Although herding sheep and cattle is a common occupation for a farm dog, the best ones do more than that. We consider the reasons for keeping dogs on farms, as well as which breeds may best suit the role.
Not all farms are the same, yet we’ll assume one or two similarities. There will be open space, farm animals that need protecting – and vermin that will need killing. Where there is cattle or sheep, a dog with herding instincts will be an indispensable companion to keep!
For rugged, outdoor spaces or adverse conditions, canines with double fur coats rather than single hair ones will be more robust. The bottom layer gives comfort while the outer one protects against rain, dirt, and thorns. This coat sheds, which means less need for bath times.
A good field dog should also have homing instincts. In large, open spaces it’s easier for ones who do not get lost once they wander away from their familiar territory. Mastiffs, Greet Pyrenees, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Sheepdogs, all fit the bill as they are breeds that are able to return to where they came from.
Dogs with Hens and Chickens
If the farm has hens, chickens, or baby calves, it is likely to attract prey-animals. Ideally, the guardian dog will not have a high prey-drive (i.e., driven to kill small animals) that it could attack the homestead as well. So, Terriers, Beagles, and Mastiffs are out for this task.
Golden Retrievers and Labradors would be a better choice, but they don’t make the best guard dogs. Instead, a Great Pyrenees will protect the most vulnerable livestock, rather than want to destroy them. They seem like the best choices for this.
Farm Dogs with Rodents and Vermin
While Terriers would not be suitable for the above, they are skilled at killing small animals that might attack livestock. These include rats, mice, and even badgers, and ferrets.
The Great Pyrenees and Standard Schnauzers are fantastic all-purpose breeds of dogs, as they have a protective nature alongside the ability to catch and kill undesired predators.
Dogs that Herd
One image that many people will associate with pastoral country life is that of a canine in a field herding sheep -an important role for dogs on many farms. Any farm dog with ‘Shepherd’, or ‘Cattle’ in its name is likely to be good at this. However, there is one that wins this slot for us is – the Border Collie.
Thought to possibly be the most intelligent dog breed of all, the Border Collie’s brainpower, agility, and efficiency make it a winner at herding. It has been highly sought after for this purpose, since first being bred at the turn of the 20th century. Like many dogs already mentioned, Border Collies will require extensive training and attention before graduating.
It is hardly any surprise why dogs are a staple piece for looking after livestock and farming, as so many noble breeds are adept at looking after both the territory and animals in their care. The farm dog breeds we have identified will also be prime choices at adapting to the changes between the Summer and Autumn months, both brilliant caretakers and leaders of the hunt!
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