When you’re living on a homestead, whether it is large or small, it’s a good idea to have a dog around. You’ll notice that almost all farmers have a dog or three running around – and it’s for a good reason too. Not only do dogs make great pets but homesteading hounds often have natural instincts and abilities which make them more suitable for certain jobs.
For example: Dachshunds are said to be great ratters which are a wonderful thing when you’re growing food and pesky pests keep gnawing at your tomato roots. If you have ever known someone who owns a little Dachshund you may notice little holes all over their yard and this is why it’s in their nature to dig after the moles in the ground.
The dog breeds can be broke down into groups or classifications based on their instincts, abilities, and skills. On a basic homestead you’re going to want to look into these categories to find the right pup:
Herding dogs are also known as work or stock dogs. A natural herding dog has the instinct to herd just about anything. If you’ve ever seen a border collie in the city you might notice it rounding up the little ones, herding them into the house or wherever it is they are supposed to be.
I’m sure you can guess what the role of a guard dog is! These breeds have a natural instinct to guard and protect their humans and any animals that are a part of the family. Any dog breed is capable of looking after the family or livestock but some or better than others.
Ratters or Pest Control:
More often than not you’ll find that the better ratters and small pest control breeds are medium to small sized but they carry a huge dog’s attitude.
Breaking Down The Breeds
- Australian Shepherd – The Aussie is medium in size and packed full of energy. This breed loves to work and responds very well to training. The one downside is without training they can get into a lot of mischief. The Australian Shepherd has a special water-resistant fur which requires proper grooming at least once a week. Their high energy requires them to not only require physical exercise daily but mental exercise as well.
- Welsh Corgi – I know it’s hard to imagine a short little corgi herding cattle but their shape and size actually make them great ankle nippers. They are very intelligent and require very little grooming. The corgi is a very loyal and loving dog that is great for a small farm with a little family.
- Icelandic Sheepdog – This is a great breed for colder climates. They are medium in size are active but not very active. The Icelandic Sheepdog is very friendly, curious, and playful so busy days are good for them. This breed has two coats of fur, one is long and the other is short. This allows them to shed the longer fur in warmer weather in order to acclimate easily. This means they are a higher maintenance breed who requires constant grooming, especially during the spring shedding.
There are many breeds that are great for herding farm animals. The German Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog, and Border Collies are just a few more you might be familiar with.
- German Shepherd – The German Shepherd is a large dog with a medium to high level of energy. This breed of Shepherd is very confident, easy to train, and eager to please. Because the German Shepherd is so loyal, loving, and smart they are great family dogs. They really are more of a multi-purpose dog because not only will they protect and guard but they will also herd the livestock and hunt the moles. Their long fur means they need to be groomed regularly.
- Doberman Pinscher -You might think a dobie is more of a junkyard dog but they can make great guard dogs for the livestock, family, and homestead. They have a medium build but are extremely high energy. One of my favorite things about the Doberman is how alert they are. They are fairly easy to train and pretty willing to learn. They are VERY protective and VERY cautious of strangers. Their short hair means they only require minimal grooming but if you live in a colder climate you may want to reconsider your choice.
- Giant Schnauzer – This large dog is high energy and high maintenance. They are almost as alert as the Doberman and equally protective of the farm and family. The giant schnauzer does best when their day consists of high activity, they love having a job. They also love to swim.
All of the dogs listed above can be multi-purpose, but they do better with what they know. The pest control and ratters are generally small breeds that are close to the ground such as, the Rat Terrier and the Miniature Pinscher. I personally feel it’s better to have a multi-purpose dog or two around the farm, but to each their own.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the most common homesteading hounds, here’s a list of things to consider during your selection:
Qualities, Traits, & Considerations For Homesteading Hounds:
- Consider the climate in your area in order to provide the right environment for the breed of choice.
- Consider the prey in your area that your dogs will be guarding the livestock from. If you have bears you can count on having two or more dogs. If you have smaller prey then there’s little less to worry about.
- Their temperament. Are they aggressive, good with kids, etc.
- The maintenance they need in order to stay healthy and groomed properly.
- Consider the health issues of each breed.
- How active they are or aren’t.
- Consider how much and what kind of training will be required to get your dog up to par.
As I mentioned, having a dog or two on a homestead is a wonderful idea for so many reasons. The list of dog breeds is very long so I picked some of my favorite breeds and included why they make the right breeds for the job. We would love to hear what kind of fur babies you have floating around and how they fare on the farm!
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