When working with your dog in a farm, it’s important to have a partner that responds to your commands. You need them to stay and watch the livestock, guard the perimeter, and still return to your side when summoned, whether by verbal order or by whistles.
Getting to this level of obedience will require a large amount of training too. This can happen either by letting the dog be familiar with the animals as a puppy, or putting them through the paces when they’re at the optimal age.
Regardless of what training method you use, or the type of working farm dog you want to raise, there are some general pointers that you need to observe.
Tips on Training Working Farm Dogs
1. Meet the Farm Animals Under Supervision
The worst thing you can do is throw your dog into the field unsupervised and untrained. If you’re just getting started, it’s best to let them be familiar with the property and farm animals first.
Depending on the breed of the dog, you might want to let them get to know both the large animals like cattle, and the small ones such as chickens longer. Some dogs may attempt to chase the chickens instinctively, while cattle or horses may not be so welcoming to them. Having your animals trust your dog and vice versa is something that can only be built up by consistent exposure and supervision.
2. Establish a Human-to-Dog Connection
Familiarizing your dog with your farm animals is just half the equation. The other half of training farm dogs is their obedience, but it's up to you to forge connection with your partner for them to listen to you.
Learning how to say a firm “NO” command, while rewarding good behavior with food is one of the first steps to take. This way, dogs will learn their boundaries and also come to know what is expected of their roles, be it keeping your livestock safe or herding sheep or cattle.
Issuing a command with no incentive can be tricky, especially if you’re just starting to train your dog. Often, the more effective way to get them ready to follow your orders in the field is by associating tasks and orders with rewards, like say a nutritionally balanced kibble that meets their dietary requirements. That way, dogs have the incentive they need to follow your orders.
Establishing this connection via commands will require you to spend time with your dog, and it must be done consistently for them to get used to working with you.
The Breeding Business lists some of the telltale signs you can look out for when training starts to sink in. Such behaviors can include increased patrol duration and frequency, barking at fairly new things, or even being more interested in livestock than humans.
3. Choose the Right Breed for the Job
Just as there are tools for a task, certain dog breeds may also be suitable for certain tasks than others. Herding dogs for instance, may require an Australian Shepherd, the Australian Cattle Dog, a Border Collie, and so on. This is because they work better with keeping these animals in groups.
Guard dogs on the other hand, are more suited as sentries for warding off potential predators that can harm your livestock. Breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, or a Maremma can be reliable partners to keep your farm animals safe.
If you think about it, getting your dog ready for farm work is something that takes a lot of preparation. There has to be a harmonious environment in order to be productive. So, give your farm dog the time and space to familiarize itself with you as their handler, the animals they’re going to take care of, and the commands they need to perform their job well.