Dogs can be an integral part of any homestead or farm. In this post we will dive into the best farm dogs.
What breeds are the best farm dogs?
The answer to this question will largely depend on your purpose for the dog.
What jobs can farm dogs do?
Some dogs were developed as livestock guardians.
These dogs will typically live outside with the animals they are charged with protecting, and they bond closely with livestock.
They can be quite territorial.
These fearless dogs can protect your livestock from coyotes, bear, fox, and a myriad of other predators.
Many farmers feel that LGD’s work best in pairs of two.
Some dogs were developed to be herding dogs.
If you routinely move large groups of livestock, these working dogs can make life much easier.
If you own cattle or sheep in quantity, these herding breeds can be indispensable.
Other dogs were developed to be ratters
The equally important rodent and vermin control dogs, commonly known as ratters, are normally welcome on any farm.
Farmers use, and store large quantities of grain, so this can attract pests no matter how carefully you store it.
Ratters are usually small, and feisty dogs that can really help keep the pest population on your farm manageable.
These spunky little dogs love their jobs, therefore they will take them very seriously.
Being small, these dogs don’t eat as much as larger breeds, making them more economic to keep.
Protection dogs are another option
Many farmers want a protection dog for the home and the humans that reside there.
There are many great breeds to choose from, but beware that most guard dogs are dominant and territorial, making them a challenge for inexperienced dog owners.
They also normally require a good deal of socialization and obedience training.
Some farms are simply in need of an old-fashioned, all purpose farm dog.
The type of dog that is versatile, and can perform a multitude of tasks around the farm, from herding stock to playing with the kiddos.
Best Farm dogs for Ratters & Vermin Control
- Jack Russel Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Airedale Terrier
Jack Russel Terrier
The Jack Russel terrier is a friendly little dog, and also will usually have its tail wagging.
This intelligent little fellow was originally bred to participate in fox hunts.
However, in modern times, this dog is a great choice for expelling rodents from your property.
This long-lived vermin fighter is full of exuberance and tenacity.
As with most terrier breeds, they won’t quit until the job is done!
These diminutive dogs are quite smart as well as highly trainable.
This petite dog may look fragile, but they are actually tough dogs.
These dogs will happily exterminate rats, mice, and other small pests.
They are very loving and loyal with their family, and also relish spending time cuddling with their humans.
Rat terriers are also available in a miniature version.
This breed is generally good with children once trained.
A word of warning, the downside to most ratters is that they love to dig, and the rat terrier is no exception.
Therefore, you are likely to find holes around your yard with this breed.
Next on our list of the best farm dogs is the Dachshund
The dashchund is the perfect example of a small dog, but it definitely thinks it’s a big dog.
This breed is fearless, and can be a challenge to train due to its stubborn nature.
The Weiner dog has the perfect build for digging tunnels, and they love to flush out vermin.
The downside to these little dogs having such a long body is that it makes them susceptible to IVDD (intervertebral disc disease).
The Cairn terrier was developed in Scotland.
They were originally trained for fox, otter, and badger hunting.
The Cairn is known for a personality trait called gaminess, like most terrier breeds.
Gaminess means having the tenacity to never give up or quit, and a sharpness of temperament.
The Cairn can go from snuggling on the sofa, to hunting out pests in the back yard effortlessly.
These dogs can be a challenge to train because they are both independent and willful, however their loyalty is legendary.
Although the Airedale is larger than the other ratters on our list, they are great rodent hunters.
This breed was developed in England where they were used to hunt large rats. (source: AKC.org “8 things you didn’t know about the Airedale terrier”)
As a bonus, this dog is very protective of its family members, so it makes a wonderful watch dog.
Due to the Airedale’s size they can take on larger vermin that may be too much for the smaller vermin hunting breeds, such as the rat terrier or the Cairn terrier.
The Airedale is known for its bravery and loyalty.
Bets Farm dogs for herding livestock | Best farm dogs
Dog Breeds for Herding Livestock
- Australian Cattle Dog (AKA blue / red heeler)
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Dutch Shepherd
- Old English Sheepdog
Australian Cattle Dog
The australian cattle dog has a nearly endless supply of energy, therefore, you must have a job for him to do.
The cattle dog is extremely agile, and they work easily, even over rough terrain.
They were developed to drive cattle over many miles, in sometimes challenging conditions.
These dogs are very smart, in fact this breed makes Stanley Coren’s list for the top 10 most intelligent dogs.
Stanley Coren is the author of the book “The intelligence of dogs”.
This breed is very intelligent, at the same time, they are often a challenge to train due to their strong independent nature.
This is another breed that is alert, and protective of their family members, therefore it has excellent potential as a watch dog.
A list of best farm dogs is not complete without the Border Collie
The border collie is clever and obedient!
Their high level of intelligence makes them a breeze to train, moreover their willingness to work makes them a joy to be around.
The border collie must get ample exercise and mental stimulation to reach its full potential, therefore the best way to achieve both is to give this dog a job (preferably herding).
This working dog lives to herd, and will nip and herd anything from cows, to sheep, to children, therefore they must be properly trained.
These dogs are the tenacious workaholics of the dog world.
In addition to herding, border collies excel at both obedience and agility.
They make wonderful pets if they are properly trained, and their needs are met.
Australian Shepherd (AKA Aussies)
The Australian shepherd has an extreme desire to herd.
Used by many cowboy’s because this bright and loyal dog loves to work.
This is an athletic, serious working dog that needs a job to do.
This breed makes a fantastic flock manager for sheep, cattle, or even fowl such as chickens, ducks or geese.
Aussies learn fast, and as a result, are easy to train.
These lively dogs have often made an appearance in rodeos.
The athletic dutch shepherd is both a sheep herder, and an all-purpose farm dog.
Its protective nature makes it a superb choice for a farm guard dog as well.
This breed is smart, ready to work, and they are also highly trainable.
The dutch shepherd was developed in the Netherlands as a herder and farm dog.
They are sometimes mistaken for a Belgian mallinois or German Shepherd, although they have a different personality from both of those breeds.
If properly trained and socialized, they make wonderful additions to any farm.
Old English sheepdog
The old English sheepdog is a bright and affectionate dog.
You may have seen this breed in movies like “Labyrinth”, and “The Shaggy Dog.”
This dog is a capable driver of cattle, sheep, or even fowl.
When it’s necessary, the sheepdog will protect its flock vigorously.
Sheepdogs have a kind and endearing personality, therefore they make wonderful dogs for farms with children..
One of the main drawbacks to this breed is its shaggy coat.
It requires a lot of grooming to maintain it, consequently most farmers simply don’t have the time.
However, if your determined to work with this breed, keeping their coats shaved may be an option.
Best livestock guardian dogs (LGD’s)
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Maremma sheepdog
The great Pyrenees is an imposing, and hard working livestock guardian dog.
Many farmers believe that these dogs work best in pairs of two, especially if larger predator are endangering your livestock, bear for example.
These dogs do most of their work through observing, however they will bark to deter predators.
In fact, they will bark both day and night as part of their duties.
This helps to send a message to would-be predators that an LGD is on the job.
This breed needs to be an independent thinker in order to do their job well. This unfortunately means the pyrenees can be difficult to train, and are known to disregard commands they don’t want to follow.
The Anatolian shepherd originates from Turkey.
This ancient breed can be very protective and dominant, but also very smart.
Anatolians come from some of the oldest domestic canine bloodlines. (source: AKC.org- “About the breed- Anatolian Shepherd”)
This beast of a dog is capable of protecting livestock from most predators, however it is also territorial, and can be aggressive with strangers.
Another risk is the fact they can be difficult to contain because they like to dig under fences.
This could lead to your Anatolian, and livestock escaping.
These dogs are not typically very affectionate, and can be especially difficult for inexperienced dog owners to handle.
This dominant breed won’t obey blindly.
The Maremma sheepdog is another great choice for a livestock guardian.
This dog can protect any livestock from chickens to sheep, therefore they are very versatile on the homestead.
These dogs work well in groups since they are smaller in size than most other LGD’s.
This Maremma also tends to bark less than the Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd.
This breed is typically gentle with humans, however temperament and training will play a key factor.
The Maremma is also not as inclined to roam as some of the other livestock guardian dogs, because they like to stay close to their flock.
Best All-purpose Farm dogs
- English Shepherd
- German Shepherd
The English shepherd can take on just about any task the farm has to offer, therefore they will thrive in that type of atmosphere.
From protecting hearth and home, to guarding the chooks, to playing with the kids, this breed does it all!
They are known, and appreciated for their versatility.
The English shepherd has a knack for handling a variety of livestock successfully.
They are a cooperative dog that will readily obey commands.
English shepherds aren’t as independent as some other breeds, for that reason, they enjoy working alongside their master.
They are know to stay close to home, and don’t normally wander very far. (source: englishshepherd.org)
One of the most attractive qualities of the German Shepherd as a farm dog, is their willingness to work.
This dog is smart, loyal, and obedient.
They are also protective in nature, and good family dogs if properly bred and trained.
The German Shepherd has a lot of energy, therefore they can keep up with a hard days work on the farm.
These dogs will also protect livestock, and can manage a flock with their built-in herding abilities.
Related post: “German Shepherd Temperament and traits”
Best farm dogs for protection
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
The ridgeback is a dominant and territorial breed.
This breed is highly protective of their family, so they don’t require formal protection dog training.
This muscular dog is a powerhouse that was originally used to keep lions at bay.
These are high-energy dogs, and subsequently, would not be a good fit for couch potatoes.
The ridgeback requires early and extensive socialization as well as obedience training.
The Boerboel originated in South Africa, and has been serving as a farm dog there since the 17th century.
Today most use the Boerboel as a guard dog, and with their intimidating looks, and protective nature, it’s easy to see why.
This breed has been known to show aggression to other canines.
It’s imperative to purchase these dogs from a reputable breeder, and additionally, engage them in early training and socialization.
This dog is not a good choice for inexperienced dog owners.
Related post: “Best dogs for protection“
Related post: “Questions to ask your dog breeder“
Can farm dogs live outside?
Some adult farm dogs must live outside in order to protect the livestock.
LGD’s traditionally live outside with their livestock.
Make sure you provide them with a proper shelter to protect them from the elements, and in addition, plenty of food, and unfrozen water.
Also remain watchful, and look for signs of distress either from being too hot or too cold.
Disclaimer: The descriptions in this post are generalizations and may not be true for individual dogs. We are not veterinarians, and are not giving any medical advise. Everything written is our opinion only.
What are good names for a farm dog?
Our favorite farm dog products
- Victor Dog food
- Bully Sticks (Natural Farm)
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