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The Year was 1957 and Walt Disney released a movie that would impact the lives of many generations. The movie was Old Yeller and in it, we came to love this energetic and ornery homestead dog. In the opening scenes of the film, we witness a father named Jim and his son Travis talking as Jim is about to go away for an extended period of time on a cattle drive. Jim is giving his son a talk about the things that need to be done and passing on the rights as the “man of the house” while he is away, This is a huge responsibility for a young teenage boy. Travis conveys to his dad that he would really like for him to bring him back a horse, but his dad tells him what he really needs is a good dog.
A few scenes later enter a runaway dog causing Travis some trouble as he works the fields. At first, this Old Yellow dog is seen as a burden but Travis, his mother, and his young brother soon warm up to Old Yeller and he becomes an invaluable part of the family. Well, I won’t hash out the entire movie but I do love this movie. What we get from this film is a picture of just how valuable a good dog can be on the homestead.
So here let’s look at a few ways dogs of many breeds and sizes can be useful on your homestead.
1. Livestock Guardian Dogs
Generally, when we think of Homestead Dogs we might be thinking about LGD’s or Livestock Guardian Dogs like the Great Pyrenees which will live with your livestock and protect them from predators of all kinds. While these dogs can protect your livestock from large predators there are smaller breeds that can serve as an LGD also if the threats on your homestead are smaller predators such as raccoons or opossums.
Dogs commonly used as herders are also popular dogs for the homestead, Collies, Australian Shepherds, English Sheepdogs, Australian Cattle Dogs, and even smaller breeds like Corgis are commonly used in this way. Homesteaders who raise multiple heads of cattle or sheep on large properties that need to be herded from one place to another frequently find having these dogs absolutely necessary.
3. Hunting Dogs
Using dogs while hunting is another common use for dogs on the homestead. You can certainly fill the homestead freezer faster with a good well-trained hunting dog that will assist you in finding and collecting your game during a hunt. Many breeds can be trained to serve this purpose, but some common breeds are Bluetick Hounds, Bloodhounds, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, and even dogs like Cocker Spaniels and Pit Bulls have been used for hunting. There are dozens of great breeds that can be used for hunting different types of game.
4. Dogs For Protection
Protection for you and your homestead is another great reason to have a dog on your homestead. A good dog no matter its size can do a lot to protect you personally from intruders that are there to harm or steal from you. A large and aggressive breed can physically protect you but even a small vocal dog can warn you so you can physically protect yourself.
We personally have two smaller breeds. We have a full-blooded mutt who looks like she has a little Yorkie and Terrier in her and we also have a Miniature Schnauzer puppy which we actually got from a listener of our podcast. Both are great dogs who are serving us well as protectors of the homestead. They work hard to keep us informed of anyone or anything on or near our property. They do well at chasing birds and other critters out of the garden and they are the best companions a person could have.
Choose A Dog Carefully
Keep in mind that many dogs can serve multiple working purposes so don’t feel as though you have to sacrifice in one area to fulfill another when it comes to a working dog. Most importantly any dog raised right will most certainly fill the job as a great companion that will bring years of joy to your life.
So if you’re a homesteader who is thinking about getting a dog, consider the purpose and consider the breed. Not every dog serves well for every job and some dogs have certain needs that may or may not fit well for you or your permaculture homestead. But having a dog can certainly be a blessing to you and your family.
I will leave you with this short poem from American Poet Douglas Mallock
Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog;
but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.
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