Shepherd dogs are different from all other breeds because of their ability to herd. Many dogs can herd different types of animals. But, Shepherds are dogs that just herd sheep.
Sheepdogs were bred for centuries to serve on farms and ranches. All of them have once accompanied humans in rounding their flocks of sheep. Today many of them continue doing this job, while some compete in dog shows or serving as working dogs.
Not only are these dogs exceptional workers, but they also make great family pets. Many shepherd breeds have also found their way into the hearts and homes of families.
These dogs share many traits, but each one of them is unique. Discover all 20 types of shepherd dogs and what makes each one special…
Shepherd dogs are known for their impeccable herding skills. They are the perfect dogs for protecting sheep and keeping the farm in order. These highly intelligent sheepdogs are very hard-working and love nothing more than to do their job.
A herding dog is so intelligent that with just simple hand signals, or whistle commands, they can do whatever task they are trained to do. Some bark, circle, and nip at the sheep, while others calmly stare in silence.
Herding dogs all have their own appearance and personalities, but what they all have in common is that they were originally bred to herd sheep.
Shepherds started using these dogs to help them herd and protect their flocks. These dogs needed to be quick, agile, and able to think on their own.
They also provided company for lonely farmers and shepherds. This is one of the reasons they are friendly and affectionate.
Today shepherd dogs are used for more than herding. Most shepherd breeds are classified in either the Herding Group or Working Group. Breeds like the German Shepherd have made their way into jobs such as law enforcement, military use, and search and rescue.
Shepherds have also become popular breeds for families.
They are loved for their intelligence and playfulness. But, for some families, they might be a bit much because of their hyperactivity and independence. They are a great choice for active families who are able to properly train their dog.
Sheepdogs love spending time with their family and do great with kids, provided they are properly trained. You do not want a dog treating the children as if they are a flock they need to herd. Their herding instincts are still deeply ingrained within them.
Types Of Shepherd Dogs
There are currently over 20 American Kennel Club recognized shepherd breeds.
These herding dogs all share common traits and temperaments. However, below we share what makes each one unique and will best suit you. We will also share how to identify each one so you know which type of shepherd dog you have.
1. Anatolian Shepherd
Anatolian Shepherds are giant shepherd dogs and can weigh as much as 150 pounds. They have rugged, powerful muscles and an intimidating appearance.
This dog descends from the Coban Kopegi and was bred in Anatolia, a peninsula in Turkey.
Shepherds used them for herding sheep and goats in the harsh terrains of Anatolia around 2000 b.c. Not only did these ancient dogs have to survive intense summers and freezing winters, but they also had to fight with wolves to protect their flock.
In the U.S. Anatolian Shepherds became popular around the 1970s. Ranchers used them to protect their flocks from wolves. While they are very independent, dedicated owners can find a friendly, loyal, and quiet companion in them.
2. Australian Shepherd
You might think that the Australian Shepherd is from Australia. But, the fact is, this dog descends from a European herding dog, the Pyrenean Shepherd.
Pyrenean Shepherds were brought to Australia and crossbred with Border Collies. These dogs then quickly moved to California and ranchers in America mistakenly thought they were from Australia, hence the name.
Aussies are loved for their ability to herd large flocks.
They are claimed to be the cowboy’s favorite herding dog. This is because of their hard-working personality and fluffy long hair. It is said that rodeo cowboys are responsible for breeding the mini Australian Shepherd.
These beautiful dogs are pleasing to the eye and come in black, red, and blue or red merle. While people often fall for their enchanting looks, know that they have an impulsive need to herd. Keeping them active all the time is key.
3. Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdogs are elegant shepherd dogs with a familiar face. They stand tall and proud, conveying an air of regality and strength.
The Belgian Shepherd is a passionate and loyal shepherd from Belgium. They were bred in the little town of Groenendael, a town known for its milk production. These dogs were key in protecting milk cattle.
These dogs did their job with such an eagerness and purpose that they were soon recruited to do other jobs such as police and military work. Now they do just about everything from search and rescue and service dogs to dog shows and watchdogs…
They can also make excellent companion dogs because of their affectionate nature.
4. Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to herd sheep on massive lands. Ranch owners in Australia needed a dog that could herd sheep over many miles of harsh ranch land.
Because of their history, these dogs do not do well in confined spaces. They are much happier in a house with a lot of space for them to roam free and expend all of their energy.
Australian Cattle Dogs are also known as Blue Heelers for their black or blue spotted coat.
These dogs are true Australians, unlike the Australian Shepherd! But, if you mate these two dogs together, you get a Texas Heeler.
5. Belgian Malinois Dog
The Belgian Malinois is a close relative of the Belgian Sheepdog. Like its relative, it stands with pride, though it lacks the long flowing mane and coat. Instead, it has a sleek, short coat over its strong, well-toned, muscled body.
Belgian Malinois are a high energy and hard-working dog perfect for the military and law enforcement. It is one of the hardest working types of shepherd dogs.
Its purpose in life is to work, whether that be herding sheep or serving as a police dog. Without a job, these dogs will spiral into depression and anxiety. They also need a strong bond with their human as much as they need to work.
The Beauceron is a tall, muscular shepherd dog who comes from the province of Brie, France. Its short black fur with red paw markings has given this dog the nickname of Bas-Rouge (red stockings).
In France this breed has two jobs of herding and guarding.
Outside of France this dog has been recruited to do other tasks like law enforcement and military work. The Beauceron’s intelligence, comparable to some of the smartest dogs, strong will and powerful body makes it one of the most versatile dogs.
The Beauceron’s method of herding is the silent stare, unlike most herding breeds. They calmly circle the flock from afar and can get the sheep moving without scaring them.
7. Bohemian Shepherd
The Bohemian Shepherd’s history dates back to around the 1300s. The King of Bohemia called on his people to breed a dog that could guard the borders between Bohemia and Bavaria.
These dogs were originally called the Chodský Pes. They could not only protect the Bohemian Kingdom, but can also protect flocks of sheep.
Bohemian Shepherds are on the smaller side for herding dogs as the tallest they can be is 21 inches. Their smaller size is how you can identify them from their close resemblance to the German Shepherd.
Their size does not downplay their incredible versatility and skills.
They can do anything, from therapy and service dog work to search-and-rescue and agility. While they are very hardworking, they are also sensitive and sociable dogs who need attention and love. Families will enjoy having this majestic shepherd in their homes.
8. Border Collie
Border Collies are easily spotted for their long black and white coat.
There is no shepherd dog smarter than the Border Collie. This dog is often regarded as the best herding dog in the world, because of its high intelligence. But, Collies can do so much more than herding sheep and cattle.
They are also very good at agility and obedience competitions because of their athleticism and trainability.
Collies are energetic balls of joy that love playing and being around people. So much so that it will develop separation anxiety if left alone.
Border Collies make good family dogs because they are very friendly with children, as long as they are properly trained. However, keep in mind that they are best off with experienced and active owners. These dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy.
The Briard shepherd dog was bred by French farmers to be sheep herders and guardians.
Briards are so loyal and loving that they are often called a “heart wrapped in fur”.
They are extremely loving, but there is no messing with these brave dogs. Their zest for life and work matches their incredible love. Because of their confidence, they are able to handle flocks as big as 700 sheep and make wonderful herding dogs.
Their wavy coats are solid in color, and can be either black, gray, or tawny. To complete their unique style are long strands of hair that create a beard and a “peekaboo” look on their face. Briards always stand with an air of elegance.
10. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
The Caucasian shepherd dog comes from the Caucasus mountains in Russia. It is one of the oldest and biggest shepherd breeds and was bred for herding and protecting flocks from large predators like bears.
This herding dog is the biggest on our list, growing to be as big as 170 pounds. Its fluffy, double-layered coat is designed to protect them against the harsh weather. It is so dense that it hides just how muscular this dog is.
Today many people adopt them as fluffy bear-like dogs, but they take their job as guardians very seriously. They can be aggressive if not properly trained, so do not let their relaxed personality fool you.
Caucasian shepherds often have a mane around their neck which is why they are nicknamed ‘the Russian Bear Dog’.
11. Dutch Shepherd
The Dutch Shepherd is often confused for their cousins the German Shepherd, because of how similar they look. Nowadays they are easy to spot for their brindle coat, which is not an accepted German Shepherd color.
Dutch Shepherds originated in the Netherlands. They were originally bred to guard, work at the farm and herd sheep. But, before Dutch farmers hired this shepherd dog, they were a “Jack-of-all-trades”.
These dogs were natural shepherds, and their versatility and independence are what have led them to become great working dogs.
While they are not popular in America, they make great family pets because of their affectionate and playful personality. Like all shepherds, just make sure you give them enough time to exercise their body and mind; they have a lot of energy to burn.
12. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is America’s third favorite dog breed.
German Shepherds can do it all. They are everything an owner can want in a dog: loyal, intelligent, brave, hard-working, steadfast, and affectionate.
The German Shepherd was a herder of sheep. Around the end of the 19th century this breed was selectively bred in Germany by mixing many herding breeds to make the perfect sheep dog. The result was the graceful, sleek, well-muscled, black and brown dog we know today.
German Shepherds are employed for many different jobs. However, they are most famous for being K9 military dogs and police dogs.
Its loyalty and protectiveness also make it a popular family guard dog. Their boundless energy is sure to keep the children from getting bored. They love being around the family all of the time.
13. Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees dogs are one of the oldest breeds in the world, their history goes as far back to the Bronze Age in the Pyrenees Mountains. These white dogs are very patient and calm, but were bred to watch over a flock of sheep. They protected sheep against large predators like wolves, bears, and other humans.
It is their ability to defend that caught the attention of King Louis XIV in the 17th century. This led him to name them the Royal Dog of France.
Great Pyrenees dogs are large mountain dogs whose majestic furry white bodies can weigh over 100 pounds. They are perfect for fighting and surviving in the snowy mountaintops.
For many families they might seem like the ideal, beautiful guard dog. But, in reality these dogs are not a good match for many owners. They are very independent because they had to spend long periods of time making choices for themselves to protecting their flock. This means they can be quite stubborn and hard to train.
14. Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is unique from all other shepherd breeds for its well-known “shaggy look.” Littering its dense double layered coat are shaggy waves that make it seem unkempt, with a peek-a-boo cut covering its eyes.
Their laid-back appearance matches their mellow personality.
Old English Sheepdogs have a calm and patient personality. This, and their affection towards humans, makes them such great family dogs. They love playing and being around children. There will never be a boring time in the house with this cheery and affectionate shepherd dog.
The Old English Sheepdog name is a bit misleading.
They were not used as a sheepdog by English farmers. Back then, this dog was used as a drover that moved cattle between the farm to the markets to be sold. Also, this dog is not as old as many types of shepherd dogs on this list. They first appeared around the 1700s.
15. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Corgi is the shortest shepherd dog on the list. This tiny breed stands at just 10-12 inches of pure love and fearlessness.
Corgis are known for their affection, playfulness, curiosity, and mischievous sense of humor. Coupling these traits with their small size, cute short legs and foxlike appearance, they are an instant family favorite.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi loves to run around all day and is very barky, they are a herder by nature.
Farmers around the world have used the Corgi to be a faithful herder. Its small size does not stop it from being excellent at its job. It actually helps it since they are able to easily nip at the heels of cattle and sheep.
16. Spanish Water Dog
Spanish Water Dogs love to swim, but that is not all they can do. They are excellent sheepdogs and waterfowl retrievers in the Iberian Peninsula.
These dual-purpose herding dogs are especially known for their woolly, curly hair. This hair can come in many colors like black, brown, beige or any of these colors with white.
Today Spanish Water Dogs are used as police dogs and disaster rescue dogs.
They are really easy to train, because of their intelligence and need to please. But they can be a bit dominant and over-protective because of their hunting and herding instincts. Like all other shepherd breeds, they need a lot of exercise to stay happy. Taking them swimming is probably a good idea.
There is no mistaking the Puli with its wooly dreadlocks that make it look like a mop dog. These cords are meant to protect them from rough weather conditions.
The Puli is incredibly agile and powerful. This compact dog is so light on its feet that it has received the nickname of the “acrobat dog”. Its impressive ability to move and unique fur has made them such great herding dogs in the harsh plains of Hungary.
This smart dog’s method of herding is to circle the flock and nip at any straggler that separated from the mass.
Pulis still have the intense need to herd, which makes them want to chase after everything, from birds to other dogs to toddlers. If you do bring one home, make sure that you have a large yard for it to run around in!
18. Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd worked alongside the Great Pyrenees. They worked together in the Pyrenees Mountains moving the flocks across the Pyrenean terrain.
Today it is still used for the same purpose in its homeland.
There are two coat varieties of the Pyrenean Shepherd: a rough and a smooth-faced.
Those with a rough-face have “windswept” hair over their muzzle and harsh fur. While those with a smooth-face have short facial hair, a smoother and finer coat, and longer and pointier muzzles. Each of these types have rectangular-shaped bodies and can come in a variety of colors.
The Pyrenean Shepherd loves any human, but it does not get along very well with other dogs.
19. Rough Collie
The Rough Collie comes from Scotland, where it was bred by mixing many sheepdogs.
Originally it was used for herding cattle and sheep, but it was not aggressive enough. After the industrial revolution it was turned into a family pet.
In the 20th century the Rough Collie was made famous by the fictional dog, Lassie.
This dog is simply a heart stealer not only with its looks, but also with its sweet heart, gentleness, liveliness, loyalty, and intelligence. It is notoriously known for doing well with kids and it creates an unbreakable bond with every family member.
Nowadays the Rough Collie is a hard-working and energetic family pet that does well in agility courses and obedience competitions.
20. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog is a shepherd dog from the Shetland Islands, known by the cute nickname, Sheltie. Shelties come from Scotland and are cousins to the Rough Collie. A typical Sheltie must look like a miniature Rough Collie, who it descends from.
Shelties were originally bred to herd sheep, ponies and domestic fowl.
They were selectively bred to be small at between 13 and 16 inches. However, what they lack in size, they make up for in personality. Shelties are incredibly friendly and energetic, chasing after anything that moves and wanting to play all day. Expect them to chase after small animals like birds too.
This need to constantly move, along with their incredible intelligence, is what makes them so good for agility, obedience, and herding competitions.
What Is A Shepherd Dog?
Shepherd dogs are known for their ability to herd sheep. All Shepherd breeds are herders, hard-working, highly intelligent, athletic, and loyal. However, each breed has its own qualities too.
Some types of shepherd dogs will be bigger than others.
The Corgi is a tiny, overexcited furball compared to the calm Caucasian Dog.
However, size has nothing to do with herding ability. The Corgi’s loud barking and nipping at the heels is just as effective as the giant size of the Caucasian Dog. All of these sheepdogs love to do their job, just some do it differently.
While most herding dogs are energetic and hyperactive, some are much gentler and relaxed. The Old English Sheepdog is a great example of a calm dog whose style of working is much more peaceful.
Appearance is another good way to spot a shepherd dog.
Most are so famous that there is no denying which breed they are.
The German Shepherd is well-known for its tan and black pattern and the Rough Collie is famous for its flowing, fawn and white coat.
Some will have a hallmark characteristic like the Puli with its “mop” look or the Old English Sheepdog with its “shaggy” look.
Shepherd dogs are some of the most hard-working, intelligent, and loyal dogs. It is these qualities they all share that make them so popular with families.
Today some are still used for their original purpose, like the German Shepherd or the Dutch Shepherd. However, many are now used in dog sports (e.g. Sheltie or Border Collie) or as family pets (e.g. Rough Collie).
Since each breed is different, not all of them are perfect for families.
Most will need families that are very active. They will also need proper mental stimulation and training because of how smart they are. Some breeds will need more attention, activities and bonding than others.
Whatever it is you are in search for, a Shepherd dog will love you with its whole heart and never leave your side.
Which is the most iconic Shepherd Dog? Write it down in the comments below!