If you’re like me, you’ve invested a lot of time and money into having the right supplies, tools, and skills to prepare for and survive when SHTF. But there’s one resource you may not have thought about or adequately trained – a dog.
I’m not talking about the family pet, who barks at passing traffic or a squirrel in the yard. I’m talking about a dog that’s seriously useful in a survival situation – a companion that helps you – not hinders you in a critical time. Let’s call him Gunter.
The first thing to do is be emotionally prepared for that dog to get hurt or killed. When SHTF, it will be a dangerous world out there. Gunter will be a working dog and perhaps a weapon and put himself at risk.
To maximize Gunter’s usefulness and minimize his chances of being injured or killed, there are many skills and tasks that he must master. Training is critical, and we’ll show you how to do it.
But don’t be afraid to get help. Just like you’ve taken advantage of experts to train you in other skills, like self-defense or accurately shooting a firearm, I suspect you’ll invest in the right help for training your dog for survival and self-defense.
Keep Your Dog Healthy and Strong
One thing all preppers and survivalists should do is keep healthy, fit, and strong. Because when SHTF, you want to be healthy because the medical system will be gone. You also want to be fit and strong because you’ll be working hard, and you may have to bug out or survive on the run for a while.
It’s no different with your dog. Gunter needs to be healthy and in top condition, as strong and with as much endurance as possible.
Home and Property Protection by Your Dog
You have a fundamental decision to make here, which will impact how Gunter protects your home and property. There are two options – a guard dog or an attack dog.
A guard dog is trained to alert you to the presence of danger or an intruder by barking or growling. Once warned, it’s your job to deal with the threat.
See the video below for the basics of training Gunter to be a guard dog:
However, an attack dog is one often used by law enforcement. They attack on command or otherwise respond aggressively to potential threats.
Here’s a good video on how to train Gunter to be an attack dog:
Which type of dog will Gunter be? If you decide on an attack dog, please seriously consider getting professional help to train him.
The consequences of a poorly trained attack dog are too dire to contemplate. Be a responsible citizen, and make sure your dog only attacks when there is indeed a danger to you or your family.
Probably the best help Gunter can be is in protecting you and your family in the home. When SHTF, you will be working hard to survive. You’ll be exhausted at the end of the day.
You need to have peace of mind while sleeping, and Gunter can give you that by providing any warning of danger. If he’s an attack dog, then he can actively help defend the home against intruders.
If you live on a larger homestead and have livestock, protecting them after SHTF will be more important than ever.
Here’s some guidance on training a dog for livestock protection:
Instead of just dealing with coyotes and the like, Gunter will have to deal with two-legged predators. How he deals with it depends on whether he’s a guard dog or attack dog. Below we discuss the best breeds for livestock protection.
Your Dog Finding You after a Disaster
Your family is your number one priority. So, there’s nothing worse than family separation. You can teach your dog to find you and your family members after a disaster. Whether it be a tornado, hurricane, or human-made catastrophe like an enemy bombing – it’s worth it to train Gunter to do this.
Start by playing hide and seek with your dog. Gunter won’t take long to notice you are missing. He’ll get anxious and start looking for you. Once he begins searching, make a little noise to encourage him. When Gunter finds you, praise him.
After playing hide and seek a few times, don’t make any noise to encourage him. Stay quiet and let Gunter start wondering where you are. He will start looking and soon find you. Again, praise him for a job well done.
Have other family members repeat this with Gunter until he understands what’s expected of him.
After SHTF, there will be a lot of desperate people around. They will want to steal what you have. To do this, they’ll have to get around Gunter, so they may try to poison him with food.
You can train Gunter to only eat from his food bowl or your hand. It’s a long process of monitoring your dog when food is available and discouraging him from eating food he shouldn’t. Ideally, you could get a neighbor or friend to help by having them offer food and training your dog not to take it.
You should give serious consideration to having more than one dog on the homestead. There are pros and cons to this.
The primary benefit to this is specialization – a guard dog, an attack dog, a hunting dog, a livestock protection dog, etc. Gunter can’t really do it all, and even more relevant is that specific breeds are better at certain tasks than others.
Recommended breeds of guard dogs include Akita, Australian shepherd, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, and Rottweiler.The best attack dogs are German shepherds, Doberman pinscher, Akita, and Beauceron, among others.
Certain traits mark the preferred livestock protection dogs. These include:
- Large size and strength.
- Comfortable being outside most of the time.
- Peaceful in demeanor, unless provoked.
- Love of work and need a job to keep occupied.
- Great smell, sight, and hearing to better notice predators at a distance.
Common breeds for livestock protection dogs:
- Great Pyrenees
- Tibetan mastiffs
There are two types of hunting dogs. Bird dogs, which focus on birds and sometimes other smaller prey like rabbits. They retrieve the shot animal for the hunter.
Scent hounds track prey with their nose or chase it up a tree. In either case, the hunter follows the dog’s calls towards the prey. See below for more information about training them.
Common bird dog breeds include golden retrievers, English springer spaniels, English pointers, English setters, and Irish setters.
Scent hound breeds are often beagles, American foxhounds, or bluetick coonhounds.
Many dog breeds have no prey drive, and therefore aren’t useful for hunting: Maltese, Boxer, Vizsla, and Japanese Chin.
The most significant liability of having multiple dogs is feeding them. When SHTF, you won’t be able to go to the store and buy a couple of 50-lb bags of kibbles.
Instead, providing them food after SHTF can be a serious challenge. It’s not an insurmountable problem, just one that you need to think about and plan ahead of time.
For example, perhaps you live near a lake or river and have access to fresh fish. This can solve the feed problem. Or maybe you do a lot of butchering livestock, and there’s always plenty of leftovers.
Bugging Out and Survival after SHTF
A dog can be an invaluable asset in a bug-out situation.
Teach Gunter how to carry his own bug-out bag. Practice putting it on and having him walk and run around with it on his back. At first, he’ll probably try to shake off the bug-out bag, but with practice, he’ll get used to it.
The more Gunter is used to it being put on him and carrying it around, the smoother bugging out will go. Since he’s in shape, the extra weight shouldn’t much inhibit his speed or endurance.
Dogs are an invaluable tool in hunting, as discussed above. They can track prey, and also chase it and trap it in trees. After SHTF, no matter the viability of your homestead, you’ll probably need to supplement your food supply by hunting.
Here some guidance on training your dog to track birds:
Here’s a good video on trapping prey in a tree:
How Dogs Help Your Physical and Mental Health after SHTF
What are we talking about here? Well, an obvious but sometimes overlooked necessity to survive when SHTF is your health. And a companion dog can benefit your health in several ways.
First, dogs are stress soothers. Petting a dog makes you feel good, and it has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones – and there will be plenty of stress post-SHTF.
Second, people with pets are happier and tend to need medical attention for minor problems less often. A good thing when professional medical care is no longer available.
Finally, dogs are suitable for any young ones you may have. Babies in families with dogs generally are not as susceptible to allergies and asthma. Babies a year old or less have fewer colds and ear infections. Again, a great benefit if you’re the only health care provider available.
A Lot to Think About
A dog or dogs on the homestead is a crucial necessity. Don’t overlook this. Think about what needs you have – home and property protection, bug-out assistance, livestock protection, or hunting – a find and get trained the right dog or dogs. When SHTF, you’ll be glad you did.