site logo

The Shepherd Dog

The shepherd dog is another useful—almost indispensable—creature, on the sheep, or dairy farm. This cut is an accurate representation of the finest of the breed. To the flock-master, he saves a world of labor, in driving and gathering the flocks together, or from one field, or place, to another. To the sheep-drover, also, he is worth a man, at least; and in many cases, can do with a flock what a man can not do. But for this labor, he requires training, and a strict, thorough education, by th
se who know how to do it. He is a peaceable, quiet creature; good for little else than driving, and on a stock farm will save fifty times his cost and keeping, every year. He is a reasonably good watch-dog, also; but he has neither the instinct, nor sagacity of the terrier, in that duty. To keep him 382 in his best estate, for his own peculiar work, he should not be troubled with other labors, as it distracts his attention from his peculiar duties. We had a remarkably good dog, of this kind, a few years since. He was worth the services of a stout boy, in bringing up the cattle, and sheep, until an idle boy or two, in the neighborhood, decoyed him out in cooning, a few nights during one autumn—in which he proved a most capital hunter; and after that, he became worthless, as a cattle dog. He was always rummaging around among the trees, barking at birds, squirrels, or any live thing that he could find; and no man could coax 383 him back to the dull routine of his duty. A shepherd dog should never go a-hunting.

We would not be understood as condemning everything else, excepting the dogs we have named, for farm use. The Newfoundland, and the mastiff, are enormously large dogs, and possessed of some noble qualities. They have performed feats of sagacity and fidelity which have attracted universal admiration; but, three to one, if you have them on your farm, they will kill every sheep upon it; and their watchfulness is no greater than that of the shepherd dog, or the terrier. We have spoken of such as we have entire confidence in, and such as we consider the best for useful service. There are some kinds of cur dog that are useful. They are of no breed at all, to be sure; but have, now and then, good qualities; and when nothing better can be got, they will do for a make-shift. But as a rule, we would be equally particular in the breed of our dog, as we would in the breed of our cattle, or sheep. There are altogether too many dogs kept, in the country, and most usually by a class of people who have no need of them, and which prove only a nuisance to the neighborhood, and a destruction to the goods of others. Thousands of useful sheep are annually destroyed by them; and in some regions of the country, they can not be kept, by reason of their destruction by worthless dogs, which are owned by the disorderly people about them. In a western state, some time ago, in conversing with a large farmer, who had a flock of perhaps a hundred sheep running in one of his pastures, and who also kept a dozen hounds, for 384 hunting, we asked him whether the dogs did not kill his sheep? To be sure they do, was his reply; but the dogs are worth more than the sheep, for they give us great sport in hunting deer, and foxes; and the sheep only give us a little mutton, now and then, and some wool for the women to make into stockings! This is a mere matter of taste, thought we, and the conversation on that subject dropped. Yet, this man had a thousand acres of the richest land in the world; raised three or four hundred acres of corn, a year; fed off a hundred head of cattle, annually; and sold three hundred hogs every year, for slaughtering!