If you’ve got a herding dog, you know they’re a bundle of smarts and energy. Keeping them happy and mentally sharp isn’t just nice; it’s a must-have. That’s where the right dog toys come in. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill chew toys; we’re talking about picks that really tap into your herding dog’s brains and brawn, warding off boredom and nurturing good habits.
In this guide, we’ll zero in on the best dog toys that are a perfect match for your herding dog’s unique spirit. From toys that stand up to their enthusiastic play to those that get their mental gears turning, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s Dive in!
All About the Herding Dog Breed Group
Herding dogs, also known as workings, have been bred for centuries to work side-by-side with humans, herding and managing livestock. These intelligent, high-energy dogs are built for the job.
Herding breeds have some key characteristics in common:
- High energy: They’ve got tons of pep and stamina to work long days
- Smart and trainable: Herders are super intelligent and aim to please
- Strong herding instincts: They have the drive to control and move animals through their intense focus
- Love having a job: Herding dogs feel fulfilled when they have purposeful work
Without enough mental and physical stimulation, these dogs can become restless or anxious. Their natural herding tendencies don’t just disappear.
Some of the most popular herding breeds are:
Border Collie – The workaholics of herding dogs. Renowned for intelligence, agility, and laser-like focus on their task. A Border Collie is happiest with a job to do.
Australian Shepherd – Despite their name, they originated in the western U.S. Tireless workers with versatility in herding, agility, and obedience. Their energy and smarts make them great, active family dogs.
German Shepherd – First used for herding sheep, now more commonly working as service, protection, and police dogs. Confident, loyal, and incredibly intelligent.
Belgian Malinois – Packed with energy, herding instinct, speed, agility, and endurance. Requires extensive exercise and mental challenges to stay happy.
Rough Collie – Known for their majestic coats and gentle nature. Bright, highly trainable herders with unmatched loyalty.
Shetland Sheepdog – “Shelties” resemble miniature Rough Collies in both appearance and abilities like herding. Eager to please and excel in obedience.
Welsh Corgi – Short-legged but agile cattle herders. Come in two breeds: Pembroke and Cardigan. It may be small, but it can expertly control livestock.
Old English Sheepdog – Known for their shaggy coat and distinctive bear-like shuffle. Adaptable, intelligent herders originally used for cattle.
Australian Cattle Dog – Bred to drive cattle across long distances. Sturdy, energetic, and intelligent with strong herding instincts.
Bearded Collie – Shaggy-coated Scottish herders known for bounding runs and loud barks used to control livestock.
Best Toys for Herding Dogs & Working Dogs
Research has shown that dogs engaged in mental enrichment activities tend to have fewer behavior issues, and when they do occur, they’re often not as severe. Enrichment toys are a great tool for herding dogs to use their natural instincts in a positive and healthy manner, significantly cutting down the chances of destructive behavior.
Sequential treat puzzle toys are fantastic at keeping your dog captivated. Much like moving up levels in a video game, these puzzles begin simply and gradually become more complex. Each level challenges your dog to use their sense of smell to figure out how to open compartments, shift blocks, and spin wheels to discover hidden treats or peanut butter. These interactive treat dispensers vary in size, color, and difficulty levels, providing a range of options to suit different dogs’ preferences and abilities.
Imagine transforming your dog’s mealtime into a fun and stimulating brain game with the Spin N’ Eat Dog Puzzle Feeder. This clever device can hold up to an impressive 10 cups of your furry friend’s preferred kibble or treats.
The concept is simple but ingenious: fill the feeder’s barrel and watch as your dog learns to spin it with their nose or paws. As the barrel rotates, it cleverly dispenses food through small holes, providing both a mental challenge and a tasty reward. This dynamic form of feeding is especially beneficial for intelligent breeds like Herding Dogs, who thrive on mental stimulation.
And here’s the kicker: the feeder includes adjustable silicone stoppers, letting you customize the difficulty level. Start easy without the stoppers for beginners, and then add them in as your pup becomes a puzzle master. This feature ensures the toy remains challenging and engaging over time, perfect for keeping your dog’s mind sharp.
Step up your dog’s playtime with this innovative bamboo “Slot Machine” Puzzle Toy. It’s like a mini-casino game for your herding dog, but with treats!
This toy features three plastic bottles, each a reservoir for delicious goodies. The game’s objective is for your dog to learn how to flip and roll these bottles to release their treats. This unpredictable dispensing mechanism not only tantalizes their taste buds but also stimulates their brain, nourishing their natural foraging instincts.
The beauty of this toy is in its adjustable difficulty – start with no lids for easy treat access, then gradually increase the challenge by covering some of the holes with tape.
To spice things up, fill each bottle with a different treat or kibble variety, creating a sensory and tasty exploration that keeps your dog engaged, excited, and mentally active.
For the dog who’s a seasoned pro at puzzles, the MultiPuzzle Level 4 is the ultimate brain booster. This intricate and interactive toy will keep your canine companion engrossed for hours.
It’s like a treasure hunt, where your dog uses their innate hunting skills to sniff out hidden treats. But there’s more – beyond just the three bottles, there are secret compartments at the bottom where you can hide their favorite snacks.
Your dog will have to slide and maneuver puzzle pieces, uncovering hidden chambers of delicious rewards. It’s an advanced puzzle that’s perfect for dogs who have breezed through the easier levels and are now ready for a more complex and rewarding challenge.
This puzzle is not just a toy; it’s a brain workout that keeps your dog mentally sharp, engaged, and endlessly entertained.
#2 Chew Toys
Herding dogs, known for their strong jaws, often exhibit an inherent desire to chew. Providing chew toys specifically designed for robust chewers can be a constructive way to redirect this natural behavior. When selecting chew toys, it’s vital to consider durability and safety. Look for toys made from tough materials like natural rubber or nylon, which can withstand vigorous chewing without breaking apart.
#3 Plush Toys
Plush toys, while not as mentally stimulating as puzzle toys, can still provide hours of entertainment. These soft toys often come with hidden squeakers, crinkles, or multiple layers, offering a surprising challenge to herding breeds. Look for plush toys that are more durable and designed for dogs who may be gentle chewers.
#4 Agility Equipment
Agility equipment offers a fantastic way to combine physical exercise with mental stimulation. Setting up an agility course in your backyard can provide your herding dog with the opportunity to run, jump, and navigate through various obstacles, mirroring the challenges they would face in herding.
#5 Tug Toys
Tug toys satisfy the natural herding instinct of these dogs while also strengthening their teeth and jaws. Ensure these toys are made from durable materials like heavy-duty rubber or double-stitched fabric to withstand intense tug-of-war sessions.
#6 Water Toys
Herding dogs who enjoy water play will love water toys. These toys often float and are perfect for fetch games in pools, lakes, or on the beach. They come in various shapes and sizes, from rings to balls, and are usually made from buoyant, durable materials.
Frisbees are a wonderful way to tap into your herding dog’s innate desire to chase and retrieve. When selecting a frisbee for your furry friend, it is crucial to choose one that is specifically designed for dogs.
You can look for some frisbees made from soft, flexible, and durable materials that will not cause any harm to their teeth or gums. These types of frisbees provide a safe and enjoyable experience for your herding dog while engaging their natural instincts.
How Much Exercise Do Herding Dogs Need?
Herding breeds are working dogs through and through. That means they need a LOT of exercise, whether they’re big or small.
The general recommendation is at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. But for young herding dogs under a few years old, their energy level is off the charts. They likely need closer to 2 hours of daily activity to stay happy and healthy!
The best types of exercise cater to both the physical and mental needs of herding dogs. Going for runs allows them to really burn off steam. But don’t stop there.
Herding dogs LOVE playing fun, interactive games with their owners. A spirited game of fetch with a tennis ball or rubber frisbee is right up their alley. These dogs will play catch until they drop, making fetch an excellent way to tucker them out.
Many owners also get their herding dogs involved in dog training and canine sports. These high-energy pups excel at agility and doggie freestyle dancing. Learning new tricks and completing obstacle courses allows them to put their athleticism to work.
Plus, training and dog sports are very mentally stimulating. Having to focus and problem-solve is tiring for their brains. And the bonus – all that one-on-one time strengthens the bond between herding dog and owner!
How to Use Dog Toys Effectively
Dog toys always provide fantastic mental and physical stimulation for energetic herding breeds. However, to really get the most benefits from these interactive toys, it’s important to use them strategically.
Here are some guidelines on effectively using enrichment toys with your active herding dog:
Rotate Toys Frequently to Prevent Boredom
One of the keys to keeping your herding dog engaged with their enrichment toys is to regularly rotate which ones you give them. If they have access to the same toys day after day, they’ll quickly become bored.
Instead, have a wide variety of puzzles, treat dispensers, chews, and interactive toys and switch them out every couple of days. Rotating toys helps keep things exciting and prevents your dog from losing interest too quickly.
Always Supervise Interactive Playtime
Although most enrichment toys are designed to be safe for dogs, it’s still important to actively supervise your herding dog any time they are playing with these toys. Make sure they are not able to tear pieces off or access any loose small parts that could present a choking hazard. Supervising their enrichment play ensures it remains a positive experience.
Provide a Diversity of Enrichment Toys
While herding dogs often develop strong preferences for certain toys, it’s important not to limit them to only one or two types of enrichment products.
Provide a range of different interactive toys to keep their playtime varied and engaging. Food puzzles, challenging treat dispensers, chew toys, tug toys, and fetch toys all provide different forms of mental and physical stimulation. Varying the types of toys you give your dog keeps them from getting bored.
Use Treats in Moderation
It can be tempting to stuff your dog’s enrichment toys chock full of delicious treats. However, it’s important to use treats in moderation. Overloading their toys with excessive treats and calories can result in unhealthy weight gain.
Our aim is to balance out treats dispensed from enrichment toys with their regular daily diet.
Incorporate Training into Enrichment Playtime
Interactive toys provide the perfect opportunity to blend enrichment with training for herding breeds. Use food puzzle toys or retrievable fetch toys to reward your dog for successfully completing commands, tricks, or agility obstacles during your playtime. This helps tire out their body and mind!
Every dog needs exercise and playtime, but herding breeds truly take it to another level. Their high energy and working drive mean they require more activity than the average pup. This is doubly true for young herding dogs who have boundless energy!
But don’t let their high needs turn you off from these amazing dogs. With the right lifestyle match and proper care, herding breeds make phenomenal pets.
The key is providing them with plenty of outlets for their energy and instincts. So be prepared to spend lots of time playing games and doing doggy obstacle courses… but the effort is well worth it!