Ever notice your dog trying to round up the kids while they are playing in the backyard, or move the cats around the kitchen in an orderly manner? If so, your dog is exhibiting more than just weird behavior. Depending on his ancestry, he might be letting you know that he has a good dose of herding instinct in his blood.
Thanks to two organizations devoted to preserving dogs’ natural working instincts, you might be able to find out if your dog has what it takes to herd more than just kids and cats: he might be able to learn to herd livestock.
In the days when the majority of dog breeds were being developed, agriculture was the way most dog-owning families earned a living. Farmers and ranchers needed the help of their dogs to manage an assortment of livestock, from ducks to horses. As a result of this early breeding, a vast number of dogs still possess the herding instinct that was bred into them generations ago.
To see if your dog has the inborn ability to herd and has the potential for advanced training, have his herding instinct tested. Not only it is fun to watch your dog’s instincts really kick in the first time he’s asked to work sheep or ducks, but you might decide to train him for competition, which can be loads of fun.
Herding Dog Breeds
The American Kennel Club, which registers purebred dogs, has designated 51 breeds as having herding instincts. Any AKC-registered dog from one of these breeds is eligible to be AKC herding-instinct tested. These breeds include the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Tervuren, Bernese Mountain dog, Border Collie, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Shetland Sheep dog and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, among many others.
AKC Herding Test for Dog Breeds
At an AKC-sanctioned herding test, your dog will enter a pen with a tester and some livestock, usually sheep or ducks. The judge will let your dog interact with the livestock, gauging how he handles them. For a dog to pass a herding instinct test, he must show an interest in the livestock without being aggressive, and must show a propensity for driving and fetching the animals.
After your dog is tested, you’ll be given a card with the judge’s comments on your dog’s natural instincts. The card will indicate whether your dog passed or failed.
If your dog passes the test, you’ll receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club in the mail. You can then take your dog’s herding abilities even further by training him to work.
Registering A Herding Dog with the AKC
If your dog is not registered with the AKC, is not a breed considered eligible for herding testing with AKC or is a mixed breed, you can still have his herding instinct tested. The American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA) provides herding capability tests to all dogs, designed to determine whether a dog has the instinct to herd livestock. Dogs who have shown to have the needed instinct can go on to be trained for competitive AHBA events.
For more information on herding instinct testing and herding competitions, visit the AKC at www.akc.org or the AHBA at ahba-herding.org.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.