i really liked the anatolian shepherds we met at cheetah outreach—i still don't understand how an animal that big and capable of doing so much damage can be so sweet and friendly! i was curious about how shepherd dogs learn their herding behavior and didn't manage to ask any of the staff, so i thought i'd look it up and share with you guys.
from what i found, it looks like herding is an innate, instinctual behavior in dogs, but it shows up in varying degrees depending on the breed. most dogs won't just start herding animals when they see them, and require a little training before the behavior will fully develop. even shepherd-breed dogs won't necessarily herd on their own and require a little prompting. the behavior can be pretty hilarious once the dogs figure it out though—shepherd dogs especially will try to guide or keep together groups of people, toddlers, other pets, the mailman, etc.
i was also wondering how that instinct to herd got there in the first place, so i looked into that as well.
apparently, herding is a hunting behavior that has been modified over time through selective breeding by humans. dogs use different methods of herding—"heelers" nip at the heels of their flock in order to get the animals to move, while "headers" stare down animals directly in front of them and get them to change direction and "living fence" strategists simply block the flock from moving in a certain direction by being in the way. some breeds can act both as heelers and headers, with the dogs at the back of the flock heeling and the ones at the front heading. many dogs also will bark in order to get their flock moving. pretty amazing what selective breeding can do—hard to imagine training a huge anatolian shepherd to guide rather than devour a flock of sheep!
information from here: