51 Shepherd Dog Breeds: America’s Top Dog!

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a registry of purebred dog breeds in the United States. The AKC recognizes 51 different shepherd dog breeds, which are categorized into two groups: herding and working.

Herding dogs were originally bred to herd livestock, such as sheep and cattle.

Working dogs are typically larger than herding dogs and were originally bred for jobs such as guarding property or pulling sleds.

The shepherd family of dog breeds includes some of the most popular dogs in the world, such as the German Shepherd, the Australian Shepherd, and the Border Collie. These dogs are all considered herding dogs, which means they were originally bred to herd livestock.

51. Pastore della Lessinia e del Lagorai

Image from Instagram:@alesbilf

The Pastore della Lessinia e del Lagorai is easily the rarest shepherding dog breed. It is so rare that there are no kennel clubs anywhere in the world that recognize it as an individual breed.

Furthermore, it is dangerously close to extinction due to a lack of demand in its native region and efforts are ongoing to save the breed. 

We sure do hope this works because these are some of the most beautiful dogs with their unique coats and endearing personalities.

50. Tornjak

Image from Instagram:@torpanonicuskennel

The Tornjak is more of a livestock protection dog than a basic herder. They were used to protect farm animals from wild animals encountered in the Croatian countryside.

It is safe to say that they were definitely built for the job with their large, strong bodies, agility, and confidence.

Unfortunately, as with most shepherd dog breeds on this side of the end, the Tornjak has become more and more scarce and without intervention may become extinct soon.

49. Malinois Dog

Image from Fuzzy

The Malinois dog is happiest when it is outdoors running around and burning off its excess energy. This spirited nature definitely came in handy in the dog’s herding days.

As companion pets, early socialization is crucial to a happy life together. This is because they can be quite aloof even with family members and take time to warm up to people.

This also helps prevent barking and other displays of aggression when the dog is frustrated or scared.

48. Tervuren

Image from Embark Vet

This medium-sized dog is a part of the Belgian Shepherd family of dogs. They are considered independent, standard breeds in some parts of the world and variations of the Belgian Shepherd in others.

Whatever the case, these dogs are very efficient when it comes to herding. In addition to their intelligence and keen eye, Tervuren breeds are very energetic. This allowed them to keep up with particularly playful calves, lambs, and other young livestock offspring.

47. Bohemian Shepherd

Image from Instagram:@bohemianshepherd

The Bohemian Shepherd is not as popular or common today as it was many centuries ago. Many people mistakenly believe that it is a variation of the German Shepherd.

On the contrary, it is one of the ancestors of the wildly popular herding pooch.

The Bohemian Shepherd has the same black and tan aesthetic as well as the triangular skull and perky ears of the German Shepherd. However, they are slightly smaller and have longer, thicker coats.

46. Border Collie

Image from Nom Nom

According to dog specialist Stanley Coren, Border Collies are the most intelligent of all dog breeds.

Given how easy they are to train and how responsive they are to commands, it is difficult to argue with this ranking.

The dogs were historically kept for different types of work with the main being herding. With time, they became more and more popular all over the world as companion pets. Most recently, they have taken on the role of token show dogs impressing moderators with their high IQ and their beautiful aesthetic.

45. Dutch Shepherd

Image from PetHonesty

This breed is very closely related to other popular European shepherds including the German Shepherd and the Belgian Shepherd.

The key distinguishing factor at least aesthetically is the fact that they have brindle or striped coat patterns. They also tend to have a wider variety of coat texture and length types.

Unfortunately, despite their highly active lifestyles these dogs tend to get very sickly especially as they grow older with all sorts of issues from allergies to myopathies.

44. Rottweiler

Image from Pawstruck

This is probably a breed you did not expect to find on our list of shepherd dogs but Rottweilers actually got their start in terms of human interaction as herding dogs.

Due to their strength and ferocity, they also served the purpose of protecting the livestock and their owners from wild animals as well as human raiders. This protective line of work is where they excelled the most which is why they are so popular as guard dogs today.

43. White Shepherd

Image from Pawstruck

The White Shepherd is strictly speaking not an original, independent breed. It is actually a variety of the German Shepherd based on the coat color. As the name suggests, the new line was created by selectively breeding white German Shepherds.

This was done in the USA where most of these snowy beauties were found.

Other than the color, they are just as smart and potentially dangerous as their trans-Atlantic relatives and needs early obedience training and socialization.

42. Belgian Shepherd

Image from Nom Nom

This is technically a family of shepherd dogs originating in Belgium. They vary in terms of aesthetics but for the most part, included the same set of personality traits that made them excellent herding dogs.

They are particularly intelligent in terms of both IQ and intuition which definitely came in handy when it came to herding and guarding the animals.

These traits also make it very easy to live with the dogs as companion pets especially considering their predisposition to forming strong bonds with humans.

41. Anatolian Shepherd

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The Anatolian Shepherd was valued as a herding dog for a variety of features. Its sharp senses are definitely high up on the list including its incredible sight and hearing senses. These allowed them to spot straying or lost livestock that would then be herded back to the main flock.

The senses also made it easy for the breed to spot danger from wild animals. Its strong build and bravery would then help it successfully fend off the threat.

40. Bergamasco Shepherd

Image from Instagram:@vanessalassin

The Bergamasco Shepherd dog stands out the most with its unique aesthetic. It is one of the three dog breeds with naturally dreaded fur. Their locks, however, are thinner than those on most Puli and Komondor breeds.

This breed was originally bred for use as a herding dog especially in colder regions in Italy with its thick coat offering the perfect amount of insulation for the job.

These obedient dogs are also very popular family pets in Europe and are loved for their affectionate and patient temperament, especially towards children.

39. Central Asian Shepherd Dog

Image from Petmate

The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is easily the oldest shepherding breed on our list with thousands of years of history behind it.

It is also one of the largest and strongest breeds here. For this reason, it was and is still used more as a guard dog for livestock and homes than as a basic shepherd dog.

Unfortunately, their ownership as companion pets is marred by a history of aggressive outbursts which is definitely a consideration to make before getting one.

38. Laekenois

Image from Instagram:@lakken.loke

The Laekenois is a variety of Belgian Shepherd dogs. Its classification as an independent breed varies from one kennel club to another. However, most major clubs simply classify it as a unique variation of the Belgian Shepherd Dog family.

The Laekenois stands out with the wiry coat that gives it an endearing shaggy look. The fur may be tan to fawn in color but often has scattered strands of white fur all over the body.

37. Croatian Sheepdog

Image from Instagram:@working_dogs_in_the_world

As far as grooming and health are concerned, this is a relatively low-maintenance dog breed. They tend to get along very well with humans, especially with intentional bonding efforts.

Despite fitting in so well into indoor life, Croatian Sheepdogs thrive from outdoor time and need a lot of exercises to keep them happy. They also need a lot of mental exercises to utilize their keen minds and high IQ.

36. Shiloh Shepherd Dog

Image from Petmate

Due to the popularity of German Shepherds as working breeds, many breeders used them in genetic mixes. The Shiloh Shepherd Dog is a fantastic example of this.

These were developed by breeding the popular shepherd dogs with the Alaskan Malamute. The result was a dog breed much larger and more resilient in harsh weather than the standard German Shepherd.

The Shiloh Shepherd Dog is also a bit friendlier and more gentle and better suited to life as a companion pet.

35. Bearded Collie

Image from ChomChom Roller

The origins of the Bearded Collie breed are a hotly contended topic. Wherever it is they came from, we should also be grateful to have such loving, obedient, and fun as one of man’s furry best friends.

They are also very diligent and eager to please. This made them excellent working dogs especially when it came to herding livestock. Today, it makes them fantastic house pets. They just need some form of responsibility or challenge to keep them mentally stimulated.

34. Briard

Image from Chill Paws

The Briard is probably best known for its furry face mask created by a tuft of long hair that is naturally parted and flows from the top of the skull. The coverage is so thick that all you may be able to see is the tip of the snout.

This aesthetic may take some getting used to. However, it is safe to say that their sweet, affectionate, and loyal personalities make them definitely worth making the effort for.

33. Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Image from Instagram:@dele0810

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a giant breed second only to the likes of the Kangal Shepherd as far as large herding dogs are concerned. It was developed by breeding large, ancient herding dogs like the Azerbaijani Volkodav, Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog, and Georgian Shepherd Dog.

This gave the Caucasian Shepherd Dog its large size, incredible herding skills, and protective nature.

These days, it is mainly used as a guard dog and is one of the main prison guard breeds in Russia.

32. Miniature American Shepherd

Image from Wolf Spring

The Miniature Australian Shepherd is very similar in appearance and personality to the Australian Shepherd. Some origin theories actually point to the Australian breed as the source where breeders selectively bred them for a smaller and more compact independent breed.

The Mini American Shepherd is a small breed dog and is more agile and better able to keep up with smaller livestock. These breeds are also great companion pets with their size being one of the main contributing factors.

31. Beauceron

Image from K9Cuisine

The Beauceron is one of those dogs that you have probably seen somewhere whether on TV or in real life but you just never knew its name.

Over the past several decades, this breed has grown greatly in popularity all over the world.

The main reason for this is the fact that it is so incredibly versatile. It was initially bred for use as a herding dog offering both guidance and protection to livestock.

However, its intelligence and protective nature can also be used in guarding homes, police and military work, as well as rescue efforts.

30. Old English Sheepdog

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You may take the dog away from the herd but you can never take the herding spirit out of the dog. The Old English Sheepdog is the best example of this.

These days, they are more often than not kept as companion pets. They are very easy-going and get along really well with humans whether adults, children, strangers, or friends.

However, they still display herding behavior including nudging and biting gently at children as well as smaller pets.

29. Portuguese Sheepdog

Image from Instagram:@kakkuiltanen

One of the key standout features of the Portuguese Sheepdog is the fact that its coat is only one layer thick. This may have been good enough for the warmer regions where it was used but has since seen it retired into life as an indoor, companion pet in different parts of the world.

Despite not being very widely used for herding these days, it still possesses some of the traits that made it so great at the job. These include the dog’s high intelligence and spirited nature.

28. Northern Inuit Dog

Image from Instagram:@the.compa.house

For dog lovers excited by the wolf-like aesthetic, the Northern Inuit breed is definitely worth considering.

This aesthetic was achieved by including bloodlines from dogs like the Samoyed and the Alaskan Malamute. In addition to the aesthetic, this inclusion gave the Northern Inuit dog the strength and insulation required to survive harsh winters in the rural UK.

The inclusion of German Shepherds into the mix also helped by instilling herding skills which made it popular for both guiding and guarding farm animals.

27. Akbash

Image from Instagram:@thefloofcrew

The Akbash is one of Turkey’s national dogs.

It is closely related to other shepherd breeds in the country including the Kangal and Anatolian Shepherd but is markedly smaller and leaner than its counterparts.

This build made them popular, especially where agility and speed were preferred over brute strength and an intimidating aesthetic. They are also less prone to aggression and can easily be incorporated into indoor lives as companion pets.

26. Groenendael

Image from Embark Vet

This is a variety of the Belgian Shepherd dog. They are a more recent variety and are known for their black coats and incredible athleticism.

This made them very popular herding dogs in Europe as they could keep up with large flocks for long periods of a day without wearing out.

As companion pets, they need early socialization and intentional bonding efforts to tame their wilder and more independent side. They also need a lot of playtimes to avoid mischief or even aggression from frustration.

25. Rough Collie

Image from K9Cuisine

The long, beautiful coats of Rough Collie shepherd dogs is one of the main reasons why they are still so popular today. They are particularly popular in dog show circles where their combination of aesthetics, intelligence, and obedience makes them major hits.

However, it is important to respect their roots as herding dogs. They are very keen and dominating which made it very easy for them to control both large and small livestock animals.

24. South Russian Ovcharka

Image from Instagram:@_russian_star_massandra_

The word “Ovcharka” in Russian translates to “livestock guardian dog” and that is exactly what this breed did best.

In their prime, they were used widely in rural Russia mainly to protect livestock from wild animals but also to help with herding and finding livestock that had strayed from the main herd.

They are incredibly protective of their charges and this has led to a lot of controversy over their ownership with bans in several countries.

23. Pyrenean Shepherd

Image from Instagram:@audreyriboulotphotographie

This is one of the smaller herding breeds on our list but is every bit as good at its job as the larger working breeds.

In fact, their small size came as an advantage in some terrains. Their combination of the small, compact build and their strong legs gave them the flexibility and sure-footedness needed to navigate steep and stony herding routes.

They also adapted to their environments with their thick coat which offers excellent insulation especially at night and during cold seasons.

22. White Swiss Shepherd Dog

Image from Darwin’s Pet

The White Swiss Shepherd Dog is a descendant of the German Shepherd. It was developed through selectively breeding pure, white German Shepherds and is related to the American Shepherd variety with the same history.

Years of selective breeding have changed things a little for the resulting White Swiss Shepherd compared to the original source of the genes. They are much smaller and tend to have longer coats and narrower faces.

21. Icelandic Sheepdog

Image from Bissell

This herding breed has had one of the smoothest transitions into domestic, companionship life. They are super friendly and get along with everyone including small children and pets.

They may be large, keen, and confident but the fact that they trust strangers very quickly makes them horrible for use as guard dogs. However, they are very smart and can easily be trained to bark as an alarm if unfamiliar individuals come over.

20. East-European Shepherd

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You would be quickly forgiven for confusing an East-European Shepherd with a German Shepherd. This is actually one of the three herding breeds on our list developed from the German breed for a larger and more powerful herding dog.

In this case, large German Shepherds were selectively bred to create a massive breed, capable of both herding and protecting the flock from any potential danger.

Today, they are used more as guard dogs but still have roles in the rural community as herding assistants.

19. English Shepherd

Image from Best Bully Sticks

The English Shepherd is not actually from England as the name suggests but is actually from the United States of America. Ironically, it is not recognized as an independent and standard breed by the American Kennel Club but is considered a standard breed in the UK.

Registration politics aside, this popular herding dog shares roots with other elites in this niche including border collies and the Australian Shepherd.

18. Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Image from Dog.com

What makes the Polish Lowland Sheepdog such an effective herding dog are traits like its high intelligence and obedience. These have also made it a very popular dog in Europe and North America when it comes to companionship and even in show dog competitions.

These pups also have a unique skill set that you will not find in many herding dogs on our list. This is their incredible tracking skills which have seen the pooch used in some parts of the world as hunting dogs.

17. Texas Heeler

Image from Instagram:@texasheeler

The Texas Heeler is a result of breeding between an Australian Shepherd and an Australian Cattle Dog. It is very difficult to distinguish them aesthetically from the contributing breeds, especially the Australian Cattle Dog which most of the Heeler offspring tend to resemble.

This dog combines the best of both breeds for a super-smart, keen, strong, and fast dog that is perfect for the job of herding.

16. Kangal Shepherd Dog

Image from House Carers

This dog stands out on our list as a misnamed breed. Contrary to popular belief, they are not actually herding dogs but were instead developed for the purpose of offering protection to livestock from threats like wild animals while out grazing.

This is made possible by the dog’s massive size, fearlessness, and situational awareness. They are also surprisingly fast and agile for their size and can reach running speeds of up to 50 kmph.

15. Basque Shepherd Dog

Image from 1-800-PetMeds

The Basque Shepherd Dog is not very easy to describe in terms of aesthetics given the many varieties of the pooch that are in existence. These include the larger, red-haired, and more outgoing Gorbeiakoa and the smaller, fawn-haired, and more reserved Iletsua.

Whatever the coat color or even personality is, there is no denying how intelligent these dogs are. This plus their agility made them very effective herding dogs and is why they are still widely used today in West and Central Europe as well as the USA.

14. Smooth Collie

Image from Ollie

The name pretty much gives this one away in terms of what you can expect from the aesthetics. Unlike their rough-haired counterparts, Smooth Collies have shorter coats with smoother hair.

For the most part, this is the only major difference between the two herding dogs from Scotland.

However, the Smooth Collie is sometimes considered more intelligent and much easier to train which is why they are often used as disability assistance dogs

13. Berger Picard

Image from Fuzzy

These breeds are known for their incredible smile. Ok, it may not really be a smile in the traditional sense but it is just as endearing.

Their mellow personality, high intelligence, and predisposition to forming strong bonds with humans make it seem even more like a smile than a standard facial feature 

Also known as the Picardy Shepherd, the French Native breed is, unfortunately, one of the many on our list teetering dangerously on the edge of endangerment and extinction.

12. King Shepherd

Image from Instagram:@king_shepherds_of_ig

The King Shepherd at first glance looks a lot like the standard German Shepherd. However, it is actually a mixed pooch that includes the German Shepherd and Shiloh Shepherd dogs.

This combination created a breed with the intelligence and obedience of a German Shepherd, the size of a Shiloh, and the combined strength and endurance of both breeds.

Despite being a later entry in the family of herding dogs, it is easily one of the most popular with this impressive combination of features.

11. Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

Image from Wolfgang

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a result of breeding one of the most powerful herding dogs, the German Shepherd, with a GreyWolf.

Technically speaking, these dogs were not developed for use in fields chasing after sheep. This seems like a waste of such sheer strength and talent. Instead, they were used in the military as well as in personal protection.

However, the herding side is still very strong and these wolfdogs can be very useful especially where protection of livestock is needed.

10. Carpathian Shepherd Dog

Image from Instagram:@arisdograt

Strictly speaking, the Carpathian Shepherd Dog was bred and trained more for protection and herding. For this reason, they do not display typical herding behavior like biting and noteworthy agility.

However, when it comes to protection these pups definitely stood out with their incredible confidence and bravery against all sorts of dangers from human intruders to wild animals like wolves. It also doesn’t hurt matters that they are built for strength and intimidation.

9. Canaan Dog

Image from CBD Dog Health

At first glance, the Canaan Dog looks a bit like spitz-type dogs from North and Eastern Europe as well as Asia. They have also been likened to wolves which is closer to an accurate description given their wild-dog type of aesthetic.

These dogs were used both for herding and protecting livestock in different parts of the Middle East, especially in Israel where they are believed to have originated.

8. Pumi

Image from Instagram:@gliamicidisimo

The Pumi is one of the most recent internationally standardized breeds on our list having received formal recognition in regions like the United States and the UK as recently as 2015.

This, however, does not make the Pumi sheepdog a recent breed. It has centuries of history in Hungary where it was used mainly as a herding dog. They were and still are also very popular as companion dogs for families with children as they get along very well with the little ones.

7. Catalan Sheepdog

Image from Instagram:@sadolitx

The Catalan Sheepdog is a breed that requires a lot of dedication and effort.

There will be a lot of work to put in to maintain their wild and wavy coats to keep them from getting shaggy and smelly. They also need to have their fur brushed on a very regular basis in order to minimize the intense shedding.

In addition to the grooming, Catalan Sheepdogs also require a lot of exercises which means investing both time and energy to keep them adequately stimulated.

6. Sarplaninac

Image from Instagram:@sarplaninac_rs

The Sarplaninac is a living bit of history and is widely considered one of the oldest molosser types of dogs.

These dogs are impressively devoted to their human friends and can be very protective if they feel that their families are in danger. For this reason, they are popular today not so much as shepherd dogs but as guard dogs.

They also have a friendly and playful side but require a lot of personal space as they are very independent.

5. Alsatian Shepalute

Image from Instagram:@lupin.the.direwolf

The Alsatian Shepalute is an incredibly intelligent dog. Despite their large and intimidating features, these dogs tend to get along very well with humans both family and strangers.

With these features, they have risen to popularity in North America as companion dogs in the large and giant dog niche. Their intelligence also makes them quite easy to train which is why they are sometimes used in things like rescue work and support dog services.

4. Mudi

Image from Wolfgang

The Mudi dog breed from Hungary is one of the most versatile on our list of shepherd dogs. Since their discovery in their native country, they have been used all over the world for different purposes.

This includes guarding homes, guarding livestock, companionship, dog sports, and even military work. However, they are still infinitely more popular as simple herding dogs in which case their dominant personalities and athletic nature come in very handy.

3. Schapendoes

Image from Instagram:@diane_sterre_tara

Not many sheepdogs made the transition from herding to sports but the Schapendoes is one of the exceptions.

This dog is known for its incredible endurance and its high agility despite the somewhat clumsy build. These features came in very handy during their herding days when they were able to comfortably keep up with the livestock all day long. 

They are also suitable companion pets for a family as they are very friendly and affectionate.

2. Australian Shepherd

Image from Darwin’s Pet

These are also known as Aussie dogs and should not be confused with the separate Australian Cattle Dog.

Aussie Shepherds are known mainly for their unique aesthetic, especially with those that have the merle genetic mutation. Whether it is a white and tan beauty with two different colored eyes or a tricolor variation, these dogs can be quite mesmerizing.

They are also very affectionate and loyal. However, they need a little time to get used to unfamiliar individuals.

1. German Shepherd

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The German Shepherd is probably one of the most recognized dog breeds around the world today and the very same breed the 46th POTUS has. It is popular for its strength, fearlessness, high intelligence, and incredible sense of loyalty to human friends.

The German Shepherd is also one of the most effective working dog breeds whether it is guarding or even law enforcement work. It is particularly efficient as a herder and has been used over the centuries to guide and take care of both large and small livestock animals.

What Makes A Dog A Shepherd? 

A shepherd dog is one that was historically primarily used to help with herding livestock. They were mainly required to keep animals from straying from the herd or flocks. These breeds needed to be very keen and confident and to have the perfect balance between firm and gentle. These breeds also have to have high endurance to keep up with the flocks all day.

What Is The Biggest Breed Of Shepherd? 

The Kangal Shepherd is the largest of the shepherd family of dog breeds. It averages about 90 to 140 lbs in weight and 28 to 31 inches in height. The large dog has an equally large personality and requires a lot of assertiveness as well as physical strength to safely handle and keep as a companion pet.

How Do You Make A Herding Dog Happy? 

The best way to keep a herding dog happy is by giving them tasks to fulfill. These breeds were bred to handle responsibility. Lack of it often leaves them mentally frustrated and prone to lashing out. They also need a lot of exercises.

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Pete Decker