Do you have a family dog at home? If you do, you might have a little bit of ranch life happening every day in your living room!
Dogs such as the German Shepherd, the Border Collie, and our personal favorite, the Welsh Corgi, may be known to gently nip at your heels or bump you now and then, but that’s part of their heritage as herding dogs. Herding dogs were bred with this behavior to round up and move flocks of animals, from sheep, goats, cows, and chickens—even reindeer! As modern-day pets, they use nips and bumps to herd their human families, especially the younger members. They just can’t shake that herding instinct! But how did they learn it in the first place?
Herding behavior works with a dog’s natural, predatory instincts. Over many years of careful breeding, the dogs learned to “hunt” their animal flocks without treating them as potential food. Each breed developed a different herding style depending on its strength. The formidable German shepherd is a tending dog, which acts like a moving fence to keep its flock in place. The Border collie is a header, which stands in front of its flock and uses an intimidating stare to stop or turn the herd’s movement. In contrast, our little Welsh corgi is a heeler, which stands at the back of its flock and nips at the animals’ heels to push them forward.
Outside the home or ranch, any of the herding breeds can participate in herding as a competitive dog sport. Competitive herding dogs follow their handlers’ instructions to move animals around fields, gates, fences, or enclosures. Herding events are popular in farming-heavy nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Stay tuned to the blog this week for our exciting herding dog series! We’ll teach you all about Welsh Corgis and other popular herding breeds that are important to ranch life. You might even learn something about your own family herder!