Sheepdogs make up group 1 of the FCI, Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs) and under this heading there are a large number of breeds, spread all over the world, and that maintain some common characteristics: they are working dogs, destined -as their name suggests- mainly for herding.
In this article, and due to the large number of breeds that make it up, we are going to talk only about those found in section 1. That is, sheep herding dogs, the vast majority. Although they may have other uses, as we will see in each of them.
Races that make up the group
There are many breeds that make up section 1.1 of Group 1 of the FCI. Shepherd dogs that we could divide by country but that we have preferred to reference individually to show their best characteristics and those aspects that we must take care of if we want to get one.
It is perhaps one of the most common and well-known breeds in the world. Loyal dogs, tireless workers and highly intelligent, the German Shepherd has earned a place in many homes. In addition to being used in surveillance and rescue work. It is easily trainable and, unlike other breeds of shepherd, it is not dominant in the home. But he is a large dog that needs exercise and mental stimulation.
The Australian Kelpie is a working dog, originally from Scotland but has come to Australia to herd sheep. Visually it is very similar to the German shepherd, but its character is rougher and we are facing a more independent dog. Like its cousin, it is also charged with energy: enough to cover large areas of land protecting livestock. That same energy, together with its intelligence and independence, become a problem to have it at home: it becomes excessively nervous and not all owners are prepared to know how to carry them.
Belgian Shepherd Dog
The Belgian Shepherd appears in four varieties: Malinois, Groenendael or long-haired Belgian Shepherd, Laekenois and Tervuerense. Generally, they are playful and cheerful dogs (at least, the last three varieties) which make them good companions for the home. Although always in active and athletic families.
However, we have to be careful with the Malinois. This active, intelligent, loyal and hardworking dog is frequently used by state security forces and has appeared in movies and series becoming fashionable among Spanish families. But it is a working dog that does not adapt well to the home, which has led to many being abandoned by individuals who lack the training (and humanity, it would have to be said) to care for them.
The Schipperke is a sheepdog that is hard not to fall in love with. Medium in size, it is very affectionate, cheerful and playful. In addition, he is always alert, which is why he is a good watchdog. But it is also a good family dog if we give it the necessary exercise and socialize it from puppyhood. In this way, you will know how to distinguish real threats from those that are not, and you will have a better coexistence. In any case, like the rest of the sheepdog, it is not a companion dog and needs mental and physical incentives.
The Croatian Shepherd is really energetic and agile. Although he needs human leadership, he is not a good household dog as he keeps his innate herding nature alive. He is independent and very active so he excels in dog sports (not just herding, he tries agility). On the other hand, he is very suspicious, not only with strangers, so he needs a lot of socialization, especially with the little ones. If you can get him to get along with the children, he will be a good playmate, but as long as he has room to run and spend his energy.
It is a relatively modern breed, artificially created by crossing a Carpathian wolf with a German shepherd by scientists from the USSR, who were looking for a military dog. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is tall, strong and tough, as well as highly intelligent. It needs strong leadership and early socialization, but if it is given, we will have a docile, loyal and very affectionate dog (to excess, we could say). Of course, it is not suitable for first timers and needs constant exercise.
The Slovak Tchuvatch is a proud white giant. A powerful dog, charged with energy, with a strong instinct for protection and who wants to be the leader of the pack. He is a tireless worker but, above all, he is a truly family-friendly dog. This statement may seem strange after what has been said about him, but the reality is that his nobility is almost as great as his size. Unfortunately, it is not suitable for all households: if you live in an apartment in the center of a big city, it will be better to find another companion since he needs constant activity and a simple walk is not worth it.
Catalan Shepherd Dog
The Catalan shepherd or gos d’atura was born in the Pyrenees to take care of cattle but today it is a companion dog, home, family, cheerful and playful. With its characteristic long, straight hair and its medium size, it has been a working dog and that makes it truly obedient (without the need for much training, it is innate to it). In addition, he is a temperate dog, who will rarely be nervous and who has infinite patience with children. And it adapts seamlessly to an urban environment, not requiring large exercise sessions.
Ca de bestiar or Mallorcan shepherd dog
Known as Ca de bestiar, the Mallorcan shepherd resembles the Labrador Retriever in physique. But only in that. Although he is devoted to his owner, he is a working dog bred to herd and guard livestock, highly intelligent and independent. That makes it difficult to adapt to family homes. Also, and this is important, he can show signs of aggression, no matter what education he has been given. To make matters worse, due to its great intelligence, it is a slow learning dog, since it must come to its own conclusions and cannot be “forced” what to do.
Australian shepherd dog
The Australian Shepherd is another of those quickly identifiable dogs by its coat and appearance. It is an animal, energetic, fun and happy that we will rarely see standing. This makes it unsuitable (without a good education) for an urban environment. But thanks to the fact that it is faithful and docile, we can make it a perfect companion dog for sporty families and with children (although, be careful, it can herd them and bite their ankles to take them wherever they want).
His intelligence and courage have made him a great rescue and police dog, also being used as a therapy and support dog for the blind.
If you are looking for a sporty dog, willing to follow you on your adventure, then the Beauce Shepherd should be your choice. Medium in size, enjoys the countryside and the water. But we should not always leave it on the street, since it needs personal contact and a lot of love. It is not good for families with small children, since being so energetic and vital it can cause damage to the smallest of the house by accident.
It is a very intelligent animal, which excels in dog sports such as agility, which you can use for its education. It is important to keep it mentally active or it can become destructive.
There are homey sheepdogs and then there is Brie’s Shepherd. With exceptional sensitivity, intelligent, calm and patient it is perfect for the home. Especially since it is a “clown” dog that will delight the whole family. But do not think that this French dog is clumsy, quite the opposite. It is a very intelligent animal, capable of very fast learning and willing to play sports and games. Although it adapts to the interior of the home, it is better if it has space to run and vent, since like other shepherd dogs it has an overflowing energy.
Cara Rasa Pyrenean Sheepdog
The Cara Rasa Pyrenean Shepherd is more of a guardian than a shepherd, which makes it not suitable for every household. It needs a great socialization, among other reasons for being very territorial and independent. In other words, we are dealing with a dog that is still working and has not yet entered homes. He needs a good training and even then he will be distant with strangers. To get it to adapt to the home, you will have to adapt the family to the dog and not the other way around.
With a disheveled appearance, which suggests that we are dealing with a “stray” dog, the Picardy Shepherd. But that same aspect has earned him to become a star of television and cinema and, surprisingly, save the race. At present there are little more than 5000 copies since the two great World Wars devastated the French dogs. But his intelligence and his affable and kind character; coupled with rapid learning, they have managed to begin to enter homes and has been saved from almost certain extinction. If you have children at home, they will surely recognize it.
Long-haired Pyrenean Sheepdog
For many experts there is no real difference between the long-haired and the flat-faced Pyrenean Shepherd. And it is really complex to locate the differences between the two. Although we found some: he is a really happy dog and expresses it with his whole body, but especially in his eyes. He is very intelligent, but stubborn when it comes to learning, which complicates his entry into homes. Think of it as a faithful, brave and fearless dog capable of fighting wolves and bears to defend the herds.
If you are looking for a majestic, huge and beautiful dog, this is the Komondor. But it is not an easy animal to have: both for the maintenance of those abductions that seem to turn it into a mop with legs, and for its size and its way of being. It is a very protective and territorial dog, who likes to be the leader of the pack, so it needs an owner prepared to educate with consistency and perseverance.
It takes a long time to mature (up to two or three years) that he likes to play with the children of the family. But he will be distant with visitors to the house, so socialization from a puppy and throughout his life is essential.
There are big dogs and then there is the Kuvasz, a very protective and intelligent white giant that comes from the Hungarian forests. Its majesty connects it with the dynasty of Vlad the Emperor but luckily this huge dog will be your best defense and will be faithful at all times to his family.
This noble dog is adapted to the cold so it is not recommended for places with a lot of heat. In addition, it needs space to move and expend energy, since despite its size it will require a lot of daily sport.
Cheerful, brave and strong, the Mudi is another of the Hungarian shepherds. It bears a great resemblance in physical and personality to the Bearded Collie, so if you decide on it, you will not miss the laughs at home. Of course, it is not suitable for any family, since it wastes energy.
Medium in size, he is extremely intelligent and learns very easily, which has allowed him to excel in both dog sports and police work.
You want a Puli, you don’t know, and until today you may not have heard of this shepherd in love with water and full of sympathy and dreadlocks. Even being a shepherd dog, it has great similarities with our spaniel : energetic, playful, somewhat clumsy at times, always familiar but dominant.
He is a sheepdog, he is bred to control herds of sheep and his new herd is your family, so he needs constant education to control his leadership and his instinct for protection. And, of course, space to run and enjoy (and get tired, something you will appreciate)
The Pumi is a medium and multifunctional dog that has been able to adapt perfectly to homes. Visually he may seem like a mix between a Poodle and a Schnauzer but in character he is (almost) nothing alike. Cheerful, smiling, playful and good with the children of the house (not with all children, be careful), it is a perfect option for active families.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
The Bergamasco is the perfect dog. The one about which it is difficult to say something bad. It is a sociable, intelligent, cheerful, tenacious, brave and loyal animal. The same thing takes care of the house that plays for hours with your children. And all this obeying the first few changes and learning very quickly any order that you want to teach him. And to top it all, with that scruffy look that makes it unique.
Maremma and Abruzzo Sheepdog
The Maremma is a powerful dog that in ancient times was capable of fighting wolves and bears. Fortunately today, he no longer has to face those enemies, but he is still an imposing animal, very independent and not suitable for all homes. You need plenty of room to move and expend energy and an owner who is able to control your leadership ability.
On the other hand, its balanced and kind character makes it a great option for families with children, since it will bring out its more docile and affectionate side with the little ones in the house. In fact, he will rarely have behavior problems.
Dutch shepherd dog
The Dutch Shepherd is very similar to the German and the Belgian, due, in part, to a common origin. But it is the most unknown of the three. It is highly trainable, which has facilitated its use by police officers around the world, but unlike other dogs, it is really stable and sociable.
Of the three dogs mentioned, he is the one that shows the best spirit with the children of the house with whom he will have a truly exceptional relationship. He will also be friendly with other pets and your guests, as long as he knows they are not a real threat.
Do you remember those wolf dogs that for years became fashionable in Spain? Many of them were mixtures of other races, such as the so-called mixtolobos (at least, well, they were known in Andalusia). But if you are looking for a dog closer to his wild brother than to the domestic one in the physical, that is the Saarloos wolfdog.
Luckily, this experiment, which crossed a German shepherd with a common wolf, resulted in a shy and obedient animal. That he has preserved the best characteristics of the shepherd in the face of the wild instincts of the wolf, except for belonging to the pack, so they maintain strong ties with their human families.
For happy families, athletes and wanting to have a dog to follow you on your adventures, the Dutch Schapendoes is a highly recommended option. Of course, get ready for long exercise sessions since we are facing a working dog that requires exhausting its energy.
It is considered one of the most intelligent dogs that exist and that allows it to learn and adapt to almost any circumstance. What has not prevented it from being almost disappeared due to the arrival of the Border Collies in Holland.
Polish Plains Sheepdog
The Pon or Polish Shepherd of the plains, is an almost unknown dog, which was about to disappear after the Second World War. Luckily, his cheerful character -which does not mean sociable-, the ease of learning, the taste for exercise and a stable and calm temperament, despite his energy, made him enter homes, now as a companion dog.
Podhale Polish Sheepdogs
The Podhale Shepherd is a dog as big as it is good. From its appearance we can come to think that we are facing an imposing giant, and in a certain aspect it is so. Able to face a wolf, he creates strong ties with the family to protect him over his own life. Unfortunately, he is very independent and will try to be the leader of the pack, so he needs a strong and consistent education to avoid problems.
Due to its size, need for exercise and character, we are facing a working dog that will not be suitable for all homes, so it is important that you think if you can master it before getting one of these giants.
Portuguese Shepherd Dogs
The neighboring country has several indigenous dogs, such as its shepherd or Cao da Serra de Aires. An animal as intelligent as it is little known, not only outside of Portugal but beyond its region of origin. It is usually very alert, which has allowed its use as a watchdog. But thanks to his spirit, sympathy and taste for sports, in addition to being sweet with children, he has also earned a place in homes.
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is known worldwide as the Bobtail. And movies and series have helped spread their image as friendly and sympathetic animals. What we must also know is that these perfect babysitters are full of energy and need a significant energy expenditure, both physical and mental, to get them to be in their optimal state.
Extremely intelligent, he learns with great ease and lacks aggressiveness, which is why he can be considered a huge stuffed animal that will delight any sports family. Without forgetting, yes, that it is a shepherd dog and that it has a protective instinct.
If you’ve never owned a Border Collie and you want to get one, think about it first. You are before a sheepdog in the great extension of the word: intelligent, independent, stable in character and nervous in behavior, and absolutely full of energy. You will never get bored with him, but if he gets bored you will be in trouble.
He needs to be constantly busy and that makes him excel at dog sports, both agility and herding. And that necessary training will be very good to get their relaxation, so do not hesitate to spend time with them practicing exercise. At home, he will be good with children, but remember that he will try to herd them from place to place.
The Bearded Collie is a first cousin of the Border Collie. Energetic, vital, playful, intelligent and very affectionate, both with family and with strangers, so do not expect him to keep an eye on your possessions. It has a lot of patience and a great capacity for learning, but it is also loaded with energy – it is a Collie, after all – so a morning walk will not save your furniture from a bored dog.
If you are looking for a family dog, it may be the perfect option if sport is not a problem in your family. In addition, it is important that you mentally encourage him – luckily, there are many games on the market – and that you educate him with the box system to be able to lock him up, for short periods of time, without causing trauma.
The Shetland Sheepdog is another dog of English origin used to working with sheep in the great British countryside. It looks like a miniature Collie (but beware, it reaches 40 cm, it is not a toy dog), loyal, funny and intelligent, but it is also a playful mischievous. That has made it a companion dog, far from its traditional uses in the field.
Like other shepherds, he is charged with energy and needs daily exercise. Luckily, he also enjoys spending hours with his family. But it will be important that you encourage him mentally and that you give him hours of play. He is very good with children and his desire to have fun will make him tireless at children’s games.
Cardigan and Pembroke
Don’t be fooled by their size, these little dogs are true sheepdogs. The Cardigan and the Pembroke are lively, intelligent and energetic animals despite their small size. After all, they had to herd flocks of sheep.
As good pastors, they are independent, intelligent, and like to make their own decisions. Even so, they are good family dogs, especially if there are children in the house, since they enjoy every minute with them. In addition, despite their size, they are strong and robust dogs that will withstand the games of the little ones.
Carpathian or Romanian Sheepdog Carpathian
The Carpatín stands out for the mask of its face, which can give it a certain wolf-like appearance. It is an extremely strong animal, with great courage and bravery. However, he needs contact with the “herd”, that is, the family, coming to suffer separation anxiety. It is also not valid for any environment, since it is very distrustful of people and needs space to move or it will become really destructive. It is a working dog and how such it should be kept.
Romanian Sheepdogs from Mioritza
The Romanian Mioritza Shepherd is another of those almost unknown dogs. It is a lively and balanced animal; always alert and vigilant, but can become overprotective and possessive. That is, it can cause us problems if we do not socialize and educate it from its earliest age. Although, curiously, he is calm and patient with children. In addition, it is obedient and disciplined towards its owners.
South Russian Sheepdogs
In Russia we will also find sheepdogs like this one that come from the South, a region that gives it its name (although it is also called South Shepherd). It is an animal as big as it is brave and cheerful. That character, coupled with intelligence and emotional stability, have allowed him to leave the fields and win a position among the families. Although you will need space and daily exercise.
Swiss White Shepherd
We finish our tour of the sheepdogs, in the Swiss White. This dog is almost identical to the German Shepherd, only his coat is completely white. For the rest, the differences between both breeds are invaluable and this is an alert, intelligent, brave and very loyal dog.
Characteristics of Shepherd Dogs
These types of dogs have a series of common characteristics that make them very attractive animals to have at home. But we must be careful since not all will be suitable for that, as we will see when we refer to each of the races that make it up.
They are extremely intelligent dogs, which facilitates their education and they can be used for many social, military and police tasks. In fact, many of them have been trained by the police in their home countries as active members of the security forces.
But that carries a second aspect: if they get bored they can become destructive. So it is very important to keep them mentally active to avoid damage to the home. In this sense, early education, taking advantage of your intelligence, is also important.
Tenacity at Work
They are working dogs. They have been doing a clear job for centuries: herding. During the 20th century they were used for other purposes, mainly defense. And, once again, they showed their courage in the various tasks entrusted to them and their innate ability to draw strength from weaknesses to complete their objectives.
Loyal and Docile
The vast majority (eye, not all) are dogs that easily adapt to homes. Showing a blind loyalty to his family (turned into the pack they must keep) and docile, obedient and easy to handle. Although not all dogs are the same, as with the Belgian Shepherd, they need highly trained people to be able to control them. So watch out for “fashionable dogs.” Remember, dogs that have been traditionally used as police dogs will not always be easy to carry.
Energetic and Independent
Working leading herds of sheep takes hours of racing across large meadows. And centuries as leaders of unruly herds have led to the formation of very energetic races, which will hardly tire of running and exercising. And, at the same time, they have turned them into very independent dogs, mentally quick and willing to make their own decisions away from human shepherds. Those who had placed their trust in these wonderful dogs.