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Herding breeds tend to be bright, easy to train, loving and loyal — qualities that make them as well-suited to providing companionship as they are to keeping livestock in line. But these dogs also come with a lot of energy and a strong herding instinct, which can make living in an apartment with them a special challenge. Providing indoor activities for herding dogs is one way to make apartment living more tolerable. Learn more about herding behavior in dogs and how to make apartment life more comfortable for you both.
Herding Behavior in Dogs
Herding dogs come equipped with innate predatory sequence that gives them the ability to hunt and catch prey, says American Kennel Club. This sequence includes searching, stalking, chasing, grabbing, killing, dissecting and consuming. Over time, people bred dogs to either bring out or suppress various aspects of this predatory sequence to suit their purposes. Herding breeds, like Australian shepherds, border collies and German shepherds, all retain the instincts to search, stalk and chase and, in some cases, to bite. These skills make herding dogs excellent at keeping sheep and cattle in line.
Because of these instincts, herding dogs are generally happiest when they have an outlet for their instincts and the abundant energy that goes along with them. Without a way to focus their energy, these dogs can be prone to problematic behavior, such as trying to herd and boss around children, other pets and even adults, which might include nipping and biting. Therefore, it's important to provide a constructive way for your herding dog to exercise these instincts.
Considerations for Apartment Living with Herding Dog Breeds
While herding breeds generally do best with a big yard, they're intelligent and trainable dogs who adapt well to apartment living if certain conditions are met. An apartment complex with a nearby dog park can substitute for a yard and provide your dog a place to run, burn off excess energy and play a nice game of fetch that can help satisfy their herding instincts. Otherwise, you'll need to take your pooch on plenty of walks, or possibly even take up jogging with them to satisfy their daily exercise needs. Agility training and other dog sports are an excellent outlet for your herding dog's stalking and chasing instincts. If your dog will be left home for long periods of time, it's best to crate them up with plenty of interactive toys to keep them out of trouble while you're gone.
Herding breeds come in a wide range of sizes, with some better suited to apartments than others. Both the Pembroke Welsh corgi and Cardigan corgi are on the smaller side and make excellent apartment dogs. Mid-size breeds like border collies and Australian cattle dogs can also adapt well to apartments, provided they get enough play and exercise. Even a large German shepherd can do well in an apartment, so long as you can commit plenty of time each day to walking them to keep them happy. If you live in an apartment and you're considering a herding dog, research the different herding breeds and make sure you'll be able to meet their exercise, activity and training needs.
Indoor Activities for Herding Dogs
If you can't get outside with your dog, here are a few indoor activities that can provide a good outlet for your pup's herding instincts.
- Treibball: Pronounced "tribe ball," this is a sport designed just for herding breeds. While it's typically played with groups of dogs, you can easily adapt it for at-home play, suggests Cuteness. Simply provide your dog with several inflatable fitness balls of varying sizes and colors, to stand in for livestock. The object of the game is to get your pup to "herd" the balls from one end of the room to the other.
- Hide-and-Seek: This game requires no special equipment and is a fun way to bond with your dog. Simply hide in various places around your apartment, and let your pooch seek you out, rewarding them with a treat when they successfully find you. For an alternative way to play, hide treats and toys around the apartment for your pup to find.
- Indoor Fetch: Herding dogs love fetch. If you have sufficient space, such as a large living room or a long hallway, tossing your pup's favorite toy for them to chase and retrieve is a great way to satisfy their instincts to chase and grab.
Although herding breeds aren't ideally suited to apartment life, if you're willing and able to put in the time to provide them with plenty of activity and exercise, many herding dogs can be as happy living with you in your apartment as they would be on any farm or homestead.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.