Big Dog or Small Dog for Survival? What Say You?

Family WatchdogFrom 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.

Larger dogs…

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.

Smaller dogs…

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.

Other thoughts…

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:

Author: Damian Brindle

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10 thoughts on “Big Dog or Small Dog for Survival? What Say You?”

  1. ANY dog is going to give you one thing the trogs hate ……….thats advance warning . Most scum , including the ” police ” count on surprise as a weapon , a dog negates that .

  2. My 13 yr old heeler mix is the best dog I’ve ever had. She’s smart as a whip and always on guard. I also recently rescued a 4yr old German Shep. He is very protective but he does not notice as much as my heeler. He also eats a lot more, gets ear infections all of the time, and is not as smart (but I love him). He was neglected, so it’s not his fault. I think genetically speaking mutts are a lot healthier animals.

    1. I’d never really considered specifically looking for a mutt or at least a mixed dog because, as you say, they’re generally healthier, probably smarter, and I would assume live longer too.

  3. Shepard mix, 60 lbs +/- however does bark at just about everything. She knows it’s her job to alert me but then doesn’t stop when I tell her to which in a situation that may require everyone to be quiet would be hard to accomplish.

    1. Right, Dawn. The training is the hardest part but perhaps the most critical to long-term prepping if a dog is expected to be part of your security, watch, etc. I would imgaine it’s never too late to “teach and old dog new tricks” but I kind of feel like there’s no point to teaching my 12-year old dog to be quiet… just let him bark at whatever he wants. 😉

  4. Currently we have an Aussie Heeler cross breed. She looks like a cattle dog. Part trained. She is our first alert, our critter hunter, our babysitter for the younger children, our herder, she is a great truck alarm too lol! I used to have big dogs. However just now a smaller dog can travel with us and costs less to care for. Also truth be told her longer life span seemed nice after years of short life spans. If we went full off grid, I’d want a mix of large & small dogs. They each have a purpose. All trained to some degree so when I single them to work they will. As is I love my current dogs ability to obey my hands when I don’t call out. Good for hunting!

  5. Along with training bonding will be important. I got a German Shepherd mix to keep my dog company. He bonded with me totally. Never felt the need to be pushy or on top of me but if someone came into the yard or up to the house while I was home he would charge the fence. It is really amazing how fast people can run, some in heels, when a horse fence bows outward.

  6. I like both. I have Great Pyrenees/Anatolian mixes for home and livestock protection, and I love terriers (schnauzers in my case) for rodent and vermin control and their alertness. Pyrs BTW can and often do make 12 to 15 years old, as do the Anatolian Shepard and other Molosser based LGD breeds

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