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McNab Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on April 2, 2024 by Dogster Team

a black and white with blue eyes McNab

McNab Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

The McNab Dog, also known as McNab Shepherd, McNab Cattle Dog, or McNab Collie, is an energetic, medium-sized canine with extraordinary athleticism and impressive herding abilities. They have an outstanding work ethic and are an excellent choice for farmers and ranchers requiring a herding dog. Loving and loyal, these dogs make wonderful pets for any family with ample time to spend with them. Let’s dive deeper into the history, facts, and more of these fascinating dogs!

Breed Overview


18 – 25 inches


35 – 65 pounds


13 – 15 years


Blue, red, black, merle, red merle

Suitable for:

Active families, families with children and pets, experienced owners


Loyal, intelligent, friendly, energetic, easy to train, protective, independent

These dogs hail from Northern California and are the creation of Scotsman Alexander McNab, a rancher who moved from Scotland to California in 1866. McNab loved Scottish Collies for their work ethic and boundless stamina as herders. He brought two of them to America and began breeding them with local dogs of Basque Spanish and English origin to create offspring that excelled in sheep herding. These dogs were bred to withstand the rugged terrain of Northern California and haven’t been well-known in the rest of the States until recent years.

Known for their excellent herding skills, they also make excellent family pets for those who can devote time to them. These dogs are loving, friendly, intelligent, eager, and energetic.

McNab Dog Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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McNab Dog Puppies

If you’re interested in adding a McNab puppy to your family, you will likely need a breeder, and they seem to be scattered around the western part of the United States; in particular, California, Oregon, and Arizona. However, no matter where in the States you live, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a reputable breeder, but travel may be required to obtain one.

These dogs were born to herd, and as puppies, they may try to herd young children and other pets in the home. However, given their trainability and intelligence, it’s not difficult to train them out of this behavior.

Temperament & Intelligence of the McNab Dog 🧠

These dogs are intelligent but do best with experienced dog owners who can train using positive reinforcement because they are highly sensitive. What’s incredible about them is their stamina. These dogs can herd all day without breaks and are always up for activity. They are highly energetic and require an active family—they do not do well with families with sedentary lifestyles and can become destructive if bored. They also require as much mental stimulation as they do physical, and their athleticism enables them to excel at agility and other dog sports.

They are not aggressive but can be wary of strangers. They do best with experienced owners due to their sometimes demanding and assertive behaviors, but they are loyal and loving. The McNab Dog tends to form strong bonds with their humans but may bond closer to the person that they spend the most time with. They are extremely adaptable to different working conditions and environments, and they enjoy spending all their time with their human families.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The McNab Dog is suitable for families with active lifestyles. If you are rarely home or have a busy work schedule, this dog is unsuitable for you. Their boundless energy requires an owner with the time to exercise them on a daily basis. Experienced owners are better suited for these dogs because they need training and socialization to be well-behaved pooches. If not exercised properly, they can develop behavioral problems and can be destructive.

a mcnab dog on wooden ground
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

The McNab Dog gets along well with other pets in the home. However, given their strong herding abilities, you must exercise caution if you have smaller animals, such as a guinea pig or gerbil. It’s best to socialize them at a young age to ensure they get along with other pets in the home.

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Things to Know When Owning a McNab Dog:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Due to their energy and stamina, the McNab does best on a high-protein, high-quality diet for active dogs. The food should be appropriate for the age (puppy, adult, or senior) and should not contain artificial preservatives or fillers. It’s important to feed correct portion sizes because you don’t want to underfeed these energetic dogs. The food will have feeding amount suggestions to follow, but you can also consult your veterinarian on the appropriate amount to feed according to the dog’s weight. It’s also best to split daily meals into two, with morning and evening feedings.

Exercise 🐕

Exercise is something the McNab Dog requires daily, and a considerable amount at that. As mentioned, these dogs can herd all day with no breaks, and their stamina and endurance seem endless. This is why they do best with active families who have the time to devote to them. They love running, hiking, and swimming and excel in agility, rallying, herding, and other dog sports. Know that a simple walk around the block will not suffice with this dog. A fenced and secured yard for the McNab Dog to run and play is necessary to exert their boundless energy.

Refrain from overexercising a McNab puppy until around 14 months of age. A puppy’s bones are still developing during this time, and excessive running and jumping can damage the bones and joints, resulting in health issues later in life.

Training 🦮

These dogs are intelligent, and training is not too difficult for the experienced dog owner. Using positive reinforcement techniques is a must due to their sensitive nature, but they are eager to learn and can master tricks and basic commands with ease.

It’s important not to use repetitive activities for training because the dog will become uninterested in training sessions. Keep it fun and positive with a treat-based reward system and praise. However, limit treats to account for 10% of the dog’s daily calories.

Grooming ✂️

The McNab Dog has a short, protective undercoat, and the top coat is also smooth and weather-resistant. The fur has a coarse and dense texture and either lies close to the body or slightly away.

They are not heavy shedders, and their coats are low maintenance. However, they benefit from a nice brushing once a week. They do shed more in the spring and fall, but regular grooming will remove dead and loose hair and keep shedding to a minimum during these times of year.

Keep the nails at an appropriate length, check the ears often and clean them when necessary, and establish a dental routine with regular teeth brushings using a toothpaste designed specifically for canines.

Health and Conditions ❤️

These dogs are generally healthy, but like all dogs, they may be prone to certain health conditions you should familiarize yourself with if considering adding one to your family.

Minor Conditions
  • Cherry Eye
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • MDRI (multidrug Resistance 1)

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Male vs. Female

Males are slightly bigger than females, with males averaging 50 to 65 pounds and females averaging 40 to 60 pounds. Males may be more territorial than females, and females may be calmer compared to males; otherwise, there is not much difference between the two.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the McNab Dog

1. They Are Excellent Problem Solvers

Not only are they excellent herders, but they are also excellent problem solvers and can adapt to many different situations. Their high intelligence, mixed with their sharp instincts, help them overcome any challenges in their work life. They also excel at solving puzzles with interactive games.

2. They Have “Cat-Like” Feet

We’ve mentioned these dogs are well-versed in agility and other dog sports, and their “cat-like” feet are partly to blame for their impressive agility. The feet have deep pads and tightly arched toes. They also lack dewclaws on their back feet, unlike their Collie ancestors.

3. They Have a “Loose-Eyed” Herding Style

A “loose-eyed” herding style means they work more independently than other herding breeds. It also means they can head and heel stock, meaning they can turn stock from the front or get behind and drive them forward, making them versatile, valuable herding dogs.

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Final Thoughts

The McNab Dog is hardworking and thrives in active households. They are an ideal addition to any farm or ranch due to their exceptional herding skills, but they also make excellent family companions in suburban areas as long as they are exercised. These dogs are loyal and loving but require a firm yet gentle hand with training using positive reinforcement. Keep in mind that having extensive time to devote to this breed is a must. They get along well with other pets and children, but early socialization is needed to help them become ideal companions. However, they are easy to train and eager to learn.

Featured Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

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