You have a homestead. Probably a couple of chickens, maybe a goat, sheep or pigs. Corn that attracts raccoons. Invasive deer, foxes and coyotes. You want a dog to not only be a pet, but also protect your holdings and herd your livestock. What kind of dog should you get?
One that has the following qualities:
- Does NOT chase or kill the poultry.
- Barks at any stranger or strange animal that comes onto the property but does NOT bark all night long.
- Stays close to home where they belong.
- Has enough sense not to jump a skunk.
- Does NOT chase the neighbor's livestock (or yours).
- Beagles: loveable, playful little dogs that make good home pets as well as excellent hunting dogs. Will chase little critters out of the garden, too.
- Boxer: Very joyful, quite smart, fearless, incredible energy, and will babysit children for hours. Once she or he understands that chickens and smaller farm animals are not toys, will completly ignore them. Always up for a rabbit or coyote chase.
- Bulldog: Very loyal, devoted and determined. Don't let the size fool you. This was the dog that Laura Ingalls Wilder talked about as the family pet (Jack) in the first couple of books in her "Little House" series.
- Catahoula leopard cow/hog dogs: They can do it all... work cows/hogs, hunt game, protect the farmstead, and most look so 'different' that strangers are a bit wary of them.
- Collies: Wonderful, bright, hard-working, intelligent dogs. (Shades of Lassie!). Can often be found as protective, ever-present, and very good with kids. Usually will bark at strangers.
- Eskimo Spitz: Bright, beautiful, intelligent dogs. Good watch dogs. Can sometimes be good with children. They DO SHED a lot, but that is a small price to pay for their love and devotion. They are devoted to the family and like to be in the middle of everything that is going on!
- Farm Collies/English Shepherd: These dogs are all-purpose farm dogs: not stock dogs, not hunting dogs, not guard dogs, but all three. They'll herd, guard, are great pest controllers and wonderful family dogs. They are an American farm dog. He will work your livestock when YOU need it done or when the dog sees a real need, and leave them alone otherwise, and leave your neighbor's stock alone (unless they get into your pasture). He'll guard the place but use some discernment, not use his teeth on the oil man and leave you to freeze. Great varmint control, great chicken guards. Devoted to your kids. They don't do well as either yard dogs or fuzzy little child substitutes, they need to be part of your life and know they are your partners and have duties that you define for them. They are hardy, healthy, wash & wear medium-sized dogs who haven't had the good sense bred out of them by being kept in kennels and trotted around a show ring hanging from a string. (But watch out for people who are now showing them for 'championships'.) They barely shed at all. The people who kept the breed alive through the 20th century were mostly farmers, and experienced at good livestock breeding practices. They are literally *designed* to do the work of a small diversified farm or homestead. They can be happy if their job is to watch a few chickens and kill the odd possum and tell you when someone is at the end of the lane, or they can help run a farm with six species of livestock to manage. They hunt well ... people, ducsk, squirrel, etc.
- Retriever (Golden or Labrador): Excellent for basic farm. Needs lots of space to run. Should be neutered or spayed or they'll disappear at some point. Their devotion may overcome the need to run, and could walk right along with you.
- Rottwieller: He lives to kill and devour rats, mice, crows, gophers, etc. Needs to be taught which critters are yours, and which can be killed. He will chase deer out of the veggies. Smart, devoted, and loves to work (will carry packs like a donkey).
- Pick out the pure-bred dogs which have the qualities you most like. Then look for a mix that has them.
- Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and Collie mixes are great! They have so many good qualities.
- Most of the abandoned puppies, found at the humane society and other shelters, are mixed breeds, and usually have been abandoned. They don't ever want to go through that again so they'll stick close to you at all times (exception: chihuahua).
- Mixed breeds usually don't experience the medical problems that pure-bred do.
- Mixed breeds tend to have more brains, mellow personalities, are well behaved, healthier and just all around great dogs.
- The owner makes the dog, no matter what the breed or mix.
- The more time you spend with them, and the more people and other animals they meet, the better (especially as a puppy). However, don't socialize too much if you want the puppy to grow up to be a fiercely protective guard dog.
- Obedience training and dominance over the dog are musts. Obedience training must begin at the earliest age possible, preferably 7 weeks old (the 49th day of life). Supposedly it's never too late to train a dog, but our chihuahua would refute that.
Use your best judgement. Get a puppy if at all possible.
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About Our Dogs:
Spirit, our chihuahua, is a chihuahua. Self-absorbed, stubborn, thinks she's 100 pounds, and is always looking for an escape route. She refuses to be trained to sit or stay or come or, well, really anything. She will dance, however, for a treat. Her back legs pop out of joint sometimes so doesn't get around as much as she'd like to, but sure does bark when she hears something out of place outside. She's taught that to our puppy. She's spayed; we don't intend to breed her.
Our Dal-Rotti-Mute (Dalmation-Rottweiler-Alaskan Malamute), Sparky, was 10 weeks old when we got him and he's just around 4 months old as of this writing. An unbelievable 40 pounds - he puts on about 5 pounds a week, and eats like a horse. He had never seen other humans or dogs when we got him, nor had on a collar. It took a couple of days for him to warm up to us, but now I think he'd die protecting us. He loves being trained, and has "sit" down cold. We're still working on "come" and "stay". He started out scared of everything, but as recently as yesterday, barked fiercely at someone walking across the street. Oh, and he loves putting his toys back in his toy crate when he's done with them! He's not neutered; we plan to breed him to probably a farm collie when he's a year old or so. Vikki