Dogs are more than just pets. They are loyal companions, hard-working helpers, and faithful protectors. For farmers in South Africa, dogs can be especially valuable in many ways. In this blog post, we will explore some of the benefits of having well-trained dogs on your farm, as well as some tips on how to train them.
One of the most obvious benefits of having a dog on your farm is to assist you with herding your livestock. Whether you have cattle, sheep, goats, or poultry, a dog can help you move them from one place to another, keep them together, and prevent them from straying or escaping. A dog can also alert you of any problems or dangers that may arise with your animals, such as illness, injury, or predation.
Some breeds of dogs are naturally suited for herding, such as collies and shepherds. These dogs have a strong instinct to control and direct the movement of other animals, and they can learn to respond to your voice or whistle commands. However, any dog can be trained to herd with proper guidance and reinforcement. The key is to start early, be consistent, and reward your dog for good behaviour1.
Protection from Predators and Criminals
Another benefit of having a dog on your farm is to protect you and your livestock from predators and criminals. South Africa has a high rate of farm attacks and murders23, which pose a serious threat to the safety and livelihood of farmers and their families. Dogs can deter potential attackers by barking, growling, or biting. They can also alert you of any suspicious activity or intruders on your property.
Dogs can also protect your livestock from wild animals that may prey on them, such as jackals, leopards, or baboons. Dogs can chase away or fight off these predators, or at least warn you of their presence so that you can take action. Some breeds of dogs are specially bred for guarding livestock, such as Anatolian shepherds or Boerboels. These dogs are large, strong, and fearless, and they bond with the animals they protect4.
A third benefit of having a dog on your farm is to control pests and vermin that may damage your crops or feed. Mice and rats can eat through your grain, seeds, or produce, and spread diseases to your animals or humans. Terriers are excellent at hunting down and killing these rodents, as they have a high prey drive and a keen sense of smell1. They can also dig up moles that may ruin your fields or gardens.
Dogs can also help you get rid of other pests that may harm your plants or animals, such as insects, snakes, or birds. Dogs can chase away or catch these pests, or at least alert you of their presence so that you can deal with them accordingly. Some dogs are even trained to sniff out pests that may be hidden or hard to detect, such as fruit flies or bollworms4.
A fourth benefit of having a dog on your farm is to provide you with companionship and emotional support. Farming can be a lonely and stressful occupation, especially if you live in a remote area or work long hours. Dogs can offer you unconditional love, affection, and loyalty. They can also make you happier, less stressed, and more productive by providing you with exercise, entertainment, and social interaction5.
Dogs can also help you cope with difficult situations or losses that may occur on your farm, such as droughts, diseases, or deaths. Dogs can sense your emotions and comfort you when you are sad or depressed. They can also help you heal from trauma or grief by giving you a sense of purpose and hope5.
How to Train Your Dog
If you want to enjoy the benefits of having a well-trained dog on your farm, you need to invest some time and effort into training your dog. Getting professional training from your local dog trainer should be your first step. you can contact us if you are based in the KZN Midlands area. Here are some general tips on how to train your dog for farm life:
- Start early: The best time to train your dog is when it is still a puppy. Puppies are more eager to learn and more adaptable to new situations than older dogs.
- Be consistent: Use the same commands and signals for the same behaviours every time. Reward your dog for doing what you want it to do, and correct it for doing what you don’t want it to do.
- Be patient: Training takes time and repetition. Don’t expect your dog to learn everything overnight. Don’t get frustrated or angry if your dog makes mistakes. Instead, try again until it gets it right.
- Be positive: Use praise, treats, toys, or play as rewards for your dog’s good behaviour. Avoid using harsh words, physical punishment, or negative reinforcement for your dog’s bad behaviour.
- Be realistic: Don’t expect your dog to do things that are beyond its abilities or nature. For example, don’t expect a small or timid dog to guard your livestock from large or aggressive predators. Don’t expect a dog that is not bred for herding to herd your livestock without proper training.
- Be safe: Make sure your dog is healthy, vaccinated, and microchipped. Make sure your dog wears a collar with identification and contact details. Make sure your dog is under your control and supervision at all times. Make sure your dog does not harm or annoy your neighbours, visitors, or other animals.
Having a well-trained dog on your farm can bring you many benefits, such as livestock herding, protection from predators and criminals, pest control, and companionship. However, you need to train your dog properly and responsibly to ensure that it can perform its tasks effectively and safely. By doing so, you can enjoy a happier and more productive farm life with your canine friend.