dogI’ve always been a big fan of dogs, particularly working dogs and most particularly farm dogs, so I was happy to see Farm Dogs: 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers and other Canine Working Partners here at the library. As stated in the introduction, the breeds in the book perform one or more of the following tasks: guarding flocks, protecting the farmstead, herding/driving/working livestock, controlling rats and other vermin, pulling carts, or serving as all-around farmhands. So, hunting dogs are not included, though often found on farms. Sled dogs are a specialized group not listed here, nor are any giant breeds as the author feels they are insufficiently agile for regular farm work though there are certainly some very large breeds included. There are some terriers, although many were either not originally working dogs or have been bred to be companions only for a long time and are no longer considered “working” dogs. While many of the dogs contained make good companions, many are best suited to working conditions and will not make good family members if they don’t have a job to do. Border collies, for example, are very popular as pets but generally are not suited to anything approaching a sedentary life. They need something to do most of the time. If not given something to do, they will find something to do, and not necessarily something their human companions will be happy with!

The first chapter gives a short history of the human/dog relationship while the second delves a bit more deeply into the special needs and considerations of working farm dogs including housing and care, levels of sociability, energy levels, fencing and legal issues. The third chapter gets underway with choosing the right dog for you, including picking a trustworthy breeder or adopting a shelter or rescue dog and the particular concerns about rescue dogs that are intended for work. Also of concern are mixed breed dogs, particular those that are mixes of one type or working dog and another. A terrier/livestock guard mix is probably a poor choice for livestock guarding, given the terrier prey drive, for example. On the other hand, a herding breed/herding breed mix might be a fine herder and is sometimes done intentionally by those setting out to create a new breed but it definitely something that all but the most expert should avoid. Sticking to purebred dogs created for the specific task is usually wisest, though many accidental crosses wind up as general-purpose farm dogs on many a farm!

On to the good stuff! Chapter Four begins the task specific groupings and breeds. The first is livestock guardian dogs, like the Anatolian Shepherd or the Kuvasz. As with all the group chapters, the beginning outlines the general appearance, roles, behavior and temperament, and myths and misinformation about the group along with common health concerns and what to look for in a puppy. After you have that under your belt, you move on to the breeds within the group. This particular group contains a fair number of less well-known breeds, mostly not AKC registered and often very rare in the U.S. like the Armenian Gampr and Karakachan.

Chapter Five covers the herders: the more common Australian Cattle Dog, the Corgis and Border Collie as well as the Bergamaso Sheepdog, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, and Mudi among others.

Chapter Six, Terriers and Earthdogs, includes the Australian Terrier (one of which I owned many years ago—he was a character), Border, Cairn, and all the usual suspects including all three Russells and the more unusual Patterdale and Jagdterrier and the charmingly named Treeing Feist!

Finally, we come to the Traditional and Multipurpose Farm Dogs such as the Airedale Terrier (classed here because of its use as a multipurpose dog rather than a ratter/vermin hunter as are most terriers), the different varieties of Belgian Shepherds, and Giant Schnauzer.  Rarer are the Hovawart, Karelian Bear Dog (listed specifically for its work in bear deterrence as several other specialized breeds are also included) and the absolutely irresistible (to look at—apparently quite a handful) Pumi. If you’ve never seen one, go find a picture. Those ears!

A terrific book for the simple dog fancier and a valuable resource for anyone considering actually adding one of these working dogs to their life. Lots of pictures, lots of information.

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