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Huskies on a farm?

 
Octavia Greason
Posts: 28
Location: Ohio
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Hi there! This is my first topic on this forum. I'm still in the dreaming and research phase of my hypothetical future land and I've never owned a dog so please forgive my ignorance. I'm still learning.

I've always been in love with huskies. My uncle owned one for years and ever since I can remember I've wanted one. I know they're not guard dogs and would serve no special purpose on a farm except to make me smile and get fur on all my stuff. That said, from what I've been reading they live to dig, tend to kill small animals and cannot ever be let to roam free. Everything I've read says they'll bolt, never to be seen again.

Is this true? Are huskies an impossible breed to raise on a farm? Does anyone have experience with this ?
 
Octavia Greason
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Location: Ohio
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I also wonder since huskies have a pack mentality if it would help to raise the husky from puppy age around grown dogs who were already trained for farm living. The older dogs who know not to bolt or kill chickens would hopefully fill a dominant role in the "pack" and the younger husky would be more apt to follow their behaviors, hopefully. Just a thought...
 
Dale Hodgins
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Outdoor adventure businesses in the north, produce many Huskies and crosses. A few years ago, here in BC, one company killed over 100 of them when the business no longer needed them. The humane society got involved and public opinion killed that business. Check it out and I'm sure you'll find that there is a good supply of free dogs. This is similar to what is going on with racing grayhounds.

As for the dogs learning from others already present on the farm, this may happen, but a strong young dog is likely to usurp the leader and form his own pack. Huskies aren't quite as domesticated as most dogs are and will usually try to dominate smaller and less wild breeds
 
Octavia Greason
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That's terrible D:
Getting a husky isn't a problem really, if I look long enough I'll find one. I'm just worried that on a homestead/farm they'd be apt to run away or kill chickens. I'd kinda prefer not to have to protect my animals from each other.
That makes sense. I'd imagine a husky would end up dominating, especially if the other dogs aren't pack breeds. 'Twas just a thought is all.
As a side note, the other dogs we'd like to have are a german shepherd (the boyfriend loves em but I'm still afraid of em) and maybe an Irish wolfhound (though that plan may be unnecessary with the shepherd).
 
Su Ba
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I love Siberian Huskies too, but they surely aren't farm dogs. I've seen some husky mixes that failed to inherit the negative husky traits and thus worked out ok on farms. But purebred huskies, especially when young, are nothing but trouble on a farm.

Huskies are bred to run, so it is no surprise that when they get loose they run for miles. Their lack of homing instinct is an asset for a sleddog, but not a farm dog.

They are bred from stock where traditionally dogs were turned loose during the summers to fend for themselves. Thus only those proficient in killing small game survived. And lived to reproduce It's an instinct still seen in huskies today. So....huskies are runners and small animal killers.

They also dig, an instinct they have retained from their arctic ancestors, where they needed to dig out their own shelters in order to survive. Today's dogs still have a strong digging desire and I've seen them dig quite impressive holes.

So if you turn loose a husky on a farm, it will run around killing or trying to kill all the livestock, then run down the road, killing your neighbors' stock. Possibly if exposed to livestock from puppy up it would learn to leave your animals alone, but don't bet on it. And they'd still kill your neighbor's stock.

They don't "learn" to be calm, protective, stay at home farm dogs by being raised around an old farm dog. Their instincts are too strong for that.

In my opinion, a husky is a very poor choice for a farm. The dog will only end up being chained or penned, thus living a frustrated life for a animal with such a strong desire to run. It would be like buying a Border Collie for an apartment. That happened after the movie Babe, and thus hundreds of mentally warped Border Collies were dumped into shelters about a year later. Poor dogs got the short end of the stick by no fault of their own. I adopted several of those dogs and they were weird and warped for the rest of their lives. Luckily I have a large farm where their weirdness could be tolerated.

If you're afraid of a German Shepherd, how about a smaller breed? Australian Cattle Dog is an option. There are a lot of terrier breeds that make good farm dogs. Assorted collies are others to consider. Since you like the looks of an Irish Wolfhound, you could also consider a Scottish Deerhound, a Saluki, a greyhound, or a whippet. They are not traditional farm dog breeds, but are not uncommon on farms in England. Since your boyfriend leans towards a German Shepherd, you could check out the Belgian sheepdog breeds : Belgian Sheepdog, Turveran, Malinois. And there's the dociler Shiloh Shepherd.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Octavia Greason wrote:Are huskies an impossible breed to raise on a farm? Does anyone have experience with this ?


We have livestock guarding dogs that if you saw them you would likely mistake them for wolves - most people do. The vet calls ours Huskies. Ours are great on the farm. They guard their livestock and they herd. They were born and raised around livestock and taught to farm by their elders and us. This is their job and life. I would not expect to be able to take a random dog of most breeds and drop it into the job. Instincts are part but there is a lot of culture and learning. Ours have been working on our farm for many generations.

Our dogs do kill vermin as well as predators. They have very strong hunting instincts. Hunting and herding are very close behaviors.

Interestingly, wolves may be natural ranchers, managing the herds within their territories which is perhaps part of why they domesticated humans so successfully.
 
Dustin Powers
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Location: Washington State
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50/50 husky/pit stud. Regularly roamed for days in the millions of Weyerhaeuser timber that surrounds me. Then I put up electric line and field fencing. Now he knows his boundries and stays close.

Digging was a problem before there was much work for him to do, but now watching pigs and ducks is an all day affair.

Probably not the best breed, but a smart enough humane can properly become most dogs pack leader and lay down the law fairly reasonably.

The pitbull in him makes all the difference. My bitch is full pit, and the most devotedly loyal dog, to an obsession level. She didnt have perfect instincts but never had I had a dog so desperate to please me, incredibly easy to train.
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Hal Craston
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As long as they're getting PLENTY of exercise (which should be no problem at all on a farm), Huskies are incredible dogs and are capable of being trained to do just about any task (that a dog is able to perform). Just remember that it is important to establish Alpha dominance early in the relationship and they will be the most loyal and obedient dogs you've ever had!
 
Sam Allison
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Location: Northumberland fells, UK
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I think generally speaking huskies are much more difficult than say a border collie or a labrador, but they were bred for different things. I do, however know of a few people who do agility or competitive obedience with huskies and I'm sure there are a couple doing flyball so they can be trained and they can be trained to be under control and responsive off lead. I have a friend who has a malamute and I tried to talk her out of it as I was sure it was going to end in tears - two small children, not very well fenced property surrounded by sheep and gamebirds and her only previous dog experience was with labradors and spaniels, that dog has turned out to be one of the most faithful, well adjusted pets I know, it doesn't stray, doesn't chase stock, is amazing with the kids and is never on a lead (doesn't need to be!). I think if you find a well bred dog (look for breeders who do something with their dogs other than just husky work - biddable-ness will hopefully be passed on to the puppies, and find a knowledgeable, positive trainer to help you.

I will say that you need to look at each dog as an individual, you might get a husky who never strays more than 10ft from your porch unless it's with you or you might get a border collie who wanders off if you take your eye off it for a minute.

I must say though that I'm surprised that, on a forum that focusses on something as forward thinking as permaculture, the amount of people who have mentioned 'dominance', 'pack leadership', 'alpha' etc, etc. these concepts are outdated and untrue, dogs do not have a linear dominance structure within a group and certainly wouldn't view humans as part of any group structure they may have (they see you as a person not a dog). Wild wolves don't even have linear 'pack' structures of the type many of these trainers would have you believe (most wolf 'packs' are family groups consisting of parents, older but not yet breeding age offspring and younger cubs from that years breeding - these family groups will occasionally join together in times when there is large prey to hunt but even then they do not have a simple dominance structure - wolf A might be 'dominant over wolf B and wolf B might be dominant over wolf C but you could find that wolf C is dominant over wolf A).

Please, if you have a dog and you have any sort of issues with that dog, educate yourself about modern dog training, don't base everything you know on what the 80 year old farmer next door told you or what you see on a certain TV program by a certain male presenter.
 
Sam Allison
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Location: Northumberland fells, UK
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I've come on here to learn about permaculture not debate dog training (there are plenty of dog forums I can go on to do that if I want to) so I'm only going to say this and not get into a debate

Please read more about the work of David Mech - http://www.davemech.org/index.html - quite possibly one of the most respected wolf scientists there is. According to wolf.org (http://www.wolf.org/learn/basic-wolf-info/wolf-faqs/#f) 'What is a wolf pack? A wolf pack is a cohesive family unit consisting of the adult parents and their offspring of the current year and perhaps the previous year and sometimes two years or more. Wolf parents used to be referred to as the alpha male and alpha female or the alpha pair. These terms have been replaced by “breeding male,” “breeding female,” and “breeding pair,” or simply “parents.” The adult parents are usually unrelated, and other unrelated wolves may sometimes join the pack.' There are numerous resources explaining why pack theory in dogs doesn't work I recommend http://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/why-wont-dominance-die and http://www.tarynblyth.co.za/articles/pack-theory-fact-or-fiction/ to start with but a google search will throw up many more.

Pack theory, dominance and 'Alpha status' is spoken about in dogs because it always has been that way, in my opinion saying that people who study the current science and try to use up to date methods are wrong is the same as looking at food production and saying that intensive monoculture is the right/only way because that is how it's always been done.

I live with a large 'pack' as well (12 at the minute) and I could show you instances where there is a circular social structure in my dogs - and I'm 100% positive they don't view me as a dog! But as I said I'm here to learn about permaculture not dog training so I'm not getting into a huge debate (in my experience dog training debates always turn into huge arguments)
 
Sam Allison
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Yes dogs need to be taught to respect their people, but it is a two way street and the people also need to look at the dog and 'listen' to what the dog is telling them.

A few years ago I offered my help to the parents of a friend of a friend. They had a beautiful dog who adored people but had started showing signs of aggression to their grandchildren when they came to the house. I visited a few times and gave them my advice but they then decided to go to a dominance based trainer. This trainer told them to introduce a 'nothing in life is free' type structure (where the dog has to 'earn' everything - it had to following a 'command' before it was allowed to eat, or go out to have a wee, or play, if it approached the owners to try get them to play or have a fuss it was to be sent away again) and they were to dramatically reduce the amount of access the dog had to the house - it went from being allowed just about everywhere to only the kitchen, conservatory and garden. It got worse, it started urinating in the house, chewing the furniture when it was left alone, howling, and the worse it got the more strict they got. It didn't address the original problem either in fact it started being more protective toward anyone coming near the house, or anyone coming near the owners when they were out for a walk. The dog ended up being put down when it nearly bit one of the grandchildren. They found out a week afterwards that the neighbours children had been terrorising the poor dog - throwing sticks and stones at it, hitting it, shouting at it over the fence etc. The dog was terrified of children, not everywhere just in the house and garden (because that's where bad things with children had happened) but by not addressing the problem and introducing rank reduction programs the dog got stressed and confused, and the more stressed it got the more it screamed out for help (the urinating, chewing, howling was the only way the dog knew of saying help me) but the more it screamed for help the more it got punished until finally the dog could take it no more and it snapped.

That dog should never have died, and there are many more that are killed because of bad training and bad behaviourists (yes I appreciate that there are bad positive trainers as well). There is always a reason for anything a dog does, saying that it is because the dog thinks it's dominant is just too simplistic, it doesn't encourage the trainer to dig deeper and look for the real reason behind the behaviour. Using the terms 'dominance' and 'alpha' encourages the owner to use force or punishment (this has been scientifically proven) as they feel the dog is doing something to spite them, rather than seeing it a information.

Sam
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Back to the original topic, I personally wouldn't have a husky or a malamute at any price. Comes from growing up in Alaska and going to school with a boy who was almost killed by his own family's sled dogs (my mother and aunt were the ones who saw him being chewed on as they drove past and took him to the doctor). Then one of my brothers got a really pretty young malamute when we were living in Oregon and just about the first thing she did was kill one of our cats. A few years ago, before we moved to this house, a malamute wandering the neighborhood found my chickens and killed one and was eyeing my goats when I got ahold of him (he was perfectly friendly with people). It may be possible that with the right dog and the right training, a husky or malamute could become a good farm dog, but I wouldn't want to take a chance on it.

On the other hand, a well-bred German Shepherd should be an excellent dog! Irish Wolfhounds are neat dogs, but very short-lived (and horribly expensive!).

I've got four dogs right now, two Rat Terriers, a LGD, and a Border Collie/Pit/Lab/German Shepherd cross. The three that I've had since they were puppies consider me their mother, I think -- which would make me the equivalent of their pack leader. The other little Rat Terrier came to us as a three-year-old. He's a sweet little dog, but is only now, after having him nearly a year, really seeming to be attached to me. As an aside, he's the smallest of the four dogs, but is definitely the boss. Even the 100+ pound LGD defers to him! All four dogs are pretty good as farm dogs, though I think the LGD eats chickens if they get loose and she catches them (I try to keep them from getting loose!).

Kathleen
 
Laurel Crisafulli
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We have 2 malamute mixes. They're both rescues, and neither is purebred. One is probably a pitbull mix, the other, probably a wolf mix. The pitbull mix has the personality of a pit. He is incredibly loyal, not interested in running away, and just wants to please you. He is also incredibly needy. The wolf mix has a personality far closer to a purebred malamute. He knows what he is supposed to do, but unless he wants to, you're not going to make it happen. He is clever, a digger, and escape artist. I don't trust either of them around my ducks.

They are great dogs, and have a healthy respect for our 17lb siamese with long claws, but are not good options for a farm situation. Either the dogs or the ducks have access to the yard, never at the same time. The prey drive with spitz type breeds is just too strong to ever fully trust them around animals they're capable of killing easily. And the thing with northern breeds is that they were bred to run for long distances and not return to the same place every night, so that homing instinct isn't strong. If the dog splits, it very well may never come home.

Also, this is ONE DAY worth of fur from one of the dogs.
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Okay, while we are talking dogs and livestock- What's the best breed for getting along with poultry? I know just about any breed can be trained to a point not to chase poultry, but are there some better then others?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Ernie, I don't think there is any breed that will just automatically be safe around poultry. Any dog will require some training. So look for dogs from breeds known to be trainable, and desiring to please their master, and who also don't have a really high prey drive.

Right now I have Cameo, a Maremma X Akbash LGD, who killed at least one chicken when she was about eight months old, and has also killed wild birds and rabbits. She got scolded good for killing the one chicken I caught her with, and has never showed the slightest interest in the two hens that run loose in the yard (can't keep them in the coop with the others). She's two and a half now.

Mac is a three-year-old mutt, half Border Collie, 1/4 Pit, 1/8 each Lab and German Shepherd (I don't know much about Pits, but the other breeds are known for being trainable and wanting to please their owner), and he bonded to my penned ducks when he was a baby, and has never ever bothered any of the poultry.

I've also got two little Rat Terriers -- Minto, the male, was three years old when I got him, raised on a ranch around all kinds of animals, and he's never bothered the poultry. Ladybug, not quite a year old, has had to be scolded a number of times for chasing chickens, but she's gotten much better and I haven't had to get after her for several weeks. She's got a dash of Border Collie in her ( 1/8 ) which I think makes her a little easier to train than most purebred Terriers, but she's also very active (I think she's got anti-gravity in her front paws).

There are only a few breeds, such as the Huskies and Malamutes, that I wouldn't ever recommend having around smaller animals such as poultry. And even then, you might do all right with a Samoyed, as they seem to have a different temperament than the other sled-dog breeds.

Kathleen
 
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