What is a Farm Dog? The Best Choices for Working Partners on the Farm or Ranch


| 2/17/2017 11:08:00 AM


Tags: livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs, terriers, dog breeds, Jan Dohner, Michigan,

 dogs

Quick answer – a dog that lives on a farm.

A more complete answer would describe the breeds that traditionally worked on farms or ranches and were developed specifically for that work. Fast and clever herding dogs; noble and protective livestock guardian dogs; plucky terriers in the stable or field; and the multi-purpose breeds that weren’t specialists but could lend a hand to a hard working farmer or even pull a cart. In addition to their other jobs, most of these farm dog breeds also served as watchdogs for the homestead and companions for a more isolated lifestyle. These breeds remain an excellent fit for farm life as both a true working partner or a family companion in the country.

My new book Farm Dogs focuses exclusively on these breeds and the work they perform. The primary purpose of this book was to help people choose the right dog for their needs. The detailed breed profiles include specific aptitudes and inherited behaviors. Instead of the breed groups used by the kennel clubs, I choose to group these breeds by the actual work they traditionally performed for farming and livestock people.

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Among the oldest of the dog breed types are the shepherd’s dogs or livestock guardians, developed by the transhumant cultures that grazed open land and moved flocks from winter to high summer mountain pastures in places from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy; through the countries of the Balkans and Carpathians; down into Turkey; over to the Caucasus; and throughout Central Asia into Tibet. In the company of shepherds, they protected sheep, goats, and occasionally other stock from predation. 

Selected over many centuries, these breeds all have physical and behavioral traits in common. Most look a bit like huge, overgrown puppies with curling tails, floppy drop ears, and warm double coats. They are also independent thinkers, strongly protective, low in energy, and nurturing towards their smallest charges. They should exhibit no prey or chase drive directed toward their animals.




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