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The Different Types of Shepherd Dogs

Written by Laura
Laura is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Thursday 17 June 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
what shepherd dogs do
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Shepherd Dogs are known for their intelligence, energy, playfulness, loyalty, and of course, cuteness. But what are the different types of Shepherd Dogs?

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the different Shepherd Dog breeds as well as their key characteristics & lifestyle requirements. We’ll also be answering the most frequently asked questions about Shepherd Dogs such as; why should you get one? Let’s go!

What Are Shepherd Dogs?

A Shepherd Dog is a type of working dog that has its origins in herding and guarding livestock, typically sheep. Although it could be another kind of livestock, such as cattle. Many dogs still work as shepherds today!

There are thought to be around 30 different breeds of Shepherd Dogs, with 12 of them being recognized by the American Kennel Club. One of the most famous examples of a Shepherd Dog is the British Border Collie.

Some of these Shepherd dog breeds are even good with chickens and other livestock.

Why Should You Get a Shepherd Dog?

Shepherd Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, colors and coats, but are always super intelligent. Because of their working DNA, they are naturally observant, communicative, fast learning, and very trainable. That said, Shepherd Dogs need very specific owners & families that can meet their needs. And preferably a home with a garden. They are not low-maintenance dogs as they are extremely energetic and playful.

Depending on the breed, Shepherd Dogs need between 1-2 hours of physical exercise a day, and because they are so intelligent, they need just as much if not more mental stimulation. Without mentally stimulating toys, games, and social interaction, these dogs can become bored and anxious. This can result in destructive behavior towards themselves and the home, and sometimes even aggression towards others.

Although Shepherd Dogs are naturally protective & courageous, they are generally not aggressive by nature, although they’re often vocal. They tend to be very loyal and loving with their family members and are generally intuitive and sensitive dogs. As well as being gentle with children and friendly towards strangers & other dogs.

jobs that shepherd dogs excel in
Herding is a job for dogs with high energy levels like shepherd dogs!

Different Types of Shepherd Dogs

Let’s look at some of the best Shepherd Dog types & their characteristics.

German Shepherd

Bred for farm work in Germany in the late 1800s, German Shepherds are watchful, courageous, and smart. This is why they now commonly work as police & military dogs. They’re highly trainable and very protective, and often misunderstood as aggressive due to their working roles & some irresponsible owners.

German Shepherds are in the top five breeds responsible for dog bites every year in the US. However, they are also the second most popular breed in the country. Number one on both of those lists is the Labrador, who are known for their gentle nature. So whilst they can be aggressive without early socialization & training, they’re no more aggressive than any other breed of dog. A large dog breed, the average German Shepherd female stands at around 22-24 inches tall, whilst the average male stands at around 24-26 inches tall. The average female also weighs around 50-70 lbs and the average male 65-90 lbs.

They are commonly a mix of black and brown but can be all black. Their fur needs brushing 3-4 times a week. They are also very active and need a lot of exercise every day. German Shepherds love family life. They are perfect for families who want a loyal companion and strong guard dog rolled into one. That said, new owners must dedicate themselves to consistent training. They have an average lifespan of 9-13 years. Common health problems experienced by German Shepherds include degenerative myelopathy, hip & elbow dysplasia, and bloat.

Bohemian Shepherd

This medium-sized breed originates in the Czech Republic and dates back to around the 1300s. The Bohemian Shepherd, also known as the Chodský pes and Chodenhund, is a beautiful mix of black & brown. They are a very sociable, intelligent, enthusiastic breed who are devoted to their families.

The average male stands at around 20.5-21.7 inches tall and weighs 41-60 lbs. While the average female stands at around 19.3-20.5 inches and weighs 37-53 lbs. These dogs love to try new things and are very adaptable. That’s why they work as therapy dogs, service dogs, police & military dogs, search & rescue dogs, competing in agility competitions, and even performing as doggie dancers!

Bohemian Shepherds need brushing once a week and lead an active lifestyle filled with plenty of fun and affection. They have an average lifespan of 9-13 years. The breed is generally healthy but can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and epilepsy.

Border Collie

Developed in the Anglo-Scottish border region of the UK, Border Collies are perhaps the most famous shepherd dog of all. This is because they are also the most intelligent dog breed of all. These days, they often compete in sheepdog trials, agility and obedience competitions, and dog dancing shows, and still work as beloved sheepdogs all over the UK.

Ranking 35 out of 197 in popularity according to the AKC, they are highly recognizable by their distinctive markings, often including a facial white blaze. Their coats can be black and white (most commonly), brown and white, a mix of all three colors or merle. They’re a medium-sized breed, with an average height of 19-22 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female), and an average weight of 30-45 lbs (male) and 25-41 lbs (female).

Known for their abundant energy, incredible intelligence, and intense herding instincts, Border Collies need between 1-2 hours of exercise a day and even more mental stimulation. They’re also famous for their intuition, sensitivity, intensity, and obsessiveness. They need owners who can meet their needs consistently and provide a stable routine. Without this, the breed is likely to become bored, destructive, and suffer from anxiety. Depending on the thickness of their coats, Border Collies usually need brushing 1-2 times a week.

The average Border Collie has a lifespan of 10-17 years. They are generally healthy dogs but are susceptible to deafness, epilepsy, and collie eye anomaly.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only dog breed to originate in Iceland. It is one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world. This small-medium-sized breed is cheerful, friendly, and inquisitive. They’re often described as an entertaining breed of dog with a fun sense of humor.

The average male stands at 18 inches tall and weighs 30 lbs. While the average female is 16.5 inches tall and weighs 25 lbs. They’re usually a mix of orange and white but can have black in their fur too. These dogs are fairly rare in the US, ranking 155 out of 197 in popularity according to the AKC. They need brushing twice a week due to their profuse double coat and daily brushing during shedding seasons.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are very active dogs that need moderately daily exercise as well as lots of fun and affection. Their average lifespan is 12-14 years. They are prone to hip & elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Famously the beloved companions of Queen Elizabeth II, Welsh Corgis are alert, lively, fearless, sensitive, and loyal. This is probably why they’re one of the most popular herding dogs in the world! They’re also a very popular pet breed in the US, ranking 13 out of 197 for popularity according to the AKC as of 2021.

Bred in Wales for herding cattle, this small breed of dog has an average height of 10-12 inches, and a weight of around 28-30 lbs depending on the gender of the dog. Corgis have a thick, waterproof, orange and white coat that sheds on a daily basis and requires daily brushing. They love family life and are happiest when they have a job to do.

They have an average lifespan of 12-13 years. Although they are generally healthy dogs, they are susceptible to getting elbow and hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, Von Willebrand’s disease, plus a number of eye and heart problems.

East-European Shepherd Dog

The East-European Shepherd is a Russian breed of dog that looks a lot like the German Shepherd. However, they’re quite a bit larger in size in comparison and are very resistant to the cold.

They were originally bred for farm work, but now commonly work in the police and the military due to their hardiness. The breed is very intelligent, courageous, determined, and tough. The average height of an East-European Shepherd is 26-30 inches for males and 24-28 inches for females. Whilst their average weight is 77–132 lbs for males and 66–110 lbs for females.

These dogs can be aggressive without early socialization. East-European Shepherd dogs need a lot of social interaction and exercise. They don’t do well left alone for long periods of time. They need only weekly brushing during non-shedding seasons, and daily bruising during shedding periods.

Bearded Collie

Bearded Collies, also known as Beardies, originated in Scotland as farm dogs. They are a medium-sized dog breed with an average height of 21-22 inches for males and 20-21 inches for females. They weigh somewhere between 45 – 55 lbs depending on the gender of the dog.

These dogs are bouncy, smart, charismatic, independent-thinkers. Beardies have a long, shaggy grey coat that requires daily brushing and extremely expressive faces. They need plenty of outdoor exercise, social interaction, fun, and games. The breed ranks 127 out of 197 in popularity according to the AKC.

Bearded Collies live for around 12-14 years. Common health problems faced by Beardies include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, plus various autoimmune problems, eye problems, and allergies.

Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdogs were bred in Belgium for farm work but are now used in police work and dog sports. They are intelligent, observant, sensitive, loyal, and serious-minded dogs.

The medium-sized breed stands at 22-26 inches tall and can weigh anywhere between 45-75 lbs, depending on the gender of the dog. Their coats are collie-like, but all black in color, and the breed craves companionship and love. These dogs are highly trainable and built for hard work. They and are happiest when they have a job to do. They need weekly brushings and plenty of daily exercise.

Ranking 125 out of 197 in popularity in the US, they have an average life expectancy of around 12-14 years. Belgian Sheepdogs are susceptible to epilepsy, elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, and cancer.

Rough Collie

Another Collie breed, Rough Collies also originate in Scotland and were bred for herding sheep. They’re a medium-sized breed, standing at 21 to 26 inches tall on average and weighing 35-75 lbs depending on the gender of the dog.

Their fluffy fur is most often sable and white but can be tri-colored or merle. They are generally resilient, gentle, and sweet-natured dogs that love children & other animals. Rough Collies require brushing once a week, and an hour’s exercise a day. They also need lots of love and affection and are perfect family dogs.

Rough Collies have an average lifespan of 11-14 years and can suffer from hip dysplasia, collie eye anomaly, and progressive retinal atrophy.

Dutch Shepherd Dog

Originally bred in the early 1800s in the southern part of the Netherlands for farm work, the Dutch Shepherd is lively, bright, strong-willed, and athletic. These days, they often compete in dog sports, work in search and rescue, and as police dogs due to their athleticism and obedience.

A medium-sized breed, the average height and weight of a Dutch Shepherd are 21.5-24.5 inches & 42-75 lbs depending on the gender of the dog. Their appearance is similar to the German Shepherd, but their coats are brindle-colored and can be long or short-haired. Long-haired Dutch Shepherds need weekly brushing sessions, while short-haired dogs only require occasional brushing. Both kinds will need brushing every day during shedding seasons.

These lesser-known dogs are highly trainable don’t mind being left alone for long periods of time. That said, they do need lots of love and mental stimulation. They have an average lifespan of 11-14 years and don’t tend to suffer from many health issues. But, occasionally, long-haired dogs can suffer from thyroid issues, and short-haired dogs can suffer from Goniodysplasia.

Australian Shepherd

Known as the cowboy’s sheepdog of choice, Australian Shepherds look very similar to blue merle Border Collies, but with additional brown markings. They’re hard-working, intelligent, and full of joy. Australian Shepherds are a popular breed of dog, ranking 17 out of 197 for popularity according to the AKC.

Despite their name, they are not actually from Australia. It is believed that they came from the Basque region of Spain. Then, when Basque shepherds took their dogs to Australia and then the US, they were given the name. A medium-sized breed, the average female is 18-21 inches tall and weighs 40-55 lbs. While the average male weighs 50-65 lbs and stands at 20-23 inches tall.

This breed only needs weekly brushing sessions but does need an hour or two of outdoor exercise a day, plus plenty of mental stimulation. They’re happiest when they have a job to do. Their average lifespan is 12-15 years, and are generally healthy dogs. They are, however, susceptible to hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts, and certain forms of cancer.

Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs were bred to herd and guard livestock in the Anatolian peninsula in Turkey and descend from some of the oldest known domesticated canine bloodlines. They are fiercely loyal, calm, quiet, and independent, but with the right amount of training and socializing, can be very friendly.

This large breed stands at around 29 inches tall for males, and around 27 inches tall for females. Males weigh about 110-150 lbs and females somewhere between 80-120 lbs. They have short beige coats with black masks and ears and bushy tails.

They rank 90 out of 197 for popularity in the US according to the AKC and are very protective, loyal, and loving towards their families, including children and other pets. However, owners of Anatolian Shepherds must be strong leaders with patience in order to train this independent-minded and often stubborn breed.

herding breeds are intelligent dogs
Herding dogs are smarter than what humans realize!

Types of Shepherd Dogs: FAQ

What is a Shepherd Dog?

A Shepherd Dog is a kind of working dog that was bred to herd and guard livestock, typically sheep. Although it could be another type of livestock, such as cattle. The most famous examples of Shepherd Dogs include Border Collies and German Shepherds.

How many different breeds of Shepherd Dogs are there?

The term Shepherd Dog just means ‘sheep herding’ dog, and whilst there is no official record for how many herding dogs there are, it’s thought that there are about 30 different breeds of herding dogs in the world, 12 of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club.

What are the characteristics of a Shepherd Dog?

Because of their working DNA, Shepherd Dogs are naturally highly intelligent, observant, communicative, fast learning, and very trainable. Their working background also means that they are extremely energetic, playful, protective, loyal, and courageous. 

How do I care for a Shepherd dog?

Shepherd Dogs need very specific owners & families that can meet their needs, and preferably a home with a garden. Depending on the breed, Shepherd Dogs need between 1-2 hours of physical exercise a day, and because they are so intelligent, they need just as much, if not more mental stimulation through games, toys, and social interaction. 

Are Shepherd Dogs easy to train?

Shepherd Dogs are highly trainable due to their intelligence. However, their cleverness also makes them susceptible to boredom. Owners should keep training sessions concise, creative, and exciting to avoid boredom and stubbornness. 

Are Shepherd Dogs Aggressive?

Most breeds of Shepherd dogs are protective due to their working origins but not aggressive by nature. However, some Shepherd breeds are known to have more instances of aggression, such as the German Shepherd.
As with all dogs, early training and socialization are essential, and just like human beings, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened or if they feel like their family is being threatened. A dog’s perception of threatening behavior may be skewed if they have a background of abuse.

Are Shepherd Dogs high maintenance?

Shepherd Dogs are not low-maintenance dogs. They need owners with a lot of energy and time to spend exercising the dog’s body & mind on a daily basis.

shepherd dogs as companions
It is important to know that these dogs need an active handler to satisfy their energy levels.

Those are our favorite types of Shepherd Dogs. Shepherd Dogs are fantastic dogs with a high IQ – but they need very dedicated families to keep up with them! Are you thinking of getting a Shepherd Dog or do you already have one? Which breed is your favorite and what do you love most about them? Let us know in the comments down below!

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