Tag Archives: Dogs

Top 10 Reader-Favorite Dog Breeds

Top 10 Reader-Favorite Dog BreedsDogs can play all sorts of roles on a small homestead, from herding sheep to guarding goats to controlling vermin to hunting game for the table.

You may be curious to know what dog breeds our readers have gravitated to during their research. Here’s the answer.

10. Border Collie

The classic sheepdog can be a handful, but for those prepared to feed his sharp mind and his insatiable drive to work the Border Collie has no peers. Impeccable timing and a positive approach to training are necessary to bring out the best in the Border Collie. That said, patience and consistency will reward the trainer with a versatile working dog that can control sheep flocks of any size with amazing precision and very little force.

9. Bouvier des Flandres

It’s encouraging to see interest in the Bouvier among homesteaders, because this hardworking dog’s abilities are rarely tapped into today. He is usually a pet or show dog in modern American society, but he can be incredibly valuable on a small farm! The Bouvier is not only a superb guardian of home, family, and livestock, but he can herd anything from cattle to chickens. He is also a very sturdy draft dog and obedient to a fault when raised by a confident trainer.

8. Irish Setter

The world of the Irish Setter can be rather confusing, as there are so many different bloodlines adapted to different purposes. But the good news is that this means there is probably a version of the Irish Setter just right for you. Take your choice from the intensely competitive field type, the casual old-fashioned hunting type, the stylish but smart dual-purpose type, or the laid-back show type, also an excellent pet.

7. Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd is a very popular choice of livestock guardian today, and little wonder. He’s smart, sturdy, and low-maintenance—a no-fuss dog born to protect. While sheep are the traditional charges of the Anatolian Shepherd, he can and will protect anything that is his, including children, chickens, goats, horses, and cattle.

Top 10 Reader-Favorite Dog Breeds6. Labrador Retriever

The lovable Lab is a versatile companion, able to either nap on the couch or spend the day hunting with the same good-natured enthusiasm. A country lifestyle is the perfect setting for this breed, particularly if children and water are also involved. He can be quite at home with other animals, and he makes an excellent watchdog to boot.

5. Old English Sheepdog

Although not the best choice for a large farm or ranch, the fluffy Old English Sheepdog can do double duty as a companion and farmhand on a smaller hobby farm thanks to his great versatility. He can herd, retrieve, bark at approaching strangers, and pull a cart with the best of them. An extra bonus? He has the luxurious coat to make unique craft yarns for the ambitious spinner.

4. German Shepherd Dog

The working German Shepherd is a rare combination between guardian and herding dog. His unique gift is called furrowing, which means to pace along an unfenced boundary line to keep livestock in and drive predators out. Keep in mind that there are numerous German Shepherd bloodlines, some better suited for show and others for police and military work. The type with the furrowing instinct traces back to working dogs from West Germany.

3. Jack Russell Terrier

This smart, fiesty little dog can be nearly as effective at vermin control as a cat and is far superior as an alarm system. Long associated with upper-class horse stables of the East Coast, the Jack Russell is nevertheless not too proud to rid the working farm of anything from rats to badgers (and he’s still a horse lover). Also popular are his close relatives—the square-built Parson Russell Terrier commonly kept as a companion and the low-slung Russell Terrier bred for hunting vermin in Australia.

2. Australian Shepherd

Developed in America to handle the vast sheep flocks of the West, the Australian Shepherd is still a popular choice on many working sheep and cattle ranches. But keep in mind that the working Aussie is a high-octane dog with a keen mind, a vigorous protective instinct, and an insatiable desire to herd. Hobby farmers may prefer the more laid-back demeanor of the rarer dual-purpose bloodlines.

Top 10 Reader-Favorite Dog Breeds1. English Shepherd

And the favorite dog among our readers is…drum roll…the English Shepherd! A close cousin of the Australian Shepherd, the English Shepherd branched off to meet the needs of smaller frontier farmers in the Midwest. Little wonder, then, that the recent revival in small-scale sustainable agriculture has resulted in a revival in popularity for the English Shepherd. He is a triple-purpose working dog with the ability to herd all types of livestock, guard either the home or the pasture, and track and tree a wide variety of game. Puppies can be hard to find, but dedicated breeders are scattered across the country.

Helpful Resource

Stockdog SavvyStockdog Savvy
Looking for the right herding dog for your farm? This excellent book discusses the varied working styles of both popular and rare breeds. Read our full review.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland SheepdogThe Shetland Sheepdog dates back to the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries. The fierce invaders who colonized the Shetland Islands brought with them small herding spitzes to tend their livestock. These dogs were ideally suited to the harsh climate of the islands, being quite hardy.

In the 1470s, however, the Shetland Islands became part of Scotland. The Scottish introduced their own farm collies, dogs of Border Collie type. When crossed with the spitzes, an excellent little sheepdog arose. The new breed was an all-purpose dog for the small-scale farmers of the islands. They herded both miniature cattle and sheep, gathering them when needed on the uninhabited islands or driving them out of the gardens and fields of the inhabited islands.

The union between Scotland and England in 1707 brought a new era to the Shetland Islands, albeit one of great hardship to the common people. Fish trade became very important to feed Industrial Revolution towns, so a class of wealthy fish merchants arose on the islands and reduced the farmers to serfs.  However, the regular influx of fishing boats also introduced new dogs, ranging from King Charles Spaniels to more herding spitzes of the Scandinavian countries. Mixing and remixing regularly took place, leading to a rather nondescript population of farm dogs. However, any gentle dogs with herding instinct were valued.

The Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s brought the need for a strong British naval force, so the fleet regularly appeared near the islands to practice maneuvers. Navy members who stopped on the islands often bought any puppies that had struck their fancy to take home for souvenirs. The Shetland islanders quickly realized that a comfortable income could be realized by selectively breeding dogs to be little, furry, and cute.

This led to a lengthy debate over what the perfect dog of the Shetland Islands should look like. Some breeders simply did not care about appearance just so long as their puppies sold well. Others felt that crossing to the old farm collie to get closer to the original specimen was necessary. As time went on, breeder James Loggie came to the forefront, helping to establish the Shetland Collie Club in 1908 and in the process establishing the ideal Sheltie as the one most resembling a miniature show Collie. Thus, the breed departed from its original Border Collie background.

Like many dog breeds, the Shetland Sheepdog (the word Collie soon being dropped to avoid pressure from offended Collie fanciers) faced extinction during the tumultuous times of World War I. Further crossbreeding with Collies was carried out to preserve the breed. These upgraded Shetland Sheepdogs were the ones that populated our shores between World War I and World War II.

The Sheltie was a tremendous success in America, quickly capturing the hearts of those who loved Collies but preferred a smaller dog. It became particularly popular in the 1970s and is still a global favorite. Today, the Sheltie ranks 24th in AKC registration statistics.


Shetland SheepdogUses

Many Shetland Sheepdogs today are simply well-loved pets. However, their trainability makes them the Border Collies of the small-dog world. They dominate many dog sports ranging from obedience to tracking to agility, and also win frequent accolades in the conformation ring. But their sharp minds can be put to use in less competitive ways, including therapy work and watchdog duty. Shelties are excellent when it comes to trick performances as long as they are not expected to do fancy retrieving. Most Shelties dislike carrying objects for any great distance.

Although few Shetland Sheepdogs still herd, many retain the necessary instinct. Their gentle disposition makes them a good choice for working sheep.



The Shetland Sheepdog is known for a sweet, sunny personality that endears him to all. He is an inquisitive little fellow that prefers to stay busy, so keep his mind occupied. Providing him with a job will help channel his energies productively. If he is unsure about what is required of him, he can become rather tense.

Use a soft voice and a light touch when training the Sheltie. Anything harsher will damage his sensitive nature. If he has fallen into bad habits through misunderstanding, a verbal reprimand is the only correction needed; follow it up with a positive demonstration of the correct course of action to keep him from becoming anxious. The Sheltie loves to please and is happier knowing what to do rather than what not to do. But even the obedient Sheltie is not immune to spoiling—he will cheerfully ignore anyone who has demonstrated that they do not necessarily mean what they say.

The Sheltie is extremely family-oriented and must be allowed to live indoors with his people. While he will regard only one person in the household as the master, he enjoys following all of the family members around. Forcing him to spend long periods of time alone is a recipe for a noisy and psychologically disturbed dog.

As long as his companionship needs are met and a reasonable amount of routine is maintained throughout the day, the Shetland Sheepdog is flexible enough to fit the needs of most households. He loves cats, adapts to the presence of other dogs (especially other Shelties), and makes an excellent playmate for children who are old enough to treat him gently. He even takes travel in stride. However, the Sheltie is rather reserved, perhaps even timid, around strangers. He may tolerate their presence, but a stranger who attempts to pet him may meet up with a protest in the form of the “Sheltie spin,” where the dog whirls in a complete circle, barking the whole time.

Beware, however, of puppy-mill Shelties. These dogs are not trustworthy around children, as they are extremely reactive and prone to fear-biting. They also to tend to be the most compulsive barkers.

Unchanneled herding instinct can create some interesting situations for Sheltie owners. Puppies may nip at heels until trained otherwise. Even adult Shelties, however, have a strong instinct to chase fast-moving objects ranging from squirrels to cars. For this reason, a fenced yard is recommended to prevent accidents, even though Shelties do not have any inclination to roam. Safely confined, the dog will probably vent his feelings in a noisy Sheltie spin.

Even when actually herding, the Shetland Sheepdog tends to rely heavily on voice and the Sheltie spin to move animals. He works close to the livestock for maximum effect.

Shetland Sheepdog


Unfortunately, the Shetland Sheepdog is prone to several severe health problems:

  • Collie eye anomaly, a genetic defect that prevents the eye from developing properly.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Legg-Perthes, a disease of puppies in which the blood supply to the femur is cut off, causing joint death.
  • Hemophilia.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Dermatomyositis (Sheltie skin syndrome), which causes hair loss and skin lesions that come and go with stress.
  • Multi-drug resistance, which can cause life-threatening reactions to some tranquilizers and heartworm medication.

Note that shaving a Sheltie in the summer is not a good idea, no matter how hot it is outside. The Sheltie’s coat forms a protective layer that guards him from sunburn and allergies.

Keep your Sheltie slim. He loves to eat and will put on weight very quickly if you let him.

Also, do not breed two merle dogs together, as the resulting puppies may be born white, blind, and deaf.



  • Suitability for first-time dog owners.
  • Suitability for families with children and other pets.
  • Small size.
  • Trainability.
  • No slobber.
  • Cold tolerance.
  • Low food requirements.
  • Agility.
  • Speed.
  • Endurance.


ConsShetland Sheepdog

  • Irresponsible breeders.
  • Vocal tendencies.
  • Need for almost constant human companionship.
  • Need for a job.
  • Grooming requirements.
  • Profuse shedding (“blowing coat”) yearly for males and spayed females and twice a year for unspayed females, plus additional moderate shedding year-round.
  • Serious health problems.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds



RottweilerAs invading Roman armies traveled, they tended to leave a trail of abandoned dogs in their wake, no matter where they went. The dogs were large and mastiff-like, but they were kept to herd sheep and cattle to feed the soldiers. As the livestock was eaten up, surplus dogs were left behind.

One area that became the residence of a sizeable population of abandoned Roman dogs was southern Germany. While they may have been useless to the Roman soldiers, they were properly appreciated by the locals and were kept to guard native livestock for several centuries. Over time, the mastiff was crossed with various sheepdog breeds to enhance its herding ability still further. The new type of dog was used to drive herds of cattle to market, particularly in Rottweil—sort of a European cowtown. But not only could it herd—it was a capable draft dog, and when a bag of money was tied around its neck the safety of the money was invariably assured.

The Rottweiler was valued until the mid-1800s when large-scale cattle drives were banned, ending the breed’s job as a herding dog. Furthermore, railroads were by this time putting an end to the need for draft dogs, leaving the Rottweiler without a purpose. Its numbers fell quickly.

Fortunately, a new purpose for the Rottweiler was found in the early 1900s—police work. From police dog it was only a short step to another role as a military dog. When World War I came around, the Rottweiler was found equal to the occasion. During the war, it served many purposes, ranging from hauling weapons and other supplies to sniffing out the wounded on the battlefield.

The first Rottweiler in America arrived sometime after the war, probably in the late 1920s. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1931, and it also quickly caught on with the American police and military. After World War II, the Rottweiler came to the attention of the general public and started to increase in popularity very quickly, first as an obedience competitor and later as a tough-looking pet and watchdog. Unfortunately, the more popular the Rottweiler became, the more puppy mills appeared to supply the increasing demand at any cost. Dangerous poorly bred Rottweilers were the result.

The reputation of the Rottweiler was tarnished by poor temperament in some lines, setting its popularity back for a time. This proved to be for the best, however, as conscientious breeders stepped up to the plate to restore the innate stability of the breed. Thanks to their efforts, the Rottweiler has remained a favorite in America, ranking as the 8th most popular breed in the nation according to AKC registration statistics.



The Rottweiler retains his historic versatility, as, thanks to his great work ethic, he will readily learn to carry out any meaningful task. He has proven his worth in trying positions ranging from police and military work to search and rescue, but he can also excel at less serious tasks. He can serve as a personal watchdog, pull a cart, or compete in sports such as agility.

The old herding instinct is still alive and well in this breed, but it is important to note that the Rottweiler has a considerably more forceful style than most herding breeds. While he can learn to moderate his approach with flightier livestock, the Rottweiler is at his best when dealing with stubborn, dominant animals, particularly cattle.



In general, a well-bred Rottweiler is quietly devoted to his family. He is happiest when allowed to be with his people, where he can fulfill his duty of protecting them. Away from his family, he can become frustrated, aggressive, or anxious. But this does not make the Rottweiler clingy. He is very loving toward his people, but shows his affection primarily by following them from room to room to ensure their safety, although he may indulge in the occasional shoulder bump. Females can be slightly more demonstrative.

Care should be taken to properly introduce the Rottweiler to visitors. He is not naturally reactive, but will take time to evaluate newcomers and form an opinion of them. If he sees that a guest is clearly a friend of the family, he will allow his good nature to shine through. Those who appear to pose a threat will meet with a harsh reception. The Rottweiler will be most accurate in his distinctions if he is introduced to friendly visitors from a young age.

Exercise caution with children. Some Rottweilers never become accustomed to the noise and fast movements of small children, and even a friendly Rottweiler can accidentally injure toddlers by bumping them around to herd them. Be especially vigilant if the neighbor’s children come over to play, as if roughhousing ensues the Rottweiler will leap to the defense of his own children.

This dog is not suitable for homes with other pets, as he is aggressive toward other canines. A few can adapt to living with a cat that they have been raised with, but this is not a sure thing. In general, it is safest to assume that the Rottweiler will prefer to be the only pet in the home.

The Rottweiler needs a strong owner that he can respect or he will easily end up dominating the household. He will test every member of the family from a young age, and will only obey those he recognizes as being in authority. However, the Rottweiler’s respect must be earned through a firm mind and an immovable will, never through physical strength. If a contest of authority devolves into a test of sheer brute force, the Rottweiler will win—every time. But once his respect is won, the Rottweiler is completely obedient and easy to train. Females tend to accept authority better than males in this breed.

When herding, the Rottweiler seeks dominance first and foremost. He deliberately finds and confronts the most stubborn individuals in the herd. He fears nothing and will quickly progress from blocking to charging to body-slamming if he feels the situation calls for stern measures. Once he has worked his herd long enough to gain their respect, however, the Rottweiler will tone down his approach and take good care of the animals. His preference is to gather livestock, but he can be taught to bring them to the handler or to drive them ahead.



The Rottweiler looks like a tough dog, and indeed he is. He suffers from fewer health problems than many popular breeds. Unfortunately, the difficulties that he is prone to can be extremely serious. Careful attention to good health should be a top priority for Rottweiler owners.

One of the first things to note is that the Rottweiler is susceptible to digestive problems, ranging from embarrassing flatulence to life-threatening bloat. This, coupled with a hearty appetite disproportionate to the dog’s real food needs, means that the owner should take no chances when it comes to diet. Feed a quality dog food, preferably in two or three moderate portions a day rather than in one big meal. Also pay attention to your dog’s weight. The Rottweiler is quite efficient when it comes to packing on the pounds.

However, be cautious when exercising the Rottweiler to keep him slim and fit. He has a proportionately short nose that makes it harder for him to pant to cool off, leaving him prone to overheating. (This short snout is also why he snores.) Furthermore, the Rottweiler is a big dog that takes a long time to mature. Excessive exercise, especially on hard surfaces, can damage his bones and joints while he is still growing.

Other common problems in the breed include:

  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes inefficient due to thickened walls.
  • Aortic stenosis, a narrowing in the aorta leading to severe complications including sudden death.
  • Allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Bone cancer.

Also, be careful where you let your puppy play, as the Rottweiler is more susceptible to the infectious gastrointestinal disease parvovirus than other breeds.



  • Minimal grooming needs.
  • Adaptability to cold climates.
  • Work ethic.
  • Versatility.
  • Strength.
  • Endurance.
  • Agility.
  • Ability to handle the toughest livestock without being intimidated.



  • Disreputable breeders.
  • Legal liabilities.
  • Need for supervision around children.
  • Potential aggression to strangers.
  • Unsuitability for homes with other pets.
  • Need for an assertive owner.
  • Exercise requirements.
  • Need for owner’s constant companionship to avoid behavior problems.
  • Need for a job.
  • Slobber.
  • Heavy shedding.
  • Poor heat tolerance.
  • Life-threatening health problems.


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Redbone Coonhound

Redbone CoonhoundFoxhounds had a long tradition in Virginia, earning a place on large plantations well before the American Revolution. However, after the war, Americans began moving westward, taking their dogs with them. In the backwoods of the South, they started to run into difficulties—foxhounds were bred to chase foxes across the land to their burrows. Many American game animals could climb trees, confusing the dogs.

In the first half of the 19th century, breeders set to work to remedy the situation. The English Foxhounds were crossed with Irish Foxhounds, a red breed known for its drive, fast pace, and keen sense of smell. This mix was probably the most influential combination used to produce a hound that could drive a raccoon or opossum right up a tree. However, other hounds from the British Isles may have been involved, as well as the cur, a Southern landrace perhaps best defined as any dog of any parentage that could hunt, herd, and guard the farm.

As time went on, coon-hunting dogs began to solidify into specific breeds. Each breed had a distinctive appearance, derived from the unique combination of hounds that went into its gene pool. One of the favorite breeds was a red dog, sometimes with white markings and sometimes with a black saddle patch. This type was popular by the late 1800s and was known as the Saddleback or the Redbone, perhaps from the hallmark color or perhaps from the name of coonhound breeder Peter Redbone.

The fledgling United Kennel Club, a performance-oriented registry, first recognized the Redbone Coonhound in 1902. By this time, many breeders had developed a preference for the solid red coloring, eliminating both the saddle and the white markings. Hunting abilities weakened for a time while the color goal took precedence, but the setback was short-lived. The competitive “nite hunt” emerged as a way for coon hunters to compare the merits of their dogs, spurring the breed to better and better performance.

Books and movies made the Redbone Coonhound somewhat more familiar to the general public than some of the other coonhound breeds. The breed was sufficiently widespread and well documented to achieve AKC recognition in 2009. While it is only the 143rd most popular AKC breed and is very rare outside of North America, the Redbone Coonhound remains a top choice among coon hunters across the nation.



The Redbone Coonhound is first and foremost a hunting dog, known primarily for treeing raccoons, either for fur or for competition. However, he is versatile enough to trail anything that leaves a scent, including opossums, deer, and formidable game such as bears and cougars.

Because the Redbone is more people-oriented than some of the other coonhound breeds, he can also make a good house pet provided that he is raised indoors from a young age. But his athleticism and working heritage must still be respected—a pet Redbone Coonhound needs plenty of exercise and will get along best with an outdoorsy owner who spends a lot of time hiking, jogging, or biking.

The Redbone Coonhound makes a good watchdog.


Redbone CoonhoundTemperament

The Redbone Coonhound, for all his hunting instinct, is an easygoing dog. He loves people of all stripes, young and old, but is particularly loyal to his own people. He thrives on attention and enjoys being a part of the family. Once mature enough to control his enthusiasm, the Redbone is a great choice for homes with children, as he can put up with just about anything. He also gets along well with other dogs, but is somewhat unreliable around cats.

For a hound, the Redbone is surprisingly trainable, being gifted with intelligence and a strong desire to please. However, formal training bores him—there are too many exciting smells to track down to waste time drilling mundane maneuvers. Respect his limited attention span and keep training sessions short, sweet, and rewarding. Also, avoid resorting to force or domineering actions. Although afraid of very little, the Redbone Coonhound is sensitive at heart and will be devastated if his beloved master treats him harshly.

Creative thinking is the Redbone’s strong suit. He loves to explore and he hates to be left alone, so the backyard must be coonhound-proofed if he will be spending time there unsupervised. The fence should be high, sturdy, and sunk low enough into the ground to prevent tunneling.

On the trail, the Redbone Coonhound’s laid-back demeanor vanishes entirely. He travels fast and stops for nothing. Coonhounds usually work in packs, individuals coming and going periodically as they search for the trail. When a dog finds the scent, he bays loudly to alert the rest of the pack. The dogs then follow the trail through thick and thin until the raccoon is treed. Then the job of the coonhounds is to wait at the bottom of the tree and bay repeatedly, preventing the quarry from escaping until human assistance arrives.



The Redbone Coonhound is rugged and hardy, with no serious genetic defects known in the breed. He can easily live for a long time and enjoy good health nearly every day of his life.

A few bloodlines suffer from hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy, but these problems are not widespread throughout the breed.

Hunting injuries are the most common complaints among Redbones. Also, note that the breed’s long, floppy ears are prone to infection if not regularly cleaned. This is particularly important after a swim—the Redbone loves to swim.


Redbone CoonhoundPros

  • Suitability for families with children and other dogs.
  • Minimal grooming requirements.
  • Excellent health.
  • Rugged build.
  • Longevity.
  • Keen nose.
  • Voice that can be heard a long way off.
  • Speed.
  • Endurance.
  • Athleticism.



  • Musty body odor.
  • Drool.
  • Voice that can be heard a long way off.
  • Untrustworthiness around cats.
  • Ability as an escape artist.
  • Need for a light touch in training.
  • Exercise requirements.
  • Poor cold tolerance.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds



PointerSometime after 1650, a new kind of dog came into being all across Europe. This dog was the result of mixing various breeds of foxhound, bloodhound, greyhound, and setting spaniel types. Its original purpose was to partner with greyhounds in chasing down hares. The new dog went ahead of the hunters to sniff out the quarry. On finding the game, it froze in a crouching position, attention riveted on the hare. Then the greyhounds were released to begin the chase.

This new type of dog became known as the Pointer due to its unique purpose. Within a few years, nearly every European county had its own version. But the concept of pointing dogs perhaps achieved its greatest height in Great Britain.

For the next two hundred years or so, the English Pointer was a work in progress, as the instinct and appearance of the breed was continually improved and as it was adapted to changing trends in hunting. The first major change came after about 1700, when the flintlock gained in popularity among the aristocracy and wealthy young men took up shooting birds on the wing as a pastime. Because loading a flintlock was a slow process, hunters needed a dog that would patiently remain pointing as long as necessary. A more visible upright stance was also preferred.

To achieve these goals, pointer-type dogs from Spain were imported. While the Spanish pointers did bring with them the desired pointing behavior, they also introduced some serious flaws, including a slow, ponderous working pace and a fierce resentment of discipline in all forms.

Fortunately, the mellow setter was able to correct these defects. Repeated crossbreeding with several different setter breeds, particularly throughout the 1800s, sped up the gait and softened the unstable personality of the Pointer. But the keen nose and dedicated hunting instinct remained. Effective and elegant, the Pointer quickly became a favorite breed among the landed gentry.

The second half of the 19th century saw the Pointer taking up residence in the United States. The breed always remained close to its working background, becoming a favorite choice for quail hunters in the South. However, about the time of the Pointer’s arrival on our shores, dog showing grew popular among the American elite. Pointers were early on a natural choice, due to their sleek appearance and innate charisma. In fact, Westminster Kennel Club was founded as a shooting club by a group of Pointer and setter enthusiasts. In 1876, the club members imported a Pointer named Sensation for breeding purposes, and the following year decided to start a dog show. Sensation is featured on the Westminster Kennel Club logo to this day.

But regular appearances in the show ring did not change the Pointer much. It still remained a hunting dog first and foremost, becoming more prevalent at field trials than setters in the early 1900s. It ranks only 117th in AKC registration statistics, partly because it has never been popular as a family pet. But where bird hunters can be found, the Pointer can also be found. It has a particularly loyal following in the South, where it is simply known as the “bird dog.”



There are three variations on the Pointer, each with a different purpose:

  • American field type: This is a high-octane dog built primarily for competitive field trialing. He has the drive and stamina to work for hours at a time, usually well ahead of the hunter.
  • AKC field type: This version is also bred for field trials, albeit the more laid-back AKC trials. The AKC field Pointer retains the instinct to hunt birds, but works at a slower pace and sticks closer to the hunter. This makes him a good choice for casual weekend shooting.
  • Show type: Pointers from show bloodlines are less active than their field counterparts (less active being relative). Besides strutting their stuff in the ring, show-bred Pointers can make good pets, watchdogs, and jogging companions for active families.



The Pointer lives with intensity. Although sweet and loyal, hunting instinct is what drives this dog throughout his day. He is a hot-blooded canine with boundless energy and alert senses. He loves nothing better than to run. Keep him fenced for his safety, and provide him with an outlet for his energy to keep him sane.

With his exercise needs provided for, the Pointer is an excellent family member, as he is loving, friendly to all, and innately clean in his habits. Puppies can be too rough in their play for small children or for seniors, but an adult Pointer who has been taught manners is affectionate and playful enough to be a very satisfying children’s companion. He is also amiable with other dogs. However, the Pointer is not trustworthy with cats, and under no circumstances should he be left unsupervised with other birds, whether pets or poultry.

Although always willing to put in an honest day’s work, the Pointer can be exasperatingly difficult to train because of his stubborn streak. He must first be convinced that you are a kind but strong-minded pack leader. Then he must be duly exercised to work off his excess energy. Provided that these conditions are met, the Pointer will learn with time, and he will never forget the lessons.

Note the differences between the various Pointer bloodlines. All are extremely energetic. However, the American field type is by far the most driven. The show type retains the breed’s competitive streak, but is content to channel that energy into posing and trotting. The AKC field type is intermediate in personality.

Working Pointers are born, not made. They may begin pointing as early as eight weeks of age. In the field, this dog will travel considerable distances in a short amount of time, pressing forward with one goal in mind—to find birds. He works with his head up, sniffing the breeze. On finding his quarry, he freezes into a point, head low. If the hunter needs a little extra assistance, the Pointer will be more than happy to track down dead or wounded birds. The one thing he will not readily do is retrieve.



The Pointer is everything a working dog should be—rugged and sturdy. Very few inherited problems exist within the breed, and these turn up only occasionally. Field injuries, particularly damage to the thin-skinned tail tip, are the most common difficulties that owners will run up against.

Otherwise, the most frequently observed health problems in the breed are:

  • Eye problems.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.



  • Suitability for families with children and other dogs, particularly when mature.
  • Tidy habits.
  • Minimal shedding.
  • Minimal grooming needs.
  • Heat tolerance.
  • Good health.
  • Desire to hunt.
  • Athleticism.
  • Endurance.
  • Fast working pace.



  • Untrustworthiness around cats and birds.
  • Difficulty of training.
  • Very high exercise requirements.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Poor retrieving instinct.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds


Old English Sheepdog

Old English SheepdogThe Old English Sheepdog, contrary to its name, is not terribly old. A 1771 portrait of the third Duke of Buccleuch by Gainsborough is commonly asserted to contain the first known likeness of the sheepdog. However, the dog in the portrait appears to be of a small breed, leaving us at a loss for a date of origin for the Old English Sheepdog.

This furry breed is thought to have originated from a cross between the landrace sheepdogs of Britain and some type of sheepdog from Continental Europe. The precise mix is unknown.

In any case, the Old English Sheepdog was more than just a sheepdog—it was an all-purpose drover entrusted with the duty of bringing livestock of all types, ranging from cattle to geese, to market. Furthermore, its hair was regularly used to make clothing and blankets. The bobbed tail was a mark of honor in those days, proving its status as a working dog and thus exempting it from taxes. Unlike the agile Border Collie, which needed its tail for balance and quick turns, the Old English Sheepdog worked at a slow, steady pace calculated to keep weight on livestock and had less need of its rudder.

But the Old English Sheepdog’s unique appearance destined it to become more than a drover. The breed first appeared in the show ring in Birmingham, England, in 1873. Three dogs were shown, all of such inferior merit that the judge refused to award first place to any of them. Nevertheless, the Old English Sheepdog on the whole was determined a resounding success. Soon it was sought by dog fanciers all over Great Britain.

The sheepdog was quickly imported to America in the 1880s, primarily as a show dog. It was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888, and by the early 1900s was firmly established as the darling of the wealthy.

It was America that created the modern Old English Sheepdog. The Old English Sheepdog Club of America came into being in 1904 and adopted a standard that shaped the future course of the breed. The differences between the old type of sheepdog and the new type were subtle, but calculated for greater eye appeal. The Old English Sheepdog became slightly stockier and considerably fluffier.

The Old English Sheepdog was primarily a dog of the elite until the 1950s. For the next few decades, it became a popular media icon and a favorite in the film industry. This introduced it to the general public, and the general public proceeded to fall in love with the Old English Sheepdog. The result was resounding popularity.

Of course, shaggy coats require a great deal of care, and lively dogs require a great deal of exercise. The Old English Sheepdog proved to be too much for many families. In recent years, its popularity has declined to more reasonable levels, although it has never lost its familiarity and place in the hearts of dog lovers across the country. Today, the Old English Sheepdog ranks 75th in AKC registration statistics.


Old English SheepdogUses

The Old English Sheepdog is generally regarded as a pet and show dog today, and its looks and temperament certainly combine to suit it to both roles. But this breed has retained its herding instinct and can still work. While its fluffy coat probably precludes daily chores on a larger farm or ranch, the Old English Sheepdog can be a versatile assistant on a small hobby farm. Just some of the tasks this breed can take on include:

  • Herding.
  • Serving as a watchdog.
  • Pulling carts and sleds.
  • Providing fur to be spun into unique yarns.

On top of these farm-related roles, the Old English Sheepdog is also an excellent retriever.



The Old English Sheepdog wins many friends with his sweet, happy personality. He thrives on fun and family, and his stable temperament makes him thoroughly trustworthy with both children and other pets. He loves nothing better than to entertain humans in exchange for bear hugs.

Although he is an agreeable dog on the whole, the Old English Sheepdog is stubborn and requires a confident leader to earn his respect. As long as the commands are clear and consistent, he will readily learn manners. Meaningless, repetitive tasks do not interest him.

The Old English Sheepdog is a bundle of enthusiasm and can become downright rowdy if his exercise needs are not met. This will be true throughout his entire life, not just when he is a puppy. Once he has burned off some of his extra energy, however, he becomes a calm, cuddly pet.

But beware of sheepdogs from disreputable breeders. While these are not as common as in the recent past at the height of the breed’s popularity, they still exist. Some poorly bred Old English Sheepdogs have sharp tempers, while others are timid enough to pose a fear-biting risk. In either case, they can be unstable and unpredictable.

This breed makes an excellent watchdog. For one thing, he is extremely loyal and will tend his people and possessions diligently. For another thing, he is not a wanderer and can be trusted to stick within his boundaries as long as he is not anxious about the whereabouts of an absent family member. But although the Old English Sheepdog is a courageous watchdog, he is friendly to all and will not threaten guests. His preferred weapon is his famous bark, known as pot-cassé from the French term for “broken pot” (think deafening).

The Old English Sheepdog still loves to herd. He works close to the stock, but is nevertheless quite gentle with them. He generally does not nip, relying instead upon repeated bumps and nudges to convince the animals to move in the correct direction.


Old English SheepdogHealth

Historically, the working Old English Sheepdog received his care right along with the sheep, including tail docking, shearing, and dipping. These customs were beneficial to working dogs in the same way that it was beneficial to sheep, keeping the animals clean, cool, and free of parasites. Many Old English Sheepdogs today spend their lives with central air conditioning, making a full coat a possibility. The practice of tail docking in pets is continued primarily for cosmetic rather than sanitary reasons.

Note that Old English Sheepdog puppies are typically born black and white. The black hair sheds out with the puppy coat and is replaced with the hallmark silver hair.

The most common health problems in this breed are:

  • Eye problems ranging from cataracts to progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Ear infections.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Obesity.
  • Bloat, which can be prevented by feeding two or three small meals a day instead of one large meal.
  • Hereditary cerebellar abiotrophy, a non-painful progressive condition resulting in loss of coordination.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Cancer.
  • Multi-drug resistance, which can cause life-threatening reactions to some tranquilizers and heartworm medication.



  • Suitability for families with children and other pets.
  • Surprisingly little shedding unless clipped.
  • Cold tolerance.
  • Hardiness.
  • Agility.
  • Endurance.


Old English SheepdogCons

  • Disreputable breeders.
  • Hearty appetite.
  • Need for ample exercise.
  • Grooming requirements.
  • Tendency of coat to collect dirt, debris, and water, then deposit it all over the house.
  • Heat intolerance.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds


Labrador Retriever

Labrador RetrieverWater dogs have been important to Canadian fishermen since the 1600s. Dogs were used for everything from retrieving nets to towing boats. Short-haired dogs were preferred, as their coats did not collect ice, but few other specifications were viewed as important. Depending on where they were from, Canadian dogs were referred to as Newfoundlands, Labradors, or St. John’s Dogs.

Because the Canadian water dogs also had an aptitude for fetching ducks out of the water, English ships that visited North America often brought back a few dogs for hunting purposes. By the early 1800s, one man in particular had taken a fancy to the Canadian retrievers. This was the second Earl of Malmesbury. Finding them to be perfect hunting companions, he had several imported and became the first serious breeder.

It was fortunate for the water dogs that they found a patron at this time, as during the 1800s a heavy tax was placed on dogs in Canada, driving them nearly to extinction in that country. At roughly the same time, further importations became virtually impossible as strict quarantine laws were implemented in England. The Flat-Coated Retriever was the most popular hunting dog among most of the aristocracy, so breeding short-haired water dogs ended up being primarily a family project.

The third Earl of Malmesbury carried on his father’s work with the assistance of his friends, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Earl of Home. The Earl of Malmesbury set the stage for the modern breed in two ways:

  • Giving it a name (Labrador, for some unknown reason, even though his dogs primarily traced back to Newfoundland).
  • Producing the foundation animals of the breed, Avon and Ned, which the Duke of Buccleuch bred to other Canadian water dogs. Most modern Labrador Retrievers trace back to Avon, Ned, and the duke’s dogs.

By 1903, the Labrador Retriever was distinctive enough to be recognized by the Kennel Club in England. At first, nearly all of the Labs recognized were black, as that color was fashionable among the gentry. However, a dog named Ben of Hyde was born in 1899 and went on to become the first registered yellow Lab in history.

The AKC recognized the Labrador as early as 1917, despite the fact that the breed was barely established and hardly known on our shores at the time. However, the AKC gave the Lab sufficient press to spark an interest among hunters. From the late 1920s into the 1930s, numerous retrievers were imported, accompanied by Scottish retriever trainers. These early Labs were typically considered both show and working dogs. There was no dichotomy in the breed in those days.

The Labrador Retriever skyrocketed to popularity after World War II, probably because it was not just a good hunting dog but an outstanding pet. It reached the very top position in AKC registration statistics in 1991, and has remained there ever since. The population of Labradors in America is mind-boggling—the AKC alone registers over 100,000 every year, and we can only speculate on the number of Labs that aren’t registered.


Labrador RetrieverUses

There is little that a Lab can’t do. He can serve man by barking at intruders, guiding the blind, sniffing out bombs, rescuing drowning victims from the water, and searching for missing persons. He can become a partner in adventure, whether that is hiking, jogging, or sledding. He can perform with style in canine sports ranging from obedience to agility. Or he can just cuddle up on the couch and be a friend.

Note that, these days, there is a pronounced divide between show and working bloodlines. The show bloodlines (sometimes incorrectly called “English”) are less athletic than their field counterparts due to their stockier build. Dual-purpose Labradors are a thing of the past.



If you are looking for a big, mellow, laid-back dog full of fun, the Labrador Retriever may be the perfect choice for you. While he is steady and even-tempered, he is always ready to play. Two of his favorite things in life are children and water. Make his day complete by giving him something to retrieve. (In fact, unless properly trained, he may absent-mindedly take people’s hands in his mouth just for the sake of carrying something around.)

Don’t be fooled by his authoritative bark—the Labrador Retriever loves everyone. He is a watchdog that likes to have a key position on the welcoming committee. His sweet, outgoing nature makes him a good choice in homes with other pets, including cats and other dogs.

Note, however, that even the Lab needs something to do. He is energetic and athletic. Left to his own devices, he may chew furniture, go dumpster-diving, or even wander out of the yard in search of adventure. However, he loves human companionship and is eager to please. Meet his requirements for physical and social activity by including him in your daily life.

Some breeders feel that females are more independent than males, while all Lab owners agree that puppies can be a real handful. While they don’t mean any harm, a Lab under two or three years of age can accidentally injure the young and the old with their over-zealous greetings. They also need plenty of toys and games of fetch to satisfy their instinct to chew.

Personalities also vary with bloodline. The show dogs tend to be the easy-going couch potatoes, while the hunting dogs are the perpetual motion machines.

A working Labrador Retriever in the field is incredibly single-minded. He can work ahead of the hunter to flush upland game, or he can swim to retrieve fallen waterfowl. He’s not particular—any task that combines water and retrieving is his favorite thing to do.


Labrador RetrieverHealth

Overall, the Labrador Retriever is a healthy breed. Many of his difficulties can be avoided by paying attention to his weight. Most Labs have a genetic defect that causes an appetite disproportionate to their calorie needs. At the same time, this defect causes them to gain weight easily. The result is that many, many Labs are obese, which can lead to more severe conditions such as diabetes and joint problems. That appetite can also get Labs in trouble through eating inedible objects.

The most common health problems in Labs are:

  • Cataracts.
  • Retinal dysplasia.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Patellar luxation (slipped kneecaps).
  • Osteochondritis dissecans, a painful joint condition in which cartilage and bones die and crack.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Mast cell tumors.

Dogs that spend a considerable amount of time in the water need special care. Regularly clean your Lab’s ears after a swim to prevent ear infections. Also note that some Labs experience an unusual condition after swimming or roughhousing called “cold tail.” In this condition, the dog’s tail abruptly goes limp, hanging down straight or at an unusual angle. Although it may irritate the dog for a while, cold tail does not appear to be serious, probably being similar to a sprain. It will correct itself in a few days.


Labrador RetrieverPros

  • Availability.
  • Adaptability to most lifestyles.
  • Suitability for families with children and other pets.
  • Ability to get along with strangers.
  • Minimal barking.
  • Trainability.
  • Minimal grooming needs.
  • Cold tolerance.
  • Few health problems.
  • Keen nose.
  • Athleticism.
  • Strength.



  • Abundance of irresponsible breeders (beware of breeders touting rare colors, as these people are usually just taking advantage of a genetic mutation to make a fast dollar).
  • Ability as an escape artist.
  • Need for plenty of attention.
  • Exercise needs.
  • Seasonal shedding.
  • Susceptibility to obesity.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds



KuvaszThe Kuvasz is an ancient flock guardian breed hailing from Hungary. Experts have long debated how this dog originated. One common theory in past was that the Kuvasz was a close relative of the Komondor, which in turn was thought to have been introduced by the Magyars. But two pieces of archaeological evidence refute this opinion:

  • Ancient remains of the Komondor connects it with the Cuman people.
  • A canine skeleton found in the 1970s proved to be almost identical to the modern Kuvasz and proved that the latter breed was present in Hungary sometimes before the arrival of the Cumans.

Thus, we can conclude that the Kuvasz probably did arrive with the Magyars, who invaded Hungary in the year 896. However, Magyars and Cumans rarely associated with each other, the Kuvasz and the Komondor are likely unrelated.

Once firmly established in Hungary, the dog of the conquerors became the dog of the shepherds. For several centuries, the Kuvasz was kept primarily to guard flocks from the wolves and other predators of Hungary.

The Kuvasz enjoyed royal favor for a time in the 1400s. Matthias I of Hungary lived in an extremely unstable political and social climate, and had good cause to mistrust all those around him. He adopted the Kuvasz as a personal bodyguard and ended up appreciating the breed as a powerful hunter of large game, such as wild boars. Matthias established a pack of hunting Kuvaszok (plural of Kuvasz) for his own use. Only Hungarian aristocrats in good graces with the king were allowed to own the dogs during this era, so a puppy received as a gift from Matthias was a token of great favor.

But Matthias died in 1490. The Kuvasz once again became a working dog, and thus it remained for several more centuries. Over time, its flock-guarding abilities became legendary throughout Europe, so it was sometimes used to develop other guardian breeds.

The Kuvasz declined perilously in World War I. However, a few specimens were sent to America at the war’s end, and the Kuvasz was recognized by the AKC in 1935. The presence of the breed in America at this time proved to be extremely fortunate, as the breed was driven to the very brink of extinction.

However, the Kuvasz lives on today on farms and ranches across the United States, still carrying out its traditional tasks. It is the 165th most popular breed in America according to AKC registration statistics.



The Kuvasz is known primarily as a livestock guardian dog, protecting sheep from predators. However, he can also serve as a farm watchdog or personal protector.

But the Kuvasz has the makings of a great companion, as well. He is a devoted pet and a sensitive therapy dog. In cool weather, he enjoys hiking, and he will even gladly carry his own backpack.



The Kuvasz is an independent dog with a keen mind. Whether he becomes a sweet and devoted member of the family or a dangerously aggressive animal depends largely on how he is raised and treated. He must be trained by an innately confident, authoritative individual, as no amount of physical force can earn his respect. On the contrary, harsh or unfair discipline will ruin this sensitive dog and incite him to bite.

Likewise, the Kuvasz must be allowed to interact with his family on a regular basis. He absolutely cannot be kept tied up, and he is equally unsuited to being left alone in the backyard. Either practice will bring out his more aggressive side.

A properly raised Kuvasz has a rich personality, being a unique blend of love and independence, curiosity and reserve, placidity and spirit. His instinct to protect those he loves is strong—he will literally lay down his life for his master and anything belonging to his master, whether that is the children, the other pets, or the livestock. A Kuvasz will even guide interactions within his “flock,” gently herding troublemakers off to the sidelines.

The Kuvasz, when properly raised, should be able to distinguish between real and imaginary threats. He can readily pick up his master’s feelings toward visitors and will treat the good guys with polite reserve. He is less tolerant of trespassing animals, however, particularly strange dogs. Also supervise him if the neighbor’s children come to call—he may mistake rough play for an attack on his own children.

Working prospects should be bonded to their flock at a young age. Puppies can be rowdy at first, but once they mature they are very gentle with the livestock. Kuvaszok were bred to work independently and will rely on their own instinct to protect the flock.



Despite the inbreeding that was required to bring back the Kuvasz from near extinction, the breed is generally healthy and hearty. Most problems found within the breed can be avoided by proper care and selection of breeding stock.

Kuvasz puppies grow rapidly, which can cause bone problems. Reduce the risk of joint damage by avoiding too much roughhousing with your puppy and by keeping him from playing on hard surfaces. Also note that vitamin supplements can foster excessively fast growth. As long as your Kuvasz puppy receives a healthy, balanced diet, he should not need additional supplementation.

The Kuvasz has a naturally oily coat that helps keep him clean. Too many baths will strip out the oils and make his fur straight, brittle, and prone to collecting dirt. All the Kuvasz requires to look his best is regular brushing. And don’t be concerned if his summer shedding seems to be unusually heavy—this is normal for him.

Note that, as a big, deep-chested breed, the Kuvasz is prone to bloat. Avoid this dangerous condition by feeding him two or three small meals a day, instead of one large meal.

The most common inherited problems in the Kuvasz breed are:

  • Eye disorders, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Deafness.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Thyroid disease.



  • Absence of body odor.
  • Dirt-repelling coat.
  • Suitability for cold climates.
  • Few health problems.
  • Work ethic.
  • Strength.



  • Night barking.
  • Need for experienced training to prevent undue aggression.
  • Exercise requirements.
  • Grooming requirements.
  • Profuse shedding.
  • Hefty appetite.
  • Low tolerance for heat and humidity.
  • Short lifespan.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds


Brave the Wild Trail

Brave the Wild TrailThere is nothing Josh Bramlett wants more than a dog. And his father Eben has just the plan to make this dream come true!

Scrub cattle run wild across Florida, just waiting to be rounded up and driven to market—a market hungry for beef in the days just after the Civil War.

If you love inspiring your children with books based on real history, give Brave the Wild Trail by Milly Howard a try. They will get a great introduction to Florida Cracker cattle, Marsh Tacky horses, and even catch dogs. They will learn about the perils of cattle driving, ranging from a ludicrous attempt to milk a wild cow to the deadly danger of robbers.

But there is much more than history and adventure to make this story worth reading. This is also a tale of changed hearts and true friendship.

Great story for younger readers!


Helpful Resource

The Roots of Cattle Driving
Learn more about the background of the events in this book.