I raised dogs (Collies and Shelties) as a kid in school. In the 1980's I ran and raised working cattle dogs of many breeds. In 2009, I began with LGDs.
As I have spent several years now living with a huge pack of Livestock Guardian Dogs, raising them, training them, working them, as one of their own, I have come to realize many things. I have come to realize that not a day goes by where I do not learn something. I open myself up to learning. I try not to judge. I remain pliable, and willing to bend, like a willow in the wind.
Owning, raising and running Livestock Guardian Dogs is very much like what Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel in the movie The Karate Kid. Respect. Patience. Dedication. Focus. Right action and intent. Compassion. These dogs were never meant to be used as disposable tools that are barely touched or engaged with, and it is sad and unfortunate that many misguided people in America have done just that with LGDs. But you do not have to be one of them. You can break away from that mindset, and use and enjoy these dogs to their fullest potential.
Sometimes to learn how to best use these great dogs so that they can best help you and your livestock, you must first empty your mind, and clear it of all your preconceived notions so that new knowledge can come in. These dogs are not like non-LGD dogs. So you must toss out what you think you know about dogs. Sometimes, the more you think you know, you soon discover you know nothing. Sometimes, assumptions are all wrong. Your ego about how much you think you know, or your desire to always be right, is best left at the door. In the LGD world you will find many people who are self-professed ‘experts’ who always must be right. These people’s experiences become extremely limited, because they soon shut off the ability for new information and experiences to learn from. They stagnate and become stuck in theories and endless debates over things that really do not matter with these dogs.
When you enter into a relationship with an LGD, it is like making the bonsai trees Mr. Miyagi so carefully and tenderly created in The Karate Kid. Snip here, prune there, encourage this, water, talk to it, think good things. In time, a miniature, beautiful tree takes shape. Just like the team you will create with yourself and your LGDs, it takes time, patience, more time, more patience. Learning to watch your dogs, read their body language, understand what they are telling you, takes effort, but can be done. Dogs are pack animals and thrive in a pack, and live like a large family unit this way. You must be part of that unit to fully enjoy the benefits of these dogs. And, you work at it, and you must want to do it. There will be much sanding of floors, painting of walls, wax on and wax off. But suddenly it will all come together, just like it did for Daniel in the movie (watch the short You Tube clip in the link above). The lights come on. Suddenly, it dawns on you. Ah......this is what this all was for.
But don’t think you’re done learning. Your path has just begun. As Mr. Miyagi quips to Daniel at the end of the video: “Come back tomorrow.”