SA Smallholder research shows that more than 85% of smallholders will have dogs on plots, at least one and most have three or four. You have to be really dedicated to cleaning, feeding and playing with a large number of pets.
Under most municipal by-laws, owners are allowed to keep up to six dogs on plots ~ land zoned for agriculture.
Because of the space on plots the question rarely arises about how many would be a good number of dogs. However, one must still ensure that the pets are comfortably and safely accommodated.
There will be a natural hierarchy amongst so many dogs, which we need to acknowledge and support, ensuring that there is no fighting and that each dog has a good quality of life.
A large number of dogs will also result in a large quantity of excrement, which needs to be picked up and disposed of. We also need to ensure that the fencing is adequate to keep our dogs on our property.
A smallholder should only keep dogs if one is able to keep them clean, groomed and healthy.
This includes ensuring that they get adequate exercise. Many of us think that the dogs have lots of space and places of interest to explore on a plot. However, they are not going to do so on their own and we still need to take them with us when we move round our plots and sometimes take them for walks.
All dogs need to be trained, but those living on smallholdings also need to know how to behave near poultry and livestock.
Dogs that are not regularly dewormed can excrete tapeworm in their faeces. This is obviously a problem for our children, but can also affect our livestock. If ingested by sheep, and sometimes cattle, the tapeworm cysts can lodge in the animal’s brain causing a condition called Gid (Coerurus cerebralis). As the cysts develop, they press on the brain cells and cause nervous symptoms such as blindness, staggering and circling.
Many people rely on their dogs to alert them if there are intruders on the property ~ some are better than others in setting up the alarm.