The Idaho Shag

As much as we love giving you information, sometimes we need information from you! 

The Idaho Shag (which sounds like a dance step) is a dog that crossed our radar a few weeks back. Unable to find much information about the breed (including whether or not it is a breed) we put it on a back burner.  And then someone we know actually met one in Montana.

Maybe it was time to revisit the dog that many Idaho ranchers insist is the only “breed” they’ll ever have working the animals on their spreads. In fact, cowboys (and yes, we still have cowboys in the west) are loyal to the breed, and at a recent branding in the area, most cowboys had an Idaho Shag.

We’ve hyperlinked a few words that will show you more of these dogs.  Here’s what we do know. The Idaho Shag (also known as the Pahsimeroi Fuzzy) originated in the eastern side of the Idaho, and while precise origins aren’t clear, the consensus is they are the result of crosses between Airedales, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. This scruffy working dog with the frazzled hair is famous for its grit, stamina, versatility, biddability, hardiness in cold weather, and herding ability, but also for its hard headedness. Despite their average 40 pound weight, Shags don’t back down from the animals in their charge. In fact, at first, livestock don’t take them seriously.

At first.

A ram or stubborn steer dismisses a Shag at its own peril.  Typical Shag behavior is to let the beast take a sniff, but then grab it by the nose as a way to say, “Dude, you will respect me.”

The dogs are known to be used to tree bears or hunt coyotes, but they are also loyal family companions, as well. Indeed, Shag puppies listed on sites like Ranch World are snapped up almost immediately, such is their demand.Idaho Shag, Pahsimeroi Fuzzy

There are a couple of Facebook pages devoted to the dogs (here’s another one), but nothing so far has answered the question: Is this a “breed?” It is treated as one in a lot of places we looked, and there is a movement afoot to standardize the breed. Based on photos we’ve seen, there is some lack of uniformity to a trained dog eye that looks at things like the skull, muzzle length, ear and tail set, etc., and that may be due to owners “tinkering” with their dogs to create an even better working dog for their ranch. That said, there is an overall “look” to these dogs, and especially, there are working traits common to all of them.
We conclude with a question for our readers? Have you ever heard of the Idaho Shag, let alone meet one?
Image: Photo of an Idaho Shag appears with the kind permission of the owner and photographer, Kimberli Johnson

30 thoughts on “The Idaho Shag”

  1. We got a 3 yr old this winter for a pet. He is very smart, minds pretty good. We have 2 acres but I’m sure he would love the ranch life. Very loving & sweet & perfect markings. Name is Buckaroo……Buck for short.

    • Would like to know how much he weighs and will he get along with a Aussie that is 16 years young. We not sure if we wanted a puppy as he might be to active for our older dog. Max is layer back and his weight is 35 lb max. Looking for a companion as he will be living in house with us .

      • Our Buck weighs about 65 lbs. Very energetic, loving & stubborn. Does not like the school bus that stops across the street so we have to have him in when it comes & goes. Loves to ride in the car. Loves people & gets along with all the dogs he’s been around. Sweet dog & loves to herd me.

      • I was just at a gathering with a Shag pup of 11 weeks. She is amazing. Such great temperament, super sweet, affectionate and apparently loyal. The owner, a good friend, got the dog last night, and when she got up to leave tonight that pup was up and at her heel and followed her right out of the yard. Really nice dog.

  2. My parents have a shag male, about 75 pounds, and he is a real character. Stubborn, but extremely friendly. I have a border collie female. Yes, nature has ran its course… twice. We actually kept two pups from the first batch. Good little cow dogs and good family dogs, though the female pup we kept can be a bit protective around strangers.

    These aren’t the kind of dogs you would leave locked up all day, but if you want a smart, friendly mutt with tons of character, a Shag certainly fits the description.

    • We love hearing from people who have actual experience with any of the breeds we discuss on our pages, Justin, so thank you very much for sharing your insight into your parents’dog.

  3. I have a male shelter dog “Ziggy” which is apparently an Idaho Shag… though I have also heard them called Snake River Fuzzy Faces”. He was picked up as a stray in the alleys of Idaho Falls, taken to a kill shelter, where his “time ran out”, and was in turn rescued by my local shelter Mountain Humane, where I was lucky enough to find him as about a one-year old. Seven years later, far away the best dog I have ever had. I work on wilderness trails all summer, he comes along, packing all his own food and bedding. Tough as nails, friendly with humans, no problems with pack stock, though not always friendly to other dogs. We’re almost constantly together, but his border collie-ness can emerge if he doesn’t get heaps of exercise. Fortunately we hike or nordic ski nearly every day.

  4. We just picked up our first Shag dog. We have had Aussie’s in the past and love herd dogs. We had the opportunity to get this pup kind of out of the blue as we had just lost one of our dogs all of a sudden to a throat tumor. He is now 5 months old and starting to get into the habits of the house. We do not have cattle but we live on an acre lot and spend a lot of time with our horses riding the mountains. We usually take our dogs. I can vouch for the athletic abilities of these dogs. He is a jumper and can almost get on the countertop. He is an inside dog so we are working on manners now. Our dog loves people, other dogs and even our cats. If we can teach him not to herd the chickens we are set.

    • From what we’ve heard, it won’t be long before he can not only herd the chickens, but stuff pillows with their down AND make chicken fricassee when their time comes.

  5. We have 5 between my husband, myself, and our son. My husband runs a ranch so they are working dogs. I help out so mine works but then hangs out with me during the week as I teach in a different town. My son helps his dad but also day works for other places. We have had lots of types of working dogs but we are sold on our shags. They are very loyal to their owner. Love working but also love to just hang out with their people. Awesome dogs. Here are 4 of them guarding the kitchen.

  6. Yes, I have one. I call him Wild Willie the Hillbilly! We have cattle and oh boy is he ever the right boy for that! He is as excellent as a guard dog as he is a cattle dog. Approximately 40 to 45 lbs.

  7. We’ve got two shags and they have been the absolute best dogs. Smart, sometimes too smart for their own good. Tough, gritty, and great cow dogs but also the best family dogs you’ll ever find. After having mine, I will never own another breed.

    • The one in the car looks like a real character, and we have a feeling that the pair keep you busy!

  8. Just adopted an Idaho shag/lab mix.

    His mom is a full bred Idaho shag – weighing about 45 lbs. The breeder said they are extremely loyal and stick like Velcro to their favorite human. They are an intellectual breed and made for ranch/farm life!

    • Thanks for the picture and comment, Libby, darling dog!

  9. We’ve had two, first one was the best dog ever. They’re very loyal and are very protective of their people and property. Here’s a photo of Cashew, RIP.

    • Second photo is of Newt who’s mom was a Border Collie and dad looked very similar to Cashew. Newt is coming along, likes to herd (people) and is very playful, he’s about 18 months old now and was ‘fired’ from a dairy in Bliss as he’s not much of a working dog, he prefers playing.

  10. I adopted a retired Idaho Shag/Border Collie from a ranch in Wyoming. He is a wonderful addition to my family. Tapps is extremely smart and behaves well indoors, especially considering he was an outside dog his entire life. He still herds a little when the spirit moves him; mostly our horses.
    He has acclimated well to being an indoor dog, but does need substantial outdoor time. When he goes outside he will run around my 20 acres for about an hour without a second thought.

  11. Boise is my shag from the Hot Lava Springs area, but resides with me in central Ohio. He gets all kinds of looks, free pets, and friendly faces inquiring about his breed. He stands out in a great way here and easily drums up excitement.

    He’s all gas and no brakes. He loves playing in the yard, going on lengthy hikes, and playing with any other pets and friends in the family. He’s passionate about harassing squirrels and rabbits on our property. It’s true that these dogs are incredibly smart and loyal. Most importantly, I’ve found that he’s perpetually happy. I love that about him.

    11/10, would recommend!

    • We love hearing from actual owners, Kelly, they are the real authorities on a breed. Thanks for sharing Boise’s photo!

  12. They’re mutts, from those breeders I’ve spoken to They’re a cross od Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, and terrier. BCs and Aussies have very different temperaments, and both have very different temperaments from terrier breeds. Why mix a strong prey drive in with the herding instinct?

  13. We unknowingly became the owners of an Idaho Shag. I think there a breed about as much as the doodle, however they seem to be more of a working dog than any doodle I’ve seen. Our dog was high drive and probably would have made a great working dog, I started her in agility. She was nuts and very smart and more than I had time for. I placed her in a 4h home and they love her

    • Helpful comment, Amy, thank for your sharing your insights and the photo!

  14. We have an 18 month Idaho Shag that we absolutely adore! Daisy is extremely intelligent, loyal, well behaved, patient, friendly, and loves people and other dogs of all sizes. She even gets along well with our friend’s cats! She’s a wonderful family companion! She has taken on the job of herding our cat, and boy does she take her job seriously! She’s very attentive to the cat but never aggressive. Daisy is always ready for a walk, car ride, hike, or a swim, but also is very calm and well behaved in the house. I’ve had dogs all my life (mostly purebreds) and I’d get an Idaho Shag again in a heartbeat!

    • Thanks for the insights, Lynda, and for the adorable photo of Daisy!!

  15. Toughest puppy we ever had, way smarter than we were, but now, the best and most fun dog ever! He is ready to go always and is a lover. Super athletic, a great guard dog, and is a hard worker…he LOVES attention and will make sure you give it to him. Herds anyone or thing that will let him, but without nipping :). Loves to get new toys!

    • He looks like a really fun dog, Holly, and we appreciate your comment. There’s nothing like hearing from people who live with a breed.

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