From time to time the question of dogs come up from a survival standpoint and, well, I’m thinking about it again today. While we do have a dog–he’s a rat terrier mix and about 35 pounds–our dog is getting older and may be taking a permanent dirt nap in the next few years. My wife will be sad… me… not so much. He’s a good dog, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that he’s “HER” dog, ’nuff said.
When that happens (or maybe sooner) I’m sure we’ll get a new dog or two and I’ve been dropping the not so subtle hint that I intend on making the choice… uhmmm, so long as she agrees. 😉
Anyway, the question is do we want another smaller dog or a larger one?
My vote has always been for a larger dog with home and family protection in mind. I remember as a kid my parents had two large dogs when I was young, a German Shepherd and a large Boxer. Granted, they weren’t trained but I always felt safer with them around. Certainly there are ways for “bad guys” to subvert even trained dogs but I really feel like they’re another layer of protection… and a good companion as well.
Obviously, a larger dog is more likely to be–but not always–a better choice for defensive purposes and they’re more likely to be an up-front deterrent to neer-do-wells, after all, who wants to willfully tangle with a 100+ pound Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or Pitbull? I know I wouldn’t. On the flip side, larger dogs will require more resources, specifically water and food. Likewise, larger breeds tend to live shorter lives than smaller dogs. And it should go without saying that many traits are very breed-specific, including the natural instinct to protect the pack.
Now, you shouldn’t discount small dogs. While I would prefer a larger breed, small breeds have their benefits. For some reason or another, smaller dogs seem to be more willing to alert you to anything out of the ordinary. Our dog, in particular, is VERY good at barking at anything he thinks is wrong… always has, always will. And, no, he’s not trained! In fact, nearly every small dog I’ve met barks at everything. So, if you need an earlier warning system consider a smaller breed.
In addition, some small dogs (such as our Rat-Terrier mix) are very good small game hunters. In his younger years our dog used to chase and catch rabbits and would happily dig for snakes and anything else he thought he could catch. At the very least they might be very good deterrents to small game around the garden. And, many smaller breeds make excellent herders too, assuming you need that sort of thing. Last, as you well know, a smaller dog will require less food and water resources and probably live longer too.
A few other things come up with this topic in mind:
- Number of dogs – Dogs are natural pack animals. Yes, even you are a part of the pack. With this in mind, it may be wise to have more than one dog; two or three dogs sounds like a manageable number… any more and you can start your own Iditarod competition.
- Both large and small dogs – Maybe it’s wisest to have both large and small dogs? This way you can harness the best of both. And, like I mentioned before, traits are very breed-specific so shop carefully.
- Training is a must – I now realize after having lived with a handful of un-trained dogs in my life that training is a must! This is especially true if I expect to rely on my animals for any sort of security. This I need to learn more about and probably enlist the help of somebody who does this for a living. Besides, there’s more to training than just “sit,” “stay,” and “sick ’em.” Dogs should be able to be quite too, return immediately when called, and more.
- Cats instead (or also?) – I know most people are either a cat or a dog person. I, however, enjoy both. In fact, I might be more of a cat person than a dog person, shhhh… don’t tell anybody! Although this post isn’t about cats, they can serve a purpose similar to smaller dogs with regards to small pest control and should be relatively self-sufficient so that’s a plus. Of course, they won’t alert you to anything so you’re on your own there.
Ultimately, I feel like dogs should be a part of your SHTF survival strategy. How you choose to make that happen is up to you. That said, I would love to hear what you have to say about including dogs in your preps. You might also be interested in these two articles I found on the Net about dogs for survival. They give plenty of good advice about breeds, pros and cons, etc: