NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
When you imagine a farm dog, you probably think of border collies, Australian shepherds, or sheepdogs.
I’m guessing the burly, muscular, and smiling pit bull doesn’t immediately come to mind.
Pit bulls are known for their fun-loving personalities, adventurous spirits, and endless energy. But what about on a farm? Can pit bulls make a good farm dog?
While it’s possible that a pit bull could make a good farm dog with extensive training, pit bulls aren’t the best options and shouldn’t be your first pick for the farm. Without a history of farm work, pit bulls don’t have the natural instincts that will help them succeed at farm work.
Let’s dive into this topic a little deeper to learn more.
What Makes A Good Farm Dog?
Before we really explore what it would look like to have a pit bull as a farm dog, let’s clarify what we mean exactly by “farm dog.”
Dogs are used for different jobs on many different types of farms. Some of the most common farm dog jobs include herding, protecting property, and eliminating pests, just to name a few.
In order to be a good farm dog, a dog must be sturdy, intelligent, athletic, brave, and good with other animals. It also helps if your breed of choice has a history of herding as a job since keeping animals in line is a common task for the farm dog. Herding also helps develop a counter instinct to the powerful prey drive.
In other words, it helps if your pick for a farm dog breed has experience working with animals in capacities other hunting.
Even though pit bulls do have a lot of great qualities, they don’t have anything in their history related to herding or animal work. That means they lack a lot of the instincts that make so many other breeds successful on the farm.
So Where Do Pit Bulls Come From?
The pit bull originated in England for entertainment purposes. They were raised and trained for “bull baiting,” an extremely cruel sport in which dogs were forced to fight bulls and other animals. This sport was banned in 1835, although it still frequently occurred illegally after that.
After this fighting was banned, the pit bull breed began the long, hard journey of becoming recognized as a pet rather than as a fighting animal. They have since become known as loyal, trustworthy dogs and consistently rank as one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.
Unfortunately, these sweet dogs continue to have to battle breed-specific legislation and an undeserved reputation of aggression because of their history.
Even though pit bulls were not initially bred as working dogs, there are a few farm jobs that pit bulls could still excel at.
What Farm Jobs Could A Pit Bull Be Good At?
If you’re specifically looking for a “catch” dog or a security guard for your farm, you might have luck with a pit bull.
Pit Bulls Can Be Good “Catch” Dogs
Catch dogs are used both in hunting and in farming. The primary goal of a catch dog is to run after, catch, and hold another animal. For example, hunters have used pit bulls in hog hunting. Once the hunter locates a feral hog, it’s the pit bull’s job to run after the hog, seize it, and hold it there until the hunter arrives.
This skill can be useful on a farm as well. If a pig, sheep, or even a cow would manage to escape, a pit bull would be able to use their catching skills to hold the animal until the owner arrived to take over. Pit bulls who are trained as catch dogs may use force to hold the animal there, but they are trained not to harm or kill the animal they caught.
However, this is really a bit of stretch and hopefully, you don’t have livestock regularly breaking out and running free.
They Can Be Great Protection For A Farm
Pit bulls are instinctually very loyal, and they make good watchdogs. Once they recognize their family and territory, they will go to great lengths to protect it from any threats. It helps that pit bulls are sturdy, muscular, and athletic, giving them an advantage when it comes to protection.
However, they’re far from the only option when it comes to protection and other burly breeds like Rottweilers can not only protect but also have a history of herding which makes them a better choice for the farm.
Why A Pit Bull Isn’t A Great Choice For The Farm
Even though pit bulls are good for both catching and protection on a farm, they can cause some trouble in other areas.
Pitties Are Typically Too Rough For Livestock Work
Pit bulls do not have a history of herding or working livestock; this is just a special skill that they don’t have. While pit bulls are very intelligent and could be trained with some success, they’ll still probably be too rough with the animals.
This aggression towards the animals is rooted in their catching skill. In order to successfully hold a large animal, such as a hog, the pit bull has to be fairly rough. However, that same roughness will translate over into herding as well. When their catching skills aren’t needed, the pit bull won’t be able to quietly tame sheep or cows the way a true herding dog does.
Most herding dogs have thousands of generations of selective breeding supporting their natural instinct to be gentle with livestock.
Their Prey Drive May Cause Problems With Smaller Animals Like Chickens
All dogs have a prey drive but as the folks at Hills explain, “prey drive involves five different behaviors: searching, stalking, chasing, biting to grab and biting to kill. Among the dog breeds with a high prey drive, these behaviors manifest differently according to breed. Herding breeds, for example, have a strong chase instinct, while hounds like to stalk and flush out prey.”
Again, it’s that lack of a herding history that’s holding pitties back here. Instead of herding, the pit bull prey drive will lead them to bite to grab or kill. Smaller farm animals such as chickens, ducks, or even vulnerable lambs or calves could fall prey to this instinct.
Because of this strong natural instinct, the pit bull will have trouble separating which animals he’s allowed to go after (pests like groundhogs, rats, or moles) from the farm animals he’s supposed to protect. This is also why the best companion dogs for your pit bull are usually ones that are a little bigger.
However, it is absolutely possible for your pit bull to be successful around chickens and other animals but it will take more work when compared to other breeds. Just look at this handsome and successful farm pittie hanging out with his chicken friends for what proper training can pull off:
Plan For Success If You Want A Farm Pit
If you want to bring a pit bull home to your farm, create a plan in order to avoid any potential problems. Here are a few hints and tips.
Start With A Puppy Or Experienced Pit Bull
The younger your pit bull is, the more influence you’ll have in their training and upbringing. Avoid getting an older pit bull unless they specifically have experience on the farm or with small animals.
A younger pit bull will have a better chance of understanding that they’re not allowed to chase the chickens or bother the horses.
Don’t Leave Them Alone With Smaller Critters
Even when your pit bull is fully trained, don’t leave them around any smaller farm animals, such as chickens, ducks, or any baby animals. It only takes a second for their instinct drive to kick back in, telling your pit bull to go after these small animals as prey.
Train them carefully with these animals, and then continue to keep a close eye on your pit bull when he’s around them.
Even though a pit bull may not be the perfect farm dog, with some careful training and watchful eyes, they can still do well on a farm. Teach them manners around all farm animals, and give them plenty of chances to show their natural skills, such as catching and protection.