Farm vs. Ranch – Which Sheepdog is Right for You?

A sheepdog is basically a group of canine breeds that has been used for a very long time in raising sheep for work alongside other livestock. These canines can either be pastoral dogs, also known as livestock guardians, or herding dogs. Livestock guardians are bred to protect the livestock in the farm or ranch, while herding dogs are bred to herd livestock.

The difference between farm and ranch is that a farm is where crops are grown. It is also possible for farmers to raise hogs and poultry. These individuals can also care for cows in order to produce dairy products. The ranch on the other hand, is where you will raise cattle or sheep for meat and other products.

Since both places are meant to accomplish different goals, you need to find a canine companion that can help you with your specific needs. A rancher for example, one that has to herd hundreds of sheep, will need a dog that can do it for him. While a farmer will need a dog that can protect his livestock from foxes and other predators.

Livestock Guardians for the Ranch


It is important to note that herding dogs will look at cattle and sheep as prey. Although they will not act as the predator, you need to understand that how they view the other animals directly impacts their behavior towards them. This is the main reason herding dogs will try to guide the sheep or cattle.

Herding Dog

Herding Is Ideal for Work on Small Ranches

Although they are treated today as pets, this canine breed is actually meant to cater to the needs of ranchers who have to raise cattle. Although their size limits their capability to run long distances, these dogs can use their size to avoid getting kicked by cattle. They are ideal for work on small ranches.

German Shepherd

Although they are typically used in the U.S. as a police canines, they are typically used in Germany as a work dog that is suited for farms or ranches. They are known to be very good at keeping cattle and sheep away from highways. They can be trained quite easily to guide the herd towards safety.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd Is Very Good at Keeping Sheep and Cattle away from Highways

Australian Cattle

This canine is perfect for ranches that have a lot of sheep or cattle. These dogs can run long distances and they are very hard-working. These dogs can easily conquer tough terrain and they are often characterized as intelligent and energetic. They are also known to be very independent.

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Is Perfect for Ranches that Have a Lot of Sheep or Cattle

When choosing a herding dog, you should try to figure out what you need. You can get a dog that is great at driving cattle towards gates and fences, or one that can muster them back home from faraway places, you can also opt for one that can act as an invisible barrier to keep livestock safe inside the boundary that you set.

Livestock Guardians for the Farm

Livestock guardian dogs typically view farm animals as part of the pack. This is why they will go through great lengths just to make sure that they are safe. These dogs have to be raised with the livestock and they have to stay in the field. If trained properly, they will protect their “pack” at all costs.


Also known as the mop dog because of its thick, mop-like hair, this dog is known to be very protective and territorial. These dogs have to be trained properly, and they also have to be groomed properly as well so that they will be able to function with ease in the farm.


Komondor Is Very Protective and Territorial


This dog is quite popular because it is very gentle when dealing with sheep but it can be quite fierce when it has to face predators like wolves. These dogs can be very helpful in the farm as they are nurturing to the animals and even to its human family. They are protective and very watchful.


Maremma Is Protective and Very Watchful

Great Pyrenees

These canines are very popular because they are known to have a keen understanding when it comes to people. These canines are very hardworking and loyal, as a matter of fact, they are known to show their tough side when their pack is in danger. They are also gentle to the other animals, patient, and quick to learn.

Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees Is Very Hardworking and Loyal

Livestock guardians are great companions in the farm. You need to understand that many of these dogs are bred to be large and tough so that they can be there to protect even the weakest animals in the farm. These dogs have a sense of responsibility when it comes to protecting livestock, and even their owners.

Things to Consider when Choosing the Right Sheepdog

When it comes to choosing the right sheepdog, you need to assess your needs first so you will know exactly why you need a sheepdog. Since these canines are bred for specific tasks, a lot of them can have unique characteristics which may or may not be beneficial for your ranch or farm.

The difference between farm and ranch can be quite extensive, this is why you should know whether you want a dog that knows how to protect the livestock from predators, or one that can focus on herding the sheep or cattle that you are raising.

When selecting a breed, be sure to choose the one that is best suited to the actual conditions of your ranch or farm, as well as to your needs. If you have the time to train the dog, you can opt to buy a puppy that will learn over the years. But if you need one that can help you right away, you can buy an adult dog that has received proper training.


When selected carefully, these canine companions can be a very huge help for your ranch or farm. These pets can be a lifesaver as they can keep your livestock away from danger, and they can also help eliminate the need for you to hire additional workers.

Just ask any farmer or rancher how hard and dangerous it is to get a cow that doesn’t want to be doctored in line, or how scary it can be to deal with predators that have gone into the hen house at night, and you’ll see why both farmers and ranchers have so much love and respect for these dogs.

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