Letter Re: Recommended Versatile Dog Breeds for Retreat Security

There is a very good breed of dogs that I haven’t seen mentioned (and I did read through all the archives when I first found the SurvivalBlog): the English Shepherd (and their close cousin with no registration papers, the farm collie or farm shepherd). They are in the same family of dogs as the Collie, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, and Sheltie, but with some advantages over all those breeds. Descended from the dogs brought to the United States by Scots escaping the Highland Clearances in the 1700s, the English Shepherd is a medium-sized dog of all work. They herd, hunt, and protect the family and the family livestock. Calmer than most Border Collies, quieter than Shelties, and with an easier-care coat than the Collie (some breeders call it a ‘teflon coat’), they are ideal for small diversified farms, especially farms with livestock of all kinds and children. If you go to the American Working Farmcollie Association yahoo group and read through the archives, you will find stories about dogs who have saved small children from drowning or when they wandered out of the yard; dogs who have flattened themselves over newborn lambs in freezing rain to try to save their lives; dogs who have put the livestock back in the fence after they got out while the owners were away from home; dogs who put the neighbor’s strays back in his fence without direction; dogs who run predators off the farm; dogs who run trespassers off the farm (in at least one case it was someone the dog knew, who was coming in from the back side of the farm while hunting — if he’d been coming up the driveway, she would have been fine with it); dogs who have saved their owners from injury or death by rams, bulls, or horses — I could go on. The stories about these dogs are nearly endless — they are the real-life “Lassies.”

Feeding them isn’t much of a problem as long as there is goat milk and the offal from butchering, plus whatever rodents and pests they can catch. (Mine eat mostly dry dog food with goat milk over it, plus whatever offal I can give them, as we don’t have all that many animals to butcher each year.) Especially if you have livestock, an English Shepherd or two will more than repay the cost of their keep. For more information, look at this Farm Collies breed site. – Freeholder