Purpose-Bred Work Dogs on the Farm

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Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers
From husband and wife authors Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will comes "Plowing with Pigs," an invaluable tome for modern pioneers seeking independence from traditional homesteading.

Plowing with Pigs (New Society Publishers, 2013) is for the farmer who has a passionate desire to return to simpler times. Authors Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will — a husband and wife team — are part of a new wave of homesteaders, ones who seek a good life, and the kind of satisfaction that comes from building — not buying — what they use. In this excerpt from “Chapter 3”, the authors write of the benefits of purpose-bred work dogs, and the knowledge necessary to keep them happy and productive.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store:Plowing with Pigs.

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Shelter dogs are loving, smart, and deserving of the best homes. But purpose-bred dogs were developed (similarly to livestock) to do particular jobs. Dogs with working parents bred to herd or to keep vermin at bay will be much more likely to perform those tasks naturally than pet and champion-grade purebreds or mixed breeds from the shelter. We love all dogs, but we rely on our farm dogs to do real work.

Among our favorite purpose-bred work dogs are those that hail from the border territory between England and Scotland, particularly the terriers and collies originally bred for work and companionship. Our border collie, Clover, comes from working parents, and she’s smart, serious about work, and aims to please. Her job is to round up loose critters like poultry and make life uncomfortable for the local coyote pack, possum den, and raccoon lodge at night. Border collies live to work, and if you don’t offer them a job, they’ll invent their own — including harassing your sheep to death. Training is a must.

Our two terriers — Molly, a border terrier, and George, a Cairn terrier — are robust and industrious little work dogs. They surely believe they’re much larger than they actually are when encountering marauding bands of raccoons, and a possum playing possum doesn’t fool these dogs one bit. These terriers were bred to be good mousers and ratters and will dig their prey from holes in the ground and rout them from rock piles, brush piles, and rock walls. They’re up for long hikes in any season, love to go for a ride in the truck (in the cab, of course), and are generally up for a swim in the pond any time. Terriers will run off and chase the ghost of a critter in the blink of an eye, so it’s very important to keep these dogs close at hand while on the farm. At the end of the day, they’ll sit in your lap as you read, or make themselves comfortable stretched out by the fire. Terriers need you to take charge. Make it clear that you are the top dog in the pack. As with all dogs, training is critical.

In our experience, these small terriers are better mousers — both in the house and the barn — than any cat we’ve ever had. We do keep a cat in each of our major outbuildings for rodent control, however. The best cats we’ve had for rodent control all came from farms where they were born in the barn to mothers and fathers who were largely responsible for feeding themselves. You needn’t worry about wiping out the local songbird population with barn cats; they find rodents to be much easier prey.

Reprinted with permission from Plowing with Pigs: And Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions by Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will and published by New Society Publishers, 2013. Buy this book from the GRIT store: Plowing with Pigs.