If I haven’t rattled your thinking with the last two parts to this series I will with this one. Please keep in mind that these are pros and cons. I am not telling anyone what to do. In true prepper fashion, I am presenting you with information (and yes, my own opinion) on both sides, so that you can read it and use it in your decision making process. The best thing you can do as a prepper, is your own objective research, then make the best decisions possible for you and your situation, and then be confident in them.
When referring to animals and prepping, I hear a couple of things repeated all the time that I don’t completely agree with.
As a prepper you should keep a dog for protection and hunting: In most cases this is a very flawed line of thinking. This is something I have heard repeated so many times on the internet for the longest time that, not only as a pet owner myself, did I agree, but I accepted it as fact. I hear people say all the time that their dog has value for prepping because its a herding dog, or it’s a Labrador, so it can hunt or it will protect the property. Unfortunately it’s not that easy.
It takes lots and lots of training to teach a dog to hunt, protect, or herd. In the middle of a long term emergency, you will not have time to train your dog to hunt. When you need some help bringing food to the table is NOT the time to take up field hunting with your dog. Even dogs that are bred for the purpose will not magically assume those roles, they need hours of training and practice to do those things.
If you hunt with your dog, he/she needs to be able to be verbally recalled at a moments notice no matter what. If your Lab dog is like most Lab dogs without any training, he will shut his brain OFF when he is turned loose and smells or sees some birds and will take off. It will do you absolutely NO good if he flushes a group of birds too far out of range for you to shoot, in that case you could’ve possibly snuck up on them alone, now, you’re out of luck completely. If you are in the midst of a prolonged grid down situation where people are hungry it would put your dog in great danger if you can’t call him back. If you go out looking for him, you will be putting yourself in danger too.
I also hear people say all the time that their untrained “herding dog” will round up the cows for them, and this is a good thing, but will your dog do that in an emergency situation every time without fail? With added stress and distractions? Or will he run your already spooked livestock through the fence? You would be out your livestock, your dog, and your fence in an emergency situation. Not good.
Some dogs, like German Shepherds, are naturally protective of their “homes” and their “packs” (this usually includes you) and this is a good thing, but without training you can’t depend on them to be that first line of defense. They may bark – and in some cases barking and looking mean could be very helpful, but few dogs have actually seen a human that is not afraid of them and wants to cause them harm, and most don’t know how to react when this does happen. Most family dogs, even larger breeds can be approached by a stranger that seems friendly or is providing food. Formal training teaches your dog how to react in certain situations, and gives them confidence – it also gives you verbal control over those reactions, and while very rewarding this training takes time, practice and money.
If you love your dog, he barks at strangers, and that makes you feel safer, then GREAT. If you want to get a dog or cat, by all means go get one! You don’t have to deprive yourself of those things because a disaster may or may not happen. But if you want a dog that will help you hunt, protect or herd, then put the time and effort into training them so you can be confident that you and your dog won’t be putting each other in danger in an emergency. And don’t forget to prep for them too!
If you do have a pet keep in mind that if we ever face a long emergency where people are starving and there is no rule of law, you may want to keep your pet quiet, contained, and out of sight – out of mind. Starving people may not think your dog is real cute, they may think if you have food to feed your dog then you must have extra to feed them as well, all they need to do is take it from you.
You should keep livestock so you have a source of food for a long term emergency: I don’t think that livestock is right for everyone. Livestock makes noise, noise may draw unwanted attention to your property, and unless you live in a VERY secluded area you will have to defend your livestock. For the record: I am all for keeping livestock for the purposes of self-reliance – I think everyone should move to the country and start a little farm, but in my opinion, you don’t NEED to have livestock right this instant to be fully prepared.
Speaking from experience, keeping livestock is very hard work even with modern equipment, veterinarians and electricity – without, it will be nearly possible for a small operation to maintain livestock herds of reproduction size. Keeping them from getting stolen by starving people, keeping them fed, watered and in good condition will become a full time job. You will need more people at your property to help cover other needs. Of course in the 1800′s it was done without modern conveniences, therefore it should possible to do today, but you also saw huge family sizes and extended families living in one location getting all the chores done.
Working with livestock can be dangerous even for experienced hands. I grew up on a farm working with horses and cattle, I have had formal training handling both, AND I have been seriously injured twice by them. I also have had too many minor injuries to count. Serious injuries like that during a prolonged grid down situation would’ve put me in bed for weeks, I would’ve been absolutely no help to anyone, in fact, someone would have to devote their time caring for me. Minor injuries put you at risk for infections and illness. Even when tamed and trained, animals are unpredictable and when we humans are under the stress we are more apt to make mistakes when handling them. Mistakes will put you and your retreat at great risk. Depending on your location, your chances of survival may be increased by not acquiring livestock right away but by using that money to ‘beef’ up your food stocks and enlarge your garden.
If you survive a long term emergency on your food preps and a garden, when things settle down, before your stocks run out re-evalutate the costs and benefits of owning some type of meat stock. While no one knows for sure what will happen, hopefully there will be opportunities for you to acquire some from someone who has also made it through the disaster with some of their livestock intact. Since you have prepared for the emergency, you will be in a unique position to be able “buy” or “trade” or maybe even “work” for some livestock where as most people will be still just be barely getting by. At this time, your livestock would be much safer, and easier to keep than in midst of a disaster.
Let me be clear here – I have no problems with anyone owning livestock or getting a pet. You have the right to make your own decision here as you do over every other aspect of your life. Make that decision based on what’s right for you considering all of the available information, not just the feel good stuff. If you have done so the decision you arrive at will undoubtedly be the best one for you and your family.
Here is another very good article that examines the pros and cons of pet and livestock ownership in an emergency situation: http://www.grandpappy.info/hpets.htm