Man (and Woman’s) Best Friend – The Dog.
Dogs are awesome. They provide companionship, can protect you, and they are almost always thrilled to see you.Dogs are a staple member of the farm and homestead team, and they have been since humans started to settle down. Let’s look at some specific roles for our canine friends:
- Pest Control (i.e. Hunters)
A Note on First Aid and General Health
The main focus is jobs for dogs and how they can help out on your homestead. However, health should be a number one focus for dogs, just like humans. If you dogs aren’t healthy or if they’re overweight, then you will be doing them a disservice.
- Make sure not to over work your dog, especially in the heat. Heather provides some excellent tips here about summertime concerns. The summertime is also when fleas and ticks are active so you should use some type of treatment.
- Keep a first aid kit for you dog. A lot of the materials will be the same as a human first aid kit, and you can make sure you have everything by reviewing this checklist. If your dog has or is susceptible to chronic pain, then you may need to have some prescriptions on hand. Check with you veterinarian professional.
- If there is an injury, then stabilize the dog and get it to the vet, just like a human going to the ER. The main thing is to prevent further injury on the way to the vet.
- Exposure to poison or other harmful substances. Call the poison control center or your vet to get advice. (ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.) Some poisons should be left as is while others should be expelled. Check with the experts if your dog gets into something that it shouldn’t have.
These dogs are the ones that will help you round up the herd animals. Typically, we think about:
I have a soft spot for these guys because I have a Border Collie.
Here are some of the others in the herding group (as the American Kennel Club recognizes):
- Australian Shepherd
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Border Collie
- Welsh Corgies
- Old English Sheep Dog
- Smooth Collie
Any of the dogs will require training in the herding aspect even though some breeds have a “herding instinct”.
So, don’t assume that since you have a Border Collie that he or she can be unleashed (literally) on a herd of sheep. That is asking for trouble. My dog doesn’t herd very well, and he tends to single out one sheep, then go after it! That’s not good for sheep at all.
Herding dogs can also be trained to herd other things, like ducks:
One thing to remember about the herding dogs is their exceptional intelligence. They will need a job to do and usually have a lot of energy!
Protectors – Livestock Guardians
This group of dogs keeps your other livestock safe. The protectors are the guardians of the homestead. Here are a few of the typical protectors or guardian dogs:
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherds
The best case is that they deter the predators, and maybe they will destroy them if it is necessary. Protectors can watch over sheep, cattle, other herd animals, and even poultry.
You should train them on the boundaries and you can do that by walking the fence line for the first few months.
Experts warn that you should discourage the puppies from playing with the animals they are meant to protect. The last thing you want is a full grown Great Pyrenees trying to play with chickens! Having another protector dog that understands and knows not to play with the livestock is helpful in teaching younger canines. Guardians have to be trained extremely well because they will defend against people who pose a threat to the homestead.
So, make sure your livestock guard dog can be commanded to “stand down”. They should obey you (and other masters) absolutely, and protect the livestock and homestead while you are away.
There are many different kinds of pests you might encounter on your compound… Rats, gophers, field mice, moles, opossums, groundhogs, badgers, foxes, raccoons, and so on…There are all sorts of vermin out there. Most of the time it isn’t a problem. However, if there isn’t a good predator out there keeping the population at bay, then you may have an issue. Luckily, there are many breeds that excel at vermin control. Heck, just about any dog likes a good chase. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Rat Terrier
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Any Terrier breeds or mixes
- Mixes and mutts
Terriers were bred for going after rodents, and that’s why they top the list.
But since dogs have a predatory instinct, in general, almost any mutt has the potential to keep certain pests away.
Dogs are an important member of the family and the homestead team.
They can make your job easier working with livestock. Dogs can keep predators away. And, some dogs excel at keeping pests and rodents at bay. Our canine friends are at home on the homestead.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.