Thursday, August 17, 2017

Adieu, Ray Coppinger and The Livestock Guardian Dog Project

We come to bury Caesar, not praise him. 

The anxious, stiff trepidation shown in this pup's face and body language mirrors that of Coppinger's.

The man who single handedly did more in America to ruin, corrupt and misdirect ranchers, farmers and LGD users by promoting the misguided and terribly wrong "hands off, don't touch, don't socialize mantra" in LGD training, died August 14, 2017.

I - and many others - shed no tears at his passing. The practices this man promoted created the Lazy Shepherd in America.

A former sled dog trainer and racer, he winnowed his way into the agriculture world by beginning studies on LGDs - the first of their kind in America. He majored in literature and philosophy - hardly the background of a working shepherd - and was a professor emeritus of biology.

In 1976 he and his wife Lorna began the Livestock Guardian Dog Project at Hampshire University. Key to his teachings was the theory that if the LGDs were interacted with too much or handled by humans, they would not guard livestock. How wrong can one be? His tenants have since been proven to be grotesquely and terribly wrong. But - at a horrible price. There is no saying how many dogs have been ruined or mistreated by ranchers using Coppinger's ballyhooed methods for decades, because "it was the only way" they knew how to do it. Only in the past several years have people such as myself begun to speak out against his outdated and wrong practices...myself, and others like French LGD expert Mathieu Mauries, have gone on to prove that socialized and handled LGDs can will work - in fact, we will wager they work even better than those who are not touched, handled or socialized.

As LGDs segue into a fad in America, the train wrecks happen by the week with more and more novice farmers and owners screwing up dogs because they are getting bad training advice - much of it based on Coppinger's tenants, and either from his teachings or his misguided students.

Now, Coppinger is gone. I look at it as a sign that the time indeed has come to turn the tide against the bad training such as Coppinger espoused, embrace new, and more compassionate methods of training and understanding of LGDs.

French author and LGD breeder, owner and expert Mathieu Mauries, had this to say on Facebook, and I heartily agree with his astute assessment:

Ray Coppinger, famous American researcher who worked for a long time on protection dogs in the USA, died and everyone cynophile paid a tribute to him but not me.

Indeed, 25 years after the return of the wolf the situation of protection dogs in France is catastrophic. The method developed by Ray Coppinger, which consists in isolating very young puppies in a herd with little or no contact with humans for themselves claiming to promote their attachment to animals is an aberration. The basic needs of puppies (game, protection and education by adult dogs) have been totally ignored leading to dramatic situations where dogs have often been charged with a bullet in the head. The problems posed by dogs that have been given this type of education are innumerable, particularly with regard to consumers of nature who travel our mountains.

I have devoted 360 pages to this and I have been living with a pack of 20 protection dogs for many years. My dogs and puppies are perfectly sociable and excellent in their work. I'm having a respectful relationship with them. They are companions and not tools like the method, unfortunately worldwide, by r. Coppinger. I cannot pay any tribute to this person who has poisoned the world of protection dogs with a so-called science. I speak all the more easily that I also have a solid scientific career to my asset which is the basis of the work I have devoted to the mountain of the Pyrenees, which is a wonderful protection dog.

So adieu to you, Ray Coppinger, and your aberrations, your twisted training ideas, your tweaked science and soulless lack of compassion for these great dogs.

On now to kinder and better ways…ways that respect these wonderful dogs as they deserve to be….