Choose the Right Breed of Dog for Homestead and Family

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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We prefer the German Shepherd Dog for their size, loyalty, intelligence, watchfulness and companionship. We do not exclude other breeds but we mostly lean toward the German Shepherd, based on our remote lifestyle. Some people favor the mutt, some prefer specific breeds or mixed breeds. It is a matter of personal taste and homestead need. We actually love all dogs but living at 9,800’ elevation and remotely we could not have a small dog. Eagles and birds of prey have been known to swoop down even with the dog parent present and carry off small dogs. 

Choose a dog suited for your environment. We also have coyotes and other predators. I recall one time I was walking our Border Collie/Australian Cattle dog mix (Gypsy) and German Shepherd (Ben) and a coyote darted out and went after Gypsy while on an expansion leash. Our German Shepherd showed the coyote some vicious teeth, gave a low growl – sounding like it came from the very pit of hell – and the coyote ran off. With a 100% German Shepherd and human advancing on it, the coyote lost all its courage. We therefore choose dogs that are suited to our lifestyle and environment. 

Both dog and family must be compatible. It is also important to adopt dogs that like you as much as you are attracted to them. This sounds  simple, but our adopted Echo was very particular. I picked him up at the shelter to transport to the rescue and during our two-hour drive he bonded with me. Since I qualified potential adopters, I sent a few potential adopters to see if he was a fit for them. He would sniff them and then turn his back on them, remaining aloof toward them. When I learned this, we went immediately to adopt him ourselves and I have never seen a more happy dog. He had been waiting for us to come back and clearly didn’t want anyone else and spent the next eight years always by my side.

Dogs reveal their inclination. It is best to make absolutely sure the dog is attracted to you before adopting. Through no fault of your own, you may remind them of a similar person in their past that they had a bad experience with. Recently when Carol went into town for groceries she saw Lucy (see photo) in the shelter as she drove by. She went back to inquire about her and Lucy was immediately attracted to Carol and calmly laid at her feet. She is now one very happy family member, having chosen us as much as we chose her.

Carefully observe the dog’s body language. Watch for subtle body language and behavior. It is devastating to adopt a dog and then have to take the dog back to the shelter because the dog will not respond to you or remains aloof when you get them home…or developing bad neurotic habits like chewing or other destructive habits. By being careful in choosing a canine companion initially will help avoid the dog receiving the ultimate rejection by going back to the shelter. Picking the right dog for you and your family requires considerable pre-planning and astute observation when selecting the dog. 

Dogs should be inside and part of the family. The Border Collie mix (Gypsy) mentioned earlier was a surrender by some friends of ours. We occasionally dog sat her when they were away, but while with us she was inside the home and got along very well with our German Shepherd, Ben. Our friends had kept her mostly outside and she had some close encounters with predators. We do not believe in outside dogs and ours are always inside with us. Gypsy was always very happy to come visit us if only for a week or two. When we were asked if we would take her, there was no hesitation on our part. When I went to pick her up she eagerly got into the truck and never looked back at her old home. She lived out her long life as a member of our family content and happy. 

Don’t believe everything you read. There are numerous sources to help decide on the right breed of dog for people. Some are very good sources and some not-so-good. I was reading one not-so-good on social media recently that was telling people not to adopt numerous popular breeds of dogs or bring them into your home. The reasons given were ridiculous and certainly contrary to my long experience with those breeds. On the lengthy list were dog breeds like Shih Tzu, French Bulldog, Jack Russell Terrier, Shar Pei, Basenji, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, Husky, Pekingese and Greyhound to mention only a few.

Dog or owner. My personal experience with several of the many breeds mentioned are totally different from what the person writing the article claimed. The tragic part is that some people will assume the article is truthful and not adopt some of the very best breeds of dogs. I have friends who have had Greyhounds, Pit Bull Terriers, Chows, and Jack Russell Terriers and they are the sweetest, loving and best behaved dogs possible. The difference is that good dog parents equip themselves with the knowledge required to handle, treat and train the dog. 

Training the dog. The adopter should have the skills needed to properly train the new addition to your home. Dogs that are specific breeds do have certain traits and the adopter should be familiar with those traits. It is my opinion that the adopter should do some research on training techniques and breed characteristics before adoption. 

Seek the right resources. There are many different training techniques available on the internet and numerous books on the topic which all generally work. There are also professional dog trainers, which is how I learned, and hands on experience then helps refine your technique. My trainer was a military friend who trained military dogs. My refinement came later from a wild wolf at a local sanctuary. I prefer the Lucas Method, which was reported in a previous post. Training should always be gentle and consistent in my opinion.

Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site atBruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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