Whether your dogs guard livestock or spend the day outside, a few extra considerations exist for keeping farm dogs safe.
Here are 10 tips for having healthy, happy dogs on a homestead or rural property.
1. Choose the right breeds
The first step is to select an appropriate breed. Certain dogs thrive in the great outdoors, while others would rather spend the day curled up on the couch.
Common livestock guardian breeds include Anatolian shepherds, Great Pyrenees and Komondors. All of these breeds excel at guarding livestock. They’re also hardy and athletic, preferring wide-open spaces rather than the indoors. However, they are independent and like other animals to people.
If you don’t need someone on guard duty, consider choosing a more people-oriented breed that still loves the fresh air. German shepherds, border collies, and Siberian huskies are well known for their love of running and playing outdoors.
Togo, a Siberian husky who helped deliver a diphtheria antitoxin to the remote town of Nome, Alaska, in 1925, ran 75 miles on his first day in the sled harness. Talk about an outside breed!
2. Vaccinate your dogs
Vaccines are crucial for preventing the spread of disease between wild and domestic animals.
3. Use parasite prevention
Fleas, ticks, and internal parasites like heartworms aren’t just an annoyance — protecting your dogs against parasite infestations could save their lives. It’s crucial for dogs living outdoors to take preventative medication since they encounter so many parasites in the grass and soil.
4. Provide proper shelter
Heat, snow, intense wind, rain, and dust storms can be problematic for dogs living outdoors. Keep your dogs safe and comfortable during adverse weather by building outdoor shelters or bringing them inside during inclement weather.
Many dogs thrive in extreme temperatures, but they should have the option of taking refuge when they want to.
5. Avoid using poisonous ingredients
When you have a dog, spraying pesticides or fertilizer on crops or putting out rat poison can be dangerous. Even if your dogs don’t directly eat the poison, they may be exposed to it when they kill rodents or bugs.
Dogs that spend time outdoors are more likely to encounter small animals, so it’s best to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers altogether.
6. Help people identify your dogs
Your dogs should have collars with tags that display your contact information. For added protection, have your dogs microchipped. People can still identify them and return them to you even if their collars fall off.
7. Keep more than one livestock guardian dog
Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) usually work best in pairs or groups. If you’re keeping LGDs to protect livestock, consider adopting more than one so they can form a stronger predator deterrent.
This technique is essential in areas with wolves, grizzly bears, or mountain lions.
8. Establish boundaries
Teach your dogs to stay on your property. Farm dogs that roam beyond the boundaries of your fence may harass your neighbors’ livestock or pets, which can lead to dangerous conflicts.
Teach your puppies from a young age to stay close to home. You may need to build a stronger fence if they keep wandering off.
9. Spay and neuter your dogs
Spaying and neutering does more than prevent unwanted puppies. Neutering a male dog decreases the chances he’ll roam searching for a mate.
If you’re keeping livestock guardian dogs, spaying your female dogs ensures they won’t have to stop working due to pregnancy and nursing.
Spaying and neutering your dogs decreases the risk of mammary tumors, testicular cancer, and uterine infections.
10. Expose your dogs to livestock
If your dogs will be around other animals on your homestead or farm, introduce them to these animals as puppies. Your dogs should get used to being around livestock without chasing or biting them. These unwanted behaviors can cause livestock to defend themselves and endanger your dog.
In contrast, well-behaved dogs — especially LGDs — may view other animals as part of their pack and won’t harass them.
Raising happy outdoor dogs
Although outdoor dogs may encounter more hazards than indoor ones, many love living on a farm or homestead.
If your dogs are vaccinated, have shelter from the elements, and know how to stay close to home, they’ll stand a much better chance of staying safe.
Jane Marsh is an environmental writer passionate about pet care and health. To read more of her work, follow her site Environment.co.