Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
From the rocky highlands of Scotland to the flooded fields of China, dogs have played an essential role in human communities for thousands of years. In the modern-day, like our ancestors before us, we too rely on canines for a myriad of necessary daily tasks.
The variation in a dog’s functionality is just as incredible as its proliferation. Think of it this way: While a special forces soldier was using his dog to trap and eliminate the world’s top terrorist, a nurse was working with one to comfort cancer patients.
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Thanks to humans, dogs are one of the most diverse animals on the planet – and this is reflected in the occupations they fill for us.
For your average prepper looking to get ahead of whatever disaster may befall us, a loyal and well-trained dog is worth his weight in gold. Their versatility and heightened senses simply cannot be replicated any other way or by any practical technological means.
Dogs can be used in hunting, tracking, smell or sound detection, and even casualty removal and fire rescue. There is little that cannot be accomplished by a properly trained dog and a motivated owner.
In this article, we are going to be taking a brief look at how dogs genuinely are a prepper’s best friend, which breeds are viable candidates for your needs, as well as some of the basics of dog training and where you can go to learn more.
Why Dogs are a Preppers Best Friend
As we touched on in the intro, dogs evolved to survive along with us. This evolution goes deeper than pups simply becoming more docile than their predecessor, the wolf. Studies have shown that even animals more closely related to us genetically, like chimpanzees, can’t pick up or read our human gestures as easily as dogs can. Dogs can pick up on and read, human movements as subtle as eye gestures.
This means that more so than any other animal, you can train a dog to help and understand you. They will also display a sense of loyalty and co-dependency rarely found in humans these days.
Time and again, those who have shown the capability of training and utilizing dogs have shown a higher degree of survivability and success.
In fact, when it comes to scavenging and hunting, scientists regularly debate whether it was actually the dog that helped early man spread out and overcome the neanderthal. The apparent consensus being that in many instances, dogs are a massive boon to a community’s ability to track, trap, and kill prey.
Moose hunters in alpine regions return home with 56% more prey when dogs accompany them. Hunters in Africa have greater success and need to go on fewer hunts when they have dogs. Foraging and scavenging are also greatly enhanced in the African landscape. This is true for nearly any environment – it is true in both the barren lands of Australia and the dense jungles of South America. It will also be true in an urban setting.
The uses obviously don’t stop with hunting and scavenging, of course. Dogs make great early warning systems, herders, search & rescue assistants, and companions. Don’t underestimate that last part in a survival situation. Watch any of those competition survival shows, and see how often boredom and loneliness come up.
Whether you are talking about Congolese hunters or Canadian border patrol agents, dogs are found working in nearly every place people are found. If we ever colonize Mars, I’m sure it won’t be long before astro-pups are a thing
The versatility really means that your imagination is the limit in how you can utilize a dog—if you are able to train him. For example, in an urban environment, a dog is capable of scouting ahead and alerting you to hazards – or food – without you needing to expose yourself.
Examples of some Tactical Dog Capabilities:
Which Dog Breeds Will be the Most Useful When SHTF?
Different dog breeds are built for different purposes. While some breeds, like the Shih-Tzu or Poodle, are capable of being little more than meat-fed alarms—other breeds, like the Malamutes, have been bred over centuries to accomplish a specific set of tasks.
There are over 340 dog breeds in the world, and comparing certain breeds makes as much sense as comparing a tractor to a corvette — different tools for different solutions. You need to find the best dog for your unique scenario. Keep that in mind when any list gives you a definitive answer.
While there is no one “Best” dog for an SHTF scenario, some will clearly be more useful than others. The attributes you need to pay the most attention to are some variation of Size, Strength, Intelligence, Temperament. Which of these attributes you will focus on will depend on the task you wish the dog to accomplish.
For example, according to the classic U.S. Military Working Dogs Manual, a dog best used for scouting will rank this way:
- Intelligence: High.
- Willingness: High.
- Aggressiveness: Moderate.
- Sensitivity: Medium.
- Energy: High.
The manual goes on to say:
“The scout dog should be a sharp, hardy animal of medium size. He must have highly developed scenting powers, acute hearing, and a good ability to detect motion. He must not be overly excitable or noisy. It is not necessary for him to have great speed.”
“…Before a dog starts scout training, he must be able to heel closely, off-leash, and respond independently to both oral commands and command gestures for Down, Stay, Sit, Come, Jump, and Crawl. He must also be accustomed to riding in vehicles and to the sound of gunfire.”
We used the classic manual for this reference rather than the more modern one. The reason being that no dog-handling manuals were made between 1977 and 2005, and within that gap, the standardization of working breeds used in the military apparently removed the need for this information.
It is worth noting, for this reason, that the military settled mostly on German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. These breeds are strong, smart and loyal and make for a perfect prepper companion. While I stated earlier there is no “perfect” working dog for all scenarios, these dogs are able to handle almost any task with a high degree of competence when trained correctly.
When choosing a breed, evaluate the needs required. Foraging and security dogs don’t need to be large, while those you plan to use in combative scenarios or prey takedowns will need some pounds backing them up. Simple intimidation factors shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Research the breeds you think might be your best option. Read statements from owners of those dogs and get to understand their behaviors. Is it a loud breed? Are they intelligent? You need to weigh a dog’s characteristics against your needs carefully.
To learn more, check out our list of the top 10 dog breeds for preppers.
Big Versus Little Dogs
While it may be easy to simply say that big dogs are capable of a broader range of tasks, and can better intimidate transgressors, and are therefore better, it isn’t always the case.
If food is scarce and you need a dog for scavenging and basic tracking, a smaller dog may be a better choice. Smaller dogs require less food, less space, and can still provide a robust set of ears and sense of smell.
In some cases, especially in an urban scenario where food is a concern, smaller dogs may be a more tactically wise option.
How You Can Prepare Your Dog for a Disaster of Survival Scenario
Dog training is no big mystery. There are literally thousands of resources out there that can teach you nearly anything you want to know about training your dog. Of course, you are going to need an understanding of dogs before you can begin to train one.
If you are planning to be a first-time dog owner, first try and spend time around friends dogs and get used to their mannerisms and how they communicate with you. Learning to communicate with a dog comes naturally, but can be honed and developed. Patience is also crucial, and perhaps the most important personal trait you must cultivate ahead of time.
While a training course is too much of a demand for a single article. There are some key principles we can leave you with:
Dog Training Basics:
- You must establish yourself as the pack leader of your dog. Try and be his only human influence as much as possible.
- Understand the dog’s limits and ability to comprehend.
- Firmness and patience must be maintained at all times.
- Speak clearly and firmly. Deep voices, not louder ones, have an easier time.
- Train a command consistently and repeatedly until the dog obeys it immediately and without hesitation. Repetition is incredibly important for dogs.
- Stern vocal reprisals are enough to punish bad actions for nearly all dogs. “Punishment is for improvement, not reprisal…[the dog] must never be punished for clumsiness, slowness in learning, or inability to understand what is expected of him. ”
- Punishment must be admitted immediately after the offending act occurs.
- When your dog successfully executes a command, even slowly, you should always reward the dog in some clear way—even a pat on the head can suffice.
- Food isn’t a great reward for field dogs, as it may not always be available in many circumstances.
- You must build a good relationship with your dog. This involves grooming them and keeping them healthy.
Both of the Working Dog Manuals (1960 and 2005) we used for this article are a great resource and must-read for any prepper looking to have SHTF ready dog. They cover everything from equipment to employment and training.
Youtube is, of course, another cost-effective option. These playlists are solid places to begin a search: Training a hunting retriever, Tactical dog training.
Projectupland.com is an excellent resource for hunting dog articles.
This site has an excellent compilation of resources as well as a gear checklist for the first months of Gun-dog ownership and training.
If you have the money, then you can hire professionals like those at Tactical K-9 Approach to training your dog up for you.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to training a helpful, friendly, and useful partner.
Sources Used In This Post:
- Military Working Dogs. FM 3-19.17 – July 2005
- Military Dog Training and Employment – 1960
- Interspecific cooperation in human (Homo sapiens) hunting: the benefits of a barking dog (Canis familiaris) Ruusila, Vesa, and Mauri Pesonen. Annales Zoologici Fennici, vol. 41, no. 4, 2004, pp. 545–549. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23735938. Accessed 24 Jan. 2020.
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Sue D says
Thank you for sharing a beautiful truthful verse. You made my dy altho my day was blessed to bring home a 93 lb bundle of furrry love (a Boxer mix)
victor castle says
Not much can be added to what has been already said, by Dave and Max except that, you have to be smarter than anything you are trying to train.
Having raised two sons, there has always been dogs around and mostly what are referred to as mutts. I have noticed that a great deal of the time, the mixed breed are the smartest. Could be that they are not as high strung and or that they have been older when they have come along ? As many have been strays .
A little love goes a long ways
Max Stotto says
When God had made the Earth and Sky
The Flowers and the Trees
He then made all the animals
The Fish, the Birds, the Bees
And when at last he’d finished
Not one was quite the same
He said, ”I’ll walk this world of mine
And give each one a name”
And so he traveled far and wide
And everywhere he went
A little creature followed him
Until it’s strength was spent
When all were named upon the Earth
And in the sky and sea
The little creature said, ”Dear Lord,
There’s not one left for me”
Kindly the Father said to him
‘I’ve left you to the end,
I’ve turned my own name back to front
And called you Dog, my friend’.
Kieran Roberts says
This is a beautiful poem.
I have had working dogs for most of my life and have found that come, sit, and stay, are the bases for everything else. They will learn what you want them to do as you do it with them. They get much better at it than you do also. Spend time and more time with your dog and do not wear them out on just one activity. They like change as much as you do. Make everything a game with a positive reward. Dogs love to be told they are good dogs and a light pat is plenty of attention and reward. They desperately want to please their master and best friend. Spanking or hitting you dog is never right. If there is no positive reward for an act, the dog will not want to do that act. It takes time, much time. They desperately want your approval and attention. I keep three dogs, one old ,one medium age, and one young. The young ones wants the praise the older one gets and thus they try desperately to do what the older and rewarded dogs are doing. It is quite enjoyable to watch. The older ones also will monitor the pup and keep it in line too. They look out for the younger one also and protect them. They are such a blessing. Enjoy them much and for many year.