Canine Farmhands | Living the Country Life
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Canine Farmhands

Having a dog on your farm is more fun when it helps out with chores. Here's how to find the right working breed for your property.
  • Do Your Research

    Tracy Kobberdahl, a professional dog trainer and breeder for more than 30 years, knows all about farm dogs. One of the first things she does when she trains a dog for farmwork is obedience training. "If a dog won't heel, sit, stay, lay down, and come, you'll never get him to do the work you want," she says. 

    Kobberdahl recommends you research what kind of dog you want for the work done on your farm or acreage. Work with a trainer to help your dog develop its skills, then employ your dog. "A farm is a great outlet for a working dog, but it needs to be used," she says. 

    Even with good training, some dogs are better suited for specific tasks because of their breeeding. Follow along for some of the best breeds for certain tasks.

    Date Published: April 4, 2018
    Date Updated: April 10, 2018
    Tags: farm dogs
  • Herding Dogs

    These dogs fall into two categories–ones that drive and ones that fetch.

    Driving Dogs

    These dogs move livestock like sheep, cows, and poultry. Kobberdahl says she uses dogs bred for "close-at-hand" chores. "The dog works at my side during the day, doing chores such as moving cattle into a pen and other little things," she says. For big pasture and range work, when Kobberdahl is on a UTV or horseback, she uses driving dogs to help move animals in open country. These "distance dogs" work large open areas, driving livestock. Driving breeds include Australian cattle dogs, corgis, and McNabs.

    Fetching Dogs

    While driving dogs push animals, fetching dogs do just the opposite. They gather up animals and bring the herd or flock to the farmer. Fetching dogs are active, smart, and like to work. "You need to keep dogs like this busy," Kobberdahl says. When working dogs are underused, they may become destructive in a house because they're bored. Fetching dogs include border collies, kelpies, and Australian shepherds. 

     

    Date Published: April 4, 2018
    Date Updated: April 10, 2018
    Tags: farm dogs
  • Ratters

    Ideal for barns and other outbuildings, ratters do just what it sounds like: they find and kill rodents. Tops in this category are terriers, which were bred for this task and have been helping out on farms for centuries. Terriers are a lovable but hardheaded, high-energy breed. The best ratting breeds include Jack Russell terriers, Border terriers, and Rat terriers. Most other terriers or terrier mixes also get excited about finding rodents. 

    Date Published: April 4, 2018
    Date Updated: April 10, 2018
    Tags: farm dogs
  • Livestock Guardian Dogs

    An important asset to a livestock owner is a dog that keeps flocks and herds safe from predators, such as coyotes, cougars, and wild dogs. Guardian dogs are usually large, so their presence deters predators. When pushed to protect their animals, these dogs become aggressive to a threat. Yet they are generally gentle and make excellent companions for humans. Breeds include Great Pyranees, Maremma sheepdogs, Anatolian shepherds, Komondors, and Akbash dogs. 

    Date Published: April 4, 2018
    Date Updated: April 10, 2018
    Tags: farm dogs
  • Finding a Working Dog

    Here are some of the characteristics to look for in a working dog:

    Trainability

    "A dog needs to be extremely trainable," Kobberdahl says. She starts with obedience training, then works on specific farmwork skills. 

    Work Ethic

    It sounds simple, but a working dog must like to work. "The dog should love the job he does and ask for more challenges," she says.

    Home-Centric

    A working dog can't wander off or it may put livestock in danger. "It needs to stay home," Kobberdahl emphasizes.

    Brains

    Farm dogs need to be smart enough to judge dangerous situations. For example, a dog needs to know when to avoid an angry cow or step in to help. 

    Date Published: April 4, 2018
    Date Updated: April 10, 2018
    Tags: farm dogs

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