How to Choose a Farm Dog From a Shelter | Living the Country Life
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How to Choose a Farm Dog From a Shelter

The farm dog of your dreams might be waiting for you - at a shelter or animal rescue center.
  • Finding a Farm Dog

    Dogs and farms go paw in hand. A capable dog can be a big asset on a country property as a livestock guardian, home protector or herder. With so many dogs in shelters (3.9 million a year nationwide), it makes sense to look there for the farm dog of your dreams.

    "What kind of dog do you want?" is the first question you'll be asked at a shelter or rescue, so identifying traits beforehand will help you be matched with the best breed/mix for you. The type of dog you want may depend on the type of property, as well as the area of country you live in. People who live in rural areas often like the idea of a dog that sounds the alarm when something is out of order. 

    Date Published: October 11, 2017
    Date Updated: October 13, 2017
  • Understanding Dog Instincts

    Over decades, dogs were bred to do specific jobs, and each breed had a specialty. Herding breeds moved sheep and cows. Working breeds pulled wagons or guarded livestock. Terriers killed vermin. Hunting dogs helped track quarry through smell or sight. And retrievers worked with hunters to bring back the kill. Every group of dogs was bred to do very specific (and very different) things on a farm. 

    Date Published: October 11, 2017
    Date Updated: October 13, 2017
  • Choosing the Breed/Mix for You

    Purebred dogs, as well as mixed breeds, carry their breed instincts with them. And when you go to a shelter, you may see dogs of all groups. Nationwide, 25 percent of dogs that enter shelters are purebred dogs; the remaining 75 percent are mixed-breed dogs that are a sum of parts, some of which may be fairly identifiable. 

    Identifying a dog whose breed instincts match up with your farm needs is a good way to narrow down adoptable dogs. If you are looking for a livestock herder, choose from among herding breeds, such as border collies or Australian shepherds. 

    But keep in mind that instincts are a double-edged sword. For example, the terrier that gleefully pounces on a mouse in your garage may not be able to curb that killer impulse in your chicken yard. Don't put a dog in a situation that may bring that instinctual behavior out in a bad way - and then get mad at the dog. While each breed may have a set of inbred behaviors, not all dogs of that breed exhibit those behaviors. For example, there are border collies that won't herd sheep and terriers that won't go crazy over mice. Each behavior is individual to the dog. 

    Date Published: October 11, 2017
    Date Updated: October 13, 2017
  • Putting Dogs to Work

    A good all-around farmstead dog would be a Lab or Lab mix. They were bred as retreivers, but they're also smart, easy to train, and companionable. They're good swimmers and love to be outdoors. If you're looking for a livestock guardian, breeds such as Anotolian shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Komondor, and Kuvasz may fill the bill. Generaly these dogs are raised with the livestock they protect, so introducing a dog that has never been around livestock may not yield the results you want, and the dog may need training. Traditional livestock-herding breeds include border collies, Australian shepherds (sheep), corgies and Australian cattle dogs (cattle). And if you seek a dog with a strong prey drive, consider terriers or dachshunds. 

    Date Published: October 11, 2017
    Date Updated: October 13, 2017
  • Visiting an Animal Shelter

    Follow these tips for choosing a dog that's right for your farm.

    • Look for traits that make a good all-around farm dog. The best farm dogs are gentle, intelligent, love to be with their person, love being outside, and get along well with other animals.
    • When you arrive at a shelter, tell the personnel some specific traits that you are looking for in a dog. They can help guide you to the right breed/mix.
    • When you've identified a potential dog, try the dog on a leash and see how receptive it is to you and your commands. Be aware that not every dog is leash-trained or knows basic commands. But a smart, kind, and willing dog will learn these commands, and more. 
    • When you bring your dog home, don't let the dog off the leash right away. Test your dog on a leash around other dogs, cats, chickens, sheep and horses.
    Date Published: October 11, 2017
    Date Updated: October 13, 2017

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