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8/20/12

Dogs for the Apocalypse


The right kind of dog, trained right, can be a valuable asset after a collapse situation. They can help with guard duties, protection, hunting, hauling and other tasks, along with companionship. Dogs are a lot of work and a lifestyle changer, but if you're so inclined, then they can be a worthwhile asset--and yes, beyond the One Second After-style meal of desperation.

We don't have a dog. In about a year, year and a half, we should be in a situation where we could add a dog to the family - big enough yard, no babies on the way and so on. Something I'm looking at. I'd like a companion for walks and hiking, and an added layer at the house to deter break ins and to help protect the family, especially if I'm travelling.

Of course, like all things, not all dogs are created equal, so breed comes into play. Based on my experience, I'm inclined towards a Shepherd of some variety - German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois. I had a friend who trained German Shepherds for Schutzhund and obedience competition, and his dogs were really, really impressively trained. Sport training is of course different from real protection training, but these dogs were eerily well trained. Like you'd tell 'em to lie down and go to sleep, and they'll lie down for hours and not move. I wish my boy was that well trained!

Yep, there are other breeds that might be better in a straight up fight - the Cane Corso, descended from Roman war dogs, for example. But for an all around mix of intelligence, companionship and capability, I think a well trained Shepherd variety (German Shepherd, Malinois, etc.) is hard to beat. There's a reason police, the military and others use these dogs.

I don't have a ton of confidence in my ability to train a dog to the level of training I want from scratch. Maintain training, keep the dog exercised and generally engaged - yes. But train from scratch? I'm not sure. Don't have any experience in that area. So we would probably purchase an already trained dog from a professional trainer--or purchase as a pup and work with an experienced trainer as he ages. Yes, I know you pay an arm and a leg for it, but if I'm going to add a dog to the family - and all that comes with it - I want to do it right.

I'm sure this is a favorite topic for some of you, with much more experience than I can offer. Interested to hear your thoughts & experiences on breed, training and lifestyle in the comments.

32 comments :

  1. A dog is a very easy start on a home security system.

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  2. Whatever breed you decide on, adopt one from a shelter or rescue. There are thousands of homeless shepherds on petfinder.com, as an example.

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    1. Lisa,

      You're right. Shelters are full of dogs and cats that desperately need a loving home. That said, a word of caution. Cat are usually no problem as they are highly independent creatures and as such cause no fuss. However, if you're looking for a large breed security dog for a SHTF scenario, bear in mind that many large dogs dropped off to local shelters are there because they brought untold grief with a plethora of behavioural issues for their previous owners. A good working dog is NOT a pet. Go to a reputable breeder and spend the cash for proper training.

      Caveat.You always get what you pay for. Why spend thousands of dollars on fully equipped assault rifles and ammo but have a security dog that bolts for home at the first crack of gunfire and trembles in terror under the bed.

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    2. Agreed. There's a high level of crazy in some of these dogs. When it's a larger, security-capable dog - capable of putting the hurt on a full grown man - that becomes especially concerning and not personally something I would want to risk around my wife and kids.

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  3. I have a German Shepherd puppy and at 17 weeks still amazes me with how smart she is. She starts standard obedience training next month and afterwards I'm enrolling her in Schutzhund. I'd highly recommend getting one as a pup and training her as she ages because she'll form a better bond with you.

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  4. A well-trained dog of any breed is worth its weight in gold.

    I agree with Lisa and especially the training-content of this article. I have a very well-trained German Shepherd, and I feel like I can rely on him more than most people.

    Not only are my dogs incredible companions, they all also have their own jobs to do.

    Don't overlook "rare" breeds of dogs, either. For example, I have a retired racing Greyhound that is lazy as hell, but if I really wanted to eat a rabbit or two for dinner, he can do that for me more efficiently than a snare in some cases!

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  5. I've spent my life training/fostering all types of dogs for everything from specialized detection/protection to being family house pets. My vote is for a Rhodesian Ridgeback if you're looking for the best all around family/security/hunting/companion dog. Better genetics, more resilient, less maintenance and equal intelligence to the best military working dogs in the world. No breeds have the immune system, speed, power, agility, brain, nose, eyes and instinct to 'do it all' as well as an RR. They track scent as well as Bloodhounds, run down small to medium game like Greyhounds (with better endurance for long distance), bay large or dangerous game like Karelians, have jaw strength and pain tolerance of Terriers, patience/loyalty with children/family of GSD and responsiveness and agility for difficult terrain like a Belgian Malinois.

    From a pet standpoint, as a civilian you're a lot more likely to get a healthy Ridgeback because of the limited breeding, when compared with all the problems backyard breeders and strays introduced into Rotts, GSD/DS, Malinois, AmStaffs etc. Just find a breeder than breeds for temperament and function, not appearance They should have a minimum of 5-6 dogs in their kennel, and be able to provide 3-5 generations of paperwork for their dogs with excellent bones/joints, absence of dermoid sinus/cancers, and certified temperament tests by the ATTS or equivalent.

    Whichever dog you end up choosing, the last paragraph is really what separates buying a properly bred dog as opposed to a show bred dog or a rescue. With show breeders, everything is physical conformation, politics and profit. They were the first to ruin the function of German Shepherds. With rescue dogs, they are perfect more often than not, but you run a much higher risk of unexpected medical problems, shortened life spans and behavioral issues that make the overall experience emotionally traumatic for children and financially burdensome on you.

    Last but not least, don't buy into the spay/neuter nonsense when it comes to temperament. Fixing a dog to prevent aggression is an old wives tale, the only thing it prevents is unchecked breeding. By spaying or neutering a dog you are increasing the likelihood of physical and mental problems. List of Sources: http://www.caninesports.com/excerpts.html

    If you do prefer to go with a GSD type dog, I recommend Baden K-9 in Ontario, CA (across the Peace Bridge near Buffalo, NY/Niagra Falls).

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  6. I have an Akita/Chow/Shepherd mix. We don't know her exact bloodline, but she stalks like a cat, fetches like a lab, plays soccer like a pro, and is a membef of the family. She also is socialized, but doesn't ignore strangers just watches visitors until she is comfortable. Working group dogs are closer to the base wolf stock than a lot of hybrids, and usually do not display adverse health problems. Shepherds and their hips are an exception, ridgebacks are another good choice, but attack training is not a good idea with any dog. Defensive training is similar, buit also leaves a pet ibn ygour house not a weapon in your yard. Four legged family members will protect their homes, but chained up out back barking all night only pisses off the neighbors. Terriers are as good maybe even better at protecting the food crib thana cat, and less likely to wander off instead of hunting Mr Rat. Your Mileage May Vary, but love whatever furry child youi bring in and it will love you back.

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  7. another thing to worry about is home insurance. there are a few companies that will not insure your house or exclude coverage for certain breeds of dogs. Ask your agent; they include GSD, rotts, dobermans, akita, wolf hybrids, bull mastiff, chow, pit bull and any mix with those breeds in them. I'm not a fan of this but I thought you should be aware of it while shopping.

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  8. weimaraner is my vote for me reasons being have had them or a vizsla my whole life had some labs and a cocker spaniel stay with us but my vote is on the weimaraner and vizsla . thier good guard dogs amazeing bird dogs live to hunt and serve you they've never ran alway on me and the only reason they were a leash is just to keep jhonny law off my back .

    when i go shoot the guns off in the woods my weim will come with and just lay down in the creek waiting for me to be done .

    yes you can get the dog meant to kill kill kill but remember this animal will have to be part of your family and should be able to pull double duty as a hunter and companion .

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  9. A few thoughts having owned dogs all my life:

    1. Think about what the breed was bred to do - if your daily activities match that then you will have a much better experience (i.e. huskies are only happy when they've pulled on a run, collies love chasing a ball with fast turns like herding etc). Think about what you will need to do with a dog every day, above and beyond any teotwawki scenario
    2. Small dogs like terriers will get you 90% of what you want - noise for security, they'll hunt for themselves (rats etc) and though it may seem silly, a p*****d off terrier is still pretty deterring for the casual intruder. They also need less exercise and feeding than some other breeds
    3. If you have kids and a dog which you have trained to guard, be aware of the risks - not just to your kids but to their friends who may be much less dog savvy (any dog can be provoked into biting, and some dogs will become agitated if they perceive a threat to their family, even if it is rough and tumble play - I speak from experience with a very docile golden retriever)

    Just my 2cents - dogs are great companions but they take some time and effort to integrate well into the homestead

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  10. Brother Wolf...
    We have a 190# Mastiff that lays in the driveway snoring for about 14 hours a day...Great deterrent, you have to drive around him..
    For a cheese doodle he would show you where all the good stuff is....
    And another aspect not yet mentioned and not very popular is that dogs were domesticated to be traveling companions as well as supper....
    In a crisis, 200# of meat is survival for several people..Lewis and Clark wrote in 1803 about sharing dog meat with the Natives....I'm sure I've eaten worse....Not a dog eater, merely a historian....

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    1. Randy,

      I think you're mistaken. That's not a dog--that's a horse!

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  11. Having trained a dog to do lots of crazy tricks, it's all about constant repetition and consistency. We had a bowl of treats by the front door. Every time we went through the door, the dog worked for her treat...3 to 4 times a day...every day. Fun for the dog and for you. Make it part of your routine. When company comes over, the dog gets to show off and get extra treats.

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  12. There is a reason dogs and people have co-existed for as long as there has been history (and probably before.) Whatever one you choose, nothing is more loyal, more faithful, and a better companion than a dog.

    And Parkour dog rocked, thanks for that!

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  13. Goatmama12August 21, 2012

    Another type of dog you might consider is a livestock guardian breed such as a Great Pyrenees, Anatolian, Akbash, etc. They have been breed for centuries to protect their families, livestock and territory. I have shown and trained in obedience for over 20yrs and have 12yrs experience as a vet tech. I also have goats and livestock guardian dogs. There are some breeds of dogs I wouldn't have if someone paid me. However a good working or herding/livestock guardian dog is worth it's weight in gold. They have been developed to have a good working relationship with people and to think on their own also. Having been in the vet field for a long time, I also have to comment about spaying/neutering. Rather than increasing the likelihood of developing physical or mental problems, spaying or neutering allows the dog to focus on it's job without any distractions of bitches in heat or dogs fighting. It also reduces the risks of future mammary tumors for bitches or testicular/prostate problems for dogs. The only reason to keep dogs intact is for breeding and you really need to research genetics for each breed/individual to prevent inheritable health problems. Temperment is also hereditary. That is too much work for me. Whew, now I'm off my soapbox! Good luck with the dog search.

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    1. What dogs wouldn't you have if someone paid you?

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    2. First and foremost, as it applies to TEOTWAWKI - "Data showed that the behavior of neutered dogs was significantly different from that of intact dogs in ways that contradict the prevailing view. Among the findings, neutered dogs were more aggressive, fearful, excitable, and less trainable than intact dogs." - your claims of 'focus on a it's job without any distractions of bitches in heat or dogs fighting' is complete nonsense. Even if it were true, how often do you imagine a home invasion brings a bitch in heat or competitor male dog into a household?

      As a professional vet tech who is providing advice on dogs you should really work harder towards keeping your information current. Put bluntly, Stop with the HSUS bullshit propaganda already and give him the truth, backed by facts and data. Okay?

      Spay/neuter of unwanted dogs is good for society and dogdom in the case of strays/shelters. But it is NOT necessarily good for your dog if you are a responsible owner, especially your preadolescent dog. The following references cover it at length, you could obviously stand to read a few before you spread anymore old wives tales from a quack medicine era online, or worst, in the veterinarians office that pays you to be a voice of helpful information to their clients.

      Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete - http://www.caninesports.com/SpayNeuter.html

      Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs - http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/longtermhealtheffectsofspayneuterindogs.pdf

      Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris) - http://www.caninesports.com/SNBehaviorBoneDataSnapShot.pdf

      Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats - http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/spay_neuter/javma_231_11_1665.pdf

      Rottweiler study links ovaries with exceptional longevity - http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/mar10/100301g.asp

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  14. We just got a German Shepherd this week - she's 8 weeks old so not much of a guard dog yet, but she already seems really switched on. Wanted to go for a puppy as we have also just had a baby girl. It's amazing how much our lives now revolve around poop! The females are smaller, but I thought there might be something to be said for the possibility of breeding and trading when it goes down. 250 quid well spent ;)

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  15. I want a big dog. When the SHTF the dog is going to be dinner.

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  16. I know what every body is going to say. I have a 75 # american staffordshire (one of the pitbull breeds) , that I raised with my family from a pup. The kids have crawled all over him from day 1 , the rodent assasin (siamese) rubs against him he merely turns his 25# head away in disgust . As a full time fireman I leave my family for minimumly 24 hours , to work my tour . I know that any body checking my house out and seeing this guy will move on . I know what your thinking is that a friendly dog , or a mean one . And being that this dog generates the 2nd most pounds per square inch bite of any domestic dog ,and will take your head clean off . You got to ask yorself . Do you feel lucky ? Well do you ? Punk! Thanks for your blog. High desert livin out.

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  17. Pit bulls get a bad rap from backyard breeders, and spineless punks trying to show they are men, instead of children with lots of fears. I personally do not like the breed, but it is a astetic rather than a fear issue. The most viscious dog I no of is a 4lb chiuaha if they could be bred up to 60 lb they would rip the ass off of anything on the north american continent. I dislike purebreed of most kinds, due to the genetic shallowing of the gene pool, and birth defects that come from inbreeding. The english buldog was bred as a cariciture of bull terriers, and became a non working breed by following bad blood lines to create a bowlegged, shortsnout, with breathing issues. The closer to the wolf prototype a breed stays the better it is as a working companion.

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  18. I have always had Chows. Very, very protective of the family. If you are not invited in, the dog won't let you in. This has been the most loyal breed, but always playful with the kids. They are very stoic as well.

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  19. I'm a Soldier that's currently deployed to Afghanistan as a MWD Handler tasked with searching for IEDs and Explosive Substances. My K9's name is Dag (Belgian Malinios). I also have 2 GSDs at home. Personally I'm hooked on both of these breeds. Also think the wife at home takes great comfort in knowing that Frag and Gunner will at the very least make a lot of noise should someone decide to pay my residence a visit while I'm gone. Once I get back to the states I'm going to be enrolling 1 of my dogs in aggression training and the other I will teach tracking. That's my $0.02!

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  20. Family oriented and family loyal, alarm barking, talented hunters, protective, publicly "acceptable", insurance "clear"... give me a Chesapeake Bay Retriever (larger breed) or an American Water Spaniel (medium breed), or two, or three. Don't forget to plan for the dogs in your prep planning, they need food, water, and care items also.

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  21. Just my $.02 but you may want to look into a "sato" dog which basically means a puerto rican street dog. They are mixed breed, mostly hound and terrier that are found all over pr and now in animal shelters in the southeast and northeast mainly. They are small to medium size, require basically no grooming and maybe the hardiest and most intelligent dog around.
    If you think about it they already survive in one of the most difficult and hostile environments in the world, in a Teotwawki sitution they would thrive. You cannot find an animal with more basic survival instincts, mother nature has already pre selected them as the ultimate survivor.
    Everyday my sato suprises me more and more. He loves people, children and other animals. Costs barely nothing in food and vet visits and is always on alert and provides a great first line warning system.
    GSD and pits make wonderful pets dont get me wrong, ive had the pleasure of owing both but many of you need to have realistic expectations about how you and your family can raise one of these challenging breeds. Also one last thing, your typical guard/ watch dog is probably 50x more likely to bite a family member, neighbor or one of your friends kid than ever bite an intruder, not to mention most apt complexes and insurance companies wont even let you have them. Dont be that guy that gets a pit just cause its a mean looking dog thats gonna somehow protect your house and family then has to bring it to a shelter cause you have no clue how to raise a dog.

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  22. Chihuahua....lol.
    Mine has the best hearing of any dog I have seen. I know she is small, but she alerts me to anything going on. Unlike many others in her breed, she keeps her mouth shut. Just finds me and makes a quiet growl. Best perimeter alarm I have found, and lets face it....Early warning helps alot, and I would rather use the 12 guage than have to worry about patching up the injured dog.

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  23. As someone who has worked with many different breeds i'm going to have to disagree with most of this. I'll shed some light on common misconceptions referenced here and make a life saving suggestion.
    One common misconception is that the military/police/government Shepherd is the German Shepherd leading people to believe that they are much stronger, smarter, obedient, etc. than is true. You see, most "Agency" Shepherds are not German Shepherds but are in fact a breed called "Timber Shepherd". This its not merely semantics as these dogs are typically 2/3 Timber Wolf, 24/7 German Shepherd. The bite force, strength, speed, intelligence, loyalty, in fact all aspects are greatly altered from the German Shepherd. I have worked with both breeds and I submit to you that German Shepherds are, by far, inferior in every way to the Timber Shepherd. So naturally i'm suggesting you pack a Timber Shepherd into your survival bag right? Not hardly.
    Another common misconception is that large breed dogs are good in these situations. The following problem is as big as the dog itself. Health and Stress. Large breed dogs require large amounts of food and are less adaptable to changes in environment. Lack of food and frequent, sometimes radical environmental changes create stress. Stress leads to mental confusion and a rapid breakdown of mental processes, not to mention health issues. Aside from stress induced illnesses certain inescapable genetic factors must be considered. Large breed dogs, in particular Shepherds, Danes, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Pyrenees and the like are extremely susceptible to hip dysplasia and a whole host of other issues including liver, kidney and spinal diseases.these issues are more common than not and can quickly turn aide into a hindrance.
    In survival situations with canine companions big is bad. We know about food requirements and disease but let's talk about hunting and possible hostile interaction with humans. Large breeds may be good for baying and/or taking large game but have you ever seen a Shepherd chase a rabbit, turkey or feral chicken? Long legs are bad for cornering. While it could be entertaining to see Fido wipe out in the field behind the house, in a survival situation it could mean his death, maybe yours as well. As far as hostile humans....large dog = large target. Your typical Shepherd is a barker as well and if you ask me, silence is golden. Last thing I need when sneaking around hiding from or stealing in on a hostile is Ole Roy sounding the alarm at suspicious persons.
    No. What I need is a dog big enough to assist in a kill but small enough to maintain a low profile. Agile enough to take a rabbit but beefy enough to pull a man to the ground. Brave enough to take on the largest animals but smart enough to best it. A dog that is very fast in short bursts and long distances, water friendly, cold and heat tolerant, deadly loyal but with an independent, decision making mind and excellent feed conversion. A dog intelligent enough and silent enough to devise, set and spring a trap on a man. I require the Queensland Blue Heeler and will accept nothing less. The dog featured in the title photo from "The Road Warrior".

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Have never heard of timber shepherds before and have a hard time believing police forces are fielding wolf hybrids are a wide scale.

      In my exposure, working Shepherds are more often to be from European blood lines, which tend towards smaller, more agile dogs, versus the over sized American lines with related health problems. Belgian Malinois tend to fall in similar size range as the "purer" bloodlines.

      Agree though on the virtues of a dog like the Aussie Cattle Dog - very cool breed, one of the smartest around, too!

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    2. " have a hard time believing police forces are fielding wolf hybrids are a wide scale."

      Lol I said the same thing at first. I had a once in a lifetime ( chance meeting) opportunity to work at a breeding/training facility in Colorado. They supplied the timber shepherd to a few major police departments (LA,NYC,CHI) and the U.S.M.C. They used to bring middle school kids in during the week. The kids were instructed to do their homework while sitting at park benches and picnic tables in the training yards. They were not to interact with the animals at all either while pups, adolescents or mature dogs. Just sit and do homework. Apparently it taught the hybrids that people are ok and a part of the environment but not to interact with them. That's where the "other" training came into play. But yeah, most people hear wolf and freak out.That's why they are touted as German Shepherds. I've never had a chance to work with the smaller European breed but I like the sound of them already. Although I must admit that i'm spoiled now. After working with these Heelers I have no patience for what we jokingly refer to as the "dumber" breeds. It's not really that these other breeds are "dumber", it's just that i'm spoiled to this type of intelligence. I don't put stock in the so called intelligence rankings for that very reason. There are too many types of intelligence to generalize a ranking system like that.

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