When considering using a dog to help on the farmstead it’s good to know the difference between herding dogs, guardian dogs, and working dogs. Specific breed groups do better in certain farm positions due to their inherited characteristics and trainability to do the job you desire. Understanding what breeds are best for which roles will help you decide which breed group meets your needs.
Herding Dogs Steer Your Livestock Home
The herding dogs are known for their ability to direct cattle or sheep by jumping, yipping, and/or nipping at their feet. They can be naturally prone to circling other animals and sometimes children due to a strong herding instinct. Herding dogs assist in driving your livestock out to the back forty or returning them to the barn for the night.
A well-bred and well-trained herding dog will need a strong owner who knows what he can or can’t expect from his choice of dog breed. Some breeds that are part of the oldest profession for dogs are Collies, Corgis, Shepherds, Cattle Dogs, and Sheepdogs. Researching your breed choice will give you an idea of each breeds unique traits, characteristics, and areas of strength. Herding dogs may be small, medium, or a larger size dog, whichever size fits your needs best.
Livestock Guardian Dogs Become Part Of The Flock
Guardian dogs help keep predators away by being bonded with the pack of sheep it’s protecting. This includes the pen where the sheep are kept, it now becomes the dog’s pen too. A guardian dog will learn his place among the herd and the herd will learn to heed its authority. A loud bark from the darkness of what the predator thought was easy prey can quickly scare them off.
Guardian dogs usually have one job and that’s protecting the flock. Some good breeds to research for use as livestock guardian dogs are the Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, Maremma Sheepdog, and the Tibetan Mastiff. Guardian dogs are commonly larger breeds that can not only alert the herd, you the farmer, but can also protect itself from pending danger. A guardian dog is loyal to the flock and would risk its own life to protect the herd.
Working Dogs Yes Dogs Have Jobs
Livestock guardian dogs and herding dogs belong to a much larger group of working dogs. A dog that serves as protection, an aid in mobility, in emergency rescue situations, and even for entertainment purposes may be considered a working dog. Dogs have long served mankind in many important job positions.
Huskies are known for sled pulling and have coats that allow them to endure colder temperatures. Doberman Pinschers are famously known as great protection animals and have a sleek short haired frame for quick sprints. Rat Terriers are aptly named as they can sniff out rats and with their long narrow snouts can get into rat, mouse, or rabbit holes. They also have no problem digging into dirt holes chasing after other vermin.
We’ve all been taught about the St Bernard and when we envision one it’s likely it has a barrel under its neck. It’s said the purpose was to carry whiskey for avalanche victims to drink while waiting for rescue. Poodles, while not part of the “working dogs” are famously known for the intelligence, trainability, and ability to perform tricks that entertain. Years ago it was common to see Poodle dogs performing at the circus or inside shows.
Speaking of shows, some working dogs have become Hollywood famous. Names like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Old Yeller perk the old timer’s ears up. While more recent generations think of Milo and Otis, Benji, Hachi, Marley, and Scooby Doo. Dogs have been working for hundreds of years and one of the best jobs they do is pleasing humans.
Dogs Bred For Specific Purposes
When you find a dog bred for a specific purpose, train it well accentuating it strengths and characteristics, and generously reward it, your dog will continue to do a good job. Dogs are loyal creatures and in some cases overused and abused because of it. If you’re adding a farm dog to your great farm think of him as a living being that has needs just as a human worker would. You can meet those needs by providing proper shelter from the elements, nutritional foods, and regular Veterinary care. Making sure your dog is well fed, watered, and well rested can ensure his stamina and endurance throughout the day. Giving him positive words of encouragement and praise when he’s done well will keep him motivated.
Herding dogs, guardian dogs, and working dogs are all dogs bred for specific purposes yet most often seen as house pets. If we think about it, that’s not always the case as we’ve shown here with the many different types of job roles dogs can fill. At the end of the day, it’s all about teamwork and that includes your working dog.
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