In addition to serving as watchdogs, some breeds can do other jobs around the homestead (see the Image Gallery for pictures of specific breeds). These working dogs are unusually good at multitasking:
Livestock guardian dogs bond with sheep, goats or other livestock and protect them from coyotes and other predators. Some sheep producers in Colorado prefer the Akbash; other talented breeds include Great Pyrenees, komondors, Anatolian shepherds and Maremmas. To be most effective, these dogs should live outdoors with their charges, rather than indoors as family pets.
Herding dogs do an amazing job working with livestock. The border collie is the top dog in this category, because it uses sharp eyes and agility, rather than nipping, to move herds. Australian shepherds, collies, Australian cattle dogs, Welsh corgis and several other breeds also can make fine herders. Herding dogs love their work and often will try to herd people if they are underemployed.
Terriers are outstanding at controlling vermin and can range in size from large Airedales to smaller Boston terriers. For centuries, terriers such as the West Highland and cairn terriers were bred to hunt and kill mice, rats and other small animals. For some terrier breeds, such as the schipperke, being a watchdog is part of the job. Good “rat dogs” tend to dig a lot of holes, because their passion for their work is nothing short of obsessive. They also make fine pets.
Assistance dogs, also called service dogs, can help people with disabilities. German shepherds, once the most popular guide dogs for the blind, now rank just behind Labradors and golden retrievers as assistance dogs. In Britain and Australia, labradoodles (lab-poodle mixes) are increasingly popular as assistance dogs.
Hunting dogs come in a few different varieties. Sporting breeds, such as pointers, setters, vizslas and spaniels, work with human hunters. Hounds hunt on their own, using scent and sight. Some other hunting breeds work best when hunters handle them as a pack. The Weimaraner was bred to be both a hunter and a pet.
Read more: Find out which dogs suit the needs of your homestead in The Best Guard Dog for Your Homestead.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.