Dogs aren’t just companions, many people raise them to become guardians and protectors. Farm dogs have been an essential part of farm life for hundreds of years. However, because they’re working dogs, they’re very different from the companion dogs that most city folk are used to owning. It’s important to care for your farm dog properly so that they can experience the best quality of life possible on your urban farm.
Another important factor to consider is the breed of your farm dog. One mistake we see is new urban farm owners going to the local shelter and getting just any large breed dog to guard the farm or herd livestock. There are specific breeds that are suited to this role, and choosing the wrong breed could result in frustration.
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Because they’re specialised animals, they also need more specialised care and attention. Read on for our tips:
Provide Them With Adequate Shelter
There’s a common misconception that farm dogs are hardy animals that are perfectly comfortable outdoors. While there’s a grain of truth to this, farm dogs also need shelter from the elements like any other dog. Yes, some breeds are more suited to coping with rain, wind and snow due to their coat, but put yourself in the dog’s shoes for a moment. Even if you’re bundled up with the best cold-weather gear, at the end of the day you still want to come home and relax by the fireplace.
When your farm dog isn’t working, they need to have a safe place to lay down and rest. This space should be sheltered from the weather, yet have good ventilation and access to daylight. The floor must be raised to protect the dog from the cold and wet ground. Warm bedding should also be provided for the dog, especially during the colder months. The shelter should be cleaned daily, and disinfected weekly. Since this is the dog’s safe space, it should be closed to other animals.
Some people are okay with letting their farm dog sleep in the house with them, and that fulfils most of the requirements for a dog’s shelter. However, if your farm dog sleeps outside, you may have to construct a freestanding structure for their use.
Feed Them the Right Food
Farm dogs are high-energy animals, since they’re expected to work the same hours as their human owners. One mistake we often see is that farm dogs are given scraps from the table as their food. This isn’t advisable because the nutrient balance isn’t ideal for the farm dog’s needs, and some human food may have ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
Giving your dog the right amount of high-quality dog food is crucial to their ability to fulfil their role. There is also the option to feed them fresh food if you have farm animals and crops. However, the best course of action is to ask your veterinarian whether your dog would be able to adapt to the diet you’re planning to provide. They can suggest specific brands or varieties of dog food that best suit your dog’s needs.
Give Them Proper Training
Like any other dog breed, farm dogs need to be trained for both mental stimulation and so they can do their jobs. Too often do we see owners just letting their farm dog run around the property without teaching the dog what it is expected to do. While farm dogs have natural instincts and talents, those instincts still need to be cultivated and those talents need to be polished.
Basic obedience training is a must, and any more advanced skills that you need your dog to perform will come after that. Learning how to train a dog is going to be a lifelong pursuit, aside from actually training the dog. If you’re a new dog owner, one option is to enrol in dog training classes in your area. There are also a lot of online resources and courses for urban farm owners who don’t have dog training classes nearby.
Teach Them House Manners
Training your dog to live around the farm is very different from training them to live inside your home. Housetraining your dog may not be at the forefront of your mind when you get a farm dog, but it’s still an important part of their foundational training. After all, when your dog is older and has retired from working, they’re likely to want to spend more time with you inside the house. Teaching them where they can and cannot go inside the house, as well as training them to ask to be let outside, are the bare minimum. Most farm dogs are pretty smart breeds, so they should be able to learn these things fairly quickly.
Remember to Groom Your Farm Dog
While many farm dogs will have rougher, hardier coats of fur that are weather-resistant, they’re not immune to mats and tangles. In many cases, they may actually need more grooming than companion dogs who spend most of their time indoors. Tangles and mats can result in painful skin conditions for any dog. Most breeds will have a recommended frequency for brushing, but if your dog is in dire need, you should have it done immediately.
Bathing, on the other hand, will typically only be done around once a month, as bathing too frequently will strip the dog’s skin of its natural oils and dry it out. However, if your dog has rolled around in a mud puddle or stepped in something stinky, then you may need to make an exception. That’s generally fine, so long as it doesn’t happen too often.
Let Them Be Dogs
Farm dogs may seem to have boundless energy, but they’re not machines. All dogs are dogs, and that means your farm dog will need time off to decompress and play. Not only does this help your dog relax and help prevent destructive behaviours from developing, it also gives you the opportunity to show them that you care about them. Farm dogs can be just as affectionate and gentle as companion dogs! Building the bond between the two of you is something that will only happen if you give your dog the time and space to relax and have fun.