German Shepherds as herding dogs Brief History of the German shepherd
German Shepherds originated from the German herding varieties used by local German shepherds for the guarding and herding dogs of sheep. There was a focused attempt to standardize the breed in Europe during the 1800’s. In local communities throughout Germany, shepherds bred dogs that displayed the necessary traits for sheep herding, such as strength, intelligence, loyalty, and speed. There are of course several breeds suitable for developing herding dogs such as the Border Collie and Australian shepherd among others. Herding dogs were all adept at the herding of sheep, but they varied greatly in ability and appearance. See below for a sample training video of a German shepherd herding dog.
Max von Stephanitz is credited with standardizing the German Shepherd breed. Von Stephanitz ran across a dog named Hektor at a dog show in 1899. Hektor displayed all of the attributes von Stephanitz believed herding dogs should have. Taken aback by Hector’s beauty, strength, intelligence, and loyalty, he purchased Hektor on the spot and changed his name to Horand von Grafrath. Horand became the first registered German shepherd and went on to sire hundreds of pups.
German shepherd herding dogs have been specifically bred for obedience in order to view and help the shepherd as pack leader. Thus, they have a strong pack pride, and if training methods are used that do not consider this inherent drive, the German shepherd will not be capable of working independently, whether it’s herding dogs or any other kind of working dog. Thus, proper training is essential in establishing strong herding dogs, regardless of its breeding.
Shepherds use German shepherd herding dogs to contain and control large flocks of sheep or groups of livestock like cattle. These animals must be contained in specific grazing areas and kept from neighboring crops. German shepherds use boundary control and flock containment in order to keep a shepherd’s flock from damaging crops among the many jobs of herding dogs.
Selecting the Best German shepherd for herding
When training a German shepherds for herding dogs, it is necessary to spend as much time with it as possible from the day it is born. This allows the pups to become familiar with the tones of your voice, which is crucial. The following tests should begin being performed when the pups are around three weeks old in order to determine which ones can become competent herding dogs:
Start out by putting a pan of food in with the litter. When the puppies place their full attention on the food, go somewhere where they cannot see you and make a loud noise. Do this multiple times and take note of the ones that pay no attention to the noise.
Training the young German shepherd
When the pups are 4-6 weeks old, see which puppies come to you when you call them. Take note of the ones that show the greatest interest and attraction to you.
Also during this period, put a lamb, or any other livestock they will be herding, in with the litter every other day. You want to start with a young lamb or other animal and increase the size as the puppies grow. Repeat the process every other day for three weeks and see which puppies show and maintain a keen interest in the animal. These have the best potential as herding dogs.
After the potential herding dogs are seven weeks old, put an appropriate sized lamb or calf in with the litter and notice which puppies grip the animal in the top of the neck, above the hock, and the ribs, as these are the three places allowed for gripping. Any puppies that grip the animals not in these three places should be eliminated as potential herding dogs.