Everyone knows the stereotype: the older farmer who drives a rusty pickup, has an impressive amount of facial hair, wears suspenders attached to his jeans, and has a loyal dog that rides with him everywhere. But with all of the farm dog breeds out there, what kind of dog does this character have?
It depends on the work that the dog is expected to do. Herding, protecting, and controlling pests are all possible options. Companionship and entertainment are perks, for sure. Some need intelligence and athleticism while others need a fierce protection instinct. Some need to be able to fight off dangerous wildlife and others need to keep the rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and birds out of the fields.
There are plenty of incredible dog breeds for use on the farm, and American Farm Bureau even does an annual Farm Dog of the Year contest. And individuals certainly have their favorites, as you can see from the breeds that some of these ag social media influencers have. However, some farm dogs are objectively better than others.
Here are my picks for the 5 best farm dog breeds to have in our agricultural settings:
These fiercely loyal and intelligent dogs are the ultimate farm dog. They short, compact, and strong, which is perfect for a rough job like agriculture. Heelers are smart, physically fit, tough as nails, and hyper-focused on their job. Whatever type of operation you run, this breed needs a job. If that is herding, protecting, chasing off vermin, or all of the above, they will do it with enthusiasm.
You can even read an ode to these animals from someone who’s family bred cattle dogs on a California ranch.
Another incredibly smart breed is the Border Collie. This breed is famous for its herding abilities, first and foremost. Border Collies are extremely energetic and active dogs, making physically demanding jobs perfect for them. Notoriously easy to train and teach incredible tricks, Border Collies are arguably the smartest of the breeds.
Corgis have taken on a role in popular culture of a cute, cuddly dog for families and queens. While they can fill this role very well, the Corgi was built for herding. It is stocky and able to navigate through hooves, fences, and gates alike. While they are typically good companions, Corgis want little more than to let their owner know exactly what is in their space. Could be a predator, could be a leaf. There is little difference in the bark.
While this breed may have trouble fitting into the front seat of a truck, they probably don’t want to be there anyway. These dogs become bonded to the group of animals they are tasked with protecting. Their size and coat make living outdoors a breeze, even preferable, depending on the climate. The Great Pyrenees is a guardian. No predator is getting through them.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Jack Russell Terrier. This breed is perfect for keeping rodents and other pests away from their immediate area. They were bred for hunting small furry things, and they will chase small furry things. Not the best dog to have on a rabbit farm, but perfect for riding from field to field and looking for a raccoon between the crop rows.
Jessy Woodworth is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she studied agricultural communication and animal sciences.