Herding dogs are some of the smartest, loyalest dogs you’ll ever meet, but without a herd of livestock to tend, these clever canines can get bored and discontent. Luckily, with a bit of understanding on your part and the right levels of activity, your working dog can live happily in the city.
Herders are smart and intuitive, but as an owner, you have to remember that the instinct to herd is hard wired into these dogs. Through selective breeding, their instinct to hunt and kill has been replaced with an instinct to chase and herd their flocks. Those instincts may pop up when you least expect them, and it can vary from dog to dog.
For some dogs the herding instincts may pop up when they see traffic rushing by. Others may be agitated by animals on TV, and still others may be confused by children running around. With children, herding dogs have been known to nip them as they run by — these are the same gentle nips herders use on lambs, but they can be disconcerting and painful to kids.
Be aware of signs that your dog wants to herd, such as pacing, acting agitated, or nipping other dogs or children. Then, make adjustments to your lifestyle as needed. In many cases, you may see a stronger herding instinct when your pup reaches sexual maturity — although this is less pronounced with neutered dogs, you may still notice some personality shifts.
“Herders are smart and intuitive, but as an owner, you have to remember that the instinct to herd is hard wired into these dogs.”
Regular exercise is essential to alleviate the herding instinct, and you should schedule walks or runs at least twice a day. Three times is optimal. Also focus on activities that challenge your dog mentally. Fetch is great, but also consider agility training or flyball (a team sport for dogs, available in a lot of urban areas).
German Shepherds, Border Collies, Blue Heelers, Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, and many other breeds are classified as herding dogs. Although these tips are designed to work with all herding dogs, you may have to adjust your techniques as needed based on the exact breed you have.