Sunday, August 16, 2015

Haben sie ein Konzept? - Do You Have A Concept? Habig's Words of Wisdom from 1985 Molosser Magazin

So today I find myself once again thumbing through my decades old, tattered yet still so pertinent, cherished and rare copies of Molosser Magazin - the now out of print but much coveted "bible" of all those who loved and raised the molosser breeds, of course, including the Spanish Mastiff.  When the current Livestock Guardian Dog scene in America begins to depress me - something that sadly occurs with more and more frequency as of late - I turn to these magazines to rebuild my hope and focus.  They, along with my dearly beloved pack of 20 or so hounds - keep me going.

Being of German stock on my mother's side (old immigrants from Berlin to New York), some could say I'm prejudiced but no favoritism is going on here due to race and nationality.  Actually being half Spanish/Mexican and half German, makes for a fiery cross….! But no racial favoritism here, it is more of a statement to the lack of quality sources in America out there today, that I am forced to dredge up from 30 some years past, words of wisdom from a German professor and world renowned judge of molosser (mastiff) breeds all over the world.

I have touched on Habig's impact on my dog breeding and principles on this blog before.  For me it was and remains, one of my most favorite posts, as it caused me to go back, pause and think of who I owe thanks to for being who I am now.   Had I a lesser teacher/mentor - would just be another one of the many out there doing this half-assed, or doing it all wrong, without a concept, without integrity.

You know they say integrity is what you do when you think no one is watching…..

Consider these wry words, so true then, and even more true today, from Herr Habig in his 2/85 issue of Molosser Magazin:

"It is all so very simple: all you need in order to breed dogs is a bitch and a stud.  And everyone, who lets their bitch take part in the "act of love" with a stud, and then lets her bring up the result of this mating, namely the puppies, can call himself a breeder."

Acht!  And there you have, readers, in a capsule: the state of our nation here when it comes to LGDs.  Reckless, fly by night, ego driven backyard farmers who think bringing a litter of LGDs into the world is akin to hatching chicks, butcher hogs, sheep or goats.

It is anything but!  

But!  Don't tell that to these people.  After all, these are the "entitlement generation", the ones born often with silver spoons protruding from pouted lips, and a aura reeking of "I wanted that yesterday".  They inherited a farm or suddenly decided to chuck it all in New York City and bought 10 acres in Ohio.  They could get around in the Bronx, so they think they know it all in South Dakota or on some far flung plot in Canada - really the mindset crosses country boundaries.  

Yes, a concept can be a hinderance when you are breeding for the wrong reasons!

It is this mindset now pervading the hallowed halls of LGD breeds, that has every Tom, Dick and Lucy out there churning out $50-300.00 pups.  Most with either no vaccinations, or vaccinations too late…de-worming is a crap shoot…parents?  You MIGHT see one of them, and if its the dam, if you're lucky, she's a full LGD breed.  But more than not, she's the risky, second guess offspring of some vague parentage. Photos of grandparents are rarely available.  The bitch may have whelped the pups in the brush or sands of the outback.  Sometimes they are covered in fleas and ticks.  You can't catch them for a million dollars.  And oh, if you ask them WHY they are breeding LGDs, they usually can't tell you.

They have no concept.  No ground, no base.

High risk?  Unstable?  You bet.  Dependable?  Hardly.  Quality?  What is that? 

Concept?  What is a concept?!!!???!!!?

The people who have in the past two or so years, absolutely flooded the LGD market in the USA with everything from St. Pyrenees (St. Bernards crossed with Great Pyrenees); the bogus "Boz Shepherd" designer fighting breed from the nefarious dog fighter in Turkey, Akin Tulubas; LabraPyrs (Labradors crossed with Pyrenees); etc. etc. etc….these are the people I refer to when I quip, "send in the clowns".

If they are purebred 0r close to purebred LGDs - the parent stock is often scrawny, underfed, of poor quality, certainly not that which should be bred.  

But lets give the dogs a break!  How about the owners of these dogs?

They have, what Habig refers to as - NO CONCEPT.

No, they cannot be bothered with ethics - because making a quick "buck" off of this litter is all that matters.  The sole goal of most of these people can be summed up by a dollar sign.  Overnight, their club lamb or rambling ranch website morphs into an LGD breeder website.  And they have no - zero - credentials or experience to back it up.  They have turned LGDs into cash cows, and have demeaned them as a whole, doing it.

Honesty?  Transparency?  What are those concepts?  What do they hope to improve or produce or create or change?  

These concepts are usually as foreign to them as a D-mark or a franc. 

Sadly, things will continue to spiral downward in this country and afar at this rate until it bottoms out.

Something must be done - before too many of these breeds are ruined and gene pools permanently damaged in America.  

Instead of nodding like bobble headed dolls at the Facebook armchair experts expounding on their vast knowledge, people need to go beyond the shallow yak of Internet fakes and Facebook groups.  The yakkers out there with no credentials or experience or bonafides who are so much of the problem….they need to be ignored, shunned, banned!  And the panty waist 20 somethings need to be shook to their core and taught a lesson or two in integrity and honor - if they are not too warped and far gone to even teach!

And lets not let the much hyped Ray Coppinger, the "godfather" of the LGD in America, off the hook too soon either as the misguided sled dog maestro only succeeded in putting out bad information back in the '70's - embraced of course by our own US Dept. of Agriculture - that inevitably led to these dogs being raised wrong, run never in the right numbers, by shepherds who were more than happy to remain lazy and expect and allow their dogs to do all the work.  Time to dump his manifesto, and let in the new bloods who preach a more compassionate and responsible rearing and use of these magnificent dogs.  Its never too late for that!

No, things must change here, and fast.  I keep harping on it here and on my website, in hopes I can reach some out there with half a brain. Those are the ones who would have relished Molosser Magazin in its heyday, and who would have as I do, seen Habig as a hero for the molosser breeds.  Whether it be a Spanish Mastiff or a Fila or a Great Pyrenees - the glut of bad breeding and bad crosses must be frowned upon, not encouraged by buyers who grab up cheap pups and bad breeders with no concept, let alone integrity or honor. 

The bad breeders must be shamed.  They must be held feet to fire. 

Do you have the guts to do that?  Habig did.  I do it all the time!  

CONCEPT. So, what is YOUR concept?  Do you have one?  Will you ever have one?  

Or is it too much trouble?  Do you love these dogs?  Or is it just something you fill your hobby farm hours with, much like binge watching TV shows or going to the mall?

If you do not have a concept, you have no business breeding LGDs, and you'd best stay away from those of us who do cling to a concept and promote the ethical use, breeding and treatment of these great breeds.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Strength and Sense in Running Siblings

Cinco Deseos Ranch Gus and Clyde, Spanish Mastiff brothers that I bred.
They both guard sheep on a sprawling avocado ranch in California.

I started out in Livestock Guardian Dogs with three sibling Great Pyrenees who all came within a few days of each other…as I realized quickly, bringing one home was not enough. So I bought three, and after that, kept adding more sibling pairs of LGDs, both American raised and European imports.

You will see many people in many online forums and Facebook groups continually bad mouthing running sibling LGDs.  I will assure you, the people who wax negative about siblings only do so because they don't know how to raise them up successfully and they don't know what they are doing.  Their mentality is "if I can't do it then no one can". Better yet some are simply afraid of having two very large, powerful dogs - especially when their ability to understand them is constantly blocked by their negative mindsets and refusal to treat their dogs as a teammate - not a disposable tool.

Here on my ranch and my kennel operation, I probably sell more sibling pups to people than I do solo pups.  I've raised and kept 15 siblings myself. If it were truly as bad as some people claim it is, I would have never gotten past the first three.

This fall I will have a "nuts and bolts" article coming out in sheep! Magazine on how to successfully choose and raise and train sibling LGD pups to be great guardians.  I have done it so many times now that when I do occasionally raise a solo pup I find it to be twice the amount of work involved in raising a pair or more!

Guardian dogs were never meant to be used alone.  They are not run alone in Europe.  In Spain, they have a saying: You keep adding LGDs until you stop losing stock.  When you stop losing stock, you know you have enough dogs.  Hence you see respected shepherds and breeders such as Gregorio Fidalgo Tejedor and his wife of Abelgas/Ganadaria Fial running huge packs of Mastin Espanol in their sheep, many wearing the carlanca, or spiked protective collar.

Ganadaria Fial: The famous Abelgas dogs being run in a large pack in Spain.

Americans have been slow to catch on to this.  When I began raising LGDs in 2009 unlike others I started right out of the box building a large pack to guard the 30 plus goats I had at the time.  I noted hardly anyone else was doing this and my accolades about pack advantages with LGDs fell on mostly deaf ears.  Now, people are slowly waking up to the advantages of running multiple dogs.  The challenge seems to be to get them to understand how to successfully run a pack of dogs - it is not easy, and the dynamic never stays the same.  

 Count the dogs that Abelgas runs.  It's why he has minimal losses of sheep.
I own several imported pups from some of the dogs pictured in these photos.

Unfortunately in America, the entire LGD 'phenomenon' got off to a bad start with a lot of wrongful advice from a PhD sled dog expert running the first LGD tests and experiments, and publishing his findings.  Not knowing better, his findings became canon amongst ranchers, farmers and other "degreed types", and have probably contributed to more failures with these great breeds here in the states than anything else.  Running siblings or dogs in the right numbers was never discussed, or was frowned upon at the most in these early studies, and this is why you have so many failed LGDs out there - actually is the owners who failed to understand and support the dogs.  Running LGDs in the right numbers was something I started and wrote about some years ago.  It was like talking to a wall in the beginning as most people ignored what I was saying and promoting.  Now, there seems to be a little more receptive audience as people see how successful it is when you "dog up" with the right number of LGDs.  No thanks to Ray Coppinger and his early works, which did not discuss dog numbers in depth, again, a whole continent here has gotten off to a bad start and off on the wrong foot with these wonderful dogs.  

But the Coppinger matter is another post for another time.  

The bottom line is: the next time you read or hear someone claiming that running or holding back sibling pairs of LGDs is a big mistake, just direct them to this post.  We can always hope they become enlightened…..but alas, some people these days are beyond salvation!

Above photos: Siblings all, including two chicken guarding Spanish Mastiffs from my "A Litter"; and "The Mafia Brothers" Pak and Pala, two of my most famous and formidable guardians and stud dogs. The two girls at the bottom photo are half Spanish Mastiff sisters coming on 3 years old and have gone to a new home in Texas to guard goats.  They are a team, and inseparable, and pack an incredibly powerful punch.

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