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Check out our rundown of the 12 best dogs for personal & home protection!

If you’re considering a dog as a team member in a survival situation, before you can effectively pick a breed you must first determine what duties you want the dog to perform. Hunting and protection might seem to be at the top of the list, but don’t discount the importance of a dog that can work, herd or just be your friend when times are tough. In fact, the best dog to accompany you as you try to recover from a cataclysmic event might be a dog that can do everything.

Dog owners simply believe their dog, no matter the breed, would be the best dog for the job. Having owned a variety of breeds from almost every classification, I’ve experienced their inherent skills and abilities firsthand and can say that you’re better off to select a survival dog based on what it can do for you, as opposed to how much you love it.

After being exposed to the Rhodesian Ridgeback during each of my five safaris in Africa, I began to see why the hearty folk who settled that harsh continent relied so heavily on it. They have the tenacity to bay a lion, can run 30 miles a day with a horse, go 24 hours without water, can track and bring down large game and have natural herding and protective instincts. They also, unlike most of the hunting breeds, rely equally on their nose, eyes and ears when hunting. Ridgebacks also socialize well within the pack (family). As a relatively new breed, with owners who have fervently protected their stock, their inborn characteristics have not been diluted as they have with many of the more common breeds.

As well-rounded and general purpose as the Ridgeback might seem, they’re missing one trait that could prove very valuable for surviving, at least in North America. Several small-game species, like raccoon, squirrel and opossum, are tree dwellers. A dog that can scent-track small game to a tree, and then stay the tree and bark, could be a serious advantage to a starving owner. However, most of these dogs belong to the “scent hound” category and are missing the protective and herding instincts that are also desirable.

The lone exception is the Cur. Don’t mistake the term “cur” as it relates to breed to mean a mongrel, as it is often used. Cur dogs are purpose bred, and while not recognized by the AKC, there are other Cur registries. There are more than 20 different Cur breeds, and while they all differ in conformation, color and size, they all share the cross-category versatility of the Ridgeback. In fact, a Black Mouth Cur resembles a Ridgeback in appearance, but what the Cur does that a Ridgeback won’t is tree game.

There are many breeds to choose from, and there is no requirement that you select a registered or even recognized breed. A cross-bred dog can exhibit many desirable characteristics, and in truth, the Ridgeback and the Cur just happen to be modern versions of various breeds that were crossed for a purpose. Talk extensively with dog owners and breeders to help you better understand the breeds, their idiosyncrasies and skillets.

Should you get a dog to help you survive? For me, the answer is simple: I can’t imagine going through life when things are good without a dog. If things were bad, I might want two. There’s no telling how long things are going to stay bad, and it takes two dogs to make another.

 

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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