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Dogs can be beneficial during an emergency. This article is going to focus on how to prepare for taking care of your dog and how they can benefit your situation during a long emergency or SHTF but we are also going to talk about some of the disadvantages as well.
Dogs are an alarm system when there is no power or other methods
Sometimes people think they need a huge dog to make a difference in their security situation. The truth is that even a small dog can make some a big difference just by sounding the alarm and buying you some valuable time. Seconds count in a dire situation.
Disadvantages of Dogs During An Emergency
Dogs are going to be dependent on you for most of or all of their food and access to water.
Dogs can give away your position if you are trying to hide out. Even a well-trained dog is probably not going to be able to keep quiet every time you want them to.
It may be harder to gain acceptance into some groups or shelters if you have a dog with you.
During good times there are laws in place that require hotels and establishments of that nature to accept your dog during some natural disasters even if that is not the regular policy. This was passed after so many animals were left to make the best of it on their own during hurricanes. During a real SHTF situation, there is not going to be anyone enforcing rules like that.
Dogs can be trained to do many things
Some dogs are easier to train than others. You have to be consistent with your training and use positive reinforcement.
Dogs can pull carts and small loads.
Large dogs can be trained to pull small carts or work in teams similar to oxen. There are cases where my own breed of choice, the Great Pyrenees, have been trained to do this. A single big dog can even be trained to pull a cart with a similarly sized goat!
Dogs can carry packs.
While you want to be careful and not overload your dog, they can carry some weight. I recommend putting back a few good dog packs and you should start training them as young as you can for best results. Start out with just the pack and then start adding items. Making sure that you have a pack that fits well and is properly adjusted is crucial, especially in the beginning when a dog is not as keen to carry.
Dogs can fight and defend you when needed.
If times are tough you may want to train your dog to attack if you tell them to do so. Some dogs are just naturally defensive as well.
Small and medium-sized dogs are not always at an advantage but that doesn’t mean they will not sacrifice their life for those they love. I give the example of Pickles the Chihuahua. This little dog saved his family from a Black Bear that shoved its way in through a sliding glass door when the mother of the family opened the door and came in.
The kids listened and stayed in their rooms and Pickles barked and distracted the bear, leading it outside. The sad thing is that Pickles died as a result but the family was not injured at all. This incident happened in Black Mountain, NC, a small town that has way more bears than it should. Some of you may be familiar with the town name due to the popular book “One Second After.”
Guarding crops and livestock
Varmints can be tricky and I am talking about two and four-legged varieties. During hard times you may find yourself depending more on your own crops and livestock for your food. If you already farm and homestead, predation may increase even if you seem to have it under control now. There are plenty of people that won’t think twice about going after your food supply both on the hoof and in the garden. A dog can make that a lot harder.
As far as animals preying on your crops, a dog is extremely effective. Our dogs guard the sheep and patrol the property. I do have to say that dogs cannot be everywhere at once so it is best if you can keep paddocks small enough that the dog can get to them fast. During very hard times, keeping livestock closer to your house if you have a large property can help decrease the likelihood of problems and ensure that everybody and everything has as much security as they can under the circumstances.
Treeing game so you can shoot it more easily can help put meat on the table during hard times. The supply of game may become lower for at least awhile during a long emergency. In some areas, it may be more plentiful due to a loss of population. It really just depends on the place and the nature of the SHTF event.
To train your dog to hunt you can use a variety of scents and methods. When I was a teenager and had a raccoon dog, I used a fairly fresh raccoon hide on a string and ran around the farm with it and then tied it in a tree. That worked just fine for getting Sarah Ann, my Treeing Walker to know what to do.
You can buy bottles of various animal scents to help train a hunting dog. Just put it on anything and let them find it. Reward them in some way when they do.
Dogs can be used to track animals and people alike.
The canine nose is your friend. There is a reason why law enforcement still uses hound dogs, particularly the Blood Hound to track people down that have absconded on foot. This happened recently in my home county when a domestic dispute led to a man fleeing up towards Max Patch with a gun in hand. Some dogs are better at this then others, hence why they use Blood Hounds or German Shepards but any dog can track at least a bit if they are trained right.
You need to plan to feed your dog and hunting is one way to help out with that. Parts that you don’t care to eat can be cooked and fed to your dog. Even boiling bones for broth and fat can help supplement.
Dog food can be stored in a sealed container with moisture absorbers and diatomaceous earth.
Matt and I use 35-gallon plastic food grade barrels for storing dog food. We live close to a good place to get barrels and drums so it makes a lot of sense for us. I encourage you to look for a place like that near where you live. Smaller sealed plastic containers may make more sense for you especially if you have just one dog or a smaller dog. We have three dogs and two of them weigh over 100 lbs so we go a little big with food storage.
How much dog food should I store for a long emergency?
I created the table below based on the feeding guidelines recommended by PetMD. I took the liberty of rounding a fraction here and there when dealing with small amounts extrapolated out to a month or more. The 40 lbs bag amounts that I recommend allow for some extra food, except in the case of very small 3 lb dogs. I will let you decide if you want to add in an extra 10 lb bag to be safe.
Pregnant or nursing dogs and puppies may need 2-3 times the amount listed. Feeding amounts can also vary based on the type of dog food you have stored and activity levels. Senior dogs may need less to maintain good body weight. If you supplement with other foods such as scraps from hunting expeditions, you will be able to reduce the amount of dry food you feed.
The chart below assumes that there are 430 calories in one cup of dog food. Check your brand to compare the calorie count to this figure. If it is close then you don’t have to worry about major adjustments to food amounts.
Feeding Guidelines and Estimates For Emergency Dog Food Storage
|Cups Per Day
|Cups Per Week
|Lbs Per Week
|Lbs Per Month
|Lbs Per Year
|#40 Bags To Put Back
Calculation Of Food Needs of Dogs Over 100 lbs
For dogs over 100 lbs, add 1/3 cup per 10 lbs of body weight per day. Notice this the same food requirements of a 3 lb dog. This means according to the chart above you will need to add an additional 39 lbs of dog food per year to your dog’s food supply per 10 lbs. So a 120 lb dog would need 78 lbs more food in storage than a 100 lb dog.
Dog food storage for small dogs can be handled differently.
Those with small dogs may want to vacuum seal dog food in 5 lb increments so food remains fresher and there is less chance of spoilage. Two 40 lb bags of dog food sealed would probably fit in 16 vacuum seal bags that are 1 gallon each. I would add an oxygen absorber and moisture absorber to each. These bags could then be placed in a tote or similar to protect the food against rodents and other pests.
Some dog breeds are more efficient with food than others.
Metabolism is very important to consider. People often make comments about how much food a Great Pyrenees must eat and they are shocked when they find out how little they really do consume. Just because a dog is big doesn’t necessarily mean that they eat as much as a lot of large or giant breeds. The Pyrenees have a slow metabolism and they flop out and don’t run around as much as you might think. Now a Great Dane from what I have heard will eat like a small pony.
Our Lab mix will out eat the Pyrenees if allowed. The Great Pyrenees will bury their food for later and don’t have as much of a tendency to overeat.
My article “Stockpiling Pet and Livestock Feed For SHTF” has more details about putting back pet and livestock foods for a long emergency.
Some dogs will hunt and kill some of their own food. That is not a fact you should use as an excuse to not plan for some extra food for them.
Our Pyrenees and our Lab mix will both kill a wild rabbit and feast on it when they get an opportunity. I have seen them eat mice too that the cat brings them. The survival kitties definitely pay tribute to the dogs at times.
Dog foods that are lower in fat will keep longer than high-fat foods.
If you feed your dog fancy dog foods you may want to think about downgrading a bit for putting back for a long emergency. Foods that have a lot of more perishable ingredients and even freeze-dried foods may not keep as well and sometimes the nutritional content and calories for the amount of space it takes up is not ok.
We feed Diamond Naturals dog food. It is moderately priced and you can get a ton of formulas that are corn, wheat, and soy-free. Rice is not sprayed with the chemicals that corn, wheat, and soy is. This is an affordable way for us to avoid Roundup sprayed grains in our pet foods.
Dogs are good for morale and emotional well being but the loss of one can be devastating.
One thing that must be considered when choosing to bring a dog into your life and those around you is that even under good circumstances, they have a much shorter lifespan than a person.
During a long emergency or SHTF situation, there is not going to be access to major medical care for a dog. In fact, it may be challenging to give them some of the basics like flea medicines and worming if an event goes on long enough. During trying economic times, many people will not be able to afford some levels of care if major things happen even if there are vets available to help. Vaccines can be purchased by pet owners and administered at home but they require refrigeration to stay good to use.
The effect the loss of a dog can have on morale can be long-lasting. It is just something that you have to keep in mind if you love a dog and times get tough. I have heard some people say that they won’t have a dog because they cannot deal with the eventual loss. I think that is a sad way to look at it. Dogs can bring a lot of joy to their family and they can get a lot out of their time with us.
During good times and bad, a dog is a wonderful companion. A dog can help cheer everyone up during trying times and keep kids occupied.
Having a dog reduces stress levels and soothes those around them. It gives children a companion that will guard them and bring them some joy during hard times. Some people use dogs as baby sitters at times.
Dogs are great for those that are alone
If you don’t have anyone living with you then a dog can be a great comfort. You can also sleep with them to help conserve body heat during a long emergency. Sleeping in the same space as a dog also adds a high level of security.
Dogs prevent theft
Seasoned thieves often say that having a dog is one of the best ways you can keep them away. It can be hard for some to tell exactly how big a dog is by their bark. Sure a big dog like a Great Pyrenees sound big but there are plenty of dogs that are smaller that can sound larger. Our dog Leroy Brown is about 60 lbs but he has the loudest and most piercing alert bark you have every head! I know when he gets under the bedroom window it sends me through the roof sometimes.
Dogs have to be kept in your area or they probably won’t last long during a long emergency. Have a kennel or fence.
Kennels are pretty small so that is something to consider if you have a larger dog. If you let your dog hang out with you under supervision than the kennel may just be something for them to hang out in as needed. A fence around your property is best because it allows your dog to patrol the area and be a better guard and it is just nicer for a dog to have a lot of freedom to move around and stay strong and healthy.
Keep some form of flea and tick control around and some wormer.
Here are a few easy to put back items for basic dog care.
- Scissors for trimming
- Easy to power shears or some hand shears. For breeds like the Pyrenees, sheep shears can work great.
- Brushes to prevent shedding in living spaces
- Antifungal medicine for hot spots and mange
- A dog medical kit. There are a ton of options on Amazon.
- Frontline, Advantix, or some other good topical flea and tick preventative
- Leash and collar
Wormers To Keep On Hand
A lot of people use wormers that are not labeled for dogs. This saves money. It is up to you to decide if you are comfortable doing this. It is essential that you look up the correct dosage and verify the concentration of the product you are using. It is fairly easy to dilute medications but you want to be sure that you get it right if you choose to do this. During a long emergency, you may have to use things that are not labeled specifically for dogs.
This gets rid of all worms except for heartworms and tapeworms. It is used to treat pinworms in people as well so it is a good medication to have on hand.
Dogs that hunt small game a lot tend to get tapeworms more readily than those that don’t. Some breeds seem to be more susceptible as well. Tapeworm medication can be a little harsh unless you are using Panacur that has a high level of safety. It is better to just use other wormers unless you have reason to suspect tapeworms.
A lot of heartworm medications are ivermectin based. Some people dilute down ivermectin that is labeled for other animals. There is plenty of info out the web about how to do this. Of course, this is something that you do at your own risk. I am not a veterinarian. I am just talking about possibilities during a long emergency when you do not have access to a regular vet. Do the research and decide if it is something you are comfortable with.
Other people claim wormwood and black walnut extracts can help treat and prevent heartworms. I have never actually known anyone that had a dog die of heartworms. I am not saying that you should ignore heartworm prevention entirely but I will say they are more common in some areas than others.
Diatomaceous earth in your dog’s food can help prevent parasites from making a home inside and outside your dog.
Dusting areas with diatomaceous earth can be helpful in preventing flea and lice infestations or treating areas where they are already a problem. You can also dust your dog down too but you need to be careful and not get it in their eyes or your eyes. It is not good to inhale a lot of it either.
Mixed breeds have some hybrid vigor
I have had plenty of purebred dogs and some mixed breeds. Some purebred dogs can be more susceptible to genetic issues and disease. Hybrid dogs sometimes have better disease resistance and overall health. Genetics are a roll of the dice.
Good Breeds For Guarding
Here are a few breeds that are good choices for general guarding. Some hunting dog breeds may not be good choices for those that want a good livestock guardian. This is just a short list of some common breeds. There are plenty of other great choices out there and some good hybrids that may need a home.
Any hunting dog breed. (I say this due to the insane level of noise they are capable of.)
Choose a dog that is suitable for your climate or make the necessary accommodations.
Dogs that are high maintenance may not be the best choice during a long emergency. You should also think about their comfort if you don’t have as much control overheating and cooling. A smooth-coated dog will handle hot weather better than a dog with longer hair. Dogs that have to be sheared are going to take up some time if you have to shear them by hand without electricity. If you have some backup power you may be able to use a set of shears to help speed up the process.
Dogs that are really brightly colored can stand out a lot. My white dogs blend in with sheep but against a lot of backgrounds they stand out a lot.
Be aware that a lot of people are more afraid of dogs than you would think.
Some people have a very big fear of dogs and a few people just plain don’t like them. Personally, if I find out someone doesn’t like dogs but has not been a victim of violence from a dog, I wonder about how good a person they are. Not having a dog due to your lifestyle is different but if someone says they really don’t like them, it is a warning sign for me.
During hard times people may become more cautious and afraid of dogs than they were in the past, especially if it gets to the point where rabies vaccinations and flea and tick preventatives are not available. While rabies is very serious, fleas and ticks can carry a lot of diseases.
Some breeds of dog have bad reputations. A whole book could be written on the truth and lies behind what is said about various dog breeds. I don’t want to get into a debate about that because the perception is there regardless of how unjust some may think it is.
The fact is that there are a handful of breeds that account for the vast majority of dog bites and fatal attacks in the United States. People may be more scared of these breeds now, but there is a chance that some may be a lot more aggressive towards these breeds during a long emergency or SHFT due to increased fear and paranoia.
For a general guide to prepping for your pets, you can also check out my “Guide to Prepping For Your Pets”. This post contains information for those with cats and dogs including tips on bugging out or bugging in with them.
What have you done to prepare your dog for a long emergency? Have you ever had to evacuate during an emergency with your pet? What lessons did you learn?