My dogs give me so much. They are my faithful companions and are wherever I am, lying beside me when I’m at rest and beside me when I’m doing chores. They keep the chickens off the back porch and let me know if one of them is in trouble. This morning Shane pushed the hungry mob of ewes and lambs back so I could scatter the hay for them. He’s learning how much pressure to put on the newly acquired Shetlands to move them back but not headlong into the fences. Also, how far back to stay to keep them from becoming confrontational. We are finding the Shetlands are similar to goats in their responses to the dog. They are quite different than our commercial flock, so the dog has to learn to shift gears.
When the feeder pigs arrive the dog will move them into a separate pen each day so I can refill food and water without them underfoot. They quickly learn the purpose of the job at hand and pitch in to help.
This post is prompted by the fact that Annie is getting ready to have her pups and it is hard to for me to concentrate on the duckweed post I had planned. If she isn’t trying to crawl in my lap, she is looking for an alternative whelping spot other than the wonderful (in my estimation) place already prepared for her. Now, she must be walked on a leash when she asks to go out. Otherwise, she tries to dig a hole under the woodpile or veranda to make a nest of her choosing.
There are various breeds of farm dogs; mine are English Shepherds. They excel as all-around chore dogs. A 1950 Purina Farm Dog book lists the German Shorthaired Pointer as an All-Purpose farm dog. It lists the breed’s talents as cattle dog, rodent control, guard and companion. It also chronicles its hunting and retrieving prowess and states that the breed was developed on the farm for farmers. I never knew that. Another surprise was that the Airedale Terrier isn’t included in the farm dog breeds; I thought they still held a farm niche in the ’50s.
What’s your favorite dog breed?
Herding Dogs: Selecting and Training the Working Farm Dog (Country Dog)
Working Sheep Dogs: A Practical Guide to Breeding, Training and Handling
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I don’t know if these pups are purebred. They were surrendered with their English Shepherd mother to a shelter in Jay County, Ohio. The mother and other pups have moved on to new homes and these two pups remain. They are being fostered in PA. They are 9 or 10 weeks old in these videos and show a lot of instinct and that they are biddable. They act like my purebred English Shepherds did as pups. These pups should not be left unsupervised with livestock while they are this young. The pup could get hurt. Being left alone with poultry could end in disaster if the pup gets to playing with the birds. It’s best to take them along on daily chores, encourage appropriate behavior, discourage wrong responses and keep the pup safe. When they know the rules well and are past the “teenage” phase, they should be fine on their own with stock. My ES keeps the bad rooster from getting me and gently nudges the hens away from the door so I can exit the building. He keeps the sheep off me at feeding time and puts them in the pen at the end of the day. He rounds up escaped hogs and puts them back in the pen. In my estimation English Shepherds make perfect chore dogs.
Videos of the pups with goats can be watched by clicking on their names.
Chore time is hard to face when Mother Nature dumps a new load of snow and the North Wind closes all your paths with drifts. There’s an easier way, than shoveling, to make a path to the barn. Leave the shovel behind and grab a Frisbee and your dog. A decent throwing arm is an asset for the next step.
Throw the Frisbee in the direction you wish to head and watch your dog delightedly plow through the snow to fetch it. He has now opened a path for you to follow. Continue in this manner until you reach your destination.
Our dogs know a send command and move off in the direction I point. Where one dog goes, the others follow. Following after three dogs is a piece of cake compared to plowing through on my own. Each time they move off and return, the path becomes more packed and easier to navigate.
Have you wondered what it would be like to have help with chores on those blustery days when all you want to do is go back inside the house? Having children to help is a blessing, but once they are grown and gone, the chores must be done single-handed. It might be time to look at Rover with new eyes and figure out how he can help with daily tasks. Working with a farm dog … Continue reading