Where to find breeders of GSDs that can work as sheep herders/livestock protectors? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-10-2016, 08:41 PM Thread Starter
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Where to find breeders of GSDs that can work as sheep herders/livestock protectors?

We plan on one day owning a farm and having sheep and other farm animals. I understand the difference between show and working lines, but have never researched if there are various "branches" of working lines geared towards one line of work or another. Please contact me if you know of any GSD breeders who are reputable and breed dogs who still have the ability to herd. I just went to a National Point Qualifying Sheepdog Trial in Idaho and 100% of the dogs were border collies. I believe it was an event for that breed only though. I understand that they seem to be the best at this, but it was talked about as if they are the only breed able to do this type of work.

I thought it odd to see border collies herding sheep at the local festival while Great Pyrenees guard them, whereas the GSD should/could be able to do both at the same time, cutting back on the costs and amounts of dogs it takes to run a farm.

Since my family and I have agreed to always own at least 1 GSD, it makes sense to start researching this now for our future farm life. I'm not sure if any working line GSD can be taught to herd sheep, or if there are specific qualities/traits I need to be looking for.
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post #2 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 08:33 AM
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post #3 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 08:55 AM
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Don't know this breeder personally but he a highly respected sheepherding instructor and breeds gsd's with strong herding instincts which I feel many gsd still have.
http://www.whitecloversheepfarm.com/sh-kennel.htm
I'm training my dog on sheep. We are work in progress. The sheep herding instructor says pretty much all the gsd's she has seen are interested in the sheep and do well. I have seen border collies and Australian sheepdog not interested in sheep.
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post #4 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 10:37 AM
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So you're looking for a GSD that will herd the sheep and also live with them 24/7 and guard them?
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post #5 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 11:03 AM
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Hi Wulf,

The links Jax provided above are good ones - in the "Herding German Shepherds" group on Facebook you'll see dogs with different pedigrees doing different things. If you live near New York state, you may be able to get involved with the only (I think?) active HGH opportunity in this country.

To be brutally honest, there aren't very many German Shepherds actively involved working sheep. A few here, a few there. Trust me, I'm always looking... I've been involved for about six years, and have only met a handful. Hundreds of GSD owners get an instinct test and never go any further.

If you're thinking about it for the future, I strongly recommend attending as many all-breed trials as you can. USBCHA are almost exclusively border collies, it's a shock to see any other breed entered - though there have been a few, I've been told. Personally I've never seen one, and I go to at least one or two USBCHA trials each year as a spectator. There's AHBA, AKC, and ASCA (gives preference to Aussies but other herding breeds are welcome).

The foundation/raising of puppies is very much the same, regardless of breed, and you'll be able to pick up tips and opinions on how to raise your dog to set yourself up for success. It's a steep learning curve, and you also need to learn about different kinds of sheep (there are MANY variables), different kinds of fencing, and what a livestock guardian is or is not. Most people I know use alpacas or donkeys, a few use guardian dog breeds, I don't know of anyone who has ever used their GSD to guard sheep 24/7. Immerse yourself.... you can spend an absolute lifetime learning about stockdogs, and still have more to learn. It's very humbling.
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post #6 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 11:07 AM
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You need to look into a guardian breed like a Great Pyrenees or a Kuvasz. The prey drive in a GSD is high, which means they don't usually make good guardian dogs. In Germany, yes, you will find some, but they aren't left alone with the sheep, the shepherds are also with them 24/7. Many GSDs are rough on sheep when herding so you definitely will need to look for someone like the links you were given to look for the right GSD puppy. When I was herding we didn't have any GSDs that were good on sheep. Not saying they didn't want to herd, but they were too rough with them, biting too hard, drawing blood. When you have lambs you need the right dog around them. When you're tailing them (Taking off tails) you do it without dogs. That can be fun! You get to play the dog's part yourself. When they're lambing there can be all sorts of complications and a lot of lost sleep. And they lamb in the cold weather. I've spent mornings in a barn holding up a sheep, (they're heavy!) while my friend was putting a uterus back inside the ewe. If you've never had stock before, look into it. There's a lot involved besides the dogs.


Besides all that, I can't see a GSD happy to be living with the sheep and not with you. Guardian dogs are put out as puppies with the sheep so they bond with the sheep, not with the humans. The sheep are their family, their flock, the people come second.
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post #7 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 11:17 AM Thread Starter
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So you're looking for a GSD that will herd the sheep and also live with them 24/7 and guard them?
We would be starting small and would learn as we go. We'd probably only start with a few sheep and then build up to what we can manage over time. Not sure if we'd ever grow big enough to release sheep on public lands 24/7 or if they would always stay on our property. So for now, we'd want a well-trained dog/s who live with us but can stay on our property to protect the other animals and herd them when required.
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post #8 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 11:35 AM
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You need to look into a guardian breed like a Great Pyrenees or a Kuvasz. The prey drive in a GSD is high, which means they don't usually make good guardian dogs. In Germany, yes, you will find some, but they aren't left alone with the sheep, the shepherds are also with them 24/7. Many GSDs are rough on sheep when herding so you definitely will need to look for someone like the links you were given to look for the right GSD puppy. When I was herding we didn't have any GSDs that were good on sheep. Not saying they didn't want to herd, but they were too rough with them, biting too hard, drawing blood. When you have lambs you need the right dog around them. When you're tailing them (Taking off tails) you do it without dogs. That can be fun! You get to play the dog's part yourself. When they're lambing there can be all sorts of complications and a lot of lost sleep. And they lamb in the cold weather. I've spent mornings in a barn holding up a sheep, (they're heavy!) while my friend was putting a uterus back inside the ewe. If you've never had stock before, look into it. There's a lot involved besides the dogs.


Besides all that, I can't see a GSD happy to be living with the sheep and not with you. Guardian dogs are put out as puppies with the sheep so they bond with the sheep, not with the humans. The sheep are their family, their flock, the people come second.
Isn't that the truth. Our animals have always had a knack for giving birth in the middle of the night....

Some other ideas:

See if your state extension service offers a "Sheep 101" class, many do. Also find out when and where the closest Sheep & Wool / Fiber festivals are located. Those usually offer good introductory classes about nutrition, hoof trimming, etc. Ours is held in conjunction with one of the annual BC trials, and it's one of the best opportunities to meet other people with similar interests.
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post #9 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 12:04 PM
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Former farm girl here.

You are putting the cart before the horse. Don't get your heart set on a working stock dog until your farm plans are more concrete than "future farm".

How many acres? What kind of stock? How many head? Where is this farm going to be located? What are the natural predators in that area?

Are we talking about a small hobby farm designed to put meat in your own freezer? Or a large commercial operation here? Free grazing on open acres or rotating smaller paddocks?

The dog I would have if I was running 500 head of sheep on 200 acres is very different then the dog I would have if I was raising 100 head of beef cattle on that same land. Which is a totally different dog then I would have if I had 15 head of dairy goats and some chickens on 25 acres.

Don't get me wrong... I love GSDs. But there is a reason you don't see them on large scale working farms with any regularity. The type of herding they were bred for is practically extinct in modern agriculture. No one is out there for 12 hours a day standing over a small / medium sized herd grazing them on public lands. There is very very little need for tending dogs these days. You will get the odd gsd that can adapt to other herding styles - but they are never going to be as good as the breeds that evolved to use that style in the first place. You'll run into problems like someone posted up the thread gsds being to rough on the stock (because it is a lot harder to keep hungry sheep out of the neighbors vegetable garden then to get the flock moving on open pasture).

What are your expectations of the gsd guarding your flock? I'd put my money on a gsd abandoning his charges in the middle of the night to seek out his human ^_^
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post #10 of 40 (permalink) Old 10-11-2016, 12:22 PM
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Had been working and preventing my own gsd from being rough on the sheep its natural for them to use their mouth. working on that he has calmed down much. Doing really good.
HGH sheep herding trial coming up soon -this week I think? in NY -white clover farm - I would love to go watch this.

Smaller property sheep in paddock dog in the house alerting for intruder on property furry or not. Can work.
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Last edited by Jenny720; 10-11-2016 at 12:30 PM.
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