Dogs are “man’s best friend.” Right?
Well, on the homestead that’s not always the case. We know too many dogs who aren’t so great on the homestead even if they are great companions. But when you’re starting or building a homestead, your dog is an important ally if chosen carefully.
Livestock guardian dogs are invaluable.
We almost quit raising pastured poultry because of predation. Skunks, possums, owls, hawks, a neighbor’s dog, and foxes were cleaning us out. Even our own barn cats enjoyed a chick or two! You may have run into some of these chicken predators. If not yet, you eventually will.
Then we met Daniel Salatin, Joel Salatin’s son. We told him about the problem. He said, “You need a dog.” Specifically, a livestock guardian. See, the husky and blue heeler served other purposes on the farm, but they didn’t know they were supposed to PROTECT the animals. Chase, yes. Put back in pens, yes. Protect? HA! Not so much.
We found a Great Pyrenees puppy. She was so cute and fluffy! And, when her guardian instincts kicked in at about 9 months, the predation came to an end. Even the blue heeler understood he better leave off the chicken herding. True, she tried to play with a chicken on occassion until she was about a year old, but it was a sibling sort of thing: “I can chew on it, but you better not!” She figured it all out, though, and beware chicken predators!
Livestock guardian dog breeds include
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Komondor (this is one cool looking dog, but all that hair!)
- all sorts of Shepherd breeds
- and many others (google listed about 50 breeds!)
The upshot is, a lot of breeds are helpful to you on the homestead. A dog can be your best friend…or your worst enemy. A dog that, by its nature, wants to hunt or retrieve birds or isn’t suited to the livestock you have (for example, a heeler is great with larger animals, a little tough on smaller stock) can make your life difficult. So choosing carefully from the beginning will save you a lot of time and heartache later on.
Here’s how our dogs work for us:
Frequently asked questions:
How do you deal with all the hair?
Yes, Great Pyrenees are very hairy. They are very happy outside, though, so the hair can stay outside. If you do want them inside, brushing helps a lot. You’ll also want a good vacuum or broom, because you’ll be cleaning up a lot of hair. DO NOT shave them, even in the summer. Their undercoat acts like woolen underwear. They do change to a lighter set in the summer, but that undercoat keeps them warm in the cold and cooler in the heat. The top coat is essential to shedding skunk smell, burs, dirt, and everything else they encounter.
How do they stay cool in the summer?
Pyrenees love to dig. They will find cool dirt to lay in. They like a shallow pool to get in, though they dislike swimming as a rule (woolen underwear gets heavy!). They pant a lot, even at 50 degrees. Cool water to drink helps them stay hydrated. Shaving them won’t really help as their coat is insulation from heat as well as cold. Keeping their coat well brushed so the undercoat isn’t over heavy and matted does help.
How do I train my puppy to be a guardian?
Mark will answer that and several other questions in this video:
Did we miss your question? Let us know and we’ll help you out!
A good homestead dog is truly “man’s best friend.”