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Dogs are part of the family, but they play a lot of important roles beyond being a pet. The right dog can provide protection, keep criminals away, help with hunting, rid a property of predators, and provide moral support during hard times.
There have been numerous studies that show that kids that grow up with dogs are less likely to have a lot of the allergies and immune system weaknesses you see in children so much nowadays.
Here are some things to ask yourself when choosing a dog for your place. I am going to make some suggestions for a few breeds but please don’t be irritated if I left a good dog breed off the list because there are hundreds to choose from and only so much space.
I also recommend checking out the American Kennel Club for researching dog breeds.
Do you have livestock or animals that need protection?
There is nothing like a true guard dog for keeping predators out of your livestock. The reason I started being a Great Pyrenees parent at first was that they seemed like amazing dogs, but I also started raising goats right after that. There are plenty of good mutts out there, but there is something to be said for getting a dog that fits your specific needs. A livestock guardian dog will help protect the young stock when their mothers cannot.
Do you have or plan on having kids or grandkids around?
I know that it is a bit controversial to state, but there are some breeds of dogs that are generally better with children than others. Kids can try a dog’s patience. While there are some exceptional cases with any breed, stay away from breeds that don’t have the best reputation with kids or that are super hyperactive and energetic.
There are a lot of dog breeds that are very good with kids of all ages. Older kids can work out with some breeds that are not the best for younger kids.
How much space do you have?
If you have the chance, it is good to match your dog to the space you have to work with. While bigger dogs and those with more energy can be happy with a small yard in town, this is usually achieved by the owner being dedicated to long walks or taking the dog with them places so they do not become bored.
Even small dogs offer protection
A lot of people will think twice if they hear any dog bark. A small dog can be quite loud and draw attention that thieves and potential criminals do not want.
Small dogs are not the best choice in more rural or remote areas that have a lot of predators.
I recommend those out in the country have a dog that is 25 lbs or more. Even the smaller end of this is pushing it. My reasoning for this size is that it is enough where they can defend themselves or get away if necessary. I don’t have anything against small dogs, but I have seen and experienced first hand how tough it is to have a small breed like a chihuahua out in the country unless you spend almost all your time with them or keep them inside a lot! They are easy pickings for aerial and ground predators including:
- Great Horned Owls
- Larger Dogs
Ther is also the dangers that come with having a small dog around livestock. Small energetic breeds can be loud and confident enough to get kicked, and due to their size, a single kick can be fatal. They are also hard to fence in some ways because they can squirm through such a small space.
How much barking is okay?
Some dogs bark more than others. Small dogs can be louder than big ones sometimes or at least bark for longer. If you live in a neighborhood or just have any neighbors at all close by then, you need to consider the noise level that is okay. Some places have noise ordinances that include excessive barking. People can call animal control, and they will come out and talk to you or even fine you depending on the situation. Unfortunately, some people will do this before they even talk to you about the problem.
While there are bark collars and training methods, there are some breeds that just like to bark more than others, and it can be practically impossible to control it. Our Great Pyrenees will be quiet for a little while if we tell them to, but it doesn’t last long. I have seen people have them in town, but the dog was in a neighborhood of dog lovers that didn’t mind a bit of barking.
The Great Pyrenees
The Pyr comes from the Basque country in the Pyrenees Mountain range between France and Spain. They are quite large with females easily reaching 100+ lbs and males sometimes being 130+. The breed standard is a little smaller, but it seems that a lot of people are breeding the biggest examples of the breed.
The Pyrenees is a very popular breed of livestock guardian dog in the Southeast. I was talking to Daisy at The Organic Prepper, and she has a Great Pyrenees too. If you don’t already read her stuff you should check her out.
In my area, they got popular when it seemed like everyone was raising goats. I fell in love with them and saved all the money I got for Christmas when I was 16 and bought a puppy. They have proven to be the right dog for me.
I will say that they bark a lot because that is their job. They also are very good with kids and small animals. Ours are crazy about their cats, and the cats love them in return. They play together a lot.
I do have to say that some people think the Great Pyrenees are not the smartest and the reason for this is that they can be very stubborn. They are thinking about things from the perspective that it is their job to protect you and make some judgment calls. If they think that you are doing something dangerous they can be hesitant to do exactly what you want when you first say it.
Mine act weird when my husband leaves for a few hours or to do an odd job for a day. They think we should all be here on the property together and never leave. The really funny thing is that our oldest Great Pyrenees Ruby Pearl thinks that when he is gone, I am not supposed to do certain things. Chopping firewood is a perfect example. She will stand between me and the block of wood until I have to run her off. She thinks it is too dangerous for me to do with “the big one” gone!
They have a slow metabolism, so they do not eat as much as a lot of giant breeds. When grown, 4-5 cups of good quality dog food is all that is needed in my experience.
Lifespan is 10-12 years making them one of the longest living large and giant breeds. I have seen some well taken care of dogs live to be 16 which is amazing for such a big dog.
These are a great family and guard dog. If you have livestock, they will help keep them rounded up. You need to take care when it comes to training them since they are a dog that can be trained to be more aggressive than is normally okay. They like to herd up people too and might try to stand in your way at times if they want you to be somewhere.
Use caution when buying a purebred German Shepard. My husband was given a puppy for his 16 birthday, and the poor dog only lived to be five despite a lot of veterinarian treatments. Some breeders test for genetic issues and some will if you ask but not otherwise.
In the case of the German Shepard look for dogs that are in the medium range of size and avoid those that are bred to be “out of the norm.” Sometimes abnormal or rare colors in a dog or breeding for a characteristic like long hair can mean more inbreeding. If you are investing a lot in a dog, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Size can be 45-90 lbs depending on gender and blood line. That is a big range but if you get to see the parents that will give you some idea of what to expect out of your puppy.
You can expect a lifespan of 7-10 years.
This is the classic family dog, and they are super sweet. At the same time a Lab has a lot of energy, likes to bark well enough, and they are a game dog, so they are pretty good at keeping their spaces clear of predators. One thing about the Lab breed is that they are easy to find because they are the most popular purebred dog in the USA.
If you are not going with a purebred dog, a Lab mix is a good option for families.
The Lab is a gun and water dog. Some have more instinct than others but plan on this dog getting into any water they have access to! They like a big tub of water set out for them to get into when it is hot. Some people use a kiddie pool.
They have a good lifespan at 10-12 years. Regarding size, they can vary a bit. 55-80 lbs is a big spread and I have seen Labs that reach 100 lbs, but that is normally a sign of over feeding.
Mountain Feist/Jack Russel Style Terriers
I wanted to include a smaller dog that can hold their own out in the country. These dogs are amazingly gritty. George Washington himself is rumored to have been the proud dog parent of a mountain feist.
These terrier style dogs are a great fit for those that want a small dog that can hold its own. Also, they are great for getting rid of small things like rats and mice or voles. If you are not a cat person and have some problems, then they might be just what you need.
Moving out to the country means dealing with mice. It pays to get the situation under control as soon as you can.
The Jack Russell likes to play a little rough as a puppy so you have to curb the nipping habit, especially with kids because it can scare some. Any puppy is going to require training. This is a dog that likes to go with you wherever you want, and they live a long time. You can expect 12-15 years at least if they are taken care of reasonably well.
At under 20 lbs, these are one of the better small dog options for living rurally or with a good sized yard. Those with smaller spaces might need to give them something to do or have a second dog for a friend. They can get bored easily.
You might be thinking what is she doing putting a wiener dog on this list? Well, the reason for this is that a standard dachshund is an amazing medium sized earth dog that likes to guard and bark. They are also amazing at keeping varmints runoff or even catching them.
The Dachshund was bred to get badgers out of holes! That takes some grit because a badger is one mean and ornery creature. They can squeeze down to practically flat and get under things. It takes a long and low dog to dig animals like that out.
A standard Dachshund weighs 16-32 lbs which are big enough not to be so appealing to aerial predators. The standard size can be harder to find in some areas than the miniature. The mini version is plenty loud, but at under 11 lbs they are prone to predation and can’t do much to defend anything.
The lifespan of these dogs is lengthy. I have seen people have them that was more than 15 years old and still going even if it was slow!
These are not as hard to find as they once were. The Anatolian is often used alongside another dog like a Great Pyrenees. They are amazing guard animals but tend to be more stand offish and potentially aggressive than the Pyrenees if not trained to be around others a bit when young. You need to be able to put in the time training this dog for sure. They can be somewhat dominant, so you need to be too when training.
If you have property for them to run on, this ancient breed of guard dog will protect everything. If you have kids that you want to let loose to roam and play, an Anatolian that is bonded to them will do whatever they can to protect them. They are very good with livestock and very small animals like cats.
I was impressed when I found out the average lifespan for the Anatolian. Despite averaging 80-120 lbs for a female and 110-150 lbs for males, they live on average 11-13 years. This is very impressive and something to consider if you want to make a large breed part of the family.
Mixes and Mutts
I appreciate those that take in mixes and mutts. We have a Labrador Retriever and Mountain Feist mix named Leroy Brown. He is a great dog even if he likes to squirm through interior fences to get to where we are.
Remember that sometimes the right dog finds you rather than you finding them. Leroy was born under a trailer down the road. The person that owned his mother couldn’t take care of puppies that well due to disability and expense. We couldn’t take on more than one other dog so Leroy came to live with us at four weeks old because something snatched up one of his littermates and we were afraid that if we didn’t get him away, it would happen to him.
Shelters and rescues are not as full as they were when I was a teenager. In my area of rural Western North Carolina, there was a huge problem with hunters and economically disadvantaged people not spaying and neutering their dogs. With hunters, the idea was that neutering a male would sap their spirit and they wouldn’t hunt as good. The other side was that back in 1999 it cost about $300 to have a dog spayed. Even with today’s weaker dollar, that is still not nothing. I couldn’t make that much money in a week working where I did at 16.
Now fast forward to today. There are some animal shelters and rescues but there are few free dogs in the paper, and the shelters don’t have that many on hand. It is refreshing to see the decrease in pain and suffering. There were a lot of neglected dogs and chained dogs back then. It still happens but not as often.
Some areas have nothing to adopt. When I lived in Ketchikan, AK there was usually one or zero dogs for adoption.
Purebred dogs can be a better fit for some people and situations.
There are people that feel that there are so many dogs without homes that it is morally wrong to buy a purebred. I am afraid it is more complicated than that.
Sometimes people will verbally attack and abuse those that choose to spend money on a purebred dog rather than adopt, but it simply is not always possible for someone to adopt.
In our area, for example, the dogs that are up for adoption are hunting dogs, and while plenty are purebred, they are not a good fit for those that have smaller yards, no fence, or that are concerned about a lot of noise. Pit bull mixes are another of the most common. I am not going to get in a debate about this controversial breed, but I am comfortable saying that they are not going to be the best for someone that doesn’t have a lot of energy. They are pretty large and so not manageable for some.
Getting a dog that is not right for your lifestyle results in both sides losing and not having the life they should. Dogs with high energy are bored and miserable if cooped up in smaller spaces and not taken on walks. Movies and shows have been the reason for some cases. When they released 101 Dalmatians again, there was a surge in demand for the breed. A lot of people got them expecting something else, so all of a sudden shelters and adoption groups had a lot to find homes for.
Purebred dogs allow you to choose specific traits that are desirable for your home or property.
There are a lot of cool dogs out there but where we live we need dogs that are large enough to defend themselves and their livestock from predators like coyotes and bobcats. We have to have dogs that are easy to train to not be too rambunctious with very small animals like baby geese and chicks.
The Great Pyrenees does cost a bit more than going to a shelter, but I cannot afford to get a rescue and find out that it killed all my chickens the first day. Since we are starting a business, we need dogs that know when they need to stop being a guard dog and just hang out.
While I love mutts, it is a gamble as to what traits will show through the most. Sure, part of the equation is how you raise a dog, but some of it is instincts that run deep.
Older people and those with disabilities need to consider what traits they need the most in a dog. A medium sized dog with a low to moderate energy level may be best. When my father in law got a dog, he decided to get exactly what he wanted because he said it would be the last dog he was ever going to own and he wanted a breed that didn’t shed all over the house.
Here are some pictures of our mutt. Leroy is half Labrador Retriever and half Mountain Feist. The top two are recent while the others are of him as a little puppy.
Prepping For Pets
Of course, if you have a dog, you need to include them in your plan for emergencies and SHTF. Here are a few previous Backdoor Survival posts to help get you started.
Also, remember that it takes a lot of dog food to get through an emergency. I am guilty of not always having as much put back as I should. I recommend getting a plastic food grade barrel and filling with dog food and some diatomaceous earth to keep out bugs and insects as well as provide some internal parasite control for your pooch. Seal the barrel with a locking ring.
It will keep for a long time, but ideally, you would have two barrels and rotate. Smaller containers that can be sealed will work if you have smaller dogs or don’t want to deal with the space a big container takes up. Vacuum sealing dog food with a food sealer and moisture absorber is another option.
What type of dog do you have? Which breeds to you think would be great for SHTF as well as general homestead defense?