Herding dogs are dogs from any of the various breeds across the world that were trained and developed to assist with herding and managing livestock. Whether large or small, herding dogs share several traits, including high intelligence, a low boredom threshold, boundless energy and an overwhelming desire to work and herd! Herding dogs of all types can soon become bored and frustrated within a domestic environment if you are unable to provide adequate outlets for their natural instincts, one of which is the drive to herd and run.
If you want to avoid behavioural issues in your herding dog breed and are looking for some ideas to keep them entertained, give them an appropriate outlet for their energies and let them express themselves, here are a few suggestions.
If you are really committed to providing your dog with an authentic outlet for their herding talents and have the means to enable this, think about actually pro-actively training your dog in herding skills. While you are unlikely to find a helpful farmer who is prepared to let your dog loose on their sheep, you can still teach your dog basic herding skills and commands nevertheless, and consider joining a herding dog club, which will allow you further opportunities to let your dog strut their stuff. Herding competitions are often held throughout the year by herding dog clubs and country shows, and once your dog reaches a reasonable standard, you might want to consider entering a class!
Canine agility clubs and competitions don’t simulate the herding experience, but they do tick all of the boxes to provide both mental and physical stimulation for herding dogs. Agility teaches your dog superior skills of training, responsiveness and control, as well as allowing them to get plenty of exercise and keep their minds active.
Join a local agility club, and start working on some new skills with your dog.
Flyball is like a souped-up version of playing fetch with your dog, and either flyball or fetch provide two very simple ways to allow your dog to have an outlet for their energy. Flyball involves the dog chasing after a ball across an agility course, essentially combining both agility and fetch, and is one of the best ways to engage your dog and get them concentrating their energies on a goal other than chewing up everything in your house!
As with agility itself, you will likely need to find a local flyball club or group to join, to allow you to use the necessary equipment. Flyball can also be a competitive discipline, meaning that the sky is the limit!
Most dogs enjoy a game of fetch, and herding dogs are no different! Herding dogs, however, do like to take things to extremes, and will be more than happy to run and fetch for hours, until long after you are worn out!
Games of fetch can be as simple or complex as you want them to be, so don’t think that fetch has to be boring! Up your game a little by using a Frisbee or catapult toy rather than a plain old ball, and look for challenging environments to play on, so that your dog really has to work to find and retrieve their toy.
Never heard of Treibball before? You’re probably not alone! Treibball is a German invention, and frankly, it is a surprise that nobody thought of it sooner! Treibball is specifically designed to entertain herding dogs, and is probably the nearest thing to a genuine simulation of real-life herding work that you can find for your dog.
Treibball uses a range of large exercise balls (like you might find in the gym) of different sizes and colours, distributed across a field, which your dog can then “herd” and attempt to round up. It can be highly entertaining to watch, as well as providing your dog with plenty of entertainment.
Treibball is now recognised as a competitive discipline, although it is still relatively unheard of in the UK- but fortunately, it is something that you can set up for your dog yourself, without needing lots of expensive kit and equipment.
You will need a large garden, or nearby land that you are able to use to play on, as playing Treibball does take up a reasonable amount of space.
Simply buy yourself some exercise balls in various colours and sizes- these range in price from under £10 to about £20- and distribute them around the field, before setting your dog loose and using their learned commands to direct them in their herding.
The chances are that people who spot you might stop you and ask what is happening, so it is also a good way to make friends for you and your dog, and potentially get other dogs and handlers involved too!