Chickens · Farm Animals · Farming with kids · New to farming

Farming Lesson Number Six… Farm Dogs

So far, Jill and I have learned a lot about farming. I shared some of these lessons a few weeks ago when I told you about our motto, That’s How You Learn. Looking back over those lessons is fun.  It makes me feel like we are making progress.  Certainly we have learned  a lot more than those five lessons, but I as far as bloggable (i.e. funny or very informative) lessons go, we’ll call this next one Lesson Number Six – Farm Dogs.

Six years ago when we got our Weimaraners, they met all our new-dog criteria.  We did our research.  Weims are loving, smart, easy to train, and good with kids.  The ones we picked out were also adorable and free to a good home.  What could be better?

Dixie and Daisy with The Big Kids
Dixie and Daisy with The Big Kids

Well, for starters, having dogs that are not bird killing machines would be better. Weimaraners are bird dogs.  We knew that when we got them.  In fact, Hal saw it as a perk.  But six years ago, I did not know I would be raising chickens.  Now, I can tell you that Weimaraners are an amazing breed.  They are known for bonding with their owners on a deep level.  They’ve also bonded with my chickens on a deep (deeply disturbing) level.  When we go to the hen house, they home in on those gals with an almost hypnotic concentration.

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Normally they are obedient and well behaved.  But the time The Littles accidentally let them into the hen house, was a nightmare.  They were frantic with joy and bloodlust.  The Littles were frantic with fear for their birds, and I was, well, I was just plain frantic.  Getting them out was like trying to stop a buffalo stampede with a squirt gun. In the end, we only lost one hen, but I think that’s because the dogs were so overwhelmed with their good fortune that they couldn’t function.  We love our Weims, but when they move on to their eternal reward someday, they will not be replaced – at least not with more Weimaraners.  But in the mean time, it’s hard to stay mad at these girls.

Chet Napping on Dixie and Daisy
Chet Napping on Dixie and Daisy

Then there’s Lily.

Lily
Lily

It’s a long story, but we went to some friends’ house for New Year’s Eve, and came home with a French Bulldog.  We knew Lily would probably never be a farm dog.  In fact, The American Kennel Club has this to say about Frenchies..

Frenchies are indoor dogs, but require air conditioning in warm weather. While good at alerting their owners to danger (Look! The UPS Guy is coming!), their main role is that of lap warmer. The Frenchie requires minimal exercise and grooming.

Okay, definitely not a farm dog but we could not help ourselves.  I believe I mentioned in my Getting Your Goat post that my selection process for choosing animals relies heavily on cuteness.  I mean, just look at her.  But as it turns out Lily has surprised us.  She has taken to life on the farm like a duck to water. She runs happily all over the place reveling in the space and freedom. and sometimes even chasing the buffalo.  Unfortunately, Lily has enjoyed too much running and freedom.  Due to all her activity she now suffers from hip dysplasia.  The meds are working, but we have to avoid stress to her joints.  She must be lifted into and out of all vehicles and carried when going a long distance.  Good thing I’m not trying to pass myself off as a serious farmer because carrying a French Bulldog down to the barn does not look cool.

So which dogs do make the best farm dogs?  That depends on what you are looking for.  According to Off the Grid News If you want a guard dog, these breeds are your best bet:

  • Great Pyrenees
  • Kuvasz
  • Komondor
  • Anatolian Shepherd
  • Akbash
  • Maremma
  • Tibetan Mastiff

The thing is, I don’t think I have what it takes to raise a true farm guard dog.  To do this, you have to let the dog bond with the animals it is protecting rather than with the family.  Nope.  We are dog people.  There is no way I could have a dog and not make it a family pet.   What we need is just a dog that won’t kill our livestock and birds.  Fortunately, the folks at  Animal Planet recommend a variety of other breeds that are known to get along well with other animals.

Do you have dogs?  Do you let your chickens free range?  What breeds have you found to be the best farm dogs?  I truly hope we have Dixie, Daisy, and Lily for years to come, but as much as I love them, there’s no question, my next dog will be a farm dog. A very cute farm dog.   ~lc

This article was linked at The Prairie Homestead

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7 thoughts on “Farming Lesson Number Six… Farm Dogs

  1. I’ve got a pit bull mix that completely (so far, at least) ignores the chickens. They live in the barnyard but frequently fly over the fence into the backyard to check things out. Keela seems to know the hens are “family” and leaves them alone. She’s great alerting me to animal strangers – almost broke through the door when she heard an owl swoop into a tree and start eyeing the hens! As far as around humans, she’s the best!

    1. Sounds like she’s the best of both worlds. I family pet and chicken friendly. Fortunately, our dogs rarely venture down to the barn without us, because our chickens and ducks fly the coop occasionally too. If the dogs knew this, they’d be down at the barn all day every day.

  2. I have a dog that came up on a truck from South Carolina with 150 dogs of various ages, sizes, colors and questionable parentage. She looks like a small border collie and is perfect with all my poultry. However, her job was to be a real cowdog and that did not work out. The cows chased her instead of the other way around. So my “reluctant cowdog” now has other jobs.
    The best farm dog is a medium sized mutt, from your local rescue or shelter, that you have time to train properly. I had a leash on my dog for a full 6 months 24/7 and that helped the “farm education” a lot! I was able to train her to do many things PLUS use proper behavior towards different species of livestock, in that short a time.
    Most of the good, smart, gentle dogs on farms around here came from the local dog pound. Check yours out or:
    http://www.petfinder.com

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