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What Are The Different Types Of Shepherd Breeds, And Which Is Best For Me?

Shelter worker, animal rescuer & advocate, Jan has become a well-regarded source of insights & know-how on pet care & behavior nationwide.

German and Australian shepherds have a number of interesting cousins. Learn more about them here!

German and Australian shepherds have a number of interesting cousins. Learn more about them here!

While all shepherd breeds have several things in common (herding instincts for instance), they also each have their own personalities, temperaments, and health issues that make each dog in this overall ‘shepherd breed’ unique from the group. Here we will take a brief look at many of the dogs in this category and see what makes them tick.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd

1. German Shepherds

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

High Intelligence

Very Active & Athletic

Degenerative Myelopathy

Tolerates Cold Weather

Loyal, Confident & Courageous

Requires lots of exercise - both Physical & Mental

Elbow & Hip Dysplasia

Can Live Outside with Proper Shelter and Shade

Steady, Protective, Ability to Learn Tasks

Agility & Herding

Bloat, Epilepsy, Hemophilia & Diabetes

Happiest Indoor With Family

Gentle Family Pet, Steadfast Guardian

Tracking & Dock Diving

Degenerative Disc Disease

Adapts to Apartment Living with Lots of Exercise Time

Probably the most well-known of the shepherd breeds, the German shepherd is a high-energy, extremely versatile, strong, agile, and protective dog. They are highly intelligent, enjoy learning, are very trainable, and need stimulation that is both physically and mentally challenging.

Give your German shepherd a job—yep any job—and he will most likely not only succeed at that job but also excel. This characteristic of excellence at whatever is thrown its way makes the German shepherd a very versatile working dog. They have served in many capacities including search and rescue dogs, drug dogs, explosive dogs, guard dogs, police dogs, guide dogs, show dogs, war dogs, competitive obedience dogs, actual shepherds, and yes... faithful companions/pets.

This family-oriented protector of home and people is loyal and faithful with unmatched courage and devotion. German shepherds rank moderately high in both their sociability and energy levels and tend to rank moderately low as far as emotional reactivity—this makes them great family guardians.

As with any breed, there are general characteristics that are known true for most dogs within that breed, however, all dogs have individual characteristics and personalities that make them unique. Depending on breeding, training, upbringing, and many other factors each breed can show characteristics uncommon among the breed as a whole so this needs to be kept in mind when deciding on a breed that’s right for you.

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

2. Australian Shepherds

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Good-Natured, Affectionate & Easy Going

High Energy, Need Daily Exercise & Athletic

Epilepsy, Hip Dysplasia & Heart Disease

Loves to be Indoors

Intelligent & Devoted

Long Walks/Hikes or Large Fenced Yard to run 1-2 Hrs/Daily

Hereditary Eye Diseases

Can Live Outside in Temperate Conditions

Active, Protective & Tireless

Love Chasing & Fetching - Agility, Flyball

Chronic Allergies

Enjoys Cold Weather, but not to live in it

Loves to Play with Kids

Work for its food


Does Not Like Being Alone Too Much

Tends to Get Along with Other Pets

Needs Mental Exercise

Deafness & Drug Sensitivity

Another well-known (and popular) shepherd breed is the Australian shepherd. A very smart and responsive dog that must be exercised and challenged regularly to avoid a difficult living arrangement. This dog has lots of stamina, speed, and agility and is mighty powerful and muscular for its medium size build. The Australian shepherd is athletic, bold, confident, and alert and makes an excellent working dog.

They are not just a physical powerhouse though; they are also very loving and loyal and make obedient companions. They have a protective nature and can be reserved with strangers. Another issue to watch is that they may nip at the heels of children or small animals in an attempt to herd them.

These dogs are generally healthy dogs with life spans of 12 to 15 years, but they are serious shedders and their coats should be brushed at least once to twice weekly. Speaking of their coats, they have a double coat and they come in multiple colors.

Make sure you have an active lifestyle or have plenty of ‘work’ for your dog to do if you are thinking of choosing this dog for your next pet.

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Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherd

3. Anatolian Shepherds

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Bold, Loyal, Intelligent, Steady & Independent

Likes to Run & Swim

Osteochondritis Dissecans

A Hardy Dog that can Adapt to Living Outdoors, Indoors or Both

Highly Trainable, Confident & Proud

Little Interest in Games Like Fetch or Lying Still & Chewing Toys

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Do Not Do Well In A Kennel or on the End of a Chain

Great Family Pets - Good with Children

Energetic, but Moderate Amount of Exercise is Sufficient

Epilepsy & Cardiomyopathy

Protective & Territorial - Can be aggressive if feels its pack is being threatened

1-2 Long Walks/Day

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Reserved with Others Outside of Its Family

Prone to Gastric Torsion - Bloat

Calm & Affectionate with Their Family


Anatolian Shepherds are built tough—they are large, powerful, and rugged dogs with large heads. They can be suspicious of strangers and tend to be territorial. They are devoted to their family as well as their duty to be the family’s protector. They are good with children, but not overly playful and instead more laid back and easygoing.

Anatolians need daily exercise, can be barkers (part of their watchdog duties), and have a life span of 10 to 13 years.

Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois

4. Belgian Malinois

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Stubborn, Alert & Confident

Needs Plenty of Exercise

Elbow Dysplasia

Hard-Working, Active & Friendly

Athletic & Muscular


Prefers Cool Climates, but Readily Adapts


Daily Walks Are Not Enough

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)


Great Running, Hiking & Biking Companions


Smart & Versatile

Excel at Agility, Tracking, Herding & Obedience

Can Exhibit a Wide Range of Temperament

The Belgian Malinois is a high-energy dog that requires daily mental and physical stimulation. They enjoy herding and while they can live outside in temperate to cool climates they would prefer to split their time both indoors and outside.

The Malinois is a sturdy dog with square proportions—its power without the bulk. They are intense dogs that are alert, smart, and serious, and they make both ideal watchdogs and guard dogs.

The Malinois can be aloof with strangers and they can also be aggressive towards other dogs and animals. Some in this breed can be domineering and they are known to be protective of both their homes and families.

This dog has no major health concerns and its life span is 10 to 12 years. This is a dog for more experienced dog owners.

Belgian Tervuren

Belgian Tervuren

5. Belgian Tervuren

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Alert and watchful



Best with access to house & yard

Dependable companion

Seemingly tireless

CHD, elbow dysplasia

Aloof w/Strangers

Needs strenuous activity daily




The Belgian Tervuren is a very active and energetic dog that loves to run and play outside. They especially enjoy herding activities and may even nip at the heels of children and other animals in an attempt to herd them.

These dogs are smart and obedient, but also independent. They can be very well-mannered companions in the home as long as you exercise them sufficiently on a daily basis and should have regular human interaction.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

6. Pembroke Welsh Corgis

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living


Needs daily exercise

Intervertebral disc disease, CHD

Best suited to share family home & have access to a yard

Devoted & willing to please

Daily herding session ideal’


Fun loving and amiable

Degenerative myelopathy

Reserved with strangers

Very good with children

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a quick, agile bundle of energy in a fairly small package. They are fun-loving dogs and make great companions. They are great with kids although they may nip at their heels during play.

These dogs are usually reserved with strangers and may bark a lot, but they are devoted animals and willing to please. If you’re looking for a ball of energy and fun then this dog, with a life span of 11-13 years, may be for you.

Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie

7. Bearded Collies

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Enthusiastic & Energetic

Active dog - needs vigorous play session daily

No major health concerns

Can live outside in cool climates

Smart & Obedient

Minor concerns: CHD, epilepsy, colonic disease, Addisons

Happier living inside with its family



The Bearded Collie, aka the Boisterous Beardie, is a lively and playful dog that is full of energy and enthusiasm. They are smart and obedient dogs but are also independent thinkers. They are known to have a clownish sense of humor and like children, though they may be a bit overly rambunctious for the smaller children or may try to herd them.

Bearded Collies have long coats that need brushing every other day, have no major health concerns, and a life span between 12-14 years.



8. Collies

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Gentle & devoted

Daily exercise - herding is excellent choice

Gastric torsion

Can live outside in temperate to cool climates



Such a family centered dog that they are happier indoors with family

Willing to please


Collies are a gentle and devoted dog. They are mild-mannered and friendly to almost everyone. They are willing to please their family, but can sometimes be a bit stubborn. They are smart and sensitive and some may bark a lot.

Collies are strong, active dogs that combine their strength with speed and grace. They are fairly healthy dogs with a life span of 8-12 years and can bring the right family lots of love.



9. Briards

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Devoted & faithful

Needs activity & interaction daily

Gastric torsion, CHD

Can live outside in temperate to cool climates

Loving & protective

Their favorite exercise - the chance to herd


Happiest when can be both indoors and outside


Reserved with strangers

Can be aggressive with other dogs

Briards are faithful, loving, devoted dogs and protective companions. They are an intelligent, independent and self-assured dog that is willing and eager to not only please but to be a partner in adventure with their family.

The Briard can be reserved with strangers and aggressive towards other dogs and may even nip at people’s heels during play. While Briards are young, they should receive a lot of socialization.

Briards are considered to be a ‘boundary herder’ which means they act like a moving fence to keep their flock contained in an unfenced area.



10. Belgian Sheepdogs (Groenendael)

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Playful, protective

Needs room to move

No major concerns

Can live outdoors in temperate to cool climates

Independent, Intense

Needs a good deal of exercise

Minor concerns: seizures, skin disorders, allergies, hypothyroidism

Very family oriented so happiest sharing time inside with family

Aloof with strangers

Can be aggressive towards other animals

The Belgian Sheepdog, or Groenendael as it is also known, is an ever-watchful and protective dog. They seem to always be on the move and tend to move in circles rather than straight lines.

These dogs can be playful, are alert and intelligent, and will protect their homes and families. They should be with families that have experienced owners as some can be a bit domineering and intense.

Hardworking Dogs

So, as you see, shepherds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with varying temperaments and needs, but a few things many seem to have in common are their love of herding, their work drive, and their protective nature over what is theirs.

If you are looking into getting a herder, shepherd, or working breed, be sure to do your research so you have a better understanding of what you are getting into and what you can most likely expect. Happy Herding!

Other Breeds That Could Fall Under Shepherds

  • Bohemian
  • East-European
  • Icelandic Sheepdog
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • Belgian Laekenois
  • Beauceron
  • Bucovina
  • King Shepherd
  • Pakistani
  • Panda
  • Polish Lowland
  • Shiloh
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Finnish Lapphund
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Canaan Dog
  • Bergamasco Sheepdog
  • Benger Picard
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi

How Much Do You Know About Shepherds?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which dog does the US Military prefer on their team?
    • Anatolian Shepherd
    • German Shepherd
    • Groenedael
  2. Belgian Malinois were bred to be...
    • Herding dogs
    • Guard dogs
    • Family dogs
  3. Collies are from...
    • Ireland
    • England
    • Scotland
  4. What breed was the celebrity dog ‘Strongheart’?
  5. What breed of dog was Lassie?
    • Australian Shepherd
    • Collie
    • Shetland Sheepdog
  6. Did Belgian Malinois dogs ever serve in the military?
    • Yes
    • No
  7. What does the word corgi mean?
    • Little herder
    • Fierce fighter
    • Dwarf dog
  8. Australian Shepherds come from...
    • United Kingdom
    • Australia
    • Spain
  9. Bearded collies are from...
    • Scotland
    • Poland
    • England
  10. Which branch of the US military used Belgian Malinois dogs most often?
    • Army Rangers
    • Navy Seals
    • Army Special Forces

Answer Key

  1. German Shepherd
  2. Herding dogs
  3. Scotland
  4. German Shepherd
  5. Collie
  6. Yes
  7. Dwarf dog
  8. Spain
  9. England
  10. Navy Seals

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 JanMarie Kelly

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