No survival homesteading retreat or bugin home regardless of location, would be complete without a dog. Not just any dog will do. To protect your home/retreat, family, or livestock, requires specific breeds of dogs that are trained to enhance their natural watchdog, livestock guardian dog, or herding tendencies.
During a SHTF scenario, keeping what you have will be a 24/7 chore of the utmost importance. The predators attempting to claim your livestock for their dinner will now roam on not just four feet, but two, as well. The civil unrest and almost immediate looting will turn any dwelling that appears to still be functioning or at least have access to food and water, will become a target of the marauding hordes.
Every prepper should set aside part of their survival budget for a pair of quality watchdogs, their training, AND basic survival items for their own survival. Even the best of all classic watchdog breeds should undergo training with the family members that will be their primary handlers. Leaving the ability of the dog to do its job to chance could likely greatly inhibit your chances of survival.
If you will be riding out the apocalypse on a homesteading survival retreat (and you really should be planning to go that route) both a pair of livestock guardian and herd dogs are highly recommended. Although the skills and tasks of these type of dog breeds are similar, the application of those skills and overall demeanor is decidedly different.
Top 10 Guardian Dog Breeds
1. Akita – This watchdog breed is highly regarded as being one of the easiest to train. Akita dogs are also known to be extremely family friendly and loyal. They are incredibly alert dogs with a high level of intelligence.
2. German Shepherd – These dogs are also extremely loyal and have been known to defend its handler no matter what the cost to its own life – making them the top choice of canines for both law enforcement and military agencies. German Shepherds typically exude confidence and rarely ever develop a rebellious demeanor during their training.
3. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – These massive watchdogs are also family friendly. It would be rare for a Great Swiss Mountain Dog to hesitate to viciously attack anyone that is threatening its owner or territory. The only drawback to this breed could be with your location. They tend to struggle when working or training harad in warm climates – or perhaps during the hottest days of summer.
4. Norwegian Elkhound – This watchdog breed rarely ever seems to run out of energy and is known to be substantially healthy and hardy. Many folks purchase Norwegian Elkhounds not for their watchdog prowess exclusively, but also to hunt predators, including bears – in spite of their medium build. Elkhounds are generally family friendly and require a lot of room to roam, making them best suited for a rural survival retreat.
5. Boxer – These beloved family-friendly dogs also make excellent watchdogs. They are especially strong, alert, smart, and loyal. Boxers are routinely regarded as easy to train.
6. Great Pyrenees – This is one of the rare dog breeds that crosses over between livestock guardian dog and watchdog categories. Great Pyrenees dogs might look all sweet and fluffy, but they viciously attack then their charges are threatened. These dogs were bred to depend livestock, initially sheep, from both wolves and bears.
7. Boerboel – This watchdog breed was a cultivated in South Africa for one reason and one reason alone – to protect farms from intruders. Boerboel dogs are regarded as being just as confident as German Shepherds and unbelievably fearless. But, unlike the German Shepherd, a Boerboel can exhibit both an independent and stubborn streak on occasion. Because of their innate desire to guard all that they consider belongs to them at all times, they have been known to mistake a harmless visitor for an intruder.
8. Rottweiler – When trained properly beginning from the puppy stage, a rottweiler can be an excellent watchdog – if not, they can have the tendency to become highly dangerous. This breed can tend to attempt to dominate all humans, dogs, and livestock it comes into contact with if they are not both thoroughly trained and receive adequate socialization from a young age, as well. When reared properly, Rottweilers can be a lovable breed to its owners while still being a force to be reckoned with for intruders.
9. Pit Bulls – Despite the apprehension many people have regarding Pit Bulls, they can be family friendly pets when trained properly. Still, keep in mind that tragedy has struck when a young child has been mauled or killed by a Pit Bull that it is familiar with that has never shown any aggressive behavior before. These watchdogs are one of the more difficult to train due to the stubborn nature some possess and are not recommended for a newbie dog owner.
10. Doberman Pinscher – These muscular canines have long been used as both residential and commercial watchdogs. The attack quickly when trained properly and levy a deep bite. Most Doberman Pinschers are strong enough to knock even a stocky man to the ground and maul him.
If trained properly, these dogs will not only become extremely obedient to their owners, but also become affectionate with them as well. A Doberman, likely due to the level of intelligence it possesses, is typically an easy watchdog to train.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Livestock guardian dogs (also referred to as LGDs) are essential for survival homesteading retreat living. They interact with the family and are affectionate, but were bred to live in the barnyard area with the animals they have been tasked to protect.
Dogs of this type bond not only with the humans living on the agricultural land, but deeply with the livestock, as well. Occasionally, a livestock guardian dog will have to be trained not to chase poultry flocks. Although it would be rare for a LGD to attack a chicken, duck, or turkey, these will give chase with full vigor.
Livestock guardian dogs WILL give their lives to protect livestock. Best in pairs or a small pack, the dogs will fight bears, wolves, mountain lions, and any other means or large and deadly predators. The recommended pack dynamic consists of just one male and several female LGD dogs.
During the evening hours when predator threats to livestock typically increase, livestock guardian dogs will walk the perimeter of their territory relentlessly to maintain their watch. If a threat is detected, first the LGDs will attempt to scare it away to avoid leaving the barnyard unprotected while chasing or fighting. But, if that tactic does not work, the livestock guardian dog will give chase, regardless of the wet or rugged terrain it must traverse to run the predator out of its territory.
Even though LGDs are work-oriented, they do also thrive on affection from their owners. Petting and loving on the dogs will not distract them from their designated task or deter their training. Beware, it is best to put the livestock guardian dogs up when a vet or farrier comes to tend to barnyard animals, they have been known to view such visitors and the instruments they use, as threatening to the livestock.
Like watchdogs, livestock guardian dogs should begin their training as puppies. By the time most dogs of this type reach the age of two, they are ready to begin patrolling the barnyard – and the property as a whole. Even as little puppies, the LGDs need to live and sleep in the barnyard area so they can learn to commune and ultimately protect, the livestock, as well as become ultra familiar with all the smells, sights, and sounds that regularly happen in the barnyard.
Top 10 Livestock Guardian Dogs
1. Anatolian Shepherd – The stocky build of this shepherd breed has been known to intimidate small to medium predators quickly. Anatolian Shepherds have often been highly regarded for both their agile bodies and their intelligence.
2. Great Pyrenees – This breed is perhaps the most popular livestock guardian breed in America. Even with their thick fur they have been known to tolerate working in hot climates and strenuous activity during the summer months in moderate climates.
3. Maremma Sheepdog – This is one of the smallest of all livestock guardian dog breeds, but that does not deter the Maremma Sheepdog from doing its job exceptionally well. It would be exceedingly rare for this breed of LGD to ever back down from a predator. They are not really affectionate dogs, but they must receive socialization routinely to further a protective and not aggressive bond with the owner and the family.
photo courtesy of Nikki68
4. Komondor – This breed of livestock guardian dog hails from a cold climate and will not tolerate extreme heat well. Komondors must be sheared at least twice annually to prevent their thick coats from become tangled and too long. They are extremely social LGDs and are known to behave well with families and other dogs.
5. Tibetan Mastiff – Most types of mastiffs make good livestock guardian dogs. The Tibetan Mastiff is a huge dog and hardy even in extremely cold weather or on rugged terrain. They have largely been used to protect livestock from leopards, wolves, and tigers in their native Mongolia and India.
6. Kuvasz – This dog breed might be one of the most human friendly of all livestock guardian dog – at least with humans to whom it belongs. The Kuvasz are naturally suspicious of all strangers. They have long been highly regarded for both their agility and speed.
7. Polish Tatra Sheepdog – These gentle giants are family oriented and devoted to their protectees. WHen a Polish Tatra Sheepdog sense a threat is near, they will block the herd from danger and pace back and forth until they encounter a predator that will not leave…and then attack. They bark almost constantly while pacing to both scare off the predator and alert the family to potential danger.
8. Karakachan/Bulgarian Shepherd – This is another small quality LGD. These shepherds are known for their even temperament even when danger is present as well as for their ability to remain calm when threatened. These livestock guardian dogs are especially affectionate with their owners and his or her family.
9. Spanish Mastiff – These dogs are as larger as they are loyal. Although they are not recommended for guarding livestock in hot climates, they are highly devoted to the barnyard livestock and routinely put the safety of the other animals above their own.
10. Pyrenean Mastiff – This mastiff breed is not really prone to desire affection and are innately suspicious to all humans they view as strangers – yet are typically regarded as being a kid-friendly livestock guardian dog. Unlike many other LGDs, they are not prone to barking when faced with a threat.
Unlike livestock guardian dogs, herd dogs do not usually live in the barnyard. Dogs of this type tend to be family friendly, but truly bond with just one person – their first and primary caregiver/trainer.
Herd dogs will attack predators lie LGDs, but are bred and trained to control, i.e. herd, the livestock where their owner wants them to go, which can mean away from a threat.
When a predator, be it a wild animal, a stray dog, or a human, enters their territory, they will bark both loudly and frequently, attacking if the potential danger moves closer and proves to be a true threat.
Herd dogs are FULL of energy and thrive on any task their owner gives them. Basically, they love to work. When not working, herd dogs can be a handful and are really only appropriate for rural survival homesteading retreat living and not for a suburban bugin location. A walk around the block once or twice a day will not allow these dogs to work of their seemingly boundless amount of energy.
No matter the weather or the chore, a herd dog will likely be ready to go to work just moments after opening their eyes each morning. They also thrive on routine and can become stubborn or agitated when their routine is interrupted. They absolutely do not like to be separated from their owner for even just a few hours, it seems to make then nervous and shakes their sense of security…and routine.
Top 7 Herd Dogs
1. Australian Cattle Dog – This top herd dog breed is known by several names, heeler being chief among them. Heelers come in two basic colors, red and blue. They nip at the heels of livestock to herd them where their human wants them to go – and sometimes will pull these same antics with their humans when they become overly excited. They will bark fiercely to alert their owner to any potential danger or disturbance on the property.
2. Rough Collie – This Lassie style collie is the largest of collies. They seem to be the easiest of all herd dogs to train. Rough Collies thrive (and sometimes demand) affection and nearly constant companionship to maintain their calm demeanor and focus.
3. Australian Shepherd – Like their close canine relatives, the Australian Cattle Dog, they are full of energy and are very agile. They are highly regarded for their obedience and thrive when offered both positive reinforcement and affection.
4. Border Collie – These dogs seem to love to work, they would herd livestock all day and all night if they were allowed. They are known to be highly intelligent and easy to train herd dogs.
5. Pembroke Welsh Corgi – These tiny little power houses also love their work. In spite of their maybe 5-inch tall legs, they are capable of moving even the largest breeds of cattle where their owner desires. They also nip at the heels of livestock to urge them into the appropriate. Pembroke Welsh-Corgi are intelligent, bark a lot during their work, and readily accept affection from their owners. Cardigan Welsh Corgis are also great herding dogs, but are prone to fuss with other dogs on the property.
6. Old English Sheepdog – This large herd dog is family friendly and is generally thought to be less prone to attempting to herd free ranging poultry flocks the owner has causally roaming about, than the other dogs on this list. Expect to devote a decent amount of time training these sheepdogs to hone their not their herding skills, but their focus, their minds can tend to wander when left idle for very long.
7. Shetland Sheepdog – These small to medium herd dogs are known for their agility and ability to traverse rugged terrain. The Shetland sheepdog is regarded as a quick learned and extremely obedient herd dog.
They really seem to strive to please their owner and take pride in their work. They are family friendly and welcome affection. When a stranger is nearby the dogs do not launch into a protective mode and have been known to become timid and look to their owners for reassurance.
.It is best not to jump into dog ownership when looking for a watchdog, livestock guardian dog, or a herd dog. Visit breeders selling the type of dog you believe you want and interact with them to gauge their health, personality, and how obedient they are to their breeder.
Ideally, you want to purchase your dogs as puppies so you can ensure they have been trained well, bond to you and your family only, and to form a bond that will withstand the test of time.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.