When you are in danger, it is natural to get stressed. However, the way you handle your stress and respond to the danger make a huge difference to whether you will come out a winner. And, your odds improve if you have a well-trained dog at your side. So if there is a bug out situation, you definitely want a dog at your side. It will give you peace of mind and also ensure you come out unscathed from the SHTF situation.
If you are skeptical about taking a dog as your companion for bugging out, here are 10 reasons to allay your fears and change your opinion.
1. Early Warning System
Remember, when you are bugging out, resources will be scarce. There will be other survivalists who may not be as prepared as you are. So you will need to protect your resources and stake claim to them. Under such circumstances, your dog can function as an early warning system to make you aware of possible threats, be it humans or animals.
Dogs have an uncanny ability to sense threats, and as a pack animal, their instincts are to protect the pack – meaning you and the rest of the family. So your dog will sound out the alarm let you know that a threat is close at hand. This will buy you time to get prepared or reach out for your gun to protect yourself and your loved ones.
In a bug out situation, your personal protection becomes paramount. A well-trained dog can protect you from all kinds of threats. If you are attacked by a bear or mountain lion, you can command your dog to deter the animal. Similarly, if you are attacked by a person, a single command from you will be sufficient for your dog to attack the person and protect you – well if your dog is trained to do so of course.
It goes without saying that you would have to train your dog for situations like these as just stated. This training should be ongoing so that your dog understands. You can use a combination of words and signs to train your dog to protect you if the need arises. But most dogs will naturally do so anyway.
3. Livestock Gathering and Protection
Many preppers prepare for the long haul. When a situation arises, such as natural disaster or terrorist attack, you never know how long you will have to bug out. So it is best to be prepared. Under such circumstances, you may want to raise livestock to supply you food regularly. Having a dog as a companion for bugging out can help you with the livestock.
Your dog, if trained to follow commands, will prove to be extremely useful in not just gathering livestock, but also protecting them. In the wilderness and in a survival situation, livestock will become extremely rare. So you need to go guns blazing to protect your cattle not just from other survivalists, but also from wild animals. Your dog will be able to do all this and some more to ensure your livestock is safe and secure.
4. Help in Tracking
Dogs are inherently fantastic trackers. You may be put in a situation where you have to go scouting for water or food. If you get lost, you will be extremely happy to have your dog with you. He will be able to help you retrace your steps.
Also, dogs can prove to be extremely useful if you want to find something or someone. In fact, your pooch could be your only hope during a bug out.
5. Good Hunters
If you are ill-prepared for a bug out situation or your rations are running low, your dog can truly be your best friend! He can help identify small game in the forest and also help you corner it. You can also rely on your dog to fetch the shot small game to you. Of course, once again, it all boils down to the right training.
If you have a dog at your side during a bug out, you can increase your chances that you will not run low on protein sources!
6. Excellent Foragers
Having access to fresh water is the key to your survival in a bug out situation. Your trusted, four-legged companion will be able to find natural sources of water that you may not be able to find. Also, dogs are prolific foragers. So you can use them to find natural sources of food, including edible plants.
This quality of a dog could mean the difference between surviving and dying in an emergency situation where you don’t have access to food and water.
7. Warmth in Cold Weather
In a survival situation, you will not have the benefit of having central heating. Depending on the type of bug out shelter you have built, you may be exposed to the elements. Having your four-legged friend with you will allow you to cuddle up with the animal and stay warm through the night when you cannot light a campfire.
This warmth from your dog can prove to be a lifesaver in situations where you are injured or you are lost while trying to make your way back to your shelter.
8. Emotional Support
Many people, when forced into a bug out situation, tend to give up emotionally rather than physically. It is this that causes their downfall. However, dogs are wonderful and soothing companions. When you have nothing else to do, you can play with your dog and even talk to him to keep you sane and emotionally strong.
If you have children, your dog can keep them entertained so that they don’t get cranky and whiny without their PlayStation, toys, playing cards, cable TV, and so on.
9. Detect Changes in the Weather Pattern
Dogs have an uncanny ability to detect changes in the weather. Dogs are extremely sensitive to any drop in barometric pressure, and this drop is an indication of an impending storm. Also, it has been suggested that dogs have the ability to sense changes in the static electrical field. Coupled with their excellent hearing, your dog will be able to warn you about an approaching storm long before you will realize that it is coming.
If your dog starts pacing and acting anxious while you are out hunting or foraging, take it seriously. It is an indication that a storm is approaching, and you should make your way back to the camp before it hits you.
10. Good Judge of Character
Dog seem to have the ability to discern friend from foe. You will find that your dog sometimes wags his tail at complete strangers and other times, he is snarling and baring his teeth. In a survival situation, this ability of your dog could save your life.
If your dog is unfriendly to people who approach your camp, trust your dog and get rid of them as quickly as possible. There could be a threat to your life or these individuals may have plans to raid your stock.
Once you understand the benefits of having a dog as your companion while bugging out, you may be tempted to get a big dog, who has the ability to carry his own bug out bag, offer better personal protection, and also be better equipped to withstand the rigors of the elements. However, don’t forget a big dog means he will need a lot of food, and you can never predict how long a disaster situation will last.
Hence, you will have to stockpile large amounts of food not just for yourself, but also for your dog. In comparison, smaller breeds tend to require less fuel, but the drawback is they may not be intimidating enough or at all and may also be overly sensitive to cold.
However, it is critical to remember that both large and small breeds can be trained for a bug out situation. While some breeds are bred usually for disaster situations, remember the skills your dog acquires will reflect your ability and skills as a trainer. Your dog will be of no use if you don’t train it properly. Hence, make sure you put in time and effort to train your dog so that he can turn into the perfect companion for bugging out.
Qualities of an Ideal SHTF Dog
When you are scouting for the perfect dog for a disaster situation, you should be looking for certain qualities. Usually, these qualities are breed specific, and include:
- Naturally alert
- Strong sense of duty to protect you and yours
- Good genetics (this means a healthy dog that requires low maintenance)
- Not too big, but large enough to stop a man and small enough to get into small spaces
The best breeds for survival situations are a German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and a Belgian Malinois. Even crosses of these breeds are judicious and ideal dogs for bugging out. In fact, crosses of these breeds are used by the military and police.
There are other breeds and crosses that make wonderful protection dogs that can prove to be useful during a bug out. However, you should consult a dog trainer to help you identify these breeds so that you find the perfect fit for your personality. Also, request the trainer to customize a dog training program that is suited for you and your dog.
Refrain from using poodles, huskies, Labradors, and great Danes. They are not the best dogs for preppers. Instead, these breeds are more suitable as house pets and companions. They are too playful and loving to act as protection dogs. But if you have seen the movie Old Yeller you will know a Labrador can be a fine dog for protective purposes. Some people have different opinions one what one dog is appropriate for and so on.
The Key is Training
If you want the perfect companion for bugging out, you need to invest time, money, and effort in training your dog. Your dog should be trained to follow your commands and be aware of when to attack or sit by you quietly. The dog should also know when to stay quiet and when to make a noise to raise an alarm. He will learn this only when he receives this type of training, and there is no time better than now to begin this process.
Train your pooch to sit, lie down, and heel. Also, teach him to stay quiet, as you will need complete silence during a tactical operation. The last thing you need is a rambunctious dog in a stressful survival situation. The Internet is a treasure trove of dog training articles, books, and videos. Use these resources to start training your dog right away.
You can reach Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog which a fantastic dog book.
While it is best to start training your dog the moment you adopt him, it is never too late to train an old dog. However, you will first have to break their old habits by rewarding them for good behavior. Remember, dogs have this instinct where they want to please their masters. So with a little bit of love and patience, you should be able to get your dog responding to your commands.
Keep each training session short, about 15 minutes, and make sure the commands are short, if possible of a single syllable. You can use code words to train your dog so that no one else has the power to control him. Remember, you can choose how to train your dog, but focus on being consistent so that he remembers what you are doing and saying.
You may also want to focus on teaching your dog certain commands that you can use in a survival situation. These includes:
- Find – To find an object or person
- Growl on command to act as a deterrent
- Attack on command
It is critical when training your dog you take measures not to hurt yourself, your pooch or anyone else. While it is not possible to list down all the commands you will need in a bug out situation, it is best to focus on some of the basic commands. Keep training your dog until he masters these commands, and thereafter continue practicing them so that he does not forget them and responds to them when the need arises.
The Bottom Line
Dogs are wonderful friends and when trained properly, they can become excellent partners in a tactical or bug out situation. Start training your dog now and you will be glad you spent the time and effort on it. Your dog can turn into an asset when you are pushed into an off-grid survival situation, whether it is to alert you about intruders, predict the weather, keep dangerous animals at bay, or offer you warmth and companionship when you feel low and when you need it.
About the author:
Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA. He has two master’s degrees and served four years in the US Navy. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship. He has an MBA in Global Management from the Univ. of Phoenix (2006). He grew up camping and loving the outdoors. He loved to fish and shoot guns as a child. He joined the navy and survived two tours to the Persian Gulf and one to Central America. He now writes about survival and reads a lot about surviving and thriving in the wilderness. He has gone on white water rafting trips, hikes, camped all over the place, operated fishing boats, and so on. If you want to read more of his work, check him out on Survivor’s Fortress. Make sure to follow us on Twitter.