Caring for the Homestead Working Dog

Jon Geller, D.V.M shares part I of his series on the homestead working dog, includes information on raising a working dog on the farm, choosing a dog breed, vacinating a puppy and health care for your dog.

| August/September 2000

Jon Geller, DVM offers his farm animal health experience. This month Geller shares information about caring for your homestead working dog. 

Part I: Raising a healthy homestead working dog.

As Rod Carpenter's 1976 Ford F-250 pickup rolled to a stop, I glanced up at his flatbed load of bay silhouetted against the agate-blue Colorado sky. Perched on top, guarding the cargo against ground or aerial attack, was Rex, a merle blue Australian shepherd.

Rod, a third generation backcountry rancher, was on his way to, feed his cows — a job he wouldn't even think of doing without Rex. Rod tugged the sweat-stained brim of his Stetson lower against the rising sun as we jawed about his herd. Rex kept his post on the bales, scanning the surrounding hills for potential ambusbers.

Consider the quintessential farm dog: truck-chasing, sheepherding, yard-protecting, trailblazing and unconditionally loyal. And all this for an occasional scratch behind the ears. The homestead hound is as much a part of rural life as the tractor, the photocells, the cookstove or the compost.

Choosing a Dog Breed for the Homestead

Choose a dog that fits your home and needs. Should it be a purebred dog or a mixed breed? The debate continues. While purebred dogs may provide more predictability in behavior, mixed dogs often combine the best characteristics of several breeds. Then again, mixed-breed dogs may acquire the worst characteristics of their heritage.

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