Shepherds, often set as examples of attachment, have been working for man for centuries. Today, they continue to do so in ever-new areas – rescue, detection of drugs, explosives and many others.
Sheepdogs are a heterogeneous group. In terms of the original function, we can divide it into guarding and herding dogs.
- do not require a lot of traffic
- quite independent
- they are sharp
- tend to dominate
To guard herds
Most of the dogs belong to this group, at least medium and usually large, covered with thick, two-layer, often semi-long coat. Four-legged quadrupeds, whose representative is the komondor or the Central Asian Shepherd, are a definite minority here.
The main task of these dogs was to protect herds during grazing and moving them to pastures, to pens or to the market – against wild animals and thieves. These four-legged animals had to be vigilant and distrustful, and at the same time large enough to effectively resist wolves or even bears in the area.
On the other hand, they were not required to be particularly busy, because such a guard often took one observation point, or calmly patrolled the herd’s borders. When an intruder appeared, he first warned him with barking and growling, and then intervened. Shepherds from around the world in a similar way protected these dogs from wolf teeth: they put on collars with protruding spikes.
Many breeds in this group have a white coat – so that the dogs are invisible against the background of the flock of sheep. Thanks to this, the thief or predator did not know where the guards were.
The Tibetan Mastiff is considered the ancestor of this group. During the migrations of peoples from Asia to Europe, dogs along with herds flocked. Breeds adapted to local conditions developed in various areas.
Today, the greater part of the herds’ guards has been assigned by the International Kennel Club to the second group – to the mountain type molosses section. This type is also represented by two larger Swiss shepherd dogs: large Swiss and Bernese. However, several breeds belong to group I, the majority of which are cattle dogs.
What are they good at?
Dogs guarding herds are perfect as watchmen. Contrary to appearances, most of them do not need much movement, but require space. The attitude towards people varies in this group, but most treat strangers with at least distance. Of course, among so many breeds we find dogs very different – from friendly as a Bernese to usually very sharp and distrustful Caucasian shepherds.
This is directly due to the history of these breeds – Bernese were rural dogs, living in large clusters of people, while the caucasus are still guarding herds in the sparsely populated mountains. While a friendly Bernese man will also acclimatize in a city apartment (if he is given longer walks), even in the case of our Tatra, it is doubtful, and the Caucasian Shepherd can probably be considered the race least suitable for life in the city – it requires if not a herd, a large area to watch.
Let’s remember, however, that he also needs contact with man and upbringing – otherwise he can grow into an unpredictable and very dangerous dog. It happened that the Caucasus was even afraid of its owners … In turn, Bernese suffered a lot from fashion for this breed, that’s why such a dog should be bought from a good breeder who pays attention to the psyche – today there are fearful bernie.
The specificity of the herdsmen’s work meant that these dogs had to be independent: they assessed the situation and decided to intervene. They often worked alone on the herd. That is why they are not focused on following the instructions – although in this respect we will encounter big differences. And so the Bernese man is more likely to carry out commands than the independent and in addition often the dominant Caucasus.
- prone to stacking
- adapting to different conditions
- suitable for companions on long walks and for sports
- need a lot of traffic
- they are barking
The breeds of herding dogs mostly belong to group I FCI, although some can also be found in group V. They are shepherd spitz, this role was also played by some molosses and even … Spanish water dogs.
Of course, you can find quadrupeds that at the same time drove and guarded the herds, but the main task of this group was, above all, to lead him, chase him to the pasture and to the farm and keep him whole, not allow him to get on the road or get in the way. Guarding was more about circumvention and protection against strangers, not predators.
That is why dogs from this group are smaller, more agile and more mobile than large herd guards. Their size ranges from quite small (but not miniature) to large. Most are of medium height. There are individuals with short paws.
Unlike herd guards, herding dogs usually have a color other than white – so that the shepherd can see against the herd where his helper is. In this group, naturally shortened or residual tails often occur. Marbled color is also typical for many breeds of shepherd dogs. On the other hand, in terms of coat of drovers, it is divided into two types, which also differ in origin, although of course they were mixed for centuries.
These quadrupeds have longer hair all over the body, including the paws and muzzle. This group includes Polish lowland sheepdog, British bobtail and bearded collie, French briard, Hungarian pot, Italian bergamasco, Portuguese and Catalan shepherd. It is believed that their progenitor is the so-called Tibetan terrier – a small dog, currently classified as a decorative breed, but used for herding in Tibet.
In addition to the shaggy hair, their characteristic feature is the so-called dry build – these are often dogs with fairly light bones, with close-fitting skin. Their ears are usually dejected.
These dogs have a short hair on the muzzle, and their coat is usually short or long-haired (long hair with a so-called feather). Ears can be upright or semi-standing, but rarely quite uncomfortable. This group includes German, Shetland, Australian, Belgian, Dutch, Border Collie, Long and Short Haired Collie, Corgi, Pyrenean Sheepdog with a smooth muzzle. They were created on the basis of European spitz.
In both groups of cattle dogs larger and smaller breeds can be found, as well as with different mental characteristics. It is from this group that breeds known for their greatest intelligence, such as border collies and German Shepherds, come from. This is due to their original function – herding dogs had to follow the shepherd’s instructions. In addition, some of these breeds, such as German or Belgian Shepherds, were later bred as service and defense dogs, where susceptibility to composing and absolute obedience are extremely important.
However, some herding breeds, such as the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, tend to be more independent and independent. This applies especially to breeds that worked more often „on their own feet” during herding. However, even a very independent skimmer is easy to stack compared to even original breeds.
What are they good at?
What can we expect when we accept a herding sheepdog under our roof – apart from the fact that they are generally easier to shape than many other breeds? That, despite this, the shepherd’s training will not always go smoothly.
Sheepdogs also have different ideas, especially when they are bored. Some, with border collie at the forefront, are known for their tendency to workaholism and can be boring when bored. The watchful sheepdogs of this group are also often barking and … can bite heels.
If we neglect the socialization of such a quadruped, it can become excessively distrustful and fearful or aggressive with fear. However, most dogs of this type are well acclimatized both in the city and in our village. However, they require a lot of close contact with people and a lot of movement.