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pastoral dogsPastoral dogs are those bred to work with any kind of livestock animal. Generally these breeds can be further divided into those breeds developed for herding livestock and those breeds developed for guarding livestock. 

Formerly categorised as members of the working dogs group, these generally smaller breeds have only recently been grouped together under the Pastoral heading.

livestock guardian dogsUnlike herding dogs such as the Border Collie, livestock guardian dogs do not control the movement of the flock, instead they tend to blend into the herd, generally ignoring the individual animals in favor of keeping an eye out for potential threats.

Livestock guardian dog breeds were probably among the first dogs to be domesticated. They originate in Europe and Asia, where they have been used for centuries to protect livestock from predators.

Although often referred to as sheep dogs or shepherds these dogs are capable of guarding other species of livestock such as cattle, goats and reindeer. As puppies they are introduced to the animals they will protect; a livestock guardian raised with sheep will not guard cattle, likewise a dog raised with cattle will not guard sheep. 

The three qualities most sought after in livestock guardian dogs are trustworthiness, attentiveness and protectiveness—trustworthy in that they do not roam off and are not aggressive with the livestock, attentive in that they are situationally aware of threats by predators, and protective in that they will attempt to drive off predators.

When introduced to a human family as a pup, most livestock guarding breeds are as protective of their family as a working guard dog is of its flock, however, these are large, powerful dogs and therefore perhaps not ideally suited to suburban lifestyles. A dog of one of the breeds selectively bred for livestock guardian work can be the wrong choices for your family’s pet, due to the very traits that make a good livestock guardian. Most of the breeds contain pups in some litters that can fit the role of pet, but perhaps not the kind of pet dog you had in mind. A Great Pyrenees, for example, is not the equivalent of a Newfoundland that happens to come in white. The two breeds are worlds apart.

herding dogsHerding dogs were developed to assist humans in the movement of livestock, especially cattle, sheep, goats and reindeer. In non-working environments pure instinct prompts many of these dogs to gently herd their owners, especially the children of the family. 

The demands placed on the herding breeds in the course of their work has done much to shape both the dog and it's temperament.

The Australian Cattle Dog and the Welsh Corgi have a temperament and structure suited for "heeling" stubborn cattle; their aggressive confidence and willingness to nip and bark are especially useful in the cramped confines of a stockyard.

In contrast, Border Collies herd with a silent, and non-aggressive, intense stare and crouch that mimics a stalking predator. This makes them perfectly suited for working flighty sheep at great distances from the shepherd over varied terrain.