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Choosing A Homestead Dog: Why Conventional Wisdom Often Is Wrong

Choosing A Homestead Dog: Why Conventional Wisdom Often Is Wrong

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When it comes to a good homestead dog, the breed doesn’t matter as much as some people think. There are just as many mutts out there doing work on the farm as purebred dogs, but there are some advantages of the latter.

Mixed breed dogs tend to be:

  • Healthier than purebreds and overall more hardy/resilient.
  • Far less expensive.

But you get the downside of:

  • Not knowing the genetics behind the dog.
  • Working ability is fairly unknown until you start working with the dog.

The average purebreds are often:

  • More expensive.
  • Susceptible to genetic health issues/temperament issues.

But you get the benefit of:

  • Knowing what the dog will look like as an adult.
  • Having a pretty good idea of how the dog will act temperament-wise.
  • Having a much greater guarantee of the dog being able to perform the tasks you need it to perform.

Many novice dog owners make the mistake of believing that a registered purebred puppy means it is guaranteed to be of good health and temperament. This is absolutely incorrect – unless, of course, the breeder has a personal guarantee on the stock. Also, keep in mind that there is a huge difference between working breeders and show/pet breeders.

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The majority of breeders who focus on showing their dogs aren’t going to be producing working dogs, as they are focusing on conformation and outward appearance. This is fine if you want to show your dog or simply have a pretty pet, but it is going to leave you frustrated if you expect that dog to perform as a working animal. If you want a working dog, go to a working breeder — plain and simple.

Overall, mixed breeds can work perfectly fine for a number of rural activities, like property or livestock protection, hunting, ratting, herding, etc., but you really won’t know until the dog matures. Purebreds from working lines will be a better choice for activities like herding, protection and hunting.

Livestock Guard Dogs vs Property Protection

One of the most common reasons for having a dog on the homestead is for protecting livestock, serving as a watchdog and helping to guard the property from wildlife. A dog doesn’t need special breeding to work as a watch dog. Most family dogs tend to bark when they hear something out of the ordinary or see a stranger approaching the home.

Choosing A Homestead Dog: Why Conventional Wisdom Often Is Wrong

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A lot of dogs will also start up a ruckus if they smell/see a bear or coyote wander onto the property. Some dogs are much better at this than others, so if you have a real predator issue, you should keep that in mind. Livestock guard dogs (LGDs) tend to be very good at sensing predators naturally, and other breeds like the Karelian Bear Dog have strong instincts to repel predators without getting themselves in harm’s way.

A good dog for repelling predators should ideally have a good nose, be quick and agile, persistent yet smart. It should have a sense of self-preservation, however. It wouldn’t be much use to you if your overly brave dog ran right up to a bear just to get itself mauled.

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When it comes to livestock protection, many people go with a purebred dog, with some of the most popular being Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, Maremmas, Akbash, Kuvasz, etc. Crosses of these, for example, Pyrenees x Anatolian, can also work out just as well if they are from working parents. Many other breeds of dogs just don’t have the instincts to properly protect livestock omr the patience to live with them on a daily basis. If you have a lot of money and time invested in your livestock, invest in a well-bred dog or pair of dogs for protection.

Even with LGDs, you still need to do your research very carefully when looking for a breeder. Although these dogs haven’t had their genetic work ethic damaged as much by show breeders, you still should be wary. Also, even if you purchase a puppy or dog from immaculate working lines who was raised right out with livestock, don’t just put any new dog out with your livestock without supervision. Always monitor a new LGD for a while before allowing him or her to be trusted alone with them, regardless of whether that dog was working without a problem in its previous home.

Consider Adopting

If you are looking for a homestead dog who primarily will be a companion but also work as a watch dog, I highly recommend you consider adopting. There are a lot of dogs, especially adult dogs with nothing wrong with them, which could easily adapt to homestead life. Depending on where you live you may even be able to find nicely tempered purebreds that ended up at a shelter due to no fault of their own. I’m in a rural area and the shelters around here often get purebred cattle dogs, border collies, some LGDs, Labradors and more.

If adopting isn’t for you for whatever reason or you are looking for a specific breed, you can start by asking around in your local area, searching online for breeders or posting wanted ads in classifieds. As stated above, be very careful when it comes to choosing a breeder. Backyard breeders often post online or in newspapers, charging a hefty fee for a purebred, registered puppy who could very well develop health problems down the line.

What are your favorite homestead breeds? Do you have any stories to share about your beloved canine companions? Post your thoughts in the section below:

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