Far and above anything else the German Shepherd Dog (GSD or GSDs) Breed was bred as an aid and helper and worker for the German Shepherd. The breed was developed as a Herding, Guarding of Livestock, Sheep (or other herd animal) Dog. Breeding for color or size was NOT important, breeding for temperament, working conformation, and natural abilities in herding were. Shepherds did not always have fences to keep their animals within, in fact, fencing is a relatively new item set up to divide herds one from another. It used to be people had their animals out on the range and moved with the grass available. Thus the need for a good Shepherd Dog or two.
The dogs jobs were to move the animals, keeping them together, that is what "herding" actually is. The dogs also warned of trouble, kept coyote and wolves away from the stock, and aided the Shepherds in any way the Shepherds trained their dogs.
An intelligent, loyal, brave dog was needed for this task. Shepherds needed a good sized dog, but were sure not picky about how tall or how much the dog weighed. The Shepherds needed a dependable Working Dog, not a dog of a certain color. (although some did use large white dogs more for Guardian Dogs, the white was so that the coyotes and wolves would not notice the dog in the flock...so why is it we are told that animals are color blind???? Not so.) One thing that Shepherds noticed however was that Darker Faced Dogs intimidated the sheep and often other livestock more than a lighter colored dog. This is why the GSD should be a rich dark color. This is also why the White German Shepherd Dogs are disqualified for the Conformational Show Ring. White dogs also dilute the dog's colors when bred into GSD lines. Darker dogs intimidate the reason the GSD were bred in the first place.
GSDs were bred for and have an instinct to herd. But that instinct has to be trained or taught to perform the job of herding. I had a GSD named Tabitha, an all black beautiful dog. I wish I had a photo to insert here....we lost all of the photos that were on our back shelves in N WI to Black Mold. I also lost yeeeears worth of Animal Books, that I started collecting at about age 6.
Tabitha, when we came home, five of us, my husband and three young children, as we would spread out when we came through the front door, heading to whatever room we were each heading too, Tabitha used to try to keep us right there in the Entry Room so that she could "inspect" us first. If we came in and stood still, just for a moment, she would be fine. If we hurried off, she would kinda get anxious, not excited, nothing you could call wrong, she just kinda tried to herd, or keep us gathered there, so she could sniff us first.
But what is herding? Herding is a job a dog does. It might be that it brings all of the animals, goats, sheep, cows, geese, whatever type the job requires, into or out of an area. GSDs have the INSTINCT to do this job, but will need to be trained on the hows of this job. Instinct could mean "natural ability" and it might not.
If a Breeder tells you that their dogs Herd.....ask to see it in motion. Make sure that the dog is not just chasing the animals it is suppose to be herding. There is a huge difference.
If you want to train your dog to Herd, teach them. The first thing and above all else, you will want to socialize your puppy and or dog to the type of animals it will be working with. You do not want your dog to kill or attach the very animals it should be working to keep safe.
You can find not only books and videos on training your dog to Herd, there are also clubs and classes you and your dog can take. And boy, will that be a proud moment, when you see your dog move other animals to the spot you ask the dog to take the animals.
This is 9 month old Todd, yes, a Collie, that belongs to very good friends of ours, in fact Todd's owner's mother is a GSD Breeder of beautiful Classic or Old Style, Working, GSDs. As you can see from the photo, Tood is moving the geese at geese speed without making them run scared. This is all part of the training a dog must have when it is to be a herding dog. Note that Todd is not chasing the geese, but moving them where his Human wants the geese to be. THIS is what herding is.
I would like to invite you to join us on a Yahoo Group that I host called Working Big Dogs.
-- The Working German Shepherd Dogs Team
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 13:39:01 -0400