They protect. They herd. They warn. A good farm dog is priceless to keep your livestock happy and healthy. But how can you ensure your herding or livestock guardian dog’s safety, especially as they roam your acreage, encounter large predators or work near dangerous machinery?
Keep your farms dogs safe with these five strategies.
Know Your Region’s Predators
Are you dealing with fishers or feral hogs? Understanding the predators in your own backyard will help keep your livestock and farm dogs safe. Livestock guardian dogs — being big, fearless and strong — are bred to protect. But if they’re likely to face large predators or packs, it’s smart to have at least two guard dogs working together. You might also want to install noise and light devices that can deter predators.
Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations
Like all companion animals, farm dogs should receive regular vaccinations to stay healthy. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, parainfluenza and rabies vaccines for all dogs. Depending on where you live, you may want to vaccinate your dog to protect against Lyme disease, rattlesnake toxoid and Leptospira. Always talk to your veterinarian about what they recommend for your dog’s lifestyle.
Use Positive Reinforcement Training
Perhaps the best way to keep your dogs on the farm safe is to train them early and well. Teach them basic commands as a pup, rewarding them with treats to reinforce good behavior. Introduce them to your other farm animals slowly before allowing them to bond with the herd. Guarantee they understand gate and fence boundaries and know not to chase equipment or livestock, which can seriously hurt both animals.
Help Prevent Accidental Death
Livestock guardian dogs face a serious risk of injury or death. As they roam, they’re more likely to be hit by cars, accidentally shot or killed by predators. So how do you keep a farm dog from roaming, especially when it’s in their nature? First, look into dogs that are more likely to guard livestock closely, like the Spanish or Pyrenean mastiff. Also consider boundary training your dog and/or erecting a no-climb fence at least 6 feet tall.
Provide Care During Extreme Weather
Barn and farm dogs need additional attention during heat spells or extreme cold, snow and rain. During heat waves, provide plenty of clean water and shade and watch for signs of hyperthermia: excessive panting, drooling and restlessness. In the winter, dogs should have access to an insulated or wooden doghouse with dry, thick bedding and clean water.
Protect Your Dogs on the Farm
Your herding and guardian dogs are an investment, just like your livestock, equipment and barn. Your local Farm Bureau agent can help you plan for your farm’s future with the right coverage today.