Virtually every homestead needs to have a dog or three running around, maybe one or two more indoors. It is important to have both indoor and outdoor dogs, as each will serve different purposes and the twain are not necessarily compatible in nature. However, some people will inevitably consider the ultimate purpose of the dogs, but make their decisions based on incomplete or even incorrect data and information. What may seem to be ideal traits may not necessarily be so, and a mistake could result in a dead dog or much worse.
Remember, Dogs are Social or Pack Animals
Some people who live off the grid or on an isolated homestead, prefer the larger, more aggressive breeds of dogs. Regardless, no matter what kind of dogs may be desired, it is imperative to remember that dogs are social animals and are generally hierarchical in nature. What this means is that there is always going to be one dog that is the alpha male or the proverbial (and literal) leader of the pack. It is imperative that the human establish themselves as the alpha male … most especially if the larger, more aggressive breeds are utilized on the homestead.
Again, regardless of the breed(s) selected, it is imperative that the human integrate with the pack and learn to socialize with the dogs. This may be something so simple as sitting on the porch scratching or petting the dogs, or out walking or running through the property with the dogs. Dogs left on chains or on their own will tend to exhibit symptoms of mental illness … to the extent that this is possible at least, though certainly exhibiting symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. If there are numerous dogs without any human presence, one of the dogs will likely take the position of the alpha male and may prove hazardous to be people. This is especially relevant for smaller children that may not fully understand the nature of animals that have effectively returned to their wild or feral state and for any livestock that may be unfortunate enough to encounter the dogs.
Outdoor Dogs and Indoor Dogs
There should be separate dogs for indoor dogs and outdoor dogs. While the importance may not be so severe in warmer climates, bringing dogs in and out from a heated (or over-heated) home in the winter months is not going to work well for the dogs. Dogs, like people, are sensitive to radical changes in environment. If dogs are constantly introduced to radical changes in their environment, this can lead to illness and even death for the dogs. This does not mean though, that the outdoor dogs should not have access to indoor shelters.
Some dogs may have access to some of the outbuildings on the property while others may have their own doghouses built specifically for them individually. All of the dogs should have a warm, safe and secure location to lay their heads, especially when they are going to spend the majority of their lives outdoors. Indoor dogs should remain indoor dogs and not left to run around on their own out of doors to an excessive extent … though neither should they be de-clawed or de-fanged and otherwise left defenseless.
Dogs as a Defensive Measure
Some people may think about rottweilers, German shepherds, Staffordshire or other terriers and other larger, more aggressive dogs for outdoor defense, but these are not always the best selection available. Some of the more aggressive breeds, especially when left without human intervention as the alpha, may tend to attack any and all intruders. While that may sound beneficial in some ways, it is actually much more detrimental than beneficial.
Bears and other wildlife may frequently enter the property depending on the area where the homestead is located. Having dogs that consistently attack the local wildlife is never a great idea. Furthermore, the dogs may seek to keep largely silent while stalking any potential prey, failing to alert the homeowners to any unwarranted intrusions on their property. The ideal scenario would be dogs that would merely track the intruder while at the same time warning the homeowner of their presence and assisting the owner in locating the intruders. This point also segues nicely into the final section regarding defensive indoor dogs.
Ankle Biters In The House
There are a lot of different ideas about the ideal dog for the homestead, though oddly enough, the ankle biters … the smaller, often “obnoxious” breeds, rarely make it to the forefront of these conversations. The chihuahuas, miniature poodles and other smaller terrier breeds often get overlooked despite the fact that they are uniquely, if not ideally suited to home defense.
Left to their own devices, most of these smaller dog breeds would never hesitate to attack any passing bear, deer or other intruder … including those of the two-legged variety. This is actually a good reason for leaving them indoors, as again, this is not always the most desirable result of defensive dogs for the homestead. What these dogs also possess that is an ideal defensive solution, is a tendency to bark at virtually every passing breeze. It may take them a while to grow accustomed to the normal sounds around the homestead, but once they have acclimated, any unusual noise will generally result in an incessant racket that would roust even the heaviest of sleepers.
Gravel crunching under any window or outside of any door is sure to get the attention of these smaller dogs, and send them into a barking fury. They may also tend to join in when any of the outdoor dogs begin barking. It may take a while for the more rugged, individualistic outdoors-men to get used to having these hyperactive litle fur-balls running around under foot, but it is generally well worth the hassle, and when they do grow accustomed to one another … dog and owner … they can actually prove to be every bit as congenial as most of the larger breeds of dogs for the homestead.
As always, please leave any of your thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions in the comment section below so that they can be addressed individually, and perhaps even used for consideration in future articles. None of this work would be possible without you, the reader, and as such, your thoughts and considerations are the most important aspect of any articles published herein.
Ruth Tandaan Sto Domingo has worked with numerous NGOs, governments and Indigenous communities in Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil, Australia, the Philippines and Vanuatu to implement sustainable solutions. She is the co-author of Whole System Sustainable Development. Ruth enjoys “hyper-realistic” cross stitch and is working with her husband to build a largely off-grid and self-sufficient home where she will raise livestock and garden both flowers and food. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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