When you think of an Australian farmer, it’s safe to bet that a rugged bloke wearing a worn-in button-up and a wide-brimmed hat with his trusted canine companion at his side, comes to mind. Work dogs are a staple of the rural way of life. They do their job each day and work without complaint. They give companionship and are fiercely loyal to their families. Moreso, they’re invaluable because the work they do is better than what several men could achieve.
Farm dogs have different purposes from herding, to guarding and even removing pests from the property. Here are our picks for the most iconic and beloved dog breeds to have on your property:
1. Border Collie
The world’s smartest dog is an easy pick for the number one position. Herding comes as an instinct for these dogs and they will patrol livestock from as young as pups.
If you want to train a dog quickly, then none will beat the Border Collie. This breed is capable of learning a new command with as few as 5 repetitions. Once a command is learned, they can obey it on the first try with a 95% success rate. The only dogs to compete with this command retention are German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.
Collies can run from sunrise to sunset with no fatigue as they were originally bred to herd sheep, but they have proven to be proficient at handling larger herd animals like cattle.
The only thing that matches a collie’s intelligence is it’s sheer loyalty to its owner. They form a strong dependence on their carer and make for brilliant life partners.
2. Australian Cattle Dog (Heeler)
They may not be as bright as Border Collies, but the loyal Heeler’s stockier build and taller average height give the iconic blue-coloured work dogs an advantage when it comes to dealing with larger livestock.
Just like Collies, these dogs were bred for farm work, and they have an intuitive talent at herding.
Heelers were bred by mixing collies with native dingoes. It’s hard to think of working dogs without the blue-furred cattle dogs coming to mind.
A true Australian-made work breed.
Another of Australia’s own working dogs! The Kelpie is a favourite across the country for its work ethic and determination. A good Kelpie is said to be worth several men, especially when herding in mountainous areas or open plateaus.
The medium-sized dog can endure the blistering heat of the Australian outback and freezing temperatures found at high altitudes. A well trained Kelpie won’t rely on instructions from its owner, it knows when to go ahead of a stockman and funnel a herd in the right direction.
They are loyal and easy to maintain, making them one of the top picks for Aussie farmers.
4. Jack Russell Terrier/ Rat Terrier
Life on a large property means you’ll likely have your fair share of pests. For people on a property who don’t farm or for farmers who want an inexpensive pet, a terrier is a perfect way to protect crops and structures from rodents.
A smaller dog means it needs less food. If you’re a farmer who wants to protect your crops from pests but doesn’t see the need for a herding dog one of these two terrier breeds could be the solution, and one that doesn’t hurt your wallet as much as a bigger breed. Not to mention both are incredibly affectionate and intelligent breeds.
The Jack Russell Terrier is considered one of the best ratters and its original purpose was to hunt foxes, so chasing small animals like rabbits and mice is instinct. Standing at less than 30cm the Russel can squeeze into small nooks where larger dogs would have no chance.
As the name suggests, Rat Terriers are perfect at chasing down rodents. The small breed is incredibly easy to train and learns commands quickly. They are less yappy than Jack Russells and more comfortable living in smaller spaces.
5. Anatolian Shepherd
These massive and protective dogs are a fantastic way to guard your herd or property when you’re not there. The Anatolian Shepherd forges a protective bond with their herds and their families, but are cautious of outsiders.
Compared to other popular livestock guardians, like the Great Pyrenees, the Anatolian Shepherd manages the Australian heat well. This breed’s coat is weather-resistant and keeps them comfortable no matter the temperature. Some prefer the short coat versions because they handle heat better and require less maintenance.