They’re known as man’s best friend for a reason. Faithful, loyal, and fiercely dedicated, dogs have a natural gift for protection and their use in agriculture spans over 10,000 years of human history. Whether you have a small backyard farm or a large homestead that’s fully self-sufficient, adding the right four-legged partner to the roster can only improve your overall operation.
There are a number of factors to consider when you choose a homestead dog. While training will ensure your furry companion behaves as you intend, certain types of canines are simply hardwired for farm and ranch work based on their ancestral leanings. There are also informative aspects to canine care and well-being that you should know in order to ensure a productive, healthy, and happy life for your canine partner.
If the dog’s a new addition to the homestead or gardens, the first thing you need to consider will be what the dog’s job will be. What responsibilities will the dog have? Guard dog? Herding livestock? Or are you simply looking for a pet who you know will love the open space and activity of your lifestyle? Each category has a canine match to fit and each need requires different forms of training and experience.
Unlike their city dog counterparts, guarding dogs on the farm and the ranch focus more on the welfare and safety of your livestock. That’s not to say you cannot also have a guard dog for your family, but generally, this post requires your dog to view your farm livestock as members of its pack. In order to ensure this connection, puppies are raised with the other farm animals, growing alongside the pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens. This instills a familial bond from a young age and ferments a deep protective instinct.
Some breeds to consider for the guardian role include but are not limited to Scottish terriers, Airedales, and standard poodles. These types of dogs are able to pick up on unusual activity and are naturally territorial. There are other options, such as mixed breeds, that you can train into good watchdogs but try to avoid using less-reactive breeds such as bloodhounds or Newfoundland dogs.
The most commonly known type of homestead dog, the herding dog will position itself as an alpha among your farm animals. Due to its training, a herding dog will see your livestock as prey, but rather than attacking them for food the dog will use aggression and dominance to bunch and guide the animals like a supervisor or enforcer. Dogs under this category can also fulfill the role of house pet, while guardian dogs will usually remain in the fields with the animals.
With such a specific balance of dominance and obedience required for herding dogs, you’ll need to ensure you choose the breed wisely. Collies, border collies, Australian shepherds, Welsh corgi’s, bouviers of Flanders, the Queensland blue heeler or Australian heeler are just some of the breeds that you can use to herd your livestock. You should do further research into each type as some breeds work with some animals better than others, but they all share behavioral traits that make them perfect for the job.
Herding dogs are able to enact eye prey, stalk, and grip and heel skills at maturity while repressing the attack, bite and kill predator traits that would make them too dangerous to utilize in the country.
As your dog will work alongside you on your homestead its activity level will be different than city dogs. This requires an altered diet of food and treats that fill nutritional needs but also energize the metabolism. Some homesteaders opt to make their own dog food rather than purchase food from a store, while others simply take a closer look at their purchases rather than use their own crops and produce. Other owners simply make their own dog treats which are handed out less frequently but greatly appreciated by dogs.
You’ll want to make sure that you research the proper foods and treats your homestead dog requires in order to maintain their health and energy. While certain health defects and diseases can cause unforeseen problems, a healthy and hearty diet will keep your homestead dog happy and working for years, long after they pass their prime.
While a good diet can positively benefit your homestead dog on a daily basis, you’ll need to ensure your dog has quality medical and first-aid care at all times. Remember that you’re using your dog for protection and farm work, jobs that demand risk to life and limb.
Your homestead dog can and most likely will sustain injuries of all kinds and an untreated wound or break can become life-threatening faster than you realize. Make sure you either have access to on-sight round the clock veterinary care or knowledge of the closest pet hospital to your property.
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