New Zealand Heading Dog

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New Zealand heading dog
New Zealand heading dogs head.jpg
New Zealand heading dog in truck carrier box
Other names New Zealand heading dog
New Zealand eye dog
Country of origin New Zealand New Zealand
Coat smooth
Color black, white, tan
Classification and standards
Not recognized by any major kennel club
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The New Zealand heading dog or New Zealand eye dog is a farm herding dog that uses it's eyes and quick movements to control sheep. It was predominantly bred from the Border Collie, and therefore generally black and white, sometimes tan in colour.[1]


The Border Collie was a common farm dog around the Scottish border in the United Kingdom. Early British settlers to New Zealand bought these dogs with them. The Border Collie is long haired and has a tendency to lie down, and this trait was not desirable in the new country. To counter the warmer environment, shorter haired dogs were bred. They could be spotted by the farmer from a further distance since they no longer had the tendency to lie down.[2]

The New Zealand Heading Dog has been integral to sheepdog trials which likely began in New Zealand as early as 1867 in Wanaka.[citation needed] The competitive dog sport involves herding sheep around a field and into enclosures. The sport became popular on television in the 1980s when A Dog's Show was broadcast to New Zealand audiences.[3]


The New Zealand Heading or eye dog has been bred with natural abilities of being aware of its surroundings, and adapt to quick movements in its line of sight, They are classified as medium to large class dogs with long smooth and straight hair. These types of dogs are specially bred and trained for work in farms to circle sheep. The pure bred New Zealand Heading dogs are usually black and white, but some may be in colours of tan and others.[4] The New Zealand Heading Dog need a large quantity of space like farms, therefore not intended to be kept as house pets. New Zealand Heading dogs are extremely intelligent and should not be left alone for a long duration of time, they are capable of herding animals as a natural ability, if left alone for too long, they will try to escape or try to herd small animals or children.[5]

Life Style[edit]

The New Zealand Heading dog is at all times other than asleep or tired extremely active, therefore leaving them in doors like apartments or chained to backyards is highly prohibited. If they are left in doors, destruction of furniture and other household products will be guaranteed to be accounted for.[6]


The New Zealand Heading dog was originally from Border Collie which was the original breed of dogs used by shepherds from Scotland. Early New Zealand settlers brought their dogs with them to herd sheep from Scotland, and later on bred newer and more specified dogs now know as The New Zealand Heading dog. The most famous shepherd from the settlements of New Zealand was a man know as James Lillico. Both New Zealand Heading dogs and Border Collies are known for their ability to take commands from the shepherd to lie down and stay still and to circle sheep as they are commanded.[7]


Heading dogs would herd sheep packs together by running in circles and stopping to watch sheep close enough to stop one or more sheep from running away from the direction they do not want them to go. If Heading dogs were to be in the wilderness, the step after heading the sheep or other animals would be to pursue and hunt them down for the kill.

The traditional trait of any Heading dog would be the keen eye contacts it uses to notify the sheep that it is not supposed to run for its freedom and with the stare from its eye, the sheep will stop its movement and hurry back to the pack. The "eyeing" of Heading dogs come from the skills of its natural "Heading" ability which is commonly known as a trait in heading dogs.[8]


New Zealand Heading dogs are commonly known to be bred for special work just as the following categories of dogs are: Huntaway: Famously known for its loud bark to chase sheep away. Handy Dog: A breed of dog which have the traits of both huntaways and heading dogs. Leading Dog: Best known for its ability to lead groups of sheep. Backing and Yard Dog: Backing and Yard dogs are usually trained from handy dogs or huntaways to gain the ability to make sheep move forward or chase sheep back to original position of the farm. Stopping Dog: Stopping dogs are usually Heading dogs specially trained to hold sheep in position after it has successfully headed the sheep as commanded by its owner. All the types of dogs listed are groups of dogs trained for farm work, some may belong to the same breed but the task and training given to each dog provide different results of work in the field.[4]


  1. ^ Dalton, Clive. "Farm dogs - Heading dogs, huntaways and all-purpose dogs". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12/5/2012. 
  2. ^ Dalton, Clive. "New Zealand farm working dogs. Heading or Eye Dogs". Woolshed 1 Blog. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  3. ^ "Story: Farm dogs. Page 6 – Sheepdog trials". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  4. ^ a b "New Zealand Heading Dog". Dog Breed Info Center. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Dalton, Clive. "Story: Farm dogs". the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "New Zealand Heading dog". Dog Breed Info Centre. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Dalton, Clive. "Woolshed 1". Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Dalton, Clive. "Woolshed 1". Retrieved 14 August 2013.