Huntaway Traits & Facts

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Last Updated on September 20, 2023

The Huntaway dog is at the top of the All About Cats list, with the highest increase in U.S. internet searches over the past two-years. This is a clear indicator that Americans are growing more infatuated with the Huntaway dog. The Huntaway is a storybook dog.

The Huntaway is a great choice for a family because of its ruggedness and trainability. These working dogs still have their original herding instincts and will suit families who can embrace their unique personality.

Does Huntaway appeal to you? Do you like the idea of a rugged, ready-to-go companion who is handsome and tan? Let’s find out if this is the right breed for you. Find out about the history and traits of this friendly and energetic breed to determine if it is right for you.


Breed History

The Huntaway is recognized by New Zealand’s National Kennel Club as the only native dog breed. The breed’s earliest known mention in print was a farmer’s advertisement in an 1884 edition of the Otago Daily Times for a sheepdog “broken on rough country.” New Zealand’s challenging terrain demanded a dog who could push livestock (generally sheep) towards the stockman’s destination over many miles and hundreds of acres.

The Huntaway, like most dogs, was bred to fulfill a human need. Sheep farming was the most important farming industry in New Zealand from 1856 to 1987. The steep and hilly terrain demanded a different herding breed than the early herding dogs . This was the birthplace of the Border Collie, which is still the most loved herding dog on sheep farms across the United Kingdom. New Zealand farmers required a strong, agile and easy-to-train dog. The new breed was able to “push” livestock through the vast country thanks to his strong bark.

To create a breed with the strength and stamina to cover this rough country, farmers crossed the typical herding dog, the Border Collie type, with larger breeds, including the Foxhound and the Doberman. The cross gave the dogs strength and increased size, giving them the ability to drive their stock.

Huntaways have been renamed top herding dog in the world. Although still uncommon in the USA and not yet recognized as such by the American Kennel Club (AKC), we can expect to see more examples of this outdoorsy breed in time.


Huntaways were specifically bred to herd stock by barking behind the flock and pushing them in a specific direction. Their traits will determine how they interact with their family members and pets. Huntaways are loyal to their master but are also affectionate, congenial and gentle with all family members. The Huntaway breed was created by farmers because they needed dogs that could work independently and away from their herdsman. “This is why,” Mr. Brian Davies, a Mid-Wales breeder, explained.

Because Huntaways are working dogs, they require adequate exercise to stay healthy. Huntaways can run more than ten miles per hour and were developed for large farms that have hundreds, if not thousands of acres. To keep a Huntaway happy and healthy, he needs to have a large yard and social interaction with his family.

Anyone considering a Huntaway companion dog must keep in mind that was the original breed’s design. Huntaways are known for their loud barking. Huntaways do their job by following their sheep, barking loudly and pushing them forward. Huntaways who are working hunters are taught to speak up and be quiet by their herdsman, who will use their bark to command them. However, Huntaways have a deep-rooted trait in their DNA that can make it difficult for a companion dog to change. Before you add a Huntaway to your family, consider the kind words and smiles they will offer. The vociferous Huntaway might not be the right companion for your situation.

Size and Appearance

Although large dogs, Huntaways can be a bit more muscular than other breeds. However, they share many traits due to their origins. They are strong and have a strong body. Their distinctive black and tan markings reflect their Doberman heritage. However, there is diversity within the breed down to their color.

Coat and Color

Huntaways tend to be black and tan. However, the breed standard allows for brindle or black Huntaways, as well as white, and sometimes a combination of both. Huntaways can have rough coats or Border Collie-style coats. Some even look like black Labrador Retrievers. This breed was created by crossing dogs of different types of coats (the short, smooth coats of the Foxhound and Doberman, and the long, feathery Border Collie coat), so there are many variations in each individual’s coat type. The Huntaway can have a smooth or a broken coat.

Exercise Requirements

Huntaways travel miles each day to tend their flocks. They have a natural need to exercise for long periods. A high-energy dog may have trouble finding a way to express his energy. This is particularly true if the dog is not fully mature by eighteen months or two years.

These dogs can cover a lot of terrain and naturally herd animals. This instinct does not make them a nuisance. They are generally open to new people and don’t have strong instincts to protect or prey drive. You should be aware that Huntaway may bark at other dog owners if he is exercising a lot in public spaces like a dog park.

Huntaways bond strongly with one person but still enjoy the company of the whole family. These energetic dogs love to go for a jog on leash with their human friends. To be a good citizen dog in the park or neighborhood, you must teach your dog to bark and to stop when you ask.

Living Conditions

Keep in mind your Huntaway’s unique background before you bring him or her into your home. Your companion will require access to a large fenced backyard. Huntaway can cover more ground than other dogs his size so you will need to fence your yard securely.

Huntaways are strong bonding dogs and will seek out interaction from their owners. Spend daily time with your dog and help him feel the purpose that he needs. Train your dog’s barking skills daily. Use the field to reinforce your relationship. These dogs were created to be companions.

Although they don’t have strong prey drives, Huntaways might try to herd family pets and even family members. They will need your guidance to channel their instincts and not stress other pets. Huntaways are gentle and well-behaved dogs that aren’t guarding.


Herdsmen created this breed to help move large numbers of animals, often unwillingly, in the right direction. Their bark is their tool and training them to use it appropriately with the commands “speak out” and “quiet “ creates the foundation for a strong bond between you both.

Huntaways do have the independent streak necessary to work a flock out of sight of the herdsman, so the hours you spend working with your dog on basic commands will create a canine citizen who will make the same choices without you by his side, and he would with you right there. Your calm, consistent training will make your dog a reliable companion.

The American Kennel Club reminds owners that crate training their new puppy provides them a safe space and can be necessary even if your working dog spends most of his time outdoors with a snug dog house for protection from the elements. Your dog will find comfort in his safe and secure den if he is injured or under extreme circumstances.

Hyperlinks to working puppies will require patience and positive reinforcement in order to feel at home in their crate .. You should get a large enough crate to accommodate an adult Huntaway. Give your puppy several months to learn the ropes and gradually increase his time in his crate.


Huntaways are a healthy breed of dog with no health problems. Although they are the result of multiple breeds, they may display hybrid vigor. However, we need to consider which breeds they came from when we look at possible health problems. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, or OFA, recommends tests for each of these conditions that come from the Huntaway’s base breeds.

Joint Dysplasia

Huntaways can suffer from the hip and elbow dysplasia found in many large breeds. To avoid this, it is best to feed a large breed puppy mix that doesn’t encourage rapid growth. The Huntaway is suitable for either the OFA Evaluation, PennHIP Evaluation, or because they are a descendant of the Border Collie, Foxhound and Doberman lines.

Eye Conditions

The Huntaway’s base breed, Border Collie, is susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy and pannus. These conditions can progress with age and are recommended by veterinarians to have an eye exam every year by an ACVO Ophthalmologist.

Cardiac Conditions

The Huntaway may have inherited Doberman heart disease called dilated Cardiomyopathy. This condition could cause heart failure and could be passed on to his descendants. The OFA recommends advanced cardiac screening, including ECHO and HOLTER evaluations for breeds with this tendency. Ask your veterinarian whether this test should be done on your dog partner.

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

The Doberman is predisposed to an immune-system attack on the thyroid gland, called autoimmune thyroiditis. Although this condition may be hypothyroidism or autoimmune thyroiditis, it can also be a sign of more serious conditions. Accurate diagnosis is key, so consult your veterinarian if you notice symptoms of hypothyroidism, the most noticeable of which is unexplained weight gain.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

The Huntaway could inherit a blood clotting disorder that he has not had enough of in his Doberman blood. Huntaways’ active lifestyle may put them at greater risk for minor injuries. A friend with a clotting disorder can put them at risk of excessive bleeding. Ask your vet whether he or she recommends that you run the DNA-based VWD test at an approved laboratory to rule out this condition. The OFA will register the results.


An adult Huntaway will eat about two cups of food every day. Your dog’s specific needs will vary depending on their weight, age and level of activity. The best way to determine your dog’s health is to assess his body condition.

Large dogs such as the Huntaway are more susceptible to elbow and hip dysplasia. Feeding a large breed puppy formula during the first eighteen months of life can help stabilize growth rates and avoid the rapid growth that may predispose your pet to later dysplasia.

The Diamond Brand website states that large breed puppy formulas are generally “lower in fat and calories, contain slightly lower calcium and phosphorus levels, and have a carefully balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.” All of these may help your puppy avoid developmental problems long term.


Huntaways are working dogs and were designed to have low-maintenance hair. They have different coats. You will need to clean up any dirt and mats that your dog might have picked up during his adventures, depending on where you exercise him.

The type of coat your Huntaway has will determine the brush that you use . A Huntaway with fur more on the Foxhound or Doberman end of the spectrum will benefit from a bristle brush to increase shine more than a Huntaway with a coat more like a Border Collie. A comb-toothed brush may be required for longer fur or double coats.

Bath your Huntaway as often as the weather permits with a shampoo or conditioner specifically made for dogs. If your Huntaway encounters a skunk, or has a special need, you may not need to bathe him.

The Huntaway sheds moderately although this will vary depending on the type of coat. Regular brushing will keep shedding to an absolute minimum. Although Huntaways are low maintenance as far as grooming goes, they need the same nail and dental care as most dog breeds.

Breeders and Puppy Costs

Most Huntaways are being bred to be working sheepdogs. Brian Davis, a UK breeder, advises against buying crossbred puppies. The Huntaway’s desirable traits are dependent on the integrity of their breeders and the way they select their parents dogs. Find a breeder who is committed to maintaining the breed’s working standard.

As of this posting, there are no Huntaway puppies or dogs listed for sale on There are several available in the UK and typically cost around $500 US dollars.

Before you buy a puppy, it is important to consider the cost of maintaining it. Huntaway owners will need to have a secure yard. This is a cost that is more than normal. Huntaways require regular veterinary care just like other herding breeds. However, it appears to have very few health issues.

Rescues and Shelters

While the Huntaway breed is not common in the United States at the moment, it’s worth keeping in touch with the local shelter to ensure that a Huntaway can find a forever home. As the breed numbers increase in the U.S, this breed’s work-oriented nature and handsome appearance may make him an attractive purchase.

As Family Pets

The Huntaway is generally:

  • A medium to large dog with a strong, sturdy build.
  • A herding breed whose instincts may lead him to herd his family and other pets.
  • Generous with small children and loyal to family.
  • Friendly and active.
  • Independent but trainable and trustworthy.
  • Best kept in a securely fenced yard with room to run.
  • A fit for an owner who will train him to use his bark appropriately.

Final Thoughts

The Huntaway is an excellent choice for active families that have enough space and time to allow him to be active. These same traits make the Huntaway an exceptional sheepdog in the field, but they can be a challenge in a pet environment. Huntaways are naturally barking. It’s in their genes. Your Huntaway will learn to be a good neighbor and not a nuisance by being trained to bark when it is appropriate. Your Huntaway might also choose to help with household chores and care for other pets. Your Huntaway will love you and be loyal to your family. He also enjoys social interaction with guests.

The Huntaway is a great companion for those who have a large yard and a love of the outdoors. Your new best friend will be quite the conversation starter with his rugged good looks and welcoming temperament. Together, you’ll be ambassadors for this new breed in your area as they become more readily available in the United States.

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