For many people, there is nothing more exciting than adding a new canine member to the household. Most will focus on how that dog will fit in with their lifestyles and home, as they should. They will envision fun trips with their dog, playing fetch, and picture their kids growing up with their newest buddy.
If you’re a farmer or rancher, you need to take a few other things into consideration. For example, if you have any type of livestock or other pets, you have to think about their safety.
- Are you looking for a “livestock guardian” or a family pet who has a job?
- Is the dog breed you’re considering usually mellow around barnyard animals or do they want to herd or “work” them?
- Do you want a working dog that can help out on the farm as well as act as a pet and protector for the family?
Livestock Guardian vs Herding Dog
Livestock guardians are just what the name implies – they are bred to guard the livestock. This usually means that they will be raised with, bonded with, and live outside with their adopted herd or flock. They are almost always mellow animals that are pleasant to be around, but they have an important job to do. Becoming a family pet can often make that job harder, or even impossible for them to perform. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve and want to be loved too, they just won’t be that trip-taking, ball chasing dog from the above scenario.
Herding dogs can be “heelers” who move animals from behind or “gatherers” who circle and direct the herd. Keep in mind that the drive to move animals (and people) is in the genes of herding dogs. It can be a huge benefit OR a hindrance. It is also “always on” so it is best for these particular dogs to have some type of job or activity to do, even if it is just playing fetch with the kids or going on regular walks.
Here are 3 great dog breeds for both farm and family – including excellent herding dogs.
Border collies are a workaholic breed of dog that is also always ready for a hug and some playtime. This energetic, predominantly black and white beauty is known for its agility, eagerness to please, and trainability. Their intelligence makes them an excellent companion as well as a worker on the farm.
With a life expectancy of up to 17 years, these dogs have a long time to charm and entertain their humans. They are a medium-sized breed with the males weighing up to around 45 pounds and the females a few pounds lighter. They can reach heights of around 20+ inches at the shoulder.
With their high play and work drive, Border Collies excel at herding work as well as game playing with the older kids. (It is always a good idea to keep an eye on them with small children as that herding instinct doesn’t always pertain only to livestock.) These dogs are also a favorite on the agility courses due to their natural athleticism and competitive nature.
One of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds in the world is the German Shepherd. On the larger side, these dogs stand up to 26 inches at the shoulder and can weigh up to 90 pounds. When part of a loving family, these big babies don’t realize they aren’t a lap dog so early obedience training is a must.
People usually equate German Shepherds with police or security work. Most don’t realize that herding sheep was the job they were initially bred for. Their large size combined with extremely high intelligence and natural ability made them top choices for most other jobs as well. These animals are one of the first to be considered for military, search-and-rescue, and service dog roles.
German Shepherds have a life expectancy of around 7-10 years. They are wonderful family protectors and make excellent companions. They do have longer coats that require regular brushing or grooming as they shed quite a bit.
Even though their name is descriptive of their size and means “dwarf”, these dogs think they are giants. With huge personalities that don’t quite match their short stature, the Corgis have made an impact as both family and working dogs.
As indicated by their names/varieties of Pembroke and Cardigan, the breed comes from two different agricultural areas of Wales. They were bred as a heeler due to their short height making them perfect for nipping at the heels of cattle. Even though they have sheepdog blood in their genetic makeup, they were found to be ill-suited to herding sheep. They can be a little too rambunctious when working the flock.
The Pembroke is the more commonly found of the two types of Corgi. They stand about 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh 25-30 pounds at maturity. They are often found in the tan and white coloration, but it is not unusual to find reds and sables. Corgis make great family pets and have long been prized as companions and guardians for children.
The More You Know
Learning the habits and traits of the dog breeds you’re looking at now can save a lot of frustration and heartache in the future. Talk to people who have the dogs you’re interested in and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Finding just the right dog breed might take a little research, but it will pay off in the end with a happy new family member.