walking around the block a few times.
To maintain the composure of your herding dog, a few hours of off-leash play is mandatory a couple of times each week. For some breeds, like border collies, that might not be enough exercise.
A herding dog also called a “shadow dog” or “Velcro dog,” is a kind of pup that wants to stick close to its owner and not leave their side. They make excellent companions and provide lots of love and affection. However, some breeds from this group, like the German shepherd, tend to be territorial and protective.
That’s why you must provide clear leadership to keep yourself safe around these dogs.
Herding Dog Behavior Issues for Families
Herding dogs are notoriously difficult to keep as pets, but this is especially true for those living in small apartments or families residing in a bustling metropolis. Some of the most common behavioral issues faced by families include the following:
The instinctual tendency to round up and supervise the motion of animals is the most annoying behavior. This natural behavior can lead to issues in a domestic setting, where the dog may try to herd children, other pets, and even adults if not adequately trained and exercised.
Strong Prey Drive
Without the prey drive, herding dogs would be unable to do what they were bred for! The prey drive is a deep-set, instinctual behavior that allows your herding dog to hunt more effectively.
It leads to behavior problems such as hunting small children and animals, even if they have been trained not to. It can present a safety concern for both the dog and the prey.
Nipping behavior is most notably exhibited in herding breeds that were bred to work with cattle. When herding cows or other livestock, they will nip the animal’s hock (back leg) to get them moving.
However, if this breed nips you or a family member, it can be excruciating and leave behind a nasty bruise.
Chasing Behavior, Chasing cars, bikes, and skateboarders is a common habit for herding breed dogs. It is incredibly dangerous for both your dog and other people.
Boredom Related Behavior
Herding dogs like Border Collies & German shepherds, being among the most intelligent breeds, need stimulation. Now that dogs are more commonly domesticated as pets rather than working animals, they get bored & anxious without a job. Boredom-related behavior is due to the following:
Lack of Physical Stimulation
When your dog is tired, he’s less likely to cause trouble and more likely to take a nap. Lack of physical stimulation keeps the dog energetic, and one of the most common issues is that the dog may become restless, destructive, and become more aggressive.
In some cases, a lack of physical stimulation can lead to a decline in the dog’s overall health.
Lack of Mental Stimulation
Just as it is crucial to exercise your dog’s body, channeling their mind is essential too. A lack of mental stimulation in a dog’s daily routine can result in them developing destructive and unhealthy habits. Outlets for their minds need to be provided, so they don’t resort to finding their own (like chewing on shoes or furniture).
Warning Signs Herding Dogs Need Physical & Mental Stimulation
It is important to remember that these dogs were bred for a purpose, and denying them the opportunity to use their natural instincts can lead to frustration and undesirable behaviors. Here are some signs that your dog isn’t getting enough physical and mental exercise.
One tell-tale sign that your pet needs more exercise is weight gain. Along with adding additional walks to their daily routine, you may also need to monitor how much food they are consuming.
It’s typical for dogs to bark when someone walks by or knocks on the door, but if there’s nothing triggering the behavior, it could mean doggy boredom.
A dog left to her own devices will often get into trouble. If your dog starts to misbehave, it’s likely because they aren’t mentally stimulated enough.
If your dog starts whining more frequently, this usually means discomfort of some sort–either physical or mental. To rule out any potential injuries or illnesses, take them to the vet for a checkup. Once you can confirm that there’s no underlying health issue, it’s likely that your pup is bored and needs more stimulation.
Pacing is also known as “fence running,” a common behavior problem often seen in Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. If your dog is continually pacing indoors after already getting his daily exercise, he might need additional stimulation. Like people, dogs often walk back and forth when they get restless.
Is your dog wrecking everything in sight when you leave the house? They might need more exercise.
Some signs of destructive behavior patterns include chewing on furniture or shoes, getting into the trash, tearing up couches or curtains, destroying household items, pooping indoors, digging, increased aggression toward people or other pets—or even becoming self-destructive by chewing their legs or paws.
Lack of Endurance
If your dog hasn’t been exercising regularly, he may experience symptoms like tight muscles, lack of energy, and unwillingness to move. If you notice these behaviors in your pet, especially if they don’t go away on their own, take him to the vet for a checkup.
Hyperactivity is a common problem in herding breeds. When they don’t get enough exercise, they become hyperactive and destructive. They may also pull on the leash relentlessly and become difficult to control.
Herding breeds have a natural drive to work and exercise, it’s important not to deny them these opportunities, or they may develop behavior problems.
Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a dog trainer if necessary, as they can often offer helpful tips and activities for keeping your dog happy and healthy. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats.