Some dogs were bred to work. It makes them happy; they tend to have boundless energy, and their background offers the perfect explanation why. Throughout Europe and in other lands, farmers needed the help of dogs to herd livestock, protect their animals, and provide companionship while working. These dogs became very bonded to their handlers, and their superior intelligence and work ethic made them indispensable.
Today, dog breeds identified as “farm dogs” often just need a backyard to run in and play, but some ranchers still use them on the farm, too. These dogs love living in the rural countryside, where they can run off much of their infinite energy. Farm dogs are still great at herding, and they protect livestock from harm. Many also serve as guard dogs for their family as well.
It is important to remember that these dogs instinctively love to work—it is literally in their genetics. They do have a lot of energy, and they are happiest when busy.
So, what are the best breeds for living on a farm or ranch? Let’s take a lot at some of the most popular breeds for farm life.
The Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as a “Blue Heeler,” is one of the most commonly utilized and best farm dogs across the country. The Blue Heeler is one of the most intelligent dog breeds overall, and their smarts are played out daily on the farm. The Blue Heeler was originally used for herding livestock—cattle in particular—and they are impressive to observe at their work. They are agile and quick; farmers and ranchers with large herds of cattle often utilize them to help move herds. These smart pups can even help to locate missing calves and cows, too!
The Blue Heeler needs training, but, once he catches on to what you expect of him, you won’t find a more impressive dog. They want nothing more than to please their handlers, and they interact with their handlers almost instinctively. In addition, they are superb with children. However, be aware that they will “herd” you and your children too! The Blue Heeler is very territorial; they are highly protective, and you’ll know if there is something or someone the dog perceives as a threat on your property.
The Blue Heeler is named such because of the “blue” coloring in its coat; the “heeler” comes from the fact that they keep cattle (and sometimes people) in the herd by nipping at their feet. There is also a “red” heeler variation; they have the same coat pattern as the blue, just in an orangey-red tint.
The Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia; he was born and bred right here in the USA! Like most farm or ranch dogs, the Australian Shepherd is extremely intelligent, athletic, and very loyal. These dogs were used to assist in herding cattle across the American West, and this breed still loves the opportunity to run, play, and work.
The Aussie is highly intelligent, and they do truly love to work. While you might not need the Aussie to herd cattle or horses or other livestock, getting the Aussie to accompany you on the farm will keep him occupied.
Like the Blue Heeler, the Aussie makes a fairly good guard dog. They can be wary of strangers, and it is not uncommon for the Aussie to stand between her family and strangers who may come on your property. They are extremely loyal, and, when given a task, the Aussie will often go above and beyond what you expect of him.
The Aussie tends to range in height between eighteen and twenty-three inches; they typically weigh between forty and sixty-five pounds. They have a medium-length coat that will need attention to prevent tangles and matting, consider using dog hair clippers.
The Border Collie
The Border Collie is named such because the breed originates from the Scotland- England border, where a dog could assist in herding livestock as needed. In fact, the Border Collie originally worked at herding sheep. Today, the Border Collie enjoys herding sheep, cattle, or any kind of livestock. They are agile and extremely quick dogs, and they are amazing to watch as they work.
Some say that the Border Collie is the most intelligent breed; however, this extreme intelligence and ability to instinctively take cues from their handlers are common to all herding dog breeds. One thing that does stand out regarding the Border Collie is his tendency to be obedient (some herding dogs may be a little stubborn, but the Border Collie doesn’t necessarily possess this quality).
Border Collies need a purpose; they have boundless energy, and many Border Collies that don’t have a “job” often do really well in dog “sports.” The Border Collie will need room to run and play, plus, if he stays indoors a good bit, you’ll want to invest in some of the best dog toys sturdily made and considered as interactive “brain” toys so he won’t get bored.
The Border Collie weighs in at between twenty-eight and forty-eight pounds; the breed’s typical height ranges from eighteen to twenty-two inches. The Border Collie usually has a medium-length coat with an undercoat; they are typically black and white in color.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
These darling little dogs may look chubby and reserved, but this breed is a brilliant herding dog. As the name denotes, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi was developed in Wales (United Kingdom) for the purpose of herding cows and guarding the family farm.
These small, sweet dogs could well be described as dynamite in a small package, especially when they are ready to break loose and herd livestock. They are playful, great with kids, and extremely loving. They are not lacking where intelligence is concerned, either!
While they may be friendlier with strangers than you’d expect a guard dog to be, they will alert you to the presence of someone new by barking. They tend to nip at the heels of those in the family if they perceive that a family member is headed for danger, which is one reason parents trust them with their children.
Although the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a herding dog, they aren’t quite as energetic as the Australian Shepherd or the Blue Heeler. They will hang out with their humans more, making them great lap dogs. They do need a fair amount of exercise, but only about half as much as the Blue Heeler or the Border Collie.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is typically between ten and twelve inches tall; their weight ranges from twenty-four to thirty pounds. They possess a double coat with medium-length hair that will need some grooming in order to prevent tangling and matting. Their characteristic stubby tail only adds to their adorable charm.
The Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is one of the larger herding dogs. He sports a long, bright white coat that keeps him quite warm in the cooler months. The dog’s name comes from the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, which is where the breed originated. The breed was developed to assist with herding livestock and guarding the farm.
Although the Great Pyrenees is a top-notch herding dog, he does not express the unbridled energy of the Blue Heeler or the Border Collie. The Great Pyrenees is highly affectionate, and he is rather calm even in the midst of work. The Great Pyrenees is also a family dog, being especially affectionate with children.
The Great Pyrenees is an alert watchdog, but, she will likely greet strangers rather than intimidate them. The sheer size of the Great Pyrenees is formidable, however. The breed may range from twenty-six to thirty-two inches in height, and the average weight of the Great Pyrenees is 90 pounds. They sport a white double coat with what appears to be a “ruff” around the dog’s neck.
The Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is much like the Great Pyrenees in that they are large dogs with a fairly laid-back personality. They are family dogs first and foremost, and they are loyal as well as courageous.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is fairly easy to train; like other good farm dog breeds, the Bernese Mountain Dog likes to please her handlers, and she’ll listen well and is eager to learn. They love to play with children, and they may become more of a playmate for the kids if you wish.
They are friendly, much like the Great Pyrenees; this means that they may alert you that a stranger is approaching your property, but they won’t do much else. Keep in mind that the Bernese Mountain Dog only lives about eight years on average.
The Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier was made famous in the movie My Dog Skip, but you might not think of the breed as “farm dogs.” However, the Jack Russell was originally intended to be a “ratter”—meaning they were intended to rid the property of rats or raccoons or any other pesky animal that could hurt small livestock or eat animal feed.
Jack Russell has boundless energy, and they love to work and play . They are great companions for children. They are extremely curious and highly intelligent. They are extremely playful, and you’ll likely spend a lot of time laughing at their antics.
The Jack Russell Terrier loves to run, play, dig, bark, and chase after, well, almost anything. They’ll let you know if a stranger approaches, and they are highly protective too. It is important to make sure that the Jack Russell has plenty of time to play and get rid of their seemingly endless energy.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a fairly small dog that typically does not grow much more than twelve inches in height; they tend to weigh about twenty pounds or less.
1. What breed of dog works on a farm?
There is no one specific breed that works on a farm; rather, there are many breeds that are considered working dog breeds that love being on the wide-open spaces on a farm.
The type of farm you have might be more indicative of what breed you should choose. If you have cattle or other livestock, then you may want a herding dogs such as the Australian Cattle Dog or the Border Collie. If you want a dog that is more family-oriented, you may want to choose an affectionate working dog such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
2. What is a farm dog?
A farm dog is any dog that lives and works on a farm. There is no one specific breed that is considered a farm dog. However, a farm dog IS a working breed, whether it is a herder or a guard dog.
3. How many breeds of farm dogs are there?
There are at least one dozen farm dog breeds. Truthfully, any working dog breed that lives on a farm could be considered a farm dog, even if that is not exactly what the dog was developed for, such as a Jack Russell Terrier.
4. What makes a good ranch dog?
A good ranch dog is one that loves to work, is loyal, highly intelligent, and very energetic. These dogs typically work by herding livestock or guarding the property. Most are very affectionate, especially within the bonds of the ranch family and hands.