Best Dogs For Small Farms – Heroes of the Homestead
It takes a lot of work to run a farm—even a quaint, backyard or hobby farm. And unless you wear a cape and tights on a regular basis, you’ll probably need someone to help with tasks such as managing and guarding your livestock and property, as well as keeping the barns and feed areas vermin-free. To put it bluntly, you’ll need a good farm dog.
On this edition of Animal Facts, we’ll be highlighting the “heroes of the homestead”—our top dogs for small farms.
10. Jack Russell Terrier – Best Dogs for Small Farms
The Jack Russell Terrier is a pint-sized bundle of energy that is a welcome addition to any small farm. They’re intelligent, independent, and can be quite stubborn, but once trained, you can trust them to carry out their responsibilities, and you’ll have more time to handle everything else.
Although they’re not known for herding, the feisty Jack Russell is an expert ratter and will keep your homestead rodent and vermin-free. Russells are also fearless and make great watchdogs, alerting you to intruders or unusual occurrences on your property.
Fun Fact: Jack Russells are vivacious little firecrackers who enjoy the company of horses.
As one of most highly-sought after dog breeds in the U.S., Golden Retrievers have many qualities that elevate them to rock star status among the working breeds.
Goldens are known for being friendly, gentle, intelligent, and athletic, which not only makes them a wonderful choice for families, but also for search and rescue operations, narcotics detection and as therapy and service dogs. But did you know that Goldens make fantastic farm dogs?
All the previously mentioned attributes contribute to their usefulness, but their consistently even temper and calm behavior is perhaps the main reason they appeal to homestead-having humans. Since they generally get along with all people and animals, you won’t have to worry about them chasing your livestock or chickens around. So, don’t expect your Golden to get rid of your barn mice or feed bin bandits—they’ll be more interested in making friends with them.
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi – Best Dogs for Small Farms
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s claim to fame may be as Queen Elizabeth’s faithful companion and favorite breed, but they were originally developed to help shepherds and farmers herd sheep and cattle—a job at which they still excel to this day.
But not only do Corgis love to herd, they love to be heard. Don’t be fooled by their appearance, these charming, little elfin dogs are very vocal and will bark to notify you of predators and strangers in the vicinity.
Corgis are also proficient at wrangling chickens, ducks, and other fowl, herding them quietly so as not to startle them or alert predators. Their short legs make them the ideal exterminators, as they are much closer to the ground than most farm breeds.
Although they’re great farm dogs overall, the inclination to herd may incite your Corgi to nip at your ankles which can be annoying, or attempt to round up your children—which actually might not be so bad.
Fun Fact: Queen Elizabeth II enjoys the companionship of Corgis so much that she has owned more than 30 during her reign.
7. Standard Schnauzer – Best Dogs for Small Farms
Sandwiched between the Giant and Miniature Schnauzers, the Standard Schnauzer is the ideal size and has the perfect skill set for carrying out duties on a small farm.
As early as the 15th century, Schnauzers (both Standard and Giant) were used on farms to herd and secure livestock, protect families, eliminate vermin, and defend their owners as they traveled to market.
Standard Schnauzers possess both the intelligence and brawn to hold their own when managing cattle, sheep and horses. Although they’re a close cousin to the Terrier, they have a low to moderate prey drive. So, your chickens and other feathered friends will be safe on your Standard’s watch…but rodents won’t be so lucky.
Standards can be a fabulous addition to any farm family as they are very active (as all working dogs are) and they get along well with kids. On the flip side, they can be stubborn, so training will require patience, firmness, and consistency.
Fun Fact: The Standard and Giant Schnauzers are considered working breeds, while the Miniature Schnauzer is classified as a Terrier.
If you’re wondering what the Dachshund’s role on the farm is, it’s all in their name, which is German for “badger dog.”
Dachshunds were originally bred in Germany in the 1400s to hunt badgers running rampant through the countryside, burrowing holes in the soil, some of which destroyed crops, injured livestock, damaged fencing, and equipment. The breed’s short stature and slinky build is ideal for navigating narrow tunnels, and their fearlessness and tenacity is essential for battling trapped badgers, groundhogs, moles, rats, and other nuisance burrowers.
Believe it or not, in addition to its underground expertise and courage, the diminutive Dachshund also has a secret weapon when it comes to protecting the homestead—a “big dog” bark that once served the purpose of helping their hunter-humans locate them in the burrows but is now more useful in calling attention to potential threats.
These Farm Dog Breeds are intelligent, but we could all use some help training them. Check out Brain Training for Dogs to learn how to use your dog’s natural intelligence to stop bad behavior. 5.
Australian Cattle Dog – Best Dogs for Small Farms
I’m Rob and this is Bonnie and we’re here from Live Life DIY and we’re going to be sharing with you today why Blue Heelers make great farm dogs.
The Australian Cattle Dog is known by many names and one is Blue Heeler. They are an intelligent and active breed and require a job or they will misbehave. Bonnie likes to herd me like cattle while I’m doing my chores. This is one of my boots she chewed through when she was a puppy. And I was wearing it!
It’s really important a blue heeler has a chore, a job, and Bonnie’s job is protecting the chickens and protecting the Guinea fowl. She takes the job seriously. Bonnie loves gentle play with her 10-year-old “big” sister. Because of their high prey drive, Blue Heelers are known for not getting along with other animals. It’s important they understand who’s family. *noise* Whoops, back to work.
Make sure you have plenty of room to run.
Bonnie and Carrot are best friends and they like to relax together. Pesky squirrels sure are frustrating. Even though guarding chickens is serious work, there’s always time for a bit of rooster play time.
4. Great Pyrenees
If your farm is located in a colder climate, the fluffy, double coated Great Pyrenees should be at the top of your short list of potential farmhands.
Pyrs are not herders or ratters like most of the dogs on our list, but they are stellar guard dogs that will protect you, your family, livestock, and anything else associated with you. Though all canines have a heightened sense of hearing, their senses of hearing and sight are exceptional in comparison to other breeds. Once they’ve honed in on a suspected intruder, they will let you know with a thunderous alarm. Get ready to lose a little beauty sleep, because most vocalizations take place at night, when raccoons, wolves, coyotes, and other nocturnal creatures are on the prowl.
Pyrs are also great at figuring things out on their own. You may have to work a little harder to train them, but once trained, their independence will free you up to take care of the endless tasks that come with running a farm.
Fun Fact: Great Pyrenees are also excellent communicators. They will let you know how they’re feeling or what they want with a well-placed paw to your leg, hand, or other appendage.
3. German Shepherd – Best Dogs for Small Farms
The German Shepherd is arguably the hardest working canine in the dog business. Shepherds are hailed for their police work, military service, search and rescue work, and drug, accelerant, and explosives detection work. They’re also one of the top three service breeds, assisting people with everything from PTSD to diabetes. So, when they’re used in their original capacity, farm work, they probably just see it as another day at the office.
German Shepherds are great at multi-tasking, and are equally skilled in both herding and guarding livestock, fowl, property and people. As with all working breeds, they need a job to do and their intelligence and willingness to learn make them highly trainable.
What sets German Shepherds apart as farm dogs is their “furrowing instinct” or inclination to keep watch over unfenced pasture. When they’re on patrol, you can rest assured that your livestock is where they’re supposed to be and predators are where they’re supposed to be.
If you want a canine that you can trust to run things when you aren’t there, and acts more like upper management than a farmhand, then the Australian Shepherd is the dog for you.
Australian Shepherds have to be kept busy. If you don’t give them something to do, they’ll find something to do. Not only can they be taught to do farm work, they can also learn to do household tasks, like picking up items that have been strewn about the house. When training your Aussie, make sure to maintain a firm, confident demeanor. If you don’t take the lead—they will.
Like German Shepherds, Aussies are incredibly versatile and excel at virtually everything they do, from athletics and agility performance, to obedience competitions, and in therapy, guide or service capacities—but the role they were born to fill is that of no-nonsense farm dog.
When managing livestock, Australian Shepherds use a series of nips, barks, and an intimidating stare known as “the eye,” to move or stop the flow of traffic. They are also experts at adjusting their herding style to fit the animal being corralled. For instance, if they were rounding up cattle, they would use more force than if they were working sheep or chickens.
When it comes to family ties, Aussies are very affectionate and loyal to their humans, and will put it all on the line to protect their loved ones. On the other hand, they tend to be standoffish with strangers, and will let you know if an intruder approaches your property by alert barking until you check out the situation at hand.
Rounding out our list is the “Einstein of canines,” a sturdy breed that can keep going…and going…and going…and…you get the picture— the Border Collie.
Collies, in general, are a working breed, so it’s a given that they always need something to do. But Border Collies take this golden rule to another level. Their compulsion to herd and independent nature, plus their extraordinary intelligence (according to Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs” they’re the smartest pups around) is the perfect equation for getting things done or solving any problems that may arise on the farm. Borders can and will do anything asked of them, and even a few extra tasks as well.
Borders have an incomparable work ethic. If you let them, they will work all day, every day and once all your sheep, cattle, goats, chickens, and horses are herded, they’ll be more than happy to round up their pet siblings, your kids, and other wayward family members. To keep your Border from getting burned out on farm work, it is important to occasionally distract them with toys, games or other activities.
Fun Fact: Border Collies are highly intuitive and respond to the slightest commands, making them the best dogs for small farms.
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