Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Livestock Guardian Dog Owner's New Year Resolutions

A new year is almost upon us. What are you going to do in terms of your LGD ownership and use next year to make it better? Have you given this any thought? Successfully, intelligently, compassionately, seriously and responsibly owning and using Livestock Guardian Dogs is not a spectator sport. It takes work, not procrastination, bullshit, bad management and excuses.

It also is not a Disney cartoon made up of Facebook videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goat kids jumping up and down on a patient yet exhausted Great Pyrenees trying to get some badly needed sleep. Since when did that become "cute?"

It's also not pumping out back to back litters of five and six-breed cross genetic crap shoots, or calling oneself a "breeder" before you've even produced a single litter of pups.

It also isn't lauding some self-promoting LGD author setting a terrible example by cramming two grossly underaged LGD puppies into a shipping crate for a grueling multi-thousands of miles flight from a third world country, all the while pimping themselves out as a "Livestock Guardian Dog expert" to sell more books and run a wolf-hate blog.

It's also not passing yourself off as "competent" and an "expert", when you can't even cite reputable sources for an LGD breed in a generalized book quickly written to placate the masses and further perpetuate bad breed information

Unfortunately all this and much worse, flourishes and has become the new "norm" in the American LGD community where the bar has been lowered to such lesser standards so that now,  practically "anything goes." Group-think rules. Flash, cash and dash.  Common sense? What's that? If you're a papered up arrogant academic at Texas A&M with no LGD experience, you can run a "research project" that turns into an epic flop, and yet you're instantly given more respect than the proficient but humble shepherd who's been successfully using the dogs his whole life. What? Since when did that become acceptable? 

Connecting with your LGD and livestock in a sensitive manner? Ain't got time for it. Bad practices are promoted and hyped. The easy way out trumps the hard path of patience, commitment, compassion, and paying dues. Everyone wants it yesterday, dues free, with profuse praise and handholding. Don't preach about responsibility because that takes too long and too much work. The new hobby farmer wants it all, dues free, with icing on top. Just show them the money, fake cyber-friends and the Facebook "likes", and they're all over it.

There is enough irresponsibility in the world of Livestock Guardian Dogs being promoted on social media these days to fill up the Grand Canyon. Enough is enough. There needs to be a revolution of change for the better. That revolution can start with you. For 2018, consider including some of the following in your New Year's Resolutions:

1. Get off of all Facebook and Internet LGD groups. Facebook has done more damage to the LGD community than anything else. And the backlash against Facebook is only intensifying:

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Yes, this includes the armchair hobby farmer, who has now become totally addicted to and relying on, Facebook for advice. Because why lean on reputable proven, "real" sources and people for hard facts and solid advice, when its so much more fun for lazy shepherds to spend hours trolling on Internet groups, spewing hot air, "liking", bitching, moaning, bragging, lying, exaggerating, and getting bad advice from fake Facebook accounts or ego maniacs and non-proven sources? When someone you've never heard of comes out of the woodwork claiming to have been raising LGDs "since 2010" and passes themselves off as someone experienced and competent, common sense would tell you to hold off trusting them until you'd seen some form of proof of their bonafides and claims. Gosh, that's a no-brainer in my world where you either put up or shut up. But there is no common sense left out there and the hobby farming world has become Exhibit A to that argument. People don't even bother to ask anymore. They're that lazy. Everything is taken at face value. Facebook has turned LGD ownership and use into a simple "click" for a "thumbs up", "heart this" or "cry that:"

"….The Guardian, which said that smartphone use (and technology in general) is not just addictive, but it contributes to “continuous partial attention,” wreaking havoc on people’s ability to focus and potentially making them dumber.
“One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off,” the article noted."
We'll drink to that, as we've personally witnessed the "dumbing down" of the agriculture community in just the past ten years. It's beyond newbie town folks dipping toes into farming and ranching for the first time, too. Social media and the Internet are to blame. What used to be common farm sense now seems to be unattainable levels of simple intelligence for many. Scary. And the animals - livestock, poultry, guardian dogs - pay for it in the end.

When Facebook executives come out condemning what social media is doing to society, then hey, Joe Hobby Farmer and you legions of backyard LGD fad breeders: maybe it is time to come back into the real world, put your cyber-persona on the shelf, take off the rose colored glasses and get a grip on reality and start paying dues. Or prepare to fail. On a grand scale.  Those of us who see the monster social media has become will step aside and let you fall down the rabbit hole, never to be seen again and bid you a fond adieu

Is that what you want? No? Then get out of those going-nowhere online groups and forums, get your hands on good dog books to read from proven respected sources (instead of generalized regurgitated crap put out by Facebook prima donnas) and do it right. Get off your Smartphone and pay attention to your dogs, your sheep, your goats, your cattle. "Go deeper." Stop settling for mediocrity. Get re-connected with your dogs and livestock. Learn to discern bad from good. THAT alone will take some of you the rest of your lives to accomplish...

Weaning yourself off of the main source of garbage LGD information - Facebook and online LGD forums and groups - is a way to begin.

2. Realistic expectations and accepting responsibility. I had a query from a fairly intelligent sounding woman the other day wanting to get LGDs for the first time sometime in the future. She saw herself moving to a location where there'd be plenty of predators and nomadic elk herds passing through her property. She was already setting herself up for an epic fail by dictating to me that she was looking for "the perfect dog who'd keep predators away but be friendly to the elk and leave them alone." I burst her bubble and told her unless she was planning on bonding her LGDs as pups to a baby elk (good luck with that), she was already setting up ridiculous and impractical expectations for her dogs. Get real.

How many times have I seen this in groups and online, where people put out the "I want this and that and it must do this but never that," on and on and on? You may as well not bother to get out of bed. Stop setting up for failure. Be realistic. Be responsible. Stop expecting everything "out there" do do all the work, make all the changes, jump through the hoops, bend like a tree in the wind while you stand stock still and don't move an inch and don't do a thing. Look in the mirror first. Start with you.

3. Fencing. Fencing. Fencing. At this late stage in the LGD popularity game it is still shocking and disturbing to see how many newbie farmers think they can run LGDs without fence or put up three strands of barbed wire and consider it 'sufficient.' They think the dogs will never leave, never wander, never set foot on that Intestate and get pancaked by a semi truck.  Don't be so stupid. Put up dog proof fencing before you get livestock and LGDs, not afterwards. Don't dump thousands of dollars into brood stock and expensive heritage rare breeds of livestock, and then have the audacity to stand there and whine about not being able to afford to build fence. That song got old a long time ago. Fence first, not last. Buy the stock and LGDs later. Period. This should not even have to be told, let alone said, but in today's new era of the dumbed down "want it all with no work" newbie hobby farmer, guess what?

4.  Compassion. Dogs are not hammers, saws or nails. They are feeling, thinking, emotional beings as are all animals. You will get farther with an ounce of love and compassion that you will with shock collars, choke chains and the Louise Liebenberg yoke contraptions. Stop relying on such quick fix, painful lazy shepherd's gadgets and stop praising, promoting and following the idiots who use and recommend them.

5. Practical LGD breed choices and running enough dogs.  Procrastination: you always pay for it in the end. Perusing a forum the other day, looking at the graphic photos of a "Boz Shepherd" - you know, the fake LGD breed that's actually a fighting mix from Turkey? - after a lion ripped it to shreds, brought a grin to my face as it's horrified and now suddenly humbled owner got a brutal taste of reality. The "super breed" that's supposed to be able to kill wolves with one paw tied behind it's back, ain't all that super after all, eh? 

Get real, people. Don't be seduced by hype and BS. Don't expect any solo dog of any LGD breed to be able to do the work of six. Dog up before you need the protection, not after. Buy real LGD breeds from ethical breeders with proven track records, good recommendations, healthy dogs and life time support. Stop buying from fad backyard breeders, puppy mills and opportunists.


The new year approaches. What kind of year it will turn out to be for you, is up to you. Period.