The Dog Search

Sharon April 16th, 2009

When I wrote my first dog piece, Rufus, our American Working Farmcollie, had just died.  We knew we would want another dog - indeed, we didn’t want to leave Mistress Quickly, our other AWF alone long, but we also didn’t know what we wanted.  We’d talked in the past about a dog who would be bonded to Eli, and the children wanted a small playmate dog, perhaps a corgi, but we hadn’t really thought it through.  I really appreciate all the advice we got from people here - it helped us sort out our desires.

After a little more time, we’ve clarified our desires and needs - we may eventually get a dog that will be specific to Eli, perhaps a washout from guide dog training (thanks to those who suggested this), and while I like Corgis too, I’m pretty sure “because the boys like Tasha Tudor books” is probably not the best reason to choose a dog.  Our family consensus is that what we want and need is a Livestock Guardian dog, who will be a farm guardian.  We’ve seen the coyotes crossing the high pasture already this spring, and a close neighbor got to see more of the black bear that lives in our woods than she really liked - while Mistress Quickly is a great house and herding dog, she’s not the most dominant or intrepid creature - Rufus was the one who ran the predators off fearlessly, while she provided barking moral support from the rear. 

That said, we want an LGD to be a homestead dog - bound to our family as well as the livestock, protective of both kids and goat kids.  And now I’d love some help - I’m sure some of my readers have working LGDs that are general family and homestead guardians - if you can tell us more about your experience with that we’d be grateful.  We’ve gotten a lot of advice about what breeds are best - we’re leaning towards Great Pyrenees or Anatolians, but willing to consider other options, or not-quite-LGD but multipurpose dogs like Newfoundlands.  We’re also looking either for the right adoptive dog, or the right breeder - we’re in touch with local shelters and breed rescue groups, but I thought there was a good chance that someone out here would have experiences that were useful, or suggestions, or might even know of an appropriate dog needing a home.

 Unless we knew that the adult had been a family/homestead dog (ie, both exposed to livestock and also accustomed to family life and children) and we knew the status of its hips, we’d prefer a puppy (even though I really like adult dogs much better ;-) ), but again, would consider the right older dog.  I’m a little lost in this process, since both of our dogs were bred by people we knew and had relationships with.

I’d be very grateful for the wisdom, advice, help or connections anyone wanted to offer.  While we’ve obviously had dogs before, this is new territory for us, and all the research in the world sometimes isn’t as good as good advice.  Finding a new family member is quite a project!

Thanks so much,


36 Responses to “The Dog Search”

  1. Noelle says:

    I don’t have personal experience with this, but I read another blog written by a homesteader in Missouri, and she has posted about their livestock dogs. She might be a good resource.

    Here is the blog post:

    Good luck!


  2. Wendy says:

    I got a dog who had flunked out of search and rescue. They said he was the best at finding dead bodies, but then would chase rabbits and squirrels. He was already obedience and agility trained because of his job. He became my best friend and service dog 7 years ago. I have myasthenia gravis and he helps me to walk. Zeke is an Australian shepherd. He is extremely loyal and dedicated and smart. He quickly learns new ways to help me as my health changes. Now that I’ve lived with an Aussie, I could never go back to any other kind of dog! He would be good to work with livestock. He has a natural affinity towards cows, sheep and llamas. He LOVES kids. I highly recommend an Aussie :-)

  3. Erika says:

    Congratulations on decision making (that’s a HUGE deal in our home!)! Now that I have a dog, I’ve found lots of resources for finding dogs in our community - leaving word at vet offices, humane societies, pet stores (local, not big chains), and the feed store seem to be hot-spots for dog-family hookups. Perhaps contacting folks who use the highly trained dogs, and letting them know what you’re looking for (a drop-out/not perfect for their job/etc.)…

    Best of luck!

    P.S. if you happen upon a wet/dry mouth breed… they are only relative terms… :-P

  4. risa b says:

    Blue heeler, maybe … ?

  5. Saara says:

    We have a Newfoundland. They are a wonderful therapy dog! A Newf would be great for your son. As you say, they’re multipurpose, but only to some extent. They are very loyal and protective (but not necessarily territorial) of family, but not so much with the livestock. Newfs are definitely a house/people dog and will not be happy out sleeping with the goats. Our Maija gets along with other dogs, cats, chickens, small children and pretty much every creature she meets. We do have her pull the woodcart (and sled) and she does bark at noises and chases them off on command. Our noises are generally raccoons and coyotes, but we also have black bear and bobcat.

    If you primarily need a dog for you son, consider a Newf. If primarily for critters, I’d lean toward the more LGD breeds. Choose a breeder carefully (Maija’s hips are toast) and remember the grooming requirements. Newfs only shed twice a year, but they do need daily brushing.

    Another thing to consider is whether you want a male or female. We chose female because they’re more protective and less territorial, but also don’t pee on all the available vertical surfaces. :)

    Start here for more Newf info and I can answer more questions as well!

  6. Greenpa says:

    Oh, and- I strongly strongly recommend getting the youngest puppy you can arrange. That’ll give the kids a “small playmate” dog for a good half year (after which they’re likely to be less enthusiastic about it, anyway) and it also gives you a dog that will bond to your family far more tightly than an older dog will. It’s hard on the older dogs, I know- but there are tons of puppies desperate for homes, too.

  7. Susan in NJ says:

    Isn’t this where some friendly U.S. Senator is supposed to step in with the perfect solution?
    Seriously, good luck and have fun looking.

  8. ctdaffodil says:

    There is a HUGE polish shepard dog - looks like a pyranees - really smart and lovely!

  9. cornish_k8 says:

    lovely post. what i like most about your blog; when you really come close and ask for help/advice.

    Some of your posts are go way over my head but this one was right down among us.

  10. Greenpa says:

    Sheesh. I wrote a nice long comment about our new pup- hit the “post” button- and apparently, it vanished. Ain’t here, anyway.

    We’ve had Theodore only 3 weeks- but I’m really hopeful. His mom was registered Anatolian; dad was either a collie or Australian Shepherd, we’re guessing.

    At 3 weeks with us, he understands his name, “no”, “come”, “stay”, “outside”, “inside”, and is almost entirely house broken (with no effort on our part).

    He seems more relaxed around the chickens and guineas than our other dog (half Catahoula Leopard half Boxer female, 9 months) and less “interested” in them.

    He’s very smart; very cuddly affectionate, and really wants to please; but also dominates Delilah sometimes- he’ll take her treat away, and she’ll just let him.

    From what I’ve heard about Anatolians, I think Theodore may be less hard headed; easier to train; which is part of what I was hoping for with the cross.

    So far- so good. :-)

  11. Dan says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I’ve been reading you for more than a year and have to now write and urge you to consider a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I’ve had a few black & tan versions of this southern breed, and they live with my chickens wonderfully… very protective of the family, and smart enough not to bite strangers… Probably the smartest, sweetest dogs I’ve ever owned. Plus, I’m in New Hampshire, and they’ve acclimated wonderfully. Anyway, I liked your book, and really enjoyed your previous post… you were truly in your groove.
    Kepp it up,


  12. Joanne says:

    As an Aussie I would be very careful of a blueheeler, some of them are very nice but many can have a nasty temperement and I personally would not get one unless I was really really sure about their temperement

    Jo, Sydney Australia

  13. Greenpa says:

    Your interest in Great Pyrs piqued me; I found this excellent bit on a GP site:

    Very intelligent lady, there; and kind of illustrates my own preference for crosses, not purebreds. Even Newfies have had a few specific lines go bad- agressive; and it’s just really hard to track it all- unless you’re able to pay thousands of dollars for dogs from a top breeder.

    Crosses do tend to even things out. Usually. :-)

  14. Deb says:

    Our miniature horse is our attack animal. He stomps anything that comes near his pasture mate, from bunnies to raccoons to coyotes. The woman who had him before us used him to guard her animals from timber wolves up in Northern Minnesota. Plus he’s an easy keeper-barely a flake of hay per day in the winter and a little hoof are about all we do for him. He sees our family as part of his herd and isnt aggressive towards us but I do have to watch when folks bring over small children.

    Perhaps you need a dog for the kids and a guard animal for your herd.

  15. Jena says:

    I didn’t read through all the other comments so this may be repetitive but what I’ve been told by experts is that the best LGDs are aloof and NOT good family pets. The speaker that I listened to said, for example, that when you pick a puppy from the litter you want the one that is content to lay off by himself and not cling to you. The thinking is that he will have to do a lot of lying around the fields and you don’t want a dog that will constantly want to follow you and be in the house.

    I know that is just one person’s opinion but she was presenting it to a large group and a lot of people I know trust her. She’s the other of a book on the subject of which I can’t remember the name right now.

  16. Susan B says:

    We owned a Great Pyrenees when my children were quite young. She was very intelligent, affectionate, loyal and a fantastic mother. One day there was a loud commotion out in our yard. Bridget was fighting with a large dog I didn’t recognize. Neither one was backing down and I became concerned that one of both would be badly hurt. With crowbar in hand a slipped up on the two tumbling, snapping dogs. When the crowbar hit the ground with a THUD, the startled dogs stopped, then Bridget jumped to chase the other dog away. But she stopped when I called her and returned quite proud of herself.
    We loved her. Thought you’d like to know one family’s experience. Good luck choosing.

  17. Lee says:

    I don’t want to be a discourager of the LGD but they tend to bond to either family or animals, but not to both. I had a pyrenees when my children were small and she was great with them but didn’t have any interest in animals. The only other exposure I’ve had with these dogs were the ones that had bonded with goats and then they were indifferent to their people…simply wanted to sit and watch the fields where the animals were. I don’t think that most of them have the ability bred into them to be a dual purpose animal. Just my thoughts and my experiences. Good-luck in your search for a new family member!


  18. Jerry says:

    You may not think of a Chocolate Lab as a LGD but ours was like one of the herd and when we chased the cows back from pasture she would walk with them in the middle of the pack. You won’t find a more loyal or protective dog for the kids or your property. I still miss her even though she has been gone over a year. They do take some time to calm down but she was so worth the wait.

  19. Esther says:

    We farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. We have 160 acres of land and between 75 and 100 sheep - depending on the number of lambs we get!

    A number of years ago we were given a Great Pyrenees who was 18 months old. She had been raised around cattle and sheep and was definitely a stock dog. It turns out that she is wonderful with the sheep, knows how to manage the llamas, minds her manners around the horses and leaves the chickens in peace. She works all night roving the perimeter of the property and runs off all manner of predators - coyotes being the most common. At the same time she is loyal to our family and great with kids - she’s like a giant teddy bear. She enjoys the company of our little house dog and loves being part of our family.

    Here is a great website with Pyrenees info:

    Best wishes as you continue your search…

  20. Brad K. says:

    My neighbor’s Great Pyrenees was a good guard dog. The breed characteristic is to roam the property - they know their territory - and bark. Constantly.

    One night, about midnight, I was working on my computer - and the barking changed note. I looked out the front door, and the ditch was afire. I called it in, the fire was put out with no real damage - and I bought the neighbors a large bag of Purina Dog Chow.

    Be prepared for the large dog appetite, large dog lawn “dots”, and the barking. Constant barking - that’s what they are intended to do. Lovable, loving dogs.

    My neighbor lost their dog to a drive-by thief, they think.

    I love the thought of a Corgi, especially after reading “A Feral Darkness” (Duranna Durgin) - a dog groomer finds a mysterious, mud-covered Pembroke Corgi on her porch one night.

    Luck with the search.

  21. d.a. says:

    LGDs can be a lot of work during the first year - keeping them in close proximity to the livestock, and training them to be gentle (forewarning: you may experience a poultry casualty during the pup-training process). That said, we love our Great Pyrs, and they’ve bonded to both the humans and our chickens & geese. When either of them feels the need for affection and one of us humans aren’t around, they’ll go up to one of the geese and gently “head butt” for attention (the geese gnaw on the dogs ears and head fur). If I’m collecting eggs and the geese get agitated, one of the dogs will stand between me & the geese, protecting me from being hassled.

    We got our pups from a farm who had working Pyrs. For strictly animal guarding, you’ll want a stand-offish pup, but we (by accident) picked two of the more playful and social pups. This has resulted in what’s termed a “farm dog” - one that will hang out more around the house instead of away in the field. If you don’t have huge acreage for the dog to guard, this works well - at least it does for us on our small 8-acre property.

    Good luck in your choice!

  22. Leon says:

    What Jena said - it’s either a shepherd’s dog or sheep’s dog.

    Good LGD thinks she’s a member of the flock, not the shepherd’s family. That’s why she’ll die for them. A good shepherd’s dog will do what she can to protect the stock as long as it’s not too risky. She will die for the shepherd (and may be his kids) though. It’s one or the other.

    From your description you need an all around dog, not a real pure LGD. So, just go with it and switch part (most?) of the LGD functions to other things - fences, locked barns, traps, etc. Otherwise, you’d need to get two dogs - one for the goats and one for the people. If your dog is not the only thing between the stock and coyotes, than many shepherd breeds will do just fine for light predator control. Bigger dogs (GSD, Newfies, etc. ) will usually keep not very hungry coyotes away just by being there but there needs to be another line of defense, such as coyote-proof barn, for those very determined individuals/bad luck coincidences.

    P.S. Thanks for your blog - I don’t always agree but it’s always interesting and thought-provoking.

  23. Apple Jack Creek says:

    We love our Pyr - our experience is much like the other Pyr owners who’ve posted here.

    McKenzie lives with the sheep - and yes, getting him trained was a trial and involved some friendly fire incidents, but it was worth it. He sleeps outside with his sheep and keeps the coyotes at bay (along with his partner Bob, who is Akbash/Maremma cross).

    Mackie is friendly with the kids and had we played more with him as a puppy I think we’d have had him in that sorta-farm-dog-sorta-LGD place, but we very purposely wanted him WITH THE SHEEP. That said, he is good with the kids although HUGE. If you are outside and squat down to do something, he will often sit next to you, then put his paw on your back to say “hey, you should pet me”. The thing is, his paw is oh, about as big as my hand, and heavy so even when he’s trying to be gentle it’s ummm … noticeable! He’s knocked us over more than once, unintentionally I’m sure, but it is something to consider. They are BIG dogs.

    So if it’s guardian that can also be loved by kids, a Pyr would be an excellent choice … but they’re independent minded and you’re not gonna do much in the way of obedience (beyond basic civil behaviour).

    If you really want a dog that will guard the stock … well, my experience is that the LGDs (lots of Pyrs and Maremmas and Akbash dogs around here) are just great at their job - and doing their job doesn’t make them unloveable to kids in any way. They don’t come sleep by the fire (they gotta be outside working, one of mine actually refuses to go indoors at ALL, even in the barn) but they sure do love to see you outside and they adore you even though they don’t live inside the house with you.

    And, ours bark a lot but not constantly - you get used to the “three o’clock and all’s well” bark, and you wake up when it’s the “hey, that is a skunk in the yard!” bark (really).

    Best of luck with the research - you might want to check the various threads on Homesteading Today about LGDs as well - and, of course,

  24. Apple Jack Creek says:

    Oh yes, and if you do get a real stock-bonded LGD, be prepared to have the vet come to YOU when it needs shots. We can’t even get ours in the truck. :)

  25. Pudentilla says:

    I’d look at Wheaton Terriers. In Ireland they were all around farm dogs and can be trained for a range of jobs. There terriers, so the training can test your patience, but in California they have wheaton sheep herding trials, so it can be done.

    They’re wonderful with kids and - at least in my experience - more interested in people than other dogs. They have endless energy. We have friends who bring their kids over to run them in them our back yard with the dogs. We have a huge garden and they’re uninterested in it. In fact, they’ll run down the paths and around the beds.

    Their territorial, so you’ll hear them bark.

    They don’t shed so they don’t add to the household maintainence routine. You do have to wash ‘em once a month and groom them every couple of months, so it’s not like they’re work free.

  26. Catholic Agrarian says:

    We’ve had both Pyrenees and Anatolians and have settled on Anatolians for the dogs we keep. They seem to be a little more serious about their work, and they don’t get the natty dreadlocks Pyrenees do.

  27. EJ says:

    Maybe you should look into other guardian animals - gesee, donkeys, llamas? Dogs are cute but may not be the answer.

    We have a guardian llama (now 5 yrs old) who has kept the coyotes and other predators away for a year. We decided not to get a LGD because of issues with bonding and working. A LGD needs to be with the livestock more or less all the time and not be strongly bonded with people. We already have a dog in the house and it would be hard for us not to bond with a puppy. The puppy needs protection the first year or so and won’t begin guarding until its grown. The large breeds often don’t live that long, 6-7 years.

    Another aspect of LGD is that it you get a puppy it might not work out as a guardian dog and then you have a dog thats too wild for the house, but not good at guarding. We also liked the llama because he eats hay and grass like the sheep. he is hard to catch, tho.

  28. Linda S says:

    Sharon, I realize you’re asking about a working dog at present, but when you get to the family dog, you might reconsider the corgi. I had a friend who spent over a year researching dogs before she bought one for her kids, and she went with corgi.

  29. The old farmer lady says:

    Ideally, you’d have 2 dogs, as several have pointed out, most LGDs are more into their critters than people. Having said that, I have over the years seen some Pyrs (certainly not all) that have done a credible job of both…..but….as the mother of an autistic son, (“homereared”, as someone once put it, and homeschooled) I can tell you that having his own dog was the highlight of his life. Maybe your son could have his own dog, to be his alone?? You might find that worthwhile. My son is now in his 40s and totally independent (if weird :) ); to this day a dog is Number One in his life.

    If I had both coyotes and bears to contend with in the field, I’d be having a mammoth donkey or a mule. After coyotes outwitted a good dog and got several of my goats, I kept a mule for many years, and once we got him, never had another loss to coyote, bear, or large cat. He was an easy keeper (nothing like getting a horse), smart as a whip, and got a coyote a week for the first several weeks we had him. The neighbors were so thrilled that they banded together and bought his hay and sweet feed after the first year. He also willingly pulled field equipment (I had a 2-acre truck garden) and carts full of carrots, wagons loaded with rocks, whatever. The old farmer lady

  30. Sharon says:

    A couple of clarifications- the goats and poultry are right near the house, so it won’t really be a matter of either/or in a physical sense. While the field will be part of the dog’s territory, the animals required to guard are mostly proximate. We actually have a guard donkey who goes with our shared sheep arrangement (he lives here from May - December) for the sheep.

    In my research, I’ve found that LGDs really seem to be able to do three things - live independently with the livestock, bonded to them; live as family pets, primarily bonded to the family; and also live in a dual situation, where they are bonded to both, provided there’s sufficient proximity. I’ve seen enough accounts of that to feel that it is reasonably likely to be successful. Ideally, I think an LGD cross would be perfect - I’ve got a line on a Old English Sheepdog/Pyr cross that would be nice, if it works out.

    Eli may yet get his own dog - but that’s perhaps for another day.


  31. Steph says:


    When our elderly Goldens die (one has cancer so it will likely be this year, at least for her), we’re going for a Bouvier des Flanders. Yes, she will be expensive but she’s to be our farm defense system. We will choose a goofy, happy, playful pup because we want her first loyalty to be to the family & guarding stock and flock as an extension of that duty. If I could find a cross of a golden and a Bouvier or a golden and a Great Pyr we would surely go that route.


  32. Lisa says:

    From both the LGD and family partner standpoint, I most highly recommend an Akbash from the right breeder. As with most great ideas that are even somewhat profitable, the breeding of Akbash dogs has seen much recent unethical behavior. If you want a pup that is an effective LGD and loves/bonds with your family as well, you need to find a breeder for whom both of those attributes are a priority.

    We are very lucky to work with a small scale local farm that is such. While my husband works with the small dairy herd, our 11 year old daughter has nannied the litter of 11 puppies. Honestly, I cannot say enough positive things about this particular breeding pair and the puppies I have know from them. They have pups now , one of which has already come home with us and is comfortable in both the barn and the house. I especially approve of their questionnaire to match pup to family.

    You can also check out the Association webpage at The photo of the glorious dog with the little girl draped over him is Khan, the father of the pups at Hidden Springs. Sharon, feel free to privately email me for further details about our experiences with the dogs and with the breeder. Good Luck!


  33. Susan W. says:

    This guy has a lot to say about LGDs (and pigs).

    Also, friends have an (I think) Great Pyrenees mix on their farm and I have found the barking really annoying. Even if you get used to their barking, any overnight guests you have will likely not sleep well.

    I’m a cat person myself and I enjoyed your post. Thank you,

    Susan W. in CO

  34. gen says:

    Each breed has a rescue group specific to them. You can do a search for Great Pyr rescue, Bouvier rescue, etc.
    These people can tell you breed characteristics, as well as the personality of a specific dog they are fostering. You can hear firsthand how they are with children or cats or in the house, etc, etc. You will have much more information to make an informed choice.
    They even sometimes have mixed breeds; most have connections with shelters so that if a dog of their breed comes in, they will get called.
    Good luck.

  35. Roger says:

    We have an Akbash. Neutered male 2.5 years old 110 lbs short/medium coat. Obviously pure white. Beautiful striking athletic dog. Great powerful animal. Gentle, loyal, independent (can think on his own) and protective. Lives both indoors and out. If you get an Akbash at an early age and use proper training methods the dog will be excellent for your family and farm. They need to understand that you are the alpha in the pack, receive appropriate discipline, and receive good socialization skills and general command training. They don’t fetch, they are not frisbee dogs. When you see an Akbash running at full stride you will see something special. They are very fast and very big.

    We are picking up a female pup from Hidden Springs Akbash next wednesday. Hidden Springs was mentioned in an earlier post regarding the Akbash This will add a second LGD to the family. There is a You Tube video of a goat farmer discussing his Akbash pack. He does a very good job summarizing his reasons for the Akbash. At the end he says, I like them because they are fast.” Here is the link.

    Good luck

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