With today’s house hounds more likely to spend their time herding toys than sheep, it’s easy to forget that most dogs have a long history of hard work behind them.
Many breeds — including the most powerful guardian breeds to pint-sized ratters — were originally developed for farm life, whether it was herding animals, protecting livestock, or pulling carts.
If you’re looking for a helping hand on your acreage, look no further, as we’ve rounded up the best farm dog breeds and information about what it takes for a pup to make a great farmhand.
What Kind of Tasks Do Farm Dogs Perform?
Farm dogs are as diverse in duties as they are in looks.
Most people instantly think of herding dogs, which play a vital role in many livestock farms. These breeds corral animals through paddocks and keep the flock in formation, preventing animals from wandering off.
On a similar note, there are guardian breeds that protect farm animals from wolves, coyotes, and other predators. These are large dogs with fierce temperaments, who are unafraid of threats and naturally aloof.
Around the farm, you’ll also find less-obvious jobs that exist for doggos. There are several breeds that originated pulling carts that delivered goods and supplies between points. These are big dogs with enough mass and muscle to haul heavy loads – in fact, they’re even popular dogs for urban mushing!
Don’t forget about the little guys, either, as ratters and vermin-chasers have a critical role in keeping pests out of food supplies and gardens. Some wonderdogs manage to fulfill several of these roles around the farm.
What Kinds of Traits Make for a Good Farm Dog?
Not all breeds are cut out for farm life. In fact, not all dogs can make the cut, regardless of breed.
Working around the farm can be grueling, requiring hours of daily work for a pooch. Accordingly, all farm dogs must have drive, stamina, and intelligence — couch potatoes need not apply.
In addition, a good farm dog is:
- Even-Tempered: There is no room for loose cannons, as a farm is a business, and a four-footed helper must make your life easier — not harder.
- Obedient: With a job to do and fun, new sights and sounds incoming constantly, it’s important for dogs on the farm to have impulse control.
- Confident: Farm dogs are required to act independently and must have confidence to carry themselves with purpose to achieve the desired goal, whether it’s herding cattle or guarding your flock.
- Athletic: Even if he’s monitoring sheep in a pasture, a working cattle dog must have the ability to carry out his job at a moment’s notice.
It’s also important to note that different farm jobs require different strengths, as a guardian breed may not need to be as quick-footed as a herder, but they need bravery and strength to fight off (or simply intimidate) potential livestock predators.
So, you’ll need to carefully select a breed (and individual dog) who has the skills and aptitudes to complete the tasks at hand.
If you’re searching for a farm dog, seeking out a breeder or rescue that specializes in the breed is a must. You want a pup that comes from a working line rather than a show line, and you should carefully note the temperament to make sure you get a dog that will work for you. For instance, a scaredy cat of a livestock guardian won’t do you or your sheep any good.
The Best Farm Dogs For Country Livin’
Among working dog breeds, there is an elite list of pups that cross off enough boxes to earn a coveted role on the farm. These dogs are so good at what they do, they’re a must-have for making farm life easier.
1. Border Collie
As one of the most active dog breeds, it’s no surprise that the border collie hails from farming roots. He’s a confident pup with an unrivaled work ethic and natural herding instinct. He’s also one of the most intelligent dog breeds and learns commands quickly.
When he’s not working the pasture, he’s happy to relax with his family and is an excellent companion for children. Be warned, however, as he will herd two-footed youngsters if not corrected at an early age.
2. Australian Shepherd
The Australian shepherd or Aussie is a farmer’s right hand in the pasture. He’s born to herd and quickly hones his skills working a variety of farm animals. Paired with his intelligence, he’s a force to be reckoned with as he tirelessly drives livestock.
Aussies are natural entertainers and companions, making them wonderful house dogs off-duty. As with any herding dog breed, they may attempt to round up your kiddos. He does require a gentle hand in training since he’s sensitive, too.
The Kuvasz may look cute and cuddly with his snow-white coat and floppy ears, but he’s actually a formidable livestock guardian dog who isn’t afraid to throw down with predators. The breed is also aloof with strangers, making him an excellent watchdog.
The Kuvasz is protective of his family, though he can be a bit of a problem child if he’s not trained from an early age to distinguish what an actual threat is. He requires a sensitive approach with training as well due to his softie interior, which is well-hidden by his overall strength.
4. Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian cattle dog’s quick wit and drive lend well to farm life, where he’ll happily round up livestock or chase off vermin like rabbits. Like his Aussie friend, he’s tireless when it comes to work and will jump from job to job without much fuss.
His intelligence has a downside, though, as he can get into trouble if he’s bored or ignored. That said, he’s a great family dog who is eager to please. He can be cautious with new people, so make sure he’s socialized as a pup to ensure a well-rounded, happy pooch. Australian cattle dogs can vary in pricing from the low to high end. Considering how sensitize this pup can be, it’s double important to go with a vetted breeder.
Believe it or not, the rough-and-tumble Rottweiler got his start as a livestock herder and guardian.
His robust build equips him for herding larger animals like cattle, and his no-fear attitude will scare off anyone or anything that dares to wander too close. He also can pick up the slack with cart-pulling, making him the best multipurpose farm dog out there.
The Rottie makes an excellent house dog with his loyalty and unmatched watchdog instincts. Special care must be taken to provide early structure and training to prevent issues, as the Rottie can be bullheaded when it comes to getting his own way.
6. German Shepherd Dog
Originally bred for herding, the German shepherd can move livestock and protect them the same, as he’s as athletic as he is brave. His trainability is unmatched, and like any good farm dog, he’s always eager to please his master. The German shepherd’s strong work ethic is made for farm life, though he shines in many other roles today, too.
The German shepherd shines as a house dog too, and he needs time with his family to thrive. He should be socialized early on to avoid too much of a stranger-danger attitude, and obedience training is a must to rein in his impulses before he gets too large to handle.
7. Great Pyrenees
The gentle Great Pyrenees is one of the best dog breeds for chickens and other poultry. Despite his size, this chicken guard dog won’t plow over the birds, though he’s not afraid to take down a predator if tested.
Most Great Pyrenees don’t even need to be taught not to kill chickens – they just cohabitate with their feathered friends naturally!
His thick coat suits him to extended periods out in the elements, and his loyal nature keeps him with his flock rather than roaming.
While he’s happy to hang out with his herd, the Great Pyrenees should be around people regularly. He’s a sweet dog at heart and benefits from one-on-one time with his family. As with all large breeds, early training and socialization is a must.
8. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
When it comes to courage, the Caucasian shepherd is the king of the canine world. His natural guardian instincts and bravery make him not only a wonderful livestock protector dog but one of the best country dogs out there.
Weighing well over a hundred pounds, he can also fill in for hauling duties as needed. His thick coat is well-suited for cold weather snaps, and his loyalty to his flock will keep him tethered to them for long stretches without incident.
The Caucasian shepherd (also known as the Russian Prison Dog) needs an experienced owner, as his stubbornness and strength are not for the faint of heart. Early training and socialization is a must to prevent aggression, and he should meet all new visitors with you before they try to approach him.
9. Anatolian Shepherd
The Anatolian shepherd is a long-legged livestock guardian dog whose size makes him well-equipped to haul supplies as needed. His territorial nature and loyalty make him an excellent protector, as he will readily confront any perceived threats with ferocity on the farm.
The Anatolian is naturally reserved with strangers, so make sure you socialize him as a puppy to keep this instinct in check and prevent unnecessary aggression. His stubborn nature would benefit from obedience training, as well.
10. Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell is a scrappy pup who might be small but has a big-dog work ethic.
Originally bred for ratting and chasing pests, the Jack Russell is just as important to farm life as larger breeds. He has seemingly endless energy and never turns down the chance to chase something small and furry.
While he is a working dog breed, the Jack Russell needs to be a part of family life, not only for socialization but for safety. As a smaller dog, he is vulnerable to the elements, as well as coyotes and other predators near the farm.
Both the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgi make good farm dogs. Developed to herd cattle, the corgi’s short stature is by design, keeping his head out of harm’s way as he nips at the heels of cows. This cattle dog doubles as an excellent vermin chaser, too.
The corgi is renowned for his goofy temperament, and he’s happiest in the home with his family at night. In addition to needing the attention, he isn’t built to withstand the elements and requires a warm place to rest his paws at the end of a hard day’s work.
12. Maremma Sheepdog
The Maremma sheepdog is an Italian livestock guardian dog breed that dates back centuries.
His white coat isn’t just for good looks, either — he was bred to blend in with the sheep he protects. This gives him a leg up over predators or wranglers who don’t spot him until it’s too late.
His heavy coat makes him one of the best homestead dogs, too, as he can spend extended periods of time outside without issue.
The Maremma is sweet with his family but naturally aloof with strangers. While this makes him an excellent watchdog, it does require early socialization and training to avoid issues later in life.
He is certainly a handsome dog that would look nice in any house, but he’s happiest as a working ranch dog and thrives in a farm environment.
13. Bernese Mountain Dog
The happy-go-lucky Bernese mountain dog is one of the sweetest breeds on our list. His roots are right at home on the farm, too, as he was an all-around working dog from the start, driving cattle, protecting the property, and pulling carts. This ranch dog’s rugged coat is excellent for dealing with the elements, too.
While he’s an all-star on the job, he’s just as incredible at home. The Berner is one of the best family dogs around with a gentle heart that matches his size. He does require early obedience training to wrangle any naughty behaviors before he’s too big, though.
A farm wouldn’t be a farm without Lassie, right? The collie is a beloved herding breed with a strong need to please his owner. His herding instincts are hardwired, and he takes to his flock without incident. This ranch dog has remarkable energy and stamina, making him an excellent choice for a farmhand.
The collie requires daily interaction with his family, as he isn’t a dog that can be kept and forgotten. He also needs training from an early age, though gentle methods should be used to avoid lingering insecurity.
Do you have a farm dog at home? Do you have any of the farm dog breeds on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
March 12, 2020
What is the best way to go about getting your first dog for your new homestead? Are their any steps?
March 12, 2020
Hey, Vix. It depends on your general plan.
If you’re planning on purchasing a pure-bred dog, we’d recommend checking out our guide to finding a good breeder. Conversely, if you want to adopt a pooch, check out our four-part guide to navigating that process.
From there, you’ll just need to consider the types of things you want your new pooch to do, and implement the appropriate training protocols.
Best of luck!