Evaluating Homestead Dog Behavior by Breed

There are certain natural characteristics in animals that do not change significantly. For example: coyotes walk with their tails pointing down, dogs with their tails pointing up, and wolves with their tails pointing up. Some dog breeds have certain characteristics that differ between breeds. When we are aware of these traits, we can better understand our canine family.

Breed Preference for Homesteaders

We personally prefer the German Shepherd breed; However, we have had a Border Collie / Australian Shepherd mix and a Basset Hound / Golden Retriever mix in the past. The former is on a par with the intelligence of the German Shepherd Dog. With highly intelligent breeds like the German Shepherd, training must be positive and careful. A harsh word to a German Shepherd can be harmful because they try so hard to please. We train our dogs with soft voices. Harsh treatment or a loud angry voice can cause the dog to become aggressive or neurotic.

Not all breeds have the same characteristics

It is best to know the breed or mix that you have introduced into your family in order to train them effectively. Highly intelligent breeds are quick to pick up what you want and have a good focus. Hence, short intense workouts can work best for them. Some other breeds may need short sessions over a long period of time. We limit our training sessions to a few minutes and only one topic. We reward success with a little treat and lots of praise. There are several ways to exercise which can be found online or a professional trainer can be used.

Look for previous training mistakes

We do rescues and therefore have no experience with puppy training. Through adoption, we have often found that the new family member has already completed an apprenticeship. We carefully monitor our new family member for any signs or characteristics that may have appeared prior to adoption. Signs of ill-treatment, abuse, harsh criticism, etc., that a previous owner may have used may need to be addressed. No training leads to runaway dogs who lack structure in their lives; Dogs need structure and routine.



Be consistent but flexible

Our training techniques over the years have varied slightly depending on the dog. For example, we adopted a dog who had serious anxiety problems. Another was deaf. We had to adapt the training to each dog’s situation. When dealing with anxiety problems, we had to take care to keep a calm voice, to be patient and gentle. Her confidence was so damaged that it took us two years to restore her confidence. What an adorable family member she turned out to be. We had to work out hand signals with the deaf girl.

Gender aggressiveness

When I was a volunteer at a German Shepherd Rescue, no German Shepherdess was accepted into a household that already had a German Shepherdess. There is a reason for this, because a dog with sex problems usually doesn’t get along with another dog of the same sex. When two females fight for supremacy it can get very bloody. Males usually stop fighting when a dog gives up. Knowing your dog and how he reacts to other dogs is a good way of adding another dog to the household. If you understand breeds and observe their behavior closely, especially when dealing with other dogs, such as neighbor dogs or on walks, you should know whether your dog is sexually aggressive or not.

One size doesn’t always fit everyone

We currently have two German Shepherds and they get along well. One is older and deaf; the other is young and full of energy. The older dog relies heavily on the young dog to keep up to date with what’s going on in our cubicle. The young dog tells the older dog when it is time to eat, potty, or take a walk. See the photo of them lying together near the wood stove. The young dog has a job and the older dog is dependent on the younger dog. They, in turn, pay attention to each other.

Meet needs equally

Dogs have certain basic needs and it is up to us to meet those needs. They expect to be fed in time, held securely, exercised, and loved. It is important that we give equal attention to our two girls so that they do not develop jealousy. All family members must participate actively and equally in upbringing and nutrition.

Admission of shelter dogs

Bringing an additional dog into the family should be targeted if it is to be successful. If the dogs are adopted at the shelter, they should meet there for the first time on a leash. If that goes well, the new dog should be transported separately at home and the dogs should be released back into the wild on neutral land. We are doing introductions down the street from the cabin with both dogs on leashes for control. If someone gives you a dog, it helps if the leash is passed openly so the dog knows that it has a new family. We did this twice and both dogs knew they were with a new family; When the surrender was over and the other person left, both dogs never looked back.

Introducing a new dog into your pack

When the introduction on neutral ground goes well again, we take the dogs for a short walk and then bring them home. We have a fenced-in garden so that while we are still on a leash we can find more socializing with us nearby. Then we first accompany the new member into the cabin and let them explore. Next, we bring the rest of the dog family with the leashes pulled inward for possible control. We do not pay special attention to the newcomer to avoid jealousy and we resume our normal activity.


These techniques have proven themselves consistently well for us over the years. These techniques may sound like a lot of work, but they all work for us. We want to give the new family member every chance of success. I am not a professional dog trainer, but have had dogs for most of my nearly eight decades, so my observations have come from owning dogs as part of our family and personal experience.

Bruce McElmurray Homesteads in the Southern Rockies with his wife Carol. For more information about their mountain lifestyles and her observations of animals in connection with their strange behavior, please visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol cabin. Read everything from him MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributions Here.

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Originally published: 12/14/2020 11:46:00 AM

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