Should You Try Herding With Your GSD?

Should You Try Herding With Your GSD?

I'll lead with a quote from the founder of the German Shepherd Dog breed.
"We must make perfectly clear to ourselves the nature of the duties of the dog with the flocks and herds, and the exact services his master the owners of the herds expected of him. The first and the earliest of these duties was to protect the herd, at rest or feeding against outside interference. The second was to keep the herd together and to prevent animals from straying at will, especially on their way to the pastures, rounding up stragglers and bringing them back again to the flock. Finally, the third duty was to protect the adjacent fields under cultivation from the greed and destructive encroachments of the feeding flocks and herds. This last duty is the chief task of the shepherd dog today, for he has become both guardian and sentry of the flocks and herds." - Max von Stephanitz

So should you try herding? I say yes, why not? This breed was meant to be the Swiss Army Knife of working dogs. Not the best at anything, but in the top three of everything. They aren't the best police dog, or best military dog, or best herding dog, or the best at tracking, or the best service dogs ... but when you're good at all of those things despite not the best at any, you end up with the best all around dog one could ask for. But before they were a breed, Max von Stephanitz was looking at herding dogs to start his breed. So technically, German Shepherd Dogs have been shepherding before they were German Shepherds.

The best two ways to get into herding is to find a club that does HGH, also known as Herdengebrauchshund, again also known as herding utility dog trials. They're sponsored by the SV (the European German Shepherd Dog registry). So contact them and get the info you need. The other way is to contact the AKC or research and find out about their herding tests and trials. Just make sure you ask for the "Tending Style" of herding. German Shepherds are not Border Collies. German Shepherds don't cut a sheep out of the herd to be medicated. They don't bring the sheep to a location like a Border Collie does either. The shepherd trains the sheep to come when called and to follow him in tending style herding. The dog's job is to be a living fence. When sheep stray, the German Shepherd pushes them back. If they try to wander into your neighbor's vegetable farm or garden, they block them. If they try to cross a road they shouldn't be in, they get pushed back to where they belong. They are truly a living fence.

Both organizations allow people to come out and train, or to compete against each other. So if you don't want to compete, no problem. If you're a competitive person, get in there and fight for your number one spot!

A lot of people who are interested in herding are also interested in getting their own sheep, goats, ducks or cattle to work their dogs on. Or perhaps they have or you have always wanted to have livestock. Or maybe you already have livestock. Either way, if you want to get your own flock or herd to work, keep a few things in mind.

Shepherds who still use German Shepherd Dogs today may only have two dogs for four hundred to six hundred sheep. Do not get a flock or herd that's too small or they won't have room to work.

Sheep can have some uhhh ... well, I was trying to think of a polite way to say this, but I don't think there's a way to. I'll say it plainly: get any sheep you're thinking of buying tested. Or make sure they're tested ... for STDs. Sheep often have syphilis or a form of chlamydia bacteria, Chlamydia psittici. This doesn't really affect a dog's ability to herd, but you don't want sick sheep, and if you want lambs, you're not going to get any. So as awkward as that just was, just be safe, and always quarantine and test new stock if you look to expand your flock in the future.

Cattle: German Shepherds are not cattle dogs. At all. That isn't their style. They'll probably just get hurt, so if that's what you want, get a heeler, which seems to be an American alias for the Australian Cattle Dog. They're less likely to get hurt, and they know what they're doing instinctively, going for noses and ankles. German Shepherds do the exact opposite. They go for the wool, not the legs or faces. Sheep are more fragile than cattle. A bite to the leg or face can cut them, so German Shepherds bite the fleece and are corrected harshly if they shake their head. Meanwhile, cattle dogs are looking for those areas, the nose, face, legs and ankles. They'd get stomped if they went for the center of mass like a German Shepherd is programmed to do instinctively.

Ducks: Yeah, maybe for a dog with very little prey drive who won't grip a sheep when you try to get them to? Otherwise, again, they're not Border Collies.

Goats: Yeah, they'll work. Just get more than you think you need. Remember, most goats don't have long hair. Also remember that German Shepherds grip to contain their flock. You don't want ten goats taking grips all day because the herd is so small that taking six steps away makes the dog think he's making a break for it. Also remember, short hair. If they keep getting singled out, there's a higher likelihood that they could get cut.

Sheep: Absolutely. This is the animal that the German Shepherd was designed to herd. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, and bacon with anything I choose because bacon is delicious! If you want goats to herd, no you don't, you want sheep. Get the sheep.

Thank you all for reading, please leave a like and share and most importantly of all, if you have experience with HGH, drop down below and let us know all about it!

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