Why have dogs on a smallholding?

Here at Fife Smallholder we have several dogs who all have their uses, or jobs if you like, as well as being our much loved pets.



beardied collie at fife smallholderIf you keep sheep at some point you will need a dog, especially if your sheep are more of the traditional or primitive varieties such as Shetlands, or Soays.  As well as a good handling system (where you can catch and work with your sheep) a good sheep dog is invaluable.  You only do it once – chase a sheep around a field – to understand how intelligent they are, how pointless it is for you, and how distressing it is for the sheep.  Sometimes the worst thing you can do is look at a sheep directly, however a good sheep dog can control or hold a sheep with just a stare.

Collies have a natural instinct to herd animals, which is probably why they are the most popular sheep dog.  We have a Beardied Collie, and although not trained has her uses.  Collies can have very obsessive personalities and are highly intelligent which can be used to your advantage – we always knew when the cat was around the chics because our collie would tell us.

Jack Russell

jack russell at fife smallholderVermin are a constant risk on a smallholding and this breed is well known for being good mousers or ratters. They are probably a traditional farm dog for that reason, although more often found in the heat of the farmhouse kitchen than the backyard.  They are quick, focussed, and without fear.  These dogs can be great characters, and respect a strong pack leader.  Our JR is not 100% but she is definitely a terrier by nature.  Although loving family members, their nature needs to be understood especially around children and vulnerable animals.


black labradorCountry people often have labradors because they are great retreivers and easily trained to country pursuits such as shooting or beating.  For a smallholder these pursuits can sometimes be an additional source of food (deer, rabbit, pheasant in particular) or income when helping out at such events with your dog.  The gundog strain can be less excitable and more hardy – as breeders have not necessarily bred for looks alone.  They are loyal loving pets and great with children.  We are a member of Central Scotland Gundogs club. Occasionally we have pups for sale.

Other Dog Uses On A Smallholding

All dogs are good at guarding their territory – your home – and letting you know that there are strangers around.  I have also heard that the smell of a dog will keep foxes away (from your chickens etc).  Or if you have problems with a ewe rejecting her own or an adopted lamb – the presence of a dog can also bring on the protective mothering instinct.  A dogs sense of smell is far better than ours and dogs will point, or show where an animal or bird may be located.

These are all the good points of having a dog on a smallholding, however without training and leadership, they can quickly turn into bad points and difficulties.  The Countryside Access code gives good advice about dogs in the countryside.

Skills Of A Dog Owner

A smallholder or crofter needs to wear many hats and put all their skills to good use to maximise their income.  Many smallholders do not qualify or seek any subsidies or payments in relation to their agricultural land, and it can be a challenge to make ends meet.  This area presents many opportunities, be it rounding up sheep, dog sitting, breeding, or training and socialisation.  However, please be aware that you may require licences or permissions around some of these activities.

 Click here for a link to the Scottish Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs.    

If A Dog Were Your Teacher  

You would learn stuff like…..

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • When it’s in your best interest,  practice obedience. 
  • Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
  • Take naps and stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout – run right back and make friends.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.  Stop when you have had enough.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you are not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

And MOST of all …..

  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and offer a gentle muzzle.

Lost Dog

Should your dog go missing there are several things you can do:

  • contact your local police station to log that the dog is missing
  • spread the word 
  • register the lost dog online – I can recommend who were very supportive during a very stressful time
  • check with local kennels and vets
  • contact your local animal warden at your local Council office

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