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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