Reliable herd dogs can make all the difference when it comes to managing livestock on your homestead!
These intelligent and loyal canines are essential for herding and protecting your animals. With so many different breeds to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect herd dog for your homestead.
To help you make an informed decision, I have compiled a list of the top 5 herd dogs that are well-suited for homesteading.
These top 5 herd dogs, including the Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Australian Kelpie, Anatolian Shepherd, and Great Pyrenees, are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and working abilities.
Consider your specific needs and preferences when selecting a breed, and remember that proper training and socialization are crucial for a successful partnership with your herd dog.
With the right dog by your side, your homestead will run more smoothly and your animals will be well-managed and protected.
Herd Dog: Border Collie
There are pros and cons to every herd dog breed, so consider your situation and homestead needs when choosing the right dog.
Border Collie Pros:
- Intelligence: Border Collies are known for their high intelligence and ability to learn quickly.
- This makes them highly trainable and adaptable to various tasks and environments.
- Loyalty and Affection: Border Collies form strong bonds with their owners and are often described as loving and loyal companions. They are known to be affectionate and enjoy spending time with their families.
- Energetic and Active: Border Collies are a highly energetic breed and require regular exercise and mental stimulation. They are great companions for outdoor activities such as hiking, running, and playing fetch.
- Versatility: Border Collies excel in various activities, including herding, agility, obedience, and even as therapy dogs. Their intelligence and willingness to learn make them suitable for a wide range of tasks and roles.
- Longevity: On average, Border Collies have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, which is considered long compared to other dog breeds of similar size
- High Energy Level: While their energy can be a positive trait, it can also be a challenge for some owners. Border Collies require a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.
- Not Suitable for All Lifestyles: Due to their high energy and intelligence, Border Collies may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners or those with a sedentary lifestyle. They thrive in active households with owners who can provide them with the necessary physical and mental stimulation.
- Potential Health Issues: Like all dog breeds, Border Collies are prone to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye problems. Regular veterinary care and health screenings are essential to ensure their well-being.
- Herding Instincts: Border Collies have a strong herding instinct, which can manifest in nipping or chasing behaviors towards children, pets, or even cars. Early socialization and training can help manage these instincts.
- Need for Mental Stimulation: Border Collies require not only physical exercise but also mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. They enjoy learning new tasks and may become frustrated or anxious if not provided with enough mental challenges.
Herd Dog: Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd Pros:
- Loyalty and affection: Australian Shepherds are extremely loyal and form strong bonds with their owners. They are known for their endless affection and love to spend time with their family.
- Intelligence and trainability: This breed is highly intelligent and eager to please, making them easy to train. They are ranked 42nd in the Intelligence of Dogs.
- Versatility: Australian Shepherds are exceptionally versatile and can learn almost anything when well-trained. They excel in various activities such as agility competitions, herding, and as active ranch dogs.
- Watchdog abilities: Australian Shepherds have an innate protective streak and are wary of strangers, making them excellent watchdogs. They will alert you to incoming strangers or possible danger.
- Good with children and other dogs: Australian Shepherds adapt well to families with children and other dogs. They have a good-natured personality and can be excellent partners in play.
- Medium size: Australian Shepherds are not too big or too small, making them a good fit for many households.
- High energy: Australian Shepherds are bred to be working and herding dogs, so they require daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Without enough exercise, they may become bored and exhibit destructive behavior.
- Need for mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, Australian Shepherds need mental stimulation to prevent boredom. They are happiest when they have a task to perform or are kept busy.
- Socialization requirements: Early socialization is important for Australian Shepherds to avoid timidity or sharpness towards strangers. They need extensive exposure to people and unusual sights and sounds. Potential for dominance and stubbornness: Some Australian Shepherds can be dominant with other dogs and exhibit stubbornness.
- Consistent training and firm leadership are necessary to manage these traits.
Grooming needs: Australian Shepherds have a medium-length, double coat that requires regular brushing to prevent matting and shedding. They are moderate to high-maintenance in terms of grooming, exercise, and attention.
Herd Dog: Australian Kelpie
The Australian Kelpie is a versatile herd dog with a number of pros and cons to consider before bringing one into your home. Here are some of the main pros and cons of the breed:
- Easy to groom: Kelpies are easier to groom than many other breeds and only need to be brushed about once a week.
- Intelligent and trainable: Australian Kelpies are highly intelligent herd dogs and capable of learning almost anything when well-trained and well-exercised. They are also highly trainable, eager to please, and loyal.
- Good with children and other pets: Kelpies are generally affectionate with children and get along well with other pets, though they might need to be discouraged from excessive herding of other members of their pack.
- Versatile and capable: They are versatile working dogs, highly intelligent, alert, and capable of learning a great deal.
- Athletic and agile: The breed is built like an athlete, agile, and quick-moving.
- Loyal and devoted: Australian Kelpies have a pretty even temperament and exhibit very loyal traits, being very devoted to the members of their family.
- High exercise requirements: Kelpies require a lot of exercise and may become bored if cooped up for long periods of time. Without physical and mental stimulation, they can become bored and hyperactive, leading to destructive behaviors.
- Strong-willed and independent: They have a strong-willed mind of their own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge.
- Chasing and nipping at things that move: Without proper training, they may exhibit herding behaviors, such as chasing and nipping at children, joggers, other animals, bikes, and cars.
- Shedding: Australian Kelpies do shed, so regular brushing may be necessary to keep their coat in good condition.
- Not for the average pet owner: The Australian Kelpie is not a good choice for the average pet owner, but if you’re looking for a performance dog or working dog, the breed may be a great fit.
Herd Dog: Anatolian Shepherd
The Anatolian Shepherd has several pros and cons that potential owners should consider:
- Excellent guardian and protector: The Anatolian Shepherd was bred to protect its “flock” from danger, making it an alert and protective dog.
- Loyal and protective: The breed is known for its loyalty and protective nature towards its family.
- Limited grooming needs: Anatolian Shepherds have short coats and require minimal grooming.
- Generally healthy: The breed is relatively healthy, with few common health issues such as hip dysplasia and bloat.
- Doesn’t need lots of exercise: Despite its size, the Anatolian Shepherd does not require excessive exercise and can be satisfied with moderate activity levels.
- Calm and observant: Anatolian Shepherds are naturally territorial and protective, making them calm and observant companions.
- Not recommended for first-time dog owners: The breed’s independent and strong-willed nature can make it challenging to train, requiring experienced owners.
- Requires early socialization: Anatolian Shepherds can be suspicious and wary of strangers, so early socialization is necessary
- Not overly affectionate: The breed is not known for being overly affectionate, and its loyalty is primarily towards its family.
- Can be aggressive towards dogs and people they don’t know: Without proper socialization, Anatolian Shepherds may exhibit aggression towards unfamiliar individuals and animals.
- Not recommended as a family pet: Due to their working nature and independent temperament, Anatolian Shepherds may not be the best choice for families with young children.
- Overall, the Anatolian Shepherd is a loyal and protective breed that requires early socialization, experienced owners, and a suitable living environment to thrive.
Herd Dog: Great Pyrenees
I personally own 2 Great Pyrenees and they are wonderful herd dogs! Our girls work very hard to keep our chickens safe from fox, coyote and hawks.
Here are some pros and cons of owning a Great Pyrenees:
- Loyalty and protectiveness: Great Pyrenees are excellent guard dogs and will protect their family and property at all costs.
- Intelligence and trainability: They are easy to train and intelligent, making them a good choice for first-time dog owners.
- Beauty: Great Pyrenees are stunning looking dogs with their large size and white, fluffy coats.
- Loving and affectionate: They are loving and affectionate with their families, including children.
- Little grooming required: Despite their long, thick coats, Great Pyrenees only require moderate grooming.
- Good family dogs: They have a calm and patient temperament, making them suitable for families with children.
- Moderate exercise needs: Great Pyrenees only require moderate exercise, such as daily walks and playtime in a fenced-in yard.
- Stubbornness and independence: Great Pyrenees can be stubborn and independent, requiring consistent training and a firm owner.
- Excessive barking: They have a deep, impressive bark and can be quite vocal, especially at night when they are most vigilant.
- High energy and space requirements: Great Pyrenees are highly energetic and need a lot of space to run and play.
- High prey drive: They have a high prey drive and may not be suitable for households with small pets.
- Heavy shedding: Great Pyrenees are heavy shedders and require regular grooming to manage their shedding.
- Destructiveness: Puppies may chew on anything they can find, and this breed can be destructive if left home alone out of their crate.
Difficulty with off-leash training: Most Great Pyrenees cannot be off-leash, making them challenging to handle in certain situations.
Consider these factors when deciding if a Great Pyrenees is the right dog for you and your family.