Solving the shepherding problem: heuristics for herding autonomous, interacting agents

J R Soc Interface. 2014 Nov 6;11(100):20140719. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0719.


Herding of sheep by dogs is a powerful example of one individual causing many unwilling individuals to move in the same direction. Similar phenomena are central to crowd control, cleaning the environment and other engineering problems. Despite single dogs solving this 'shepherding problem' every day, it remains unknown which algorithm they employ or whether a general algorithm exists for shepherding. Here, we demonstrate such an algorithm, based on adaptive switching between collecting the agents when they are too dispersed and driving them once they are aggregated. Our algorithm reproduces key features of empirical data collected from sheep-dog interactions and suggests new ways in which robots can be designed to influence movements of living and artificial agents.

Keywords: agent-based model; collective motion; sheep; sheepdog.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Models, Biological*
  • Sheep