Herding dogs like the Border Collie, the German Shepherd, and the Australian Shepherd are known for their ability to solve problems quickly and effectively, their intense work drive, and their loyalty and ability to cooperate with their human family. Without enough physical and mental activity, however, they are also known for hyperactivity, destructive behaviors, and for obsessive barking. Fortunately, there are a number of activities that these intelligent and easily trained dogs not only enjoy but excel at.
Rounding things up is something that comes naturally to most breeds of herding dog, and in many cases, your dog may not be particularly picky about what exactly it is that they are choosing to collect. If not given direction, some herding dogs may be prone to rounding up loose socks, unpaired shoes, or random unidentifiable objects from around the house or yard. Instead of spending your day picking up dog toys and searching for hidden shoes, teach your dog how to help out around the house by rounding up their own toys and putting them in a specified place, like a toybox.
Dogs in the herding category, particularly those with merle genetics, have a slightly higher chance than average to be born deaf or to lose their hearing as their get older. Teaching your dog to follow hand signals, also known as deaf dog sign language, may help to ease confusion if your dog’s hearing begins to diminish in later life. Visual cues that are taught to your herding dog will benefit them in the event that their hearing is impaired at some point in life.
Treibball is a sport originally developed to allow herding dogs in Germany with no access to sheep or other livestock to find an outlet for their often intense herding instincts, but instead of herding livestock, they are guiding large, inflated balls to a specified goal based on a combination of voice and hand commands that are used to convey instructions to your dog. This activity works both the mind and body of the herding dog as well as encouraging improved communication between you and your canine companion. While there are many venues in which your dog can participate in Treibball competitively, it is also an activity that you can practice right in your own backyard.
Flyball is a high-intensity competitive sport in which groups of dogs race relay-style to catch and retrieve a ball over a specially designed obstacle course. The agility, quick mind, and ability to problem solve that is typically found among the herding breeds make them well-suited to this activity.
Herding dogs have a natural tendency to watch their owner closely for cues about how to behave. This tendency, combined with their ability to respond to changes quickly and the agility that most of these breeds have, makes them ideal candidates to enjoy and excel at the sport of canine freestyle dance.
Not having any sheep to herd no longer has to be an obstacle to allowing your dog to fully experience the joy of doing what they were bred to do. There are now several places like Fido’s Farm in Olympia WA or Magic’s Legacy in Genoa City WI where you can pay to let your dog learn how to herd all sorts of animals, from geese to cows.
Herding dogs are typically very high-energy dogs with a high work drive, and in most cases, they require a great deal of exercise and mental stimulation each day in order to maintain proper physical and mental health. Fortunately, most herding dogs are active, intelligent, and ready to work, making them particularly well-suited to not only herding related activities but also to most other activities that require the ability to think quickly, use their natural problem-solving abilities, and switch directions on the fly.