Farm dogs are working dogs. For centuries, farmers and landowners have bred different breeds that are specifically suited to particular outdoor tasks – whether that’s chasing rabbits, retrieving game, or herding sheep!
Farm dogs can be cute and cuddly, big or small, and as varied in temperament and breeding as a Corgi and Golden Retriever. But good farm dogs are all hard-working, loyal, outdoor-loving, and obedient.
Raise a farm dog right, and they’ll be by your side for the rest of their days. In this article, we take a look at what it takes to be a farmers dog and which farm dogs are the best!
What Are Farm Dogs?
Farm dogs are different breeds of dog that have been bred over generations to exhibit the necessary qualities for a life of hard, outdoor work.
Farm dogs are traditionally found herding livestock, running down rabbit holes, or guarding property. They are working dogs, and they are expected to live a life in the great outdoors, performing the tasks or fulfilling the farming roles they were bred for.
Farm dogs breeds really do vary. There are small Jack Russells and Corgis, as well as the larger Golden Retrievers and enormous Great Pyrenees. That’s because there are a number of different working roles that the best farm dogs are selected for, and they need particular traits to do these jobs well.
Common working dog roles on farms or ranches include the following:
- Shepherding duties
- Farm guard dogs (guarding livestock and property)
- Rat and vermin catchers
- Hunters or game retrievers
- Multipurpose dogs (everything from rat catching to sheep herding)
Increasingly, working dog breeds are also being adopted as family dog breeds (the Golden Retriever, for example). They’re just as suited to the role of farm guard dog in the country as they are to being a family dog in the city!
Many working dog breeds have also been adopted for other services, away from their traditional farm and outdoor roles. Working dogs also make excellent guide or service dogs, as well as military or police detection dogs.
What Traits Make for an Excellent Farm Dog?
The reason that farm dog breeds are so popular (even outside of their traditional farm role) is that they all have a unique set of skills, traits, and abilities that make them so suited to a life of work.
Importantly, working dogs need to be strong and hard-working. They aren’t lounging around on the sofa all day; they are running around the farm. They also need to be easily trained and fiercely loyal. An intelligent dog with keen senses and a cool, calm temperament makes for the best farm dog.
Different types of dog have been bred for specific roles, to have specific traits. Rabbit catchers, for instance, need to be small and fast (so they can fit down rabbit holes). Shepherd dogs need to have stamina and intelligence to round up sheep all day.
A few of the most important all-rounder traits include the following:
- Calm temperament
- Athleticism and stamina
The Best Farm Dogs
Now that we’ve looked at the required traits of a great working dog, let’s explore which breeds make for the best farm dogs.
The following are all highly regarded working dogs, and we’ll explain which roles they are best suited for. Many of them also make for great family dogs too!
Here are the best farm dogs.
Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to work on the enormous outback farms that Australia is known for. These are tough, outdoorsy dogs that are medium-sized, full of energy, and gifted with endless stamina. They’ll spend all day chasing cattle and herding livestock without thinking twice about it!
The Australian Cattle Dog is fiercely loyal, while its toughness makes it one of the longest-lived dogs in the world. It regularly lives well into its late teens or even longer (and works for years too!), with the oldest recorded Australian Cattle Dog passing away aged 29.
This Australian worker is a great all-rounder, and will be just as at home on a Texan ranch as it is in the Aussie outback.
The Australian Shepherd is another tough working farm dog, but despite its name, this dog was originally bred on the west coast of the United States, not Australia!
The Australian Shepherd – or Aussie – was bred during the Gold Rush era of the 1800s, when hard-working dogs were in great demand on ranches and mining sites.
These are medium-sized dogs with a surprisingly beautiful coat, but don’t let their gentle exterior fool you; these farm dogs will spend all day herding sheep or chasing down stray cattle.
The Corgi is best known for being the favored dog of the British Queen, but this small breed was originally intended to be a farm dog.
The Corgi is smart and easy to train, yet well-suited to life outdoors (it can easily fit through fences and jump through gaps in the hedgerow!). Corgis are great for herding smaller livestock, particularly sheep.
Corgis also make wonderful lap dogs and companions. You can dress them up for the show ramp, then dress them down for a day of hard work on the farm!
With its distinctive spotted coat, the Dalmatian is a breed that’s been a favored working dog throughout the centuries.
Dalmatians are big, tall, and athletic, and traditionally, they were used in hunting or retrieving roles (and they could even have originated or been bred for use as war dogs).
The Dalmatian is perhaps best known as a ‘Fire Station’ dog or mascot, but this role is well deserved. They are energetic, loyal, and make excellent working dogs.
The Golden Retriever is a classic working dog, but it’s a breed that is equally suited for the family home as it is on the farm. As its name suggests, the Golden Retriever is a dog that is excellent at retrieving things!
Retrievers love playing fetch in the garden, but originally, they were bred to fetch game and to hunt, rather than returning tennis balls or sticks. The Golden Retriever is hard-working and loyal, and it is also very easy to train. It won’t go chasing your chickens (unless you tell it to).
Golden Retrievers are large dogs that can double up as a family/working dog. They’ll guard your kids and they make for a fantastic playmate!
The Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is one of the largest farm dog breeds on our list. It can weigh over 100 pounds and stand over 30 inches tall!
This is an incredibly powerful dog, but while it is aggressive towards intruders, it’ll cuddle up on the sofa with its owners too.
The Great Pyrenees need space to run, but they love life on a large ranch. They are well-bred for herding large livestock and for guarding against attackers (they were originally bred to fend off wolves in the Pyrenees mountains of Europe).
Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is an incredibly popular breed of dog that’s as much a family dog today as it was a working dog in the past.
These small dogs are perfect for families with young children, but they do have boundless energy that needs an outlet.
Farmers still love the Jack Russell Terrier for its hunting skills. These dogs were specifically bred to chase down fast game and to jump fearlessly into rabbit holes. They can be easily trained to hunt down rats and are commonly kept as vermin killers.
The Standard Schnauzer is a mid-sized working dog that originated in Germany and was bred to be a great all-rounder.
These lovable dogs are much tougher than their fluffy coats, and endearing whiskers make them appear. They’ll chase rabbits through hedges, catch rats in the home, and herd sheep out on the farm.
The Standard Schnauzer is a larger version of the Miniature Schnauzer, a smaller breed that makes for an excellent rat-catcher or a quirky companion dog.
Farm Dogs: The Last Bark
The best dogs on the farm are hard-working, loyal, intelligent, obedient, and well suited to the job at hand. In many cases, years of selective breeding have produced working dogs that are uniquely prepared for a tough life outdoors, but that are more than comfortable living life as a pampered, family dog as well.
From the Corgi to the Retriever, there are a lot of great breeds to consider for your farm or ranch or for your family home. Remember, though, these dogs all love the outdoors, so even if they aren’t working, they need lots of time to play and exercise. And after a hard day’s work, they’re going to be wiped out, so it’s worth getting a product like this to help them rest!
If you’re searching for the perfect working breeds, then why not bookmark our guide to farm dogs?