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Home of Canada's No.1 High in Trial Herding German Shepherds

History of the German Shepherd and Herding

To understand how to train a German Shepherd Dog, one must first understand the type of herding it was originally bred for and how it differs from the type of work for which a Border Collie and many upright breeds were developed.

Tehillah German Shepherd  herding flock of sheep.

The German Shepherd Dog was originally bred to work a large flock of sheep (usually over 100) as a moving fence line. This is often referred to as Tending or Boundary work.

Tehillah German Shepherd dogs, herding, path, boundariesBoundary work with the German Shepherd originated in Germany where areas to graze sheep were often small and unfenced. The sheep were constantly moved to different areas to graze and the German Shepherd dog was used to move the sheep to different areas as well as contain the sheep to a specific area to graze. These areas were often bordered by valuable farmer crops and was /is the dogs job to keep the sheep out of them. Between grazes the sheep would be moved along narrow roads where there was often traffic. The area sheep often grazed was where the crops had already been harvested. You would find these areas next to fields that still contained crops.

The German Shepherds worked or patrolled along the border or furrow at the edge of the field. The dogs knew or are trained to not enter the sheep graze but are allowed to bite or discipline any sheep that exits the graze.

Grips are only allowed on the neck, the side or the rump of the sheep. These areas have sufficient wool and muscle to protect the sheep from any damage the grip might do. Gripping in these areas are genetic, not taught.

Tehillah German Shepherd dog herding Sheep, moving fence line, boundaries

The sheep originally used in tending are a large wool sheep. They are used to having dogs around them and will often eat right to the border where the dog is patrolling. The Shepherd (person) shows the dog the boundary or border and in trun the dog shows the sheep the boundary.

German Shepherds were bred to be very keen so that they kept their interest in the boundary or working non moving sheep that are grazing. They need to have confidence, herding instinct, strong prey drive, endurance, solid temperament, alert, aloofness with strangers, strong work ethic and be a team player (biddable).

Shelley with German Shepherd, herding sheepThis type of work also requires a dog who is trainable, a willing worker, courageous, and physically sound. It requires a dog who can work on it’s own making correct decisions without owner input. Their conformation is also very important. They need to have good feet, thick pads, smooth movement, agile, good coat, and balanced front and rear angulation (not over angulated). A dog that is put together correctly will be able to do its job better and last longer doing it.

The above traits also allow the German Shepherd dog breed to work endlessly searching for victims or evidence, in explosive/narcotic detection work, as patrol partner for police, military, or security. These are also traits that make this breed a wonderful companion and family dog.

Tehillah German Shepherds can work the toughest jobs and still be a family dog as shown here with a little girl hugging Tikka while a puppy is nursing.


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