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The 5 Best Dog Breeds For The Homestead?

The 5 Best Dog Breeds For The Homestead?

Labrador. Image source:

I didn’t have a dog growing up. My mom hated them, and thought them messy and expensive. Dad didn’t care too much for them, either, and I guess I can’t blame them. Sure, we lived in the country and with several acres it was ideal for a pooch, but alas, my forays into the woods went unaccompanied by man’s best friend.

When I was a farmhand we had a few dogs on the property and I began to realize the importance of a dog on the farm or in the country. They guarded our livestock and warned us of approaching visitors, and made a day in the woods not so lonely. When I met my wife, I was shocked when I found out her parents had not one or two but nine canines. And so, since then, my life has had plenty of four-legged buddies.

If you live in the country, hunt, farm or just want some additional security, I have narrowed down a few breeds that are great for country living. Of course, there are many different opinions out there, but these are my choices.

Before you purchase, consider three things: First, do you require a hunting dog or additional help on the farm? Both avenues require training. Some training you can do yourself, as in the case with a waterfowl dog. However, you throw the idea of cattle school into the equation, the cost can increase dramatically. Also, if you buy a certified puppy you can pay north of $1000 for the pooch.

1. Labrador retriever. These are great dogs if you have a family. Very gentle in nature, relatively easy to train, the Lab is a great dog for anyone who hunts upland birds and waterfowl. They are also a great dog to have around the farm.

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They do have a tendency to gain weight and develop hip and joint problems, but a healthy animal can live as long as 14 years.

2. Weimaraner. Another good family dog. Weimaraners are very popular with bird hunters across North America. They make a good family pet as well, and are gentle in nature similar to a Lab.

In my humble experience, Weimaraners are better as solitary dogs and I have developed the opinion that they don’t get along with too many other canines.

3. Beagle. Beagles are an excellent breed of scent hounds, and excel at chasing rabbits and can even be used for upland game. They do best when in a pack, and so it is recommended you own at least a few of these dogs together as they are highly social animals.

Kids love them, and often their first experience with a hunting dog will be a beagle circling a rabbits or treeing a raccoon.

4. German shepherd. Known in the U.S. for their work with police and security, German shepherds are prevalent on homesteads in Germany and all through Europe. The German shepherd will protect your children, especially if raised with them from a puppy. It also will protect your livestock if you train them right. Coyotes are no match for a German shepherd or two, although these dogs are vulnerable to wolves and cougars. Though a bit intimidating, a German shepherd can make a very good family dog, and will lay down its life for your kids.

5. Border Collie. Considered the most intelligent of all the domestic dog breeds. One of my personal favorite breeds of dog. The Border Collie is great around children and will quickly become one of the family.

Border Collies do great herding sheep and even cattle. They are the perfect farm hand for the rancher or the farmer with a dozen sheep or a few Black Angus.

What breeds would you add to this list? Share your own list in the section below:

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  1. Catahoula leporad dog should be on that list.

  2. I think you are completely wrong on 3 of your 5 listed. I grew up on a ranch and live on a ranch today. The border Collie and German Shelherd are excellent choices. But most people who are homesteading or in survive mode don’t need bird or hunting dogs. They need tough, smart, protective working dogs. That means an ACD (Australian Cattle Dog) Blue Heeler (Queensland Heelers tend to be more neurotic). The ACD is the third most intelligent after the Poodle (not cool for real dog people) and the German Shelherd and before the Border Collie. They embody the best of multiple breads, have very few health issues, are tough as nails, are loyal to a fault, can handle 2-3 coyotes by themselves, herd and protect livestock, are quietly (as a posed to bird and hunting dogs), are super tough, reliable and low maintenance. They are the ultimate working, ranch, survival, off tried dog. Just an opinion from a practitioner.

    • Don’t over look a mut! The most fantastic dog I have ever owned (I’m 66) was a cross between a Lab and an Australian Shepherd. Smartest dog I ever had. He would herd cattle like his mother and retrieve birds like his father. A cross between two registered breeds is relatively easy to find. Labs and Australian Shepherds are both so popular, that “illicit romances” and the subsequent puppies are common. Look in the want ads or at the animal shelters or ask your vet for puppies that fit that bill.
      In addition, dogs follow their genetic ancestry to an amazing degree. Beagle puppies will chase the first rabbit they see. Labs will retrieve until they drop. Shepherds will herd the first cows they meet while looking at you with a puzzled look that clearly says “What am I doing? I just feel like I should be doing this.”
      Here is the bonus: With two dogs, each dog will copy a second dog’s behavior. If you have a rat terrier, he will keep rats and mice out of the house and barn. With a second dog, like an Australian Shepherd, you often end up with two rat killers. They copy each other. You will have two livestock protection dogs, even if one isn’t bred for it, like a Lab, because he will copy his friend the Great Pyrenees.
      Just be careful. More than one dog, and in “dog think” you have a pack. I know people whose two farm dogs were fine outside, but the minute the little house dog joined them, they terrorized the neighborhood.
      Do NOT let your dogs run loose in the country. Too many farmers have lost flocks of chickens and new born calves or lambs to otherwise gentle family dogs. Pack mentality is real. If you let your dog run, you risk losing him to a farmer who might shoot him under the assumption that he is there to attack the livestock. There are unwritten rules to having dogs in the country. Be a good neighbor and learn them.

    • Blue Heeler is another great dog. Highly recommended. Have had several over the years.

  3. Everyone forgets the value of a mutt or mixed breed. Mutts tend to be healthier. Have less medical problems than true breed stock. They also have a lot of the traits of the parent stock.

    • We love large breed mutts for work on the farm and guarding our chickens from predators. Golden retriever mixes are usually superb. We had one GR mix with another very large heavy boned breed. He was so gently, but kept predators away and deer out of our produce gardens. He also loved to carry things for us.

  4. We have an Airedale Terrier. These are fantastic guard dogs that are never mentioned in most lists. They used to be used by London Police before they started using Alsatians (German Shepherds). They are highly intelligent, good barkers, and often alert bears to stay away as well as smaller critters. Our’s walks the perimeter of our property daily. They are used in hunting and have a terrific nose being able to scent people or animals quite some distance away. They also love people and children like Labradors do.
    We also have a Wire Fox Terrier that is an amazing dog. Also highly intelligent, never forgets where prey was scented and totally ruthless with vermin. As an earth dog she will go to ground in groundhog, chipmunk holes etc.. and usually gets the prey, so we have no need for a cat. She is totally obsessive and will sit for ours stalking prey yet she is friendly to all, but not a guard dog the way the Airedale is. Both these dogs are a really good combination on our homestead.

  5. I rarely disagree with any information on this site, but on this one I beg to differ! LOL The only dog you listed that has any place on a homestead (in my opinion, of course) is the Border Collie. We have cows, horses, milk goats, meat rabbits and chickens and the other four breeds you listed are worthless in this capacity. We’ve had a German Shepherd, which I loved, but would NOT leave the livestock alone. She tried to kill everything. The Beagle was sweet but did nothing but yipp continually. The Lab was great as a pet but had no real usefulness since we didn’t bird hunt. I’ve never had a Weimaraner but no farmer/rancher I know owns one. The two breeds that we now use are the Blue Heeler and Anatolian Shepherd. Both are excellent with livestock, guard home and family, and make sweet pets as well. They are so smart I can pretty much tell them what I want them to do, and they do it! They mind better than my kids! LOL

  6. We live off grid with horses, goats, rabbits, and totally free range chickens. We have Great Pyrenees and Pyr mixes. They are the best dogs! They protect what they see you feed and spend time with. They are gentle giants, awesome pets, and fiercely loyal. I don’t ever want a different breed to guard what is mine.

  7. You forgot texas blue lacy. No health issues, good guard dogs, herd dogs, blood trackers and hog dogs. They are amazing!! Smart tough fierce and there are some living at 16 yrs of age still running cattle. They are perfect size as well. Males are about 70lbs max. Don’t forget you are off grid and have to feed these animals as well. Just my 2 cents

  8. No one ever mentions the wonderful Newfoundland. Living off grid they can haul wood or what ever you need hauled for you. They are never cross around anyone but let someone threaten his family and that person will wish he hadn’t. They are especially protective of children. Had Newfies for 33 years and they are the best, easiest trained dogs I’ve ever had.

  9. Black Mouth Cur – best dogs in the world though few people know of them. I’ve had dogs all my life and my BMC tops them all!

  10. This is great information! Have any recommendation for dogs that also are good with chickens? (And won’t chase them off into the woods> Lol.)

  11. The best dog i had was a border collie. He was a big male about 65-70 pounds he was an alfa male very tough. Would not let any predators including stray dogs in his territory. I watched him kill a pair of coyotes that he ran out of a brush pile. Sadly he died at nine years old. There is not a day goes bye i don’t miss him.

  12. Any good dog is a “good dog.” Had dogs all my life. Current companion is a rescued rat terrier/fice. He is not the smartest, but loving and loyal. You will not enter our homestead without your presence being made known. There’s a reason they say dogs are man’s best friend. Live, love, laugh.

  13. We always hear the story of how our great great grandpa always included a pair (or more) weiner dogs because they kept the bears away – they’d ferociously take off after the bears and due to their size and rowdy obnoxiousness would deter the bears from the property. They’re also great bed warmers 🙂

  14. I live on a farm back In The 80s we had many running Lose dogs I’m 35 and had over 100 dog blue healers was the dumbest worst dogs iv had we had sheperds of many types collie’s the best dogs we had was rottwilers and stofford shires or pit bulls, and fox hounds walker blue ticks ect blue healers was very dumb labs run away every day

  15. Another name for the “list” Leonberger. As good or better is a Leon cross, perhaps with G. Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain dog, Caucasian Shepard or some other working dog breed. Had a Leon cross and am looking for another.

  16. bear dogs of not opposite sexes and fixed and in multiples especially if in bear country (will go right for brown bears successfully) and black’s run ass-out. very protective of property and family…

    belgian malinois – but MUST keep them active all the time every day as you must with the border collies/aussie sheppards they crave activity…

    be very careful with crossbreeds and mutts. patience pays off with full-breed pups…

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