English Shepherds were originally bred to be all-around helpers on the farm, from herding and varmint hunting to protecting poultry and their farm family. Stories abound of dogs that have learned the routine of the farm and would make sure the livestock stayed where they were supposed to be, even with holes in the fence or gates left open. There are dogs that have returned stock that escaped, by themselves, as well as stepped in to protect their people in dangerous situations, making them a natural livestock dog.
In general, English shepherds handle whatever kind of livestock their owners have, from cattle, goats and sheep to chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. With training most dogs can adjust their working style to handle a variety of livestock; they were selectively bred to be a multi-stock working breed.
They are highly intelligent, making them self directed workers capable of complex problem solving.
The English Shepherd can be trained to perform various functions on the farm or ranch. They possess high trainability and a strong desire to please their owners. Most can perform routine jobs after just a few exposures.
The English shepherd is a loose upright style of working dog. They approach their job from a managerial point of view, not from a prey drive attitude. They develop a relationship with their stock. This allows them to move amongst their charges calmly as a guardian, as well as direct the movement of the stock when needed in a steady manner, when asked. They tend to use no more force than is necessary to get the job done.
Coyotes and larger predators can harm English shepherds and it is not safe for either dogs or stock to rely on them for this type of guardian role.
Since the English shepherd creates a relationship with their stock they are generally nurturing toward them, including the young. They will tend to those that need it and let the owner know if something is amiss. They are concerned with the health and well-being of their flock and are accepted by the stock. Once they learn their job, this trait allows the English shepherd to be out amongst the stock without working them; they are alert to the presence of predators, including hawks, foxes, and raccoons and will guard the stock against them.
Training Owners and Dogs
English Shepherd Club sponsored gatherings and associated events are great places to learn about the capabilities of English shepherds and how others are using them with livestock. See ESC Event Gatherings here or learn more about planning an event.
Learn more about English Shepherds at Work.