Working Dogs on the Homestead

dogs on the homestead post

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:

    • Herders
    • Protectors
    • 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.

      1. Make sure not to over work your dog, especially in the heat. The summertime is also when fleas and ticks are active so you should use some type of treatment.
      2. 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.
      3. 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.
      4. 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:

      • Sheep
      • Goats
      • Cows

border collie herding

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:

Moreton-in-Marsh Show Dog and Ducks Herding

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
      • Akbash
      • Maremma

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.

fierce rodent hunter

Pest Control

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
      • Dachshunds
      • Mixes and mutts

jack russell rat hunter

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.

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9 thoughts on “Working Dogs on the Homestead”

  1. We really love our Great Pyr puppy, but he does need more training. He tried to play with our goats once, but they set him straight pretty quickly!


    I’d love to have a LGD! Someday… I love pups, but they are strictly companions and moose alarms at the moment. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

  3. This is great information! Have any recommendation for dogs that also are good with chickens? (And won’t chase them off into the woods> Lol.)

    1. Our mixed breed, and our lab do not do that. They are really good with the chickens. But, we had to make sure to train them…

  4. I am a dog lady. I keep telling my hubby that since I don’t really like chickens (except for my mama’s cochens), we should just get a dog-farm. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the genius yet…. it’ll happen 😉

  5. Black Mouth Cur – best dogs in the world though few people know of them. I’ve had dogs all my life and my BMC tops them all!

  6. I plan to keep two types of dogs on our future homestead here in Virginia. We are in the final stages of making it happen. I have done a lot of research and can share it with You. Black mouth cur. Being I hail from Alabama where they are very popular I grew up knowing what an awesome all around farm dog they are; they are good size without being too big. Food cost is something to consider. Another MUST HAVE for me is a standard dachshund…not a mini. Some minis are the same size or smaller than what you will want them to catch. Plus eagles, hawks and turkey buzzards around here would pick them up and take off with them. Wire hair dachshunds have a terrier background so they are known for their tenacity in getting their prey not to mention they do great going in water after them. The smooth standard of course is the original that was bred to hunt and kill badgers. Never seen a badger look up a picture of one. Then you will be convinced every homestead needs a dachshund for rodent patrol and control. Dachshunds have webbed feet making them great for water as well. They are sturdy and will do a lot of work for you, but won’t eat too much compared to other larger dogs. Both of these breeds are intensely loyal, have a good long lifespan 12-18 years, love to be with their people and will follow you around with training of course. Black mouth cur will do herding and other large dog work while dachshunds will follow you around, alert you to harm nearby (snakes, raccoons, etc…) and usually take care of them too. My 10 year old dachshund has killed more than one snake and he his a pampered mainly indoor pooch. My farm dogs will be where I am…outside.

  7. I’m on my 4th Great Pyrenees. I love the breed. And since I have chickens and a lot of predators nearby, I worry about my girls. After a hard night and day of guarding his livestock he deserves a good backrub by his favorite cat

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