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8 Best Small Herding Dog Breeds (With Photos)

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Herding dogs come in different sizes and shapes. There are large herding breeds, medium-sized herding breeds, and small herding breeds. However, regardless of size, all herding breeds share an instinctual ability to control sheep and cattle movement. Herding breeds were created to muster, herd, and protect livestock.

These breeds' herding instinct is so strong that they have been known to gently herd their owners when kept as pets. Generally, herding breeds are very smart and full of energy. As such, they make excellent companions for active people. Consider the following small herding dogs if you are seeking a herding dog breed but prefer a smaller size. These breeds may be small but they have big personalities.

1. Welsh Corgi

A Welsh Corgi

Welsh Corgis are built long and low but don't let their compact size fool you. These dogs are surprisingly quick and agile. They are one of the most popular herding dog breeds on earth. Also, Welsh Corgis are among the most agreeable of all small house dogs. They are big dogs in small packages. Originally bred to move cattle, these little herders are fearless and independent.

What's more, Welsh Corgis are very bright and sensitive and therefore make vigilant watchdogs. Furthermore, these lively little herders are very playful and respond well to training. Welsh Corgis are recommended for families who can meet their need for activity and togetherness. Welsh Corgis are generally healthy dogs with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years.

2. Miniature American Shepherd

A Miniature American Shepherd at a dog show

The Miniature American Shepherd is a small type of herding dog that originated in the United States. It resembles a small Australian Shepherd because it descends from small-sized Australian Shepherds. Minis share many physical and behavioral traits with their forebear the Aussie, albeit on a smaller scale. Like the Welsh Corgi, the Miniature American Shepherd is a true herder in spite of its compact size.

The breed is energetic, versatile, rugged, and extremely intelligent. Minis can be black, blue merle, red, and red merle. The breed, also called the Mini Australian Shepherd, is increasingly becoming popular in the U.S. thanks to its portable, apartment-friendly size and striking good look. The Miniature American Shepherd is "arguably the dog breed of the moment," says Eliza Brooke, a writer for Vox. Like many smaller breeds, the Mini American Shepherd has an average lifespan of 12 to 13 years.

3. Shetland Sheepdog

A Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, aka the Sheltie, is a small herding dog native to the Shetland Islands of Scotland. This small Scottish dog breed is known to be extremely intelligent, quick, and obedient. Shelties resemble their bigger cousin, the Collie. Therefore, you could call the Sheltie a miniature rough-coated Collie. The breed is quite bright and eager to please. Not to mention they are affectionate family dogs.

Shelties like to bark and have a propensity to be reserved toward strangers. These qualities make them excellent watchdogs. They are generally healthy dogs, though they can be prone to hip dysplasia, thyroid disease, eye diseases, and epilepsy. The life expectancy of the Shetland Sheepdog is between 12 and 14 years.

4. Pumi

Four Pumi dogs

The Pumi is a lively little herder from Hungary. The breed is described as being capable of gathering and keeping sheep under control. The American Kennel Club calls the breed a "compact, nimble-footed herder." Easily recognized by a corkscrew-curled coat, the Pumi is famous for its smarts, agility, and boldness.

This breed is all kinds of cute and at a glance, it might be hard to believe it was bred to herd livestock. However, beneath this cuteness lives a tough herder with a seemingly endless capacity for work and play. Pumis are generally a very healthy breed with an average of 12 to 13 years.

5. Swedish Vallhund

A Swedish Vallhund standing in the middle of a field

The Swedish Vallhund, aka the Swedish cow dog, is a small herding breed native to Sweden. It is the American Kennel Club's 156th breed. The breed's name, Vallhund, translates to herding dog in English. It was originally bred to drove and herd cows. The breed is described in terms of temperament as watchful, friendly, intelligent, energetic, alert, and fearless.

The Swedish Vallhund is built long and low the ground and at a glance resembles the Welsh Corgi. The AKC calls the Corgi Swedish Vallhund's distant cousin. Generally, the Swedish Vallhund is known for its zest for life and cheerful demeanor. Like the Welsh Corgi, the Swedish Vallhund's life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.

6. Pyrenean Shepherd

A happy Pyrenean Shepherd running

The Pyrenean Shepherd is generally described as a small herding dog with an intelligent gaze. This breed is thought to be among the Australian Shepherd's ancestors. It is a tough, lean, and lively herder that comes in two coat varieties: rough-faced and smooth-faced. Like all herding breeds, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a high-energy dog. Thus, it requires regular exercise, which is vital to its mental, emotional, and physical health. With a life expectancy of 15 – 17 years, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a very healthy breed.

7. Puli

Mark Zuckerberg's Puli dog

No other dog breed can be mistaken for the Puli, a small-medium Hungarian herding dog. It is described by the AKC as a compact but powerful herder. The instantly recognizable feature of this breed is its dreadlocks, which require lots of attention. However, under the dreads, resides a remarkably agile dog known as the 'acrobat of the dog world.'

This agile and faithful little dog is a quick learner, too. The Puli is a high-drive dog who needs as much mental exercise as physical. The breed excels at various canine activities including obedience, herding, and agility. Pulis' life expectancy is between 12 and 16 years.

8. Lancashire Heeler

A Lancashire Heeler at a dog show

The Lancashire Heeler is a clever, alert, intelligent, and friendly small herding dog. It was officially recognized by the AKC in 2024. Generally, the breed is very strong and loves participating in a variety of activities. Originating in England, the Lancashire Heeler is believed to be the result of a cross between a Welsh Corgi and a Manchester Terrier.

In its home country, the breed is known as a general-purpose farm dog, capable of both ratting and herding cattle. The Lancashire Heeler is a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12–15 years or more.


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