The WGSDCA breed standard for the white German Shepherd Dog says “The White German Shepherd Dog is a herding dog.” German Shepherds were originally bred for the job of herding sheep and other livestock and the white coated dogs are no different. Although many people use herding as a reason to disqualify the white coated dogs from the conformation ring, this is a longstanding and wholly inaccurate myth. White coated dogs are just as likely to have a herding drive and excel at herding as their colored counterparts.

The argument most often stated against white GSDs herding is that they are harder to see against the sheep since their color blends in with the sheep. This argument might sound good in theory, but in reality there are several reasons why this is untrue. First, white sheep aren’t pure white. They are a more grayish color and the dogs are not the same color as the sheep. Second, not all sheep are white. Some sheep are dark brown, but no one claims that black/tan GSDs are ill suited to herd brown sheep. Third, since the lighter coat reflects sunlight better, there is an argument to be made the white dogs would be able to work better in heat and extreme sun. At the end of the day, the color of a herding dog is largely irrelevant. As Max von Stephanitz, the father of the GSD breed said “Our German Shepherd dogs, have never been bred for colour, which for the working dog is a matter of quite secondary consideration.”

Today, very few GSDs of any color spend their lives herding livestock. For the most part in the United States, if a dog is involved in herding, he will do so as a hobby or a competitive activity. Many places of the country have herding tests and trials for all herding breeds. A herding test is a test to determine herding instinct and basic aptitude for herding while a trial is a competitive event for herding. Herding titles can be earned from tests or trials and tests are usually a precursor to trials.

Most GSDs have an innate herding drive and some animals have a very strong one. Herding is a wonderful way to give these dogs an outlet to express the instincts that were bred into them. A dog that does the job he was bred for is a happier dog and a happier dog has a happier owner.

Herding Venues