Dogs On the Homestead
Early in the morning we take the tray of bird seed out and put it on the feeder platform. One morning a Great Dane was standing outside the back door growling. We own no dogs. This one belonged to a neighbor on the top of the hill behind us.
Consideration 1: Country Dogs
The old saying goes that good fences make good neighbors. They do. Yet those bad fences cause fewer conflicts between neighbors than dogs do.
Dogs are built to run long distances. Their instinct is to grab anything that runs away from them. Dogs have big fangs. Two dogs become a pack increasing the bravery of both.
One of the first things many people do when they move to the country is get a dog, especially a big dog. I’ve heard this is for protection of their homestead. And a big dog is very intimidating to any visitors, wanted or not.
Then another idea comes into play. Country dogs can run loose. There’s so much room in the country. The neighbors are far away. The dog will surely stay near home where its family and food dishes are.
One short term neighbor had two big dogs. Whenever he came home from work, both dogs were there to greet him. They lounged around on the porch in the evening and were asleep when he went to bed.
My old goat Isabel didn’t come in one evening. I was afraid she had gotten down in a hollow in the pasture and couldn’t get up so I went out to find her. She didn’t get up or come in because her throat was torn out by the neighbor’s two dogs. They fled at my approach.
People two and three miles away told about these dogs chasing and pulling down deer when I went out with pictures trying to track them down. The neighbor protested they didn’t go anywhere or do any of this. It took a second goat killed to get anything done.
The fact is: You don’t know where your dog is or what it is doing when you are not watching it unless it is inside a fenced yard.
Opinion 2: Reasons to Not Own a Dog
One of the main reasons I don’t own a dog is time. A dog needs your time. You keep it amused, play with it, feed it, pet it, take it on walks.
When I go for a walk, I want to see the wildlife. Dogs chase it away. I want to stop and photograph wildflowers preferably not trampled on while I set up my camera. I do not like hearing a dog bark. I prefer listening to the birds and the breezes up in the trees.
We enjoy seeing wildlife in our yard. One fall a group of buck deer came through several nights. A wild turkey paid a call one morning. This does not happen when a dog is in the yard.
Dogs are juvenile delinquents. If you do not give them something to do, they will come up with something, usually something you do not approve of. When my cats chase my chickens, the chickens squawk and run safely away. A friend’s dog likes chasing chickens but then uses one it catches as a ball leaving the chicken badly injured or dead.
One dog is an invitation to others to come and join it or it to join them. We have neighbors with lots of dogs. We would prefer these dogs stay at their house, not ours.
Many goat owners own a livestock guardian dog for good reasons. So far I have not needed one full time. In two decades there has been call for one four times. If that changes, my status may change.
In the meantime I will enjoy the company of dogs when I visit other people. The time I save will be used in my garden or with my goats or walking and taking pictures.
Decision 3: Choosing a Dog
When the movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians first came out, the breed became immensely popular. By a year later, this was the breed dropped off at animal shelters. Why? The dogs are pretty, good natured, hyper, need a lot of exercise and attention and their new families couldn’t manage this.
I love the looks of Border Collies but will never own one. The breed is a working breed. It lives to herd and will herd whatever is around and does so by nipping at heels. This would not be popular with my goats or chickens. Children aren’t too happy about it either.
Research the dog breed before bringing one home. At least you will have an idea of what to expect. Even a mixed breed dog from a shelter will have some of the characters of their dominant breed. Besides, the people at the shelter will know something about how the dog acts.
A perennial problem in the country are those people who bring out unwanted pets and drop them off at your house. You live in the country. One more dog or cat will fit right in.
It’s normal to feel sorry for these unfortunate animals. Unless you are rich, you can’t afford to keep all of them well fed and cared for. They can be stock killers someone else decided to pass on to you. A tomcat that moved into my barn started killing chickens.
In the long run, it is usually cheaper to take them to the local animal shelter. Or you might be able to find homes for them with a local free ad on the internet.
The dog you want for your homestead is the one you pick out.
Livestock is often on the agenda for new homesteaders or anyone moving to the country. Chickens are a good introduction.