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Fido Meets Filly: 8 Best Barn Dog Breeds

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Written by Nicole McCray

Barn Dog on Duty

Not every dog makes a good barn dog. Just like people, every dog has its own personality, attitude, and natural abilities. You want a dog that can be taught good horse sense, is safe around kids and lets you know when there’s something amiss. You might also want a dog that will be a good companion on trail rides, settles in at horse shows, and doesn’t mind sitting around in the truck for hours.

Most importantly, you want your barn dog to enjoy life on the farm as much as you do. From livestock guardians to herding dogs and rat catchers to watchdogs, there’s a dog out there for every horse barn. But, how do you know which dog is right for your horse farm? Here’s what you need to consider, plus the eight best barn dog breeds to help you start your search.

Here’s a quick rundown of the dog breeds we’ll be discussing:

Anatolian Shepherd

  • Smart
  • Rugged
  • Good protector

Dalmatian

  • Good companions
  • Athletic
  • Extremely intelligent

Great Pyrenees

  • Gentle with people and livestock
  • Fierce protector
  • Intelligent and dependable once trained

Australian Cattle Dog

  • Excellent companions
  • Good watchdogs
  • Athletic and smart

Border Collie

  • Smart
  • Athletic
  • Easy to train

Jack Russell Terrier

  • Family-friendly
  • Energetic and playful
  • Great rat catchers

German Shepherds

  • Good all-around barn dogs
  • Protective and loyal
  • High energy

Mixed Breeds

  • Come in all shapes, sizes, and coat types
  • Variety of temperaments and natural abilities
  • Readily available and in need of loving homes
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Click to see this breed guide at Amazon

Choosing a Barn Dog

Many breeds and mixed breeds can be wonderful barn dogs, as long as they have the right attitude and training. Before we dive into the best barn dog breeds, here are some important considerations when choosing a barn dog that you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • Liability insurance: Be aware that most insurance companies will charge higher rates or possibly even refuse to insure you if you have certain dog breeds on your farm. Dogs bred to be guard dogs, such as Rottweilers and German Shepherds, are most likely to raise a red flag. If you’re leaning toward one of these breeds, check with your insurance company to see what their policy is before choosing.
  • Genetics: Large breeds tend to be more prone to joint issues and heart problems. Before making a final decision, we recommend researching the healthiest dog breeds to help you decide which breed is the best fit for your farm. And, if you decide to purchase a purebred puppy, find a reputable breeder who follows responsible breeding practices to reduce the likelihood of genetic issues.
  • Size: Toy and miniature dogs are more vulnerable to predators around the barn, such as hawks and coyotes. They’re also more likely to go unnoticed and get stepped on due to their diminutive sizes. Keep size in mind when considering different breeds and mixes.
  • Grooming: Cleanliness will be an issue for any dog spending time at the barn, but some breeds are higher maintenance than others. Short-haired breeds will be the easiest to maintain, but dogs with thinner coats, like Border Collies, are pretty low maintenance, too. Double-coated breeds like Pyrenees and Shepherds will require more grooming.
  • Barking: Noisy dogs who bark constantly can be very disruptive. When choosing a barn dog, lean toward one that has a calm disposition, or be prepared to spend some time training him not to bark inappropriately.

Best Dogs for Horse Farms

Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherds are a large breed that originated in Turkey. They were traditionally bred to protect the sheep against wild animals and to be a companion for the shepherd. This breed is known to be incredibly loyal and smart. They are good with people, but they’re also very independent and capable of doing their job without constant supervision.

anatolian shepherd

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Anatolians are very territorial and protective. They require careful training to ensure that they understand what’s a threat and what isn’t.
  • Much like other livestock guardian dogs, Anatolians will roam outside of their boundaries to protect their territory. Proper fencing will be required to keep them on your property.
  • This breed is very rugged and does well outdoors in most climates.
  • Although Anatolians weren’t originally bred to be around horses, they are very intelligent and will quickly learn to be respectful of the horses.

Could be a good choice if:

  • You have problems with coyotes and other predators bothering the horses.
  • You want a protector who is independent and smart enough to live at the barn and look after the horses when you’re not there.
  • You live in an extreme climate that may not be suitable for some breeds.

Learn More:https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/anatolian-shepherd-dog/

Dalmatian

Dalmatians make great farm dogs because they’re full of energy. They thrive in an environment where there’s a lot going on. In fact, this breed descends from dogs bred for war, and they’re very courageous and brave. Although they are rugged and enjoy the outdoors, they prefer the companionship of humans and don’t do well left on their own.

dalmation

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Dalmatians are known to be intelligent and easy to train, which is why they’re so popular as fire and police dogs.
  • They are good companions, but also very protective of their territory.
  • Their endurance level is excellent, so they’ll be able to keep up on long trail rides.
  • Dalmatians can become aggressive or destructive if they don’t get adequate stimulation and socialization.

Could be a good choice if:

  • You enjoy long trail rides and don’t want a dog that spooks easily in unpredictable situations.
  • You want a good companion at home and at the barn.
  • You value a friendly look and disposition that won’t be intimidating to children or clients at the stable.

Learn More:https://dalmatianclubofamerica.org/

Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is a giant, white, friendly breed that makes an excellent livestock guardian. Although they are very gentle and mild-mannered with humans, they are fierce protectors of their family and livestock. They make great family pets, but can also be depended on to do their job without human supervision.

great pyranees

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Pyrenees are very sensitive and loving. They can be trusted around children and livestock.
  • Pyrenees are extremely smart, but also very stubborn. Diligent training is required.
  • This breed likes to sound the alarm. Their barking can become a nuisance without proper training.
  • They will roam far and wide to patrol their territory. They are very difficult to contain, even with sturdy fencing.
  • They have a thick, double coat that requires regular brushing. They can overheat in hot weather, so they’re not the best breed for summer trail rides in hot climates.
  • Other livestock guardian breeds that fit right in at the barn include Maremma Sheepdogs and Komondors.

Could be a good choice if:

  • You need a livestock guardian that’s good around people, but also independent enough to guard the barn on his own when you’re not there.
  • You have a lot of acreage to patrol and protect.
  • You live in a very cold climate that may not be suitable for smooth-coated breeds.

Learn more:https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/great-pyrenees/

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Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle dogs are compact, medium-sized dogs that are excellent herders. They are extremely agile and athletic, as well as affectionate and great with kids. Like most herding dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs are very smart, easy to train, but also can think and reason on their own.

australian cattle dog

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Cattle dogs make great trail dogs because they’re very athletic and trainable. They can be taught to stay close by, but not get in the way of the horses.
  • Cattle dogs make excellent watchdogs. They’re suspicious of strangers and will let you know when something’s out of place.
  • They have a short, wiry coat that’s easy to maintain.
  • They are excellent, well-behaved, and friendly companions, whether you’re at home, at the barn, on the road, or at a show.
  • Corgis and Australian Shepherds have similar traits to an Australian Cattle Dog and they’ll fit right in at the barn as well.

Could be a good choice if:

  • You need a smaller dog that won’t take up much room in the truck and can travel with you to shows.
  • You want a good watchdog but don’t have a lot of predator pressure to worry about.
  • You’d love a trail riding companion that’s easy to care for after a long day of riding.

Learn More:https://www.acdca.org/

Border Collie

Border Collies are one of the most popular barn dog breeds in the world, and it’s easy to see why. They are smart and intuitive enough to figure things out on their own, even if you don’t have a lot of experience with training a farm dog.

border collie

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Border Collies are gentle and loving. They’re good family dogs and will do great with clients at the barn or strangers at horse shows.
  • They are incredibly smart, and capable of learning a wide variety of skills.
  • Border Collies need daily activity, exercise, and a job to do to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
  • They are excellent trail dogs, with nearly endless energy and stamina.

Could be a great choice if:

  • Your dog is ideally easy to train for a variety of tasks.
  • You’d like a dog who can keep up on long rides
  • You love dogs that are friendly and non-intimidating around children and strangers.

Learn More:https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/border-collie/

Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is a small dog with boundless energy. They make an alert and playful companion that’s good with kids and other animals.

jack russell terrier

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Jack Russell Terriers are curious and clever. They are great for catching rats and other small vermin around the barn.
  • They may be small, but they have the confidence and energy to do anything a big dog can do, including keeping up on a long trail ride.
  • They can be a handful without proper training.
  • They require daily activity and socialization to keep them entertained, otherwise they’ll find ways to entertain themselves… which you might not appreciate.

Could be a great choice if:

  • You want a small, family dog that can hold his own at the barn and travel to shows.
  • You want a dog that will keep the local rodent population under control.

Learn More:https://www.petfinder.com/dog-breeds/jack-russell-terrier/

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are excellent all-around barn dogs that can be taught to do just about any task. They’re aloof with strangers, protective of their territory, but also family-friendly and loyal.

german shepherd

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • German Shepherds can become aggressive if they aren’t properly trained and socialized when they’re young.
  • They are prone to separation anxiety and can become destructive if left on their own for too long.
  • German Shepherds have an excellent sense of smell and they do a great job of eliminating rodents and other vermin hiding in the barn.
  • This breed is tough and rugged, with lots of energy. It can be a great trail dog with proper training.
  • Other guard dog breeds with similar traits include Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Malinois, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Doberman Pinschers.

Could be a great choice if:

  • You want an all-around farm dog that can perform as a watchdog, rodent hunter, and companion.
  • You want a dog that’s easy to train and learns commands quickly with positive reinforcement.
  • You want a dog that’s protective, but will follow directions and stand down when told to do so.

Learn More:https://www.gsdca.org/

Mixed Breed Dogs

At the end of the day, many dogs can be taught to be a good barn dog as long as they have the right attitude. Don’t overlook mixed breed dogs (or mutts) in your search for the perfect companion on the horse farm.

mutt dog

Source: Canva

What you should know:

  • Proper training and socialization methods will have just as much impact (if not more) on how your dog acts around the barn as his breed.
  • Mixed breed dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. It’s easier to find one that’s a good match for your family and farm.
  • Since you’re not limited by breed, you can choose a mutt that’s suited to the activities for which you want a barn dog.

Could be a great choice if:

  • You want to give a loving home and purpose to a shelter dog in need.
  • You want an all-around farm dog and companion, and aren’t concerned about the breed.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best multi-purpose farm dog?

German Shepherds and mixed breed dogs, who have the right personality and attitude, are excellent multi-purpose barn dogs.

What’s the best dog to control rats?

The best barn dog breeds to control rats and other vermin include Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepherds.

What’s the best dog breed for trail riding?

Herding dogs, like Border Collies, make excellent trail riding companions because they have the stamina to keep up over long distances.

What’s the best dog to protect livestock?

Livestock guardian breeds, such as the Anatolian Shepherd and the Great Pyrenees, are the best dogs to protect livestock.

Parting Thoughts

In your search for the best barn dog, it’s best to keep an open mind. Don’t choose a certain breed because it’s popular. The truth is, mutts and most purebred dog breeds can be excellent helpers and companions around the horse barn. Training, temperament, and proper socialization from puppyhood will have a greater impact on how your dog acts around the barn than the breed.

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About the author

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Nicole McCray

Nicole is a die-hard animal lover who has worked in pet care for years. She is a former vet technician, a dog mom to her two rescue pups, and she grew up living and working at her family's pet boarding facility. She loves using her writing talents to share the insight she's learned throughout her career in the hopes that her knowledge can help other pet parents out there!