Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why So Many LGD Owners Fail in America


Above:  How you are supposed to do it.  
A pack - yes A PACK - of well bred Spanish Mastiff LGDs keeping their charges safe and sound from predation from wolves in Spain.  Abelgas/Ganadaria Fial photo.


One does not need a microscope, a PhD. or a signpost to see the huge number of failed LGD ownership and use attempts in North America.  They are everywhere.  Craigslist, EBay Classifieds and Facebook LGD groups are full of them.  People dumping 14 week old pups because "they chased a lamb".  Homesteaders bitching about goat kids being eaten, while their solo, exhausted and stressed out 10 year old LGD tries to keep up with a workload he should have never been asked to handle alone to begin with.  Impulse buyers caving into "cute puppy syndrome" and buying questionable pups produced from dubious parent stock, irresponsibly bred by ignorant, backyard breeders.  LGD/non-LGD crosses who should have never have been brought into the world to begin with, failing of course at the hands of lazy shepherds who think the real definition of farming is what you can do while seated at the kitchen table sipping coffee or beer, looking out a window.  

Here's my list of why there are so many LGD failures in America, far more I am willing to bet, than you'll see in Spain or France or other countries.  The future of LGD use and breeds depends on Americans waking the f**k up before they ruin them.  Sadly, it may be too late for many.


Top Reasons Most American LGD Owner/Operators Fail with LGDs

1.  No respect for LGDs: They demean these dogs by placing them on the same level as butcher hogs, chickens, dairy goats or sheep.  In other words, instead of considering the LGD to be above their livestock, they reverse it.  No.  This is wrong.  The dog is above your livestock.  You don't butcher LGDs for meat.  You don't milk them, and the last time I checked, they didn't produce eggs to sell.  They are what keeps those critters alive.  Stop de-valuing that and give them the respect they deserve.  If you can't do that, then don't get any and figure out another way to keep your stock safe from depredation.

2.  Endless procrastination:  The farmer is losing livestock.  He waits too long to bring in LGDs, and then, brings in pups.  The pups of course, can't do a thing until they are mature.  Or, the rancher has an aging, crippled old LGD and waits far too long to bring in replacement pups.  Then the pups are killed or maimed or too scared to be able to even grow up because they are under attack day and night by coyotes, bears, wolves….fill in the blanks.  Too many people wait too long to do something then wail and cry later when it doesn't work. No one to blame here but yourself.  Cowboy up and take the blame and learn from this, or give it up.

3.  Under-dogging:  An American specialty.  This has never been an issue in Spain where savvy shepherds run dogs in the dozens, not one or two.  They understand the pack, they understand the necessity of these dogs to be run in adequate numbers to be effective.  Here, you have arrogant and usually tightwad Joe Sheep Guy with his two overworked, starved out Akbash guarding (or trying to) 2500 head of sheep on open range.  Good luck with that.  No wonder its bred this culture of demanding compensation from our Government for losses that could have been prevented.

4.  Impatience: Hobby farmers (and the Gen X and Gen Y's seem to specialize in this) want it all yesterday, with little or no effort on their part and oh yes, by the way, they are entitled to it, don't you know?  Finger pointing specialists, they rarely want to listen let alone take the blame for their own mistakes and shortcomings.  Nah…easier to pin it all on the dog.  They only hear what they want to hear, and therefore, usually hear little or next to nothing from sage old experienced hands who can only shake their heads and say later, "I told you so (ask-hole)".

5.  No discretion or discernment when it comes to purchasing LGDs:  If it is cheap, if it is within an hour's drive, they are all over it.  Anything requiring an application, stern and serious questioning from a respected and responsible breeder, a long road trip, some serious vetting out, a price over $500, and they balk, throw their hands up in the air and run the other direction.  Then, later they have the audacity to complain about the pup/pups/dog/dogs they purchased for $100 off a Craigslist ad that have turned out to be a train wreck.

6.  Making silk purses out of sow's ears:  The number of idiots - yes, I'm calling you that - out there not only breeding but buying pups and dogs who are a mix of LGD breeds with NON-LGD breeds is mind boggling.  If you are stupid enough to think a Labrador/Pyrenees, a Kangal/Great Dane/Boerboel or any other of the ghastly mixes currently to be found out there, will actually guard your livestock and not chase or eat it, then frankly, you deserve to fail.  Here's where we wish human genetic culling was a tad more aggressive than it seems to have been in the last century.  The people who embrace this non-LGD crossed with LGD breeds crap, are honestly, beyond salvation.  They are stupid, foolish and as an old timer once put it, "not worth the piss to pee on".

7.  No grasp of their predator load or types:  How many fresh from the city types have you seen babbling away in Facebook groups showing how little they know about where they live?  They don't know their neighbors, they are clueless about their local laws and regulations and permits required; they have no grasp of the climate, the terrain, the predator types or numbers, yet they expect to be able to free range 2100 chickens, 450 turkeys, and some yuppy-fad rare hog breeds smack in the middle of what is probably Predator Armageddon.  Really?  Is "Risk Lovers Farm" the name of your outfit?

8.  Spectator sport mentality:  Its football season, so let's be spectators, grab a bag of chips, some beer, and sit.  And sit some more. Maybe we'll peek out the window now and then to be sure Sammy is not eating the rooster, or gnawing on a leg of lamb…. I have said it before, both here and on my website as well, that proper LGD ownership and use is not a spectator sport.  Yet you'd never know it watching some people who think you just buy a dog or two, toss them out there in the chickens and the livestock and walk off.  Really?  Is that how you raised your kids too?  Correct and responsible LGD ownership and use requires your commitment and participation, and no, I don't mean 15%.  100%.  All the time.  If you can't handle that fact, don't insult the rest of us who do, by getting, let alone using, LGDs.

9.  Wrong breeds/crosses for the job:  Well grab your cup of joe or glass of wine as I once again prattle on about how the USDA and the so called "experts" who first got LGDs going in this country, did no one any favors by breed selection.  Suffice to say, the number of small ranchettes, hobby farms and smaller, under-fence acreages out there is probably quickly out numbering the vast, fewer and fewer open range commercial outfits.  The breeds that work for Big Corporate Sheep Producer in Colorado with his covey of Peruvian herders, may not be as content to work for Mr. and Mrs. Ten Acre Farmette.  Likewise, the macho, pseudo-dog fighter with his exotic bogus "Boz" crosses or menacing police trained Eastern Bloc breeds, wants to push quasi unstable breeds and crosses onto family farms where stability and trustworthiness should be of the utmost concern….not whether the breed is successfully being fought by Akin Tulubas in Turkey (as the "Boz" is), or catching hogs in some southern swamp.  

10.  Refusal to be flexible:  So maybe you can't leave your sheep out in that pasture if there is a wolf pack breathing down your neck.  Maybe you need to put up electric fence, some fladry, and start doing some patrols at night.  Maybe you need to re-think your original plans about free ranging all your poultry - free ranging birds being one of the biggest predator magnets out there - and put up some fencing.  Maybe you need to start hauling off your dead animals to the dump instead of leaving them out in the back 40 to attract bears.  Etc. etc.  Mindset is half of the game here.  You come into this with a closed mind and refusal to make any changes, well, kiss it goodbye; the failure rate of farms and hobby homesteads is pretty sobering these days, coupled with a not so great economy, and you can bet the farmer's refusal to think out of the box is a major contributor.

11.  Detachment:  I'm talking from everything here.  No connection with their livestock, no connection with their dogs, the weather, their earth, their farm, their land, their pea fowl, zip.  Everything is held at arm's length.  I call these the Bubble People.  They can't see past their own needs, wants and nose.  Unfortunately there are more of them out there today than ever.  If they stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, they'd miss it because they are too busy texting someone on their phone.  You know what I am getting at.  They have no feeling for their animals.  Why they have any to begin with is beyond my grasp.

12.  Predator haters:  This….could take up a whole book.  Suffice to say, the term "co-existence" is foreign to these types.  It hasn't quite occurred to them that the wolves, bears, cougars, mountain lions, foxes, coyotes, eagles, hawks, etc. actually were here before they and their mortgaged to the roof farm was.  The arrogance is deafening.  LGDs are meant to be deterrents, not predator killers.  The ideal we should all strive for, is to be able to prudently ranch and farm while not wiping out the entire ecosystem while we do it.  Predators do serve a purpose in nature.  If you don't think so, wait till your farm is over run by overpopulations of ungulates, rodents or snakes.  Then come see me.

13.  Lazy:  That's right.  Lazy.  People who think these dogs should work on auto-pilot with no work on their part.  Sorry.  It don't work that way.  There's no remote for LGDs.  

14. Proliferation of upstart, inexperienced, know it all LGD breeders:  "I used to breed Filas, therefore I must know how to breed, train and raise, LGDs."  Or, "I am a hotshot show goat judge, therefore, I am entitled to breed LGDs."  Or, "My club lambs are the best, therefore I must know what I'm doing breeding LGDs."  Oh, really?  Wanna bet?  As referred to already, the self-entitlement mindset has now exploded - not only exploded but has become accepted by an increasing number of wimpy people with no spine or gumption to challenge it let alone scrutinize the people who spout such nonsense as above  - with rampant and in many cases inexcusable LGD breeding.  Always done in a cavalier mode, and usually with no nod to where they got their dogs from, these people typically operate with no plan, no scruples, no willingness to be mentored by savvier old hands who know from experience, what works and what won't.  The pups from ill-planned crosses go on to enter the gene pool.  You now have people out there with "accidental" six (yes six) breed crosses of LGD breeds,  as if anyone on earth could even begin to predict what the pups will come out like in terms of temperament, looks, stability, guarding ability and style, etc. etc.  Woe to the upstanding and honest LGD breeder who finds out too late that the supposed good client they sold to and trusted, in turn lied to them about their motives, experience and capabilities; the breeder can only stand by and shake their heads as the cherished pups they produced, oft times from extremely expensive imported stock, goes on to be bastardized and pimped out in bad choice crosses that are at best a crap shoot when it comes to what they will do or end up like.  Likewise, these upstart breeders offer no experienced support to their babes in the woods customers, who then flood Internet groups, forums and sites with cries for help from complete strangers.  And let's not let the bad established breeders off the hook, either, some who have taken secrecy and deception to new levels and do no vetting of customers - just show them the money.

15.  The Ugly American:  "The book ("The Ugly American") became an instant bestseller, going through twenty printings from July to November 1958, remaining on the bestseller list for a year and a half, and ultimately selling four million copies.  After the book had gained wide readership, the term "Ugly American" came to be used to refer to the "loud and ostentatious" type of visitor in another country….."  So out of touch with any roots we may have had based in pastoralism, transhumance or shepherding, truly many LGD owners have become the Ugly Americans in the LGD world.  At least I can point to a Spanish / Mexican father who's ancestors ranched, and a German mother who was raised on an upstate New York farm.  At least I have kept in touch with my ranching roots.  For too many, their heritage has become but a foggy dream.  The American Pioneer Spirit has been replaced by Black Friday sales, Christmas shopping in September, smart phones and non-stop texting, digital baby cameras propped up in the barn, pollutant spewing ATVs and Facebook advice from faceless and in many cases, fake "people".  Its no surprise people are now resorting to having sex with robots.  How can these people relate to and understand and comprehend a dog or livestock or nature?  Below, this man's scathing compliment to this blog post, sums it up:  in America, too many hobby farmers, back to the farm homesteaders, self-appointed "survivalists", ranchers, commercial sheep and goat operators, cattlemen and organic based operations, are in a nutshell, egocentrics.  And that is why they fail with LGDs.  You cannot be an egocentric to successfully understand, live and work with these great dogs.   But I'm sure many of you in your sublime arrogance will only sniff "I already knew that" and continue to go on failing.

Akin Dele Wow! Excellent read. Something I noticed with not just working dogs but dog care in general compared to our Euro counter parts is Culture and Knowledge. The Culture and Knowledge of humans relations in Europe never suffered the gap from one generation of handlers to the next. And attitude learning to have the patience and respect for these great noble brave animals. The American egocentric attitude is truly what the article was pointing at more than anything else in my opinion. Great read and share thanks






Thursday, September 17, 2015

LGD Abuse and Forsaken Guardian Dogs

In light of this recently published online newspaper item about feral LGDs being found wandering across Northern Nevada deserts after being ditched by herders as they move their bands of sheep, I thought it would be a good time to repost a paper I have on my website on the topic of LGD Abuse.

First, this item from "Coyote TV":  "Forsaken Guardian Dogs Haunt Rural Nevada".

Here is the author/editor's comments:

Not Even a Dog Deserves This

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Howard Copelan
Howard Copelan, Publisher
Howard Copelan, Publisher
We aren’t dog people.
We are barely pet people.
But there is something seriously wrong with how guardian dogs are being treated.
Yes we know ranching is back breaking work and often times you end up losing money but still not even a dog deserves to die of slow starvation in the Nevada outback.
It is just wrong.
And one day it will also prove to be dangerous.
Maybe not to the sheep herder but to another human being who has the misfortune of looking tasty to a 150 lbs canine who hasn’t eaten in a couple of weeks.
The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is more of a matter of luck than anything else.
There are ways to fix this problem before it becomes a problem.
Hold the flock owners accountable.
It has never been easier to keep track of dogs. A computer chip can tell everything. It would be easy to make them mandatory on every dog guarding sheep.
If after the season is over and the sheep herders have no use for the animal who saved their bacon for five months, then fine. Put them down humanely. Its not the nicest thing to do but it is certainly less cruel than sending them out to the wilderness.
Besides one day one of these dogs will return and it won’t be pretty.

It came as no surprise that the usual band of armchair "LGD experts" in one of the huge Internet Facebook LGD groups ( which is mostly populated by lurkers and for lack of a better term, "sheeple"), are poo-pooing this article as "bullshit" - to quote one self-appointed "expert".  His totally arrogant comment only shows his glaring ignorance about an issue that we ranchers living in desolate areas such as the place referred to in the article above, know all too well to be a common occurrence and outrage. 

Wendover is not far my ranch.  What he wrote about could have been placed in Winnemucca, Wells, Elko, Austin, Jiggs, or any number of high elevation desert communities here; and lets not forget Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho….for this happens all over.  I've already spoken with the author.  You haven't heard the last from him or me on this subject….




Its not just happening here, either.  Here's a photo of a starving, abandoned Romanian guard dog who was placed by Canine Efficiency with shepherds - but he made a bad choice in the placement, and did no training or advising to them.  The dog, underfed and starving, was caught on film.  We think by now "Inca" is dead.  No excuse for this.








Livestock Guardian Dog Abuse: 
Tackling a Taboo Topic 


Responsibly owning and using LGDs is not a spectator sport

Brenda M. Negri

Cinco Deseos Ranch 
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Copyright 2015
All rights reserved




This is a paper I’ve had boiling inside of me for years.  I’m publishing it on my website and on Facebook, because I don’t think there is a magazine in this country who’d print it.  They’d be too afraid of affronting or insulting too many of their readers, advertisers and subscribers.  No one wants to touch this topic even though everyone sees it, hears about it, and knows its going on.  

I was recently retained as an LGD Expert Witness in a very high profile litigation matter involving the mismanagement of LGDs on public lands.  It gave me the added incentive to finally put these words down in print. If you think you might recognize someone in this paper, perhaps you do.  

For all I know, you might recognize yourself.


~~~~~~~~

A few years ago, the American Sheep Industry came out with a paper titled American Sheep Industry Association’s Recommended Best Management Practices for Livestock Protection Dogs, prepared by Bryce Reece and Bonnie Brown.  This paper can be accessed online here:  http://amhealthmaster.http.internapcdn.net/AMHealthMaster/DOCUMENT/SheepUSA/recommended-management-practices-dogs.pdf

A notable effort to call for better management of Livestock Guardian Dogs on the part of producers who are using LGDs to guard their flocks on public lands, where increased recreational use has now brought on different situations and issues for ranchers, this paper was met with mixed reviews in the shepherd community.  Many scoffed or bristled at any attempt to regulate or dictate to them their use of LGDs.  Although labeled by some an attempt to play “Big Brother”, it was lauded by others as, at the least, a needed call for accountability on the part of sheepmen.   In essence, this paper promoted the responsible use of these dogs to minimize chances that there would be negative or dangerous interactions with LGDs and those recreating on public lands.  In calling for such recommended practices, the paper struck out at what I call LGD abuse.

LGD abuse.  Whether people like to hear this or not, the fact is the abuse of Livestock Guardian Dogs in America is rampant.  

Abuse is a harsh term.  But yes, I’m calling it abuse. I’m not tip toeing around and playing politically correct word games when it comes to labeling what some people do to their LGDs.   There are too many lazy shepherds, mediocre stockmen, ranchers, commercial producers and farmers who, either out of ignorance, maliciousness or who are bottom line driven tightwads, who regularly mistreat, abuse and refuse to properly care for, use and/or feed their working guardian dogs.  

Most shepherds in Europe and middle Eastern countries  who live a transhumance lifestyle, live much closer with their livestock and the dogs that guard them.  The dogs that came from these countries to America were never meant to be disconnected from their owners and dismissed as mere tools, but sadly that is what too many people have done in the quest to automate their livestock business.  They have no connection to their LGDs or for that matter in many cases, their own livestock.  This disconnect runs deep.

Some of these stockmen and women are well known public ag industry figures.  Sadly, some have even been invited by their local state woolgrowers organizations to publicly speak in presentations on the “correct use” of LGDs where they further perpetuate rearing and running LGDs in a fear based and abusive environment over one based on sensitive compassion, respect and mutual trust.


~~~~~~

LGD abuse.  What is it?  

Here are just a few examples of the many I could cite:

In Wyoming one large commercial producer forces LGD bitches to whelp out in the brush in any and all kind of weather.  If the dog dies having birth, he has been quoted as saying its considered ‘survival of the fittest’.  Another producer of like mind calls this “a culling process”.

One Montana LGD breeder brags about rearing her LGDs with “little or no human contact or socializing allowed” and advises shooting puppies with pellet guns to correct them if they chase stock.  Speaking on a woolgrowers panel, a cohort of this person claims that the “average life span of a working LGD in Montana is 3 years”.

In Northern Nevada a commercial sheep producer runs a semi-feral pack of LGDs that are barely fed and never kept apart when bitches come into heat.  Subsequently the dogs inbreed causing genetic issues to crop up repeatedly.  The dogs live 24/7 with the sheep herd and cannot be caught, touched or approached unless subdued with a tranquilizer gun.

In Oregon, LGDs are shot and killed, mistaken for wild dogs, when hunters come across them chasing a herd of elk, far from their band of sheep.  No sheep herder is present managing these dogs who were obviously not staying with their flock and doing their jobs, and paid the ultimate price for what was actually human error, mismanagement and irresponsibility on the part of the sheep operator.

In another highly publicized Northern Nevada incident, a professional marksman was hired to be flown in a plane in order to hunt down and shoot a large pack of mostly Great Pyrenees LGDs who were left behind when a sheep producer sold out his sheep, returned to California, and never bothered to bring in the dogs. The LGDs subsequently began to starve, hunt down and kill wild game and cattle to survive, inbred amongst themselves, became entirely feral, and occasionally charged and tried to attack horseback buckaroos riding in the vicinity looking after cattle.  

A woman in Colorado confided to me a story of a regular winter occurrence of LGDs showing up at her small ranch and of her finding one hiding inside a pick up truck, exhausted and starving to death, because a local high profile sheep producer only fed his LGDs occasionally by shooting an old ewe and letting the dogs eat her.  The dogs were literally left alone to live with the sheep with no care at all.

A small backyard hobby farmer keeps a bitch and stud dog and litter in a filthy tiny pen with frozen water and little if no food available. The stud dog is forced to drag a heavy chain and tire around his neck 24/7.

Not far from my Northern Nevada ranch is a river bottom area where I have been told by eyewitnesses a small family of former livestock guardian dogs lives in a riverbank cave, wild and feral, because the sheep producer left them behind when the band of sheep was moved.

Years ago when I went to pick up an LGD pup off a large commercial sheep outfit, the litter scurried out from under a shed to greet me.  Food and water bowls were empty.  The mother dog was already back in the band of sheep leaving the litter alone.  The owner/operator proceeded to kick the pups back away from us, claiming if a person showed them any attention, “they would never guard”. I was so affronted, I took two pups instead of only one home to rescue them from that treatment.  


~~~~~~~~


What are some of the hallmarks of what I call an LGD abuser?

The size of the operation can vary, but often it is a medium to large scale commercial sheep or goat operation who has BLM or USFS allotments and grants (i.e. runs their stock on public as well as private lands), who is bottom line driven and considers his / her LGDs to be just tools, much like hammers or saws, used to get the job done.  Not to just point the finger at the “big guys”, likewise you can find plenty of examples of LGD abuse in smaller hobby farms and homesteads.

I previously used the word “disconnect”.  These people are what I term, disconnected from their working dogs.  They are typically less sensitive to a dogs needs and place often outrageous expectations on the dog’s ability to protect and function on minimal care, food and interaction.  They typically are not what you’d call “dog people” to begin with, and use LGDs only because its been a proven method to deter predation on livestock, or in the more less educated instances, because they’ve read or heard that “they need to”, yet have no real grasp or understanding of what is involved in successfully running LGDs in a humane manner.  

These people typically give little research or thought to who or where they buy their dogs from, usually paying less than the going rate for good pups or dogs.  Once they bring the pup or pups home, its tossed out with livestock and the owner walks away.  There is no interaction with the pup, no introductions to fellow family members or hired help.  They expect the pup to “just do its job”.  It might be put in with other dogs on a range operation and expected at too tender of an age to “fend for itself”, which might even include figuring out where its next meal is supposed to come from.

The typical LGD abuser does not touch or interact much with the LGD because he feels the dog must fear them and/or stay away from them in order to function in its role.

LGD abusers typically underdog their operation, running less than the needed number of dogs to be able to keep predators away from their livestock.  Their dogs are overworked, rarely get good or enough sleep, are stressed and tired, and typically burn out and die at abnormally young ages.  If one is injured and removed from duty, the few remaining carry an even heavier load, further stressing them.  Sometimes these dogs out of desperation, “abandon ship” and run away.  Some take to chasing and killing wildlife or other livestock in order to survive.

An LGD abuser typically deems a majority if not all of the guarding to be the dog’s sole responsibility, while hardly putting out any effort themselves to back the dog up with range riders, herders, increased human presence, fladry, or other predator deterrents.

This type of LGD owner operates as if his LGD has endless energy and zero or no calorie and sleep requirements, and feeds the bare minimum to keep the dog healthy and alive.  Often only a ewe is shot on site for the dogs to eat (a practice roundly discouraged by ASI and conservationist and co-existence proponents, as it usually brings in predators closer to flocks).  

An LGD abuser runs dogs who are never vaccinated against parvo, distemper and rabies, nor are they ever de-wormed, resulting in parasite ridden dogs of poor health and lower stamina and vigor.  Dew claws are never trimmed, sometimes growing into the dog’s flesh, causing great pain and discomfort.  Coats are never maintained or brushed out, often resulting in huge mats and foxtails being lodged in toes, ears, eyes and sensitive areas.  

Worst case scenarios as cited above include operators who run intact dogs together with no effort made to control breeding, thus resulting in inbred litters of inferior pups with defects - both psychological and physical.  The misguided owner claims this sort of scenario is “more natural and promotes survival of the fittest”, when in reality it is anything but.  

An LGD abuser subscribes to the misguided theory that “hands off” is the “only way” to raise a working LGD.  An abuser’s LGDs are typically not touched or handled from birth; they are skittish, fearful, suspicious of all humans, lacking calm and stable minds; prone to aggressive behaviors in effort to protect themselves and their livestock from harm, both real and perceived. They are generally sad, untrusting dogs, used to being kicked and pushed away from humans since puppyhood.  

LGDs raised by people who abuse them by no connection, interaction or socialization have been force bonded to livestock, never knowing a kind word or gesture from a human.  They are devoted to their stock out of necessity, not love, because the stock is the only thing that has accepted them and does not harm them.  Because the instinct to guard is so strong in good LGDs, they will stay with the stock in all weather, good and bad, and in spite of hunger and deprivation, because they have never been shown anything but pain and suffering at the hands of a human.  

LGD breeds this devoted with such unfailing dedication to duty are too easy to abuse by lazy, uncaring and mercenary minded owners, who take full advantage of the dog’s nature and predisposition, and exploit it to the point of harming the dog’s health and mental welfare.  If the dog dies needlessly sick or too young, what do they care?  They just toss another hapless pup out there to take its place, and the sick pattern of abuse is repeated once again.

~~~~~

LGD abuse fallout is seen in shelters and rescues across the country.  Abandoned, sickly, sometimes injured LGDs who have been raised the “hands off” way and suffered abuse, are nearly impossible to re-home, and are often put down.  Some have collars on them that were never adjusted as they grew, and thus their skin grew around the collar.  Some have mats a foot across hanging off their hides.  Others, have dewclaws grown into their flesh from never being trimmed.  Rotten teeth, massive ear infections, an eye swollen shut from a bite or sting that was never doctored; the list can go on.

Sadly, abusive, irresponsible ownership and use of LGDs shows no signs of stopping.  And people who don’t speak out against it when they see it or hear people on Internet forums promoting it, or listen to it in a public presentation, only enable it to continue.  

Responsibly owning and using LGDs is not a spectator sport.  It requires your total commitment and participation in a compassionate and responsible manner. 

Shame needs to be heaped upon those people who perpetuate the myths that LGDs can do everything alone without human intervention or socialization.  The original researchers who did the first testing programs and placements with LGDs in this country are partially to blame, in that they regularly advocated minimal human interaction with the dogs.  

But in their defense, even they could have never foreseen the sometimes horrific extremes that many lazy, uncaring and irresponsible shepherds took their words to in this country.

Help stamp out the misuse of these great breeds by speaking up and out against LGD abuse when you see it and hear about it.  Don’t just shrug and turn away.  Don’t stand by and accept it as “the way things are”.  As the public’s use of public lands increases with every year, LGDs guarding flocks in such areas will be placed in situations where cool heads and reasonable reactions must prevail, not over aggressive responses, fearful biting and attacks by unmanaged dogs run by irresponsible owners.  The very future of the use of these incredible guardian dogs depends on this.




Monday, September 14, 2015

Causes of Conflict Between LGDs





Causes of Conflict Between LGDs

Brenda M. Negri
Cinco Deseos Ranch LGDs

Copyright 2013 Brenda M. Negri
Published in Sheep! Magazine





Running a very large (20+) pack of Livestock Guardian Dogs for several years now I have observed and learned what can cause conflict between individuals in a pack environment, and upset an otherwise calm dynamic.  I would like to address them in practical terms so that the average LGD owner out there can reflect upon this information and use it to enhance his/her own LGD experience, and hopefully do a better assessment of their dogs and situation to enable a more peaceful and healthy existence for their dogs, thus increasing performance and utilization.

I have found conflicts between Livestock Guardian Dogs can usually if not always, be attributed to one or more of these issues being present:

Physical Pain
Food and/or Water Deprivation
Lack of “Personal Space”
Lack of Purpose/Mission/Duty
Fear/Psychological Trauma
Lack of Compatibility Between Individuals/Breeds
Hierarchy Changes/Addition(s) to Pack/Death of Pack Member
Bitches in Heat



Physical Pain


Any time a dog is feeling pain, he is not his usual self.  Just like humans, no dog likes to feel pain.  Whether it be a bruised shoulder from a ram butting him, a stone bruise on a foot pad, a collar that is too tight and digging into his skin, an untreated cut or sore, a rotted tooth, or chronic pain from an injury, a disease such as cancer, or genetic defect such as hip or elbow dysplasia, pain can definitely make your dog feel uncomfortable, grumpy and vulnerable.  Feeling vulnerable, he may become more defensive of his food, surely, or edgy.  You may notice him posturing around your other dogs over food or an area that he previously did not try to ‘claim’ as his.  His patience around young pups may be tested or completely gone, and he may take to snapping at them whereas before he tolerated their gentle playing at his side.  Regular inspection of your LGD from head to toe need not be a major effort.  A quick look at his eyes, inner ears, opening his mouth to inspect gums and teeth, running your hands over his body, legs and feet, inspecting any signs of blood or pus, can usually tell you where the source of the pain may be.  If need be his temperature can be taken to assess whether he is running a fever.  Of course, vet care is recommended for maladies beyond home remedies and first aid.  Usually once the pain subsides, or what ails him is cured, you can see a marked improvement in the dog’s demeanor as he returns to his normal self, and is now less inclined to pick fights with other dogs based on his anguish and pain.


Food and/or Water Deprivation

The lack of adequate nutrition and water can drive any living being to do things they normally would not, and your LGD is no exception.  In a dog pack, it is extremely important that each individual dog can eat while relaxed and calm, and not have to be looking over his back every other second to make sure he is not going to get jumped for taking his time to eat or drink what he needs.  What many people fail to realize is that dogs, like people, don’t appreciate being rushed to eat.  It is not normal for a dog to gulp down his food out of fear of it disappearing into the jaws of another dog.  To facilitate a more relaxed food and water consumption environment with a pack of dogs, I always free choice feed my pack so that no one is ever deprived of food, or the time to relax and eat it.  This means facilitating it so that livestock does not come in and eat the dog’s food before he can.  This means placing many food bowls around, spread apart from one another, so multiple dogs can eat without conflict.  This means having copious amounts of clean, cool (not tepid or scum filled) water available at all times for the pack.  This means that both water and food bowls are at a height accessible to young, up and coming pups who cannot reach the tops of high sided stock water troughs.  This means keeping an eye on dogs that might try to run other dogs off of their own food, and restraining them or moving them to another area so they alone do not cause food based conflicts.  A full dog is a content dog, much less to pick needless fights with his workmates. 

Lack of “Personal Space”

I have a saying, learned the hard way from personal experience: Don’t run a 100 acre dog on ten acres.  Some breeds of LGDs are more content with smaller areas to roam and work on than others.  The more hyper, high strung or nervous the breed, the better chance it is that the dog will require more physical space to be content on.  Heavier, more lethargic, calmer breeds can get by on less land and stay content.  Any time two or more dogs meet in a confined area there is chance for confrontation.  This can manifest itself in fence fighting, where two dogs who normally get along well, will suddenly run and charge the fence barking and snarling at one another when separated.  This cause of lack of “personal space” for any dog could be a small area between two buildings, a breezeway between your house and the garage, an alley for working cattle, or a small pen.  When you reduce the space the dogs have between one another, it can be successful up to the point where a dog begins to feel crowded or cornered, or it feels it could not escape from a threat or danger.  Then, it will be on guard, nervous, and if things escalate, act out in a negative fashion of frustration and fear.  If an LGD is not used to being handled much, he should never be cornered to catch without giving him a way to get out of the situation, or he could turn on you, and pack mates.  Dogs running together who can have enough space to get away from one another for naps in the warm sun or ‘quiet time’, will co-exist better together as they each have the option of spending time alone.  It can be a separated field, a barn, the front yard; as long as your dogs each have enough space to call their own, they will not feel crowded and lack of space will not cause conflicts amongst them.  Adequate room also ensures your dogs are able to exercise enough to ‘blow off steam’.


Lack of Purpose/Mission/Duty

Many LGD breeds may be found throughout the world being used as pets and companions.  Unfortunately, many as well can be increasingly found in shelters and rescues because they did not ‘fit’ their home situation.  LGD breeds have been bred for hundreds of years to guard livestock from predators.  This inherited trait and drive they possess to work, is not something that can be denied without paying a price.  An LGD without stock to guard can many times be turned into a pet, but I for one, am not a proponent of this, unless the dog has enough physical exercise and mental stimulation to make up for his not fulfilling his genetic path.  Contrary to some people’s opinions, it is not necessary to own thousands of acres and hundreds of head of livestock in order to keep an LGD content with his duties.  One can accomplish it with far less if the dog is raised up knowing his job, and encouraged in his guarding duties, on a daily basis....not just once a month.  An LGD with no purpose will become bored, restless and/or depressed.  He may try to dig out or escape his confines to venture elsewhere where there is stock for him to guard.  Feeling frustrated with no purpose, a dog may turn to lashing out to fellow pack members or act out in other negative mannerisms to compensate for the absence of a mission or purpose the dog is feeling.  Making sure your LGD has work and purpose in his life is paramount for a happy dog, who is less likely to cause conflicts with his pack members.


Fear/Psychological Trauma

Abject and constant fear of humans, loud noises, vehicles, an animal, an object, can be a source of great stress and trauma to an LGD, and in turn cause him misplace his frustrations and fear by attacking other dogs and humans.  Particularly if your LGD was not handled much as a pup, they can grow up with a marked distrust of human contact and consider such, a threat to their wellbeing, let alone the livestock they are guarding.  Likewise, if an LGD has been subjected to injury, humiliation or trauma at the hands of his owner or another person, the damage done can be terrific, and cause the dog enough angst and psychological disturbance so that he then turns on his fellow pack mates and takes it out on them.  The owner must always discern what the root cause is that causes the LGD fear or trauma, then work to eliminate it so the dog is calmed and focused once again.  It is common knowledge that some large commercial operators and ranchers run nearly feral LGDs out with large bands of sheep or goats.  These dogs, having never been shown any positive treatment or reinforcement from humans, observe them only as a threat or danger or source of pain, confusion and/or trauma.  A socialized LGD, who is handled from birth, of course eliminates this problem, and raising socialized LGD’s who can be handled safely is recommended as good practice by the American Sheep Industry.  I know from experience that the handling of pups in no way, shape or form ‘ruins’ or lessens their guarding abilities.  Self assured, confident dogs who are not afraid of their own shadows, skittish or continuously nervous and afraid, are safer to be around for not only humans but fellow working LGDs as well.

Lack of Compatibility Between Individuals/Breeds

Every now and then comes a pair of dogs who just don’t like each other, just much as humans can manifest this as well. I have had two sets of dogs in my experience who just did not want to get along, no matter what was done to accommodate their needs.

In my case, I have a male Pyrenees who cannot stand a Maremma/Anatolian male, resulting in fights; thus the two boys must stay separate.  The worst case of hate between dogs I had was a female Kangal and a female Pyrenees; the latter was nearly killed by the Kangal in a gruesome fight once, which entailed me, and two of the Pyrenees’ siblings, trying to pull, force and otherwise get the Kangal off of the failing female Pyrenees.  The fight was so intense, that the Kangal drove one of her canine teeth through her own upper lip, yet was oblivious to the pain.  Bad blood cases between two dogs like this are more common than most people know, or in some cases, care to admit.   Also, dogs (like sheep and goats!) can be ‘racist’ to a degree, and breeds more times than not, prefer the company of their own kind.  I have seen it here, where my Spanish Mastiffs hang out together, my Pyrenean Mastiffs hang out together, and my Pyrenees do the same. The crossbreds seem to find a niche of their own, and much of this segregation seems to be color based (i.e., white dogs will hang out with white dogs, dark colored dogs, with dark dogs).  The best one can do in cases where you have a “Hatfields and McCoys” situation with your LGD’s, in order to keep the conflict from damaging the whole pack dynamic, is to always make sure the two dogs who have an intense dislike for one another, are not allowed to be in the same space, at the same time, so there is no fighting.  In worst case situations, as I have done, you too may find you must either put down or re-home one of the dogs in order to re-establish a continuity and peace in your dog pack.  It could be in another environment the repeat offender will become a model citizen of calmness and teamwork with others; I have seen this in many situations, so there is certainly hope for a dog like this.  The bottom line to remember is, some dogs just do not fit well with certain other dogs, and responsible LGD owners will keep that in mind and work to find the best solution so that rivalries between two dogs don’t upset their whole guarding team.

Hierarchy Changes/Addition(s) to Pack/Death of Pack Member

LGDs like all dogs, prefer to live in a pack and thrive as pack dwellers.   The level of depth and complexity in relationships between a pack family is mind staggering at the least, and profoundly touching in its devotion and tenure.  When a pack member sickens and dies, or must be put down, or is killed in an accident, fellow pack members will immediately respond to varying degrees.  The pack will mourn.  Some dogs will mourn longer and more intensely than others, depending on their relationship with the deceased dog.  The owner should be sensitive to this and never pressure a mourning dog into doing more than it can handle at that time, until it has healed, which will come in due time.  The gap left by the dead LGD now must be filled by another pack member, and this could entail conflicts if two dogs figure on being the new pack Alpha. Likewise, additions of newer dogs to a pack can be the source of great conflict if not managed properly or done in a cavalier, hasty manner, particularly if the addition is an older dog, out of its puppyhood.  Pups can be usually easily added to a pack with no strife or issues past a few quick lessons on who is the boss.  Older dogs however, come with their own past, baggage and preconceived mindsets and rules, and these may not blend in with the existing pack’s idea of what is acceptable.  Being alert, perceptive and responsible in adding another dog to your group is mandatory for success.

Bitches in Heat

The urge to procreate in male and female dogs can usurp even an empty stomach in a dog.  If you run intact male and female LGDs together, it goes without saying eventually, anywhere from seven to eighteen months of age, your females will come into heat, and your male dogs will know it.  All forms of friendship and affable teamwork between ‘the boys’ will very quickly go out the window at the first inkling of a female’s coming in, and should be responsibly dealt with by the owner, lest he want a bloodbath.  Females can stay in heat for as long as six weeks at a time, and unless breeding plans are afoot, they should be securely put up as far away from your working males as possible to lessen fights and conflicts.  Even then, you may be looking at moping male LGDs parked in front of your gooseneck or barn where the female is sequestered for her cycle.  The bottom line is: by not spaying your female and having her go through heat cycles, you are looking at a lot of down time for your LGDs as their minds are on other things rather than guarding your flock.  Fights over bitches in heat between males can be particularly vicious and bloody, entailing serious and even life-threatening injuries, often running up huge vet bills.  Responsible LGD owners will either spay their female dogs (thus completely eliminating the cause of the conflict) and leave the breeding of LGDs to professionals who are set up to manage such things much more efficiently, or not run females at all in their working pack.  


Reducing conflicts between LGDs takes effort and dedication, but is possible with observant, responsive and sensitive ownership, patience and understanding.  It is my hope by sharing some of my own observations that these points can help others in more successful LGD ownership.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Some Good Stuff from Ruffly Speaking





The Dog Days of Summer are coming to an end and Fall is around the corner.

I now and then find time to peruse other blogs out there in Dogdom on the Internet.

Some are great.  Some are beyond great!  Some are mediocre.   Some are just ho-hum.  Others make me choke, they are so bad or so arrogant or self-entitled, or so grossly misguided, they make me start looking for a bottle of something 100 proof.

But occasionally I stumble upon another blogger and dog lover with such great stuff on it that it bears sharing.

I hit pay dirt this week on Ruffly Speaking, a blog that, more often than not, hits the nail on the head about breeding, rearing pups and many other subjects.  Joanna Kimball has recently begun blogging again after a three year hiatus due to a job.  

Check out this poster about puppy exercise.

How about this one on puppy buyer etiquette.

Or how about this one for responsible breeding….

You get the idea.  Enjoy.











Saturday, September 5, 2015

LGD / Livestock Guardian Dog Siblings Revisited

Another article on running sibling (litter mate) pairs of Livestock Guardian Dogs…..just because, I cannot promote the benefits of litter mates enough.  Particularly when I see self-proclaimed "LGD Experts" whose cadre of sheep-like Facebook followers hangs on their every word, fawning over them when they are making such disturbing statements like this:

"In fact, two pups can be overly focused on each other instead of you or your stock and will often encourage each other to get in trouble as they pass through their troublesome teens. Littermates are especially problematical. Most experts recommend staggering the ages of your LGDs if possible."    --- Jan Dohner

"Most experts".  This is why you don't hear me calling myself an expert.   

These "experts" typically thrive in huge Facebook forums.  What these "experts" typically lack is real life experience, something I have - 60 years worth.  Very few, if any of them, I will venture, live full time on a ranch in a pack of twenty or so 200 pound dogs, but I do. And by keeping my mind and eyes open, I learn and see things every day.  

One of the biggest lessons has been the necessity to respect these great dogs, and one way of showing that respect, is allowing and promoting pack life.  That can be accomplished by running and supporting sibling pairs.  It is something that is really quite easy to do, once you understand these dogs - but few people seem willing to do that.  Especially on these 8,000 member Facebook LGD groups where all the "experts" pontificate - opinionated, harsh and misguided drivel, typically regurgitated from outdated books.  

Why is it if people cannot do something, they immediately have to claim it cannot or should not be done?  When did learning about these dogs turn into a contest of egos? 

Leave your selfish ego at the door when it comes to learning about and from these great dogs.  

It has no place amongst giants.




Here is my latest article for sheep! Magazine on the benefits of sibling LGDs.




Sibling Success!
The Advantages of Littermate Guardian Dogs

Brenda M. Negri
Published in
sheep! Magazine September/October 2015
Copyright 2015 


Have you ever heard dog people talk about “Littermate Syndrome”?  Until about a year ago, I never had.  But I ran across an Internet blog bemoaning the “horrors” of “Littermate Syndrome” in sibling pups. The writer warmed of the many “dangers” of buying sibling pups out of a same litter.   

Perhaps you too, have heard of or read about this purported “syndrome” and you’re curious, confused or wondering if buying littermate LGD pups is a mistake.  Well, don’t fret.  I’m here to to show you the much brighter side of the littermate coin: that is, it can be done, and done well.  In fact, once you’ve tried it you may never settle for just buying a single pup again!

It may help the reader to understand why I am such a proponent of running sibling pairs of LGDs.  First, there are the advantages, all of which I’ve experienced on my ranch and LGD kennel operation:

Advantages:
  • Littermate pups are already bonded to one another thus there is no need for introductions
  • Two LGDs present a much more formidable obstacle to threats, predators and trespassers than one thus getting protection for your stock much sooner than a solo pup, who alone is quite vulnerable to predators
  • Two siblings will back each other up and add to earlier confidence and added security for the pup; less stress on the dog means a healthier dog that lives and works longer for you
  • You get all the puppyhood training and ‘ups and downs’ over with at once, instead of stretching it out longer for two separately purchased pups over longer period of time
  • You can run two males, two females, or one of each sex together as sibling pairs
  • You respect the dog’s natural preference for pack life and company, and will find this adds to the dog’s contentment and stability

Negatives:  

There are people who decry running littermate pairs as a “disaster”, and there are a lot of fallacies floating around out there about running siblings.  You’ll hear and read things like:

  • The pups will only bond to each other, and not the livestock
  • They will teach each other ‘bad’ habits 
  • They will never work together well and only play 
  • They will do nothing but fight each other all the time
  • One will work while the other just sleeps

Perhaps you have heard some of those negatives before. But in my personal experience, there is no “downside” because none of the aforementioned “negatives”  have ever happened on my ranch.  And who am I to issue such a bold statement? Someone with a lot of sibling experience.  How much experience?  More than most: fifteen (yes, 15) siblings.  If owning and running sibling pairs was the disaster so many paint it to be I would have stopped after the first two sets I brought here (three Great Pyrenees siblings, then two Maremma/Anatolian brothers).  I went on to keep and raise a dozen-plus siblings more.  Not in one instance did I ever encounter what people call “littermate syndrome”. 

Many of my customers have had success with siblings too - in fact, I sell more sibling pairs to people than I do solo pups. I have a customer in Arizona who bought six pups from one litter.  They are doing a fabulous job keeping her sheep safe in an extremely heavy predator load area that now has the Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduced to it.  Those littermates stay plenty busy, and she’s never lost a single head of sheep to predation.


Nuts and Bolts

Now, how do you do it?  What’s the secret to running siblings?  Here are some tips.  Its really not “more difficult” as some wrongly claim it to be, and I find rearing two or three pups together simultaneously much easier than just one pup.  Just be patient, consistent, and don’t over-expect too much, too soon.

  1. Genders.  I’ve run all gender combinations here with high success therefore I never recommend one mix over another.  My only observation is that you’ll have eventual “disagreements” come up no matter what the gender combination you choose.  If you do run brother and sister, you should spay the female before she has her first cycle, or separate her from her brother during her first heat.  If you run two brothers, neutering will take the “edge” off of males, and prevent accidental breedings should a female come around, but its certainly not necessary.  Sister pairs can pack a terrific punch, and also get in spats between themselves just as much as the boys, sometimes even more.  Spaying them will prevent unwanted pregnancies and add to the calm.  A female in heat means you are less one guardian as she’ll need to be removed from her job, which in turn, puts more pressure on her brother, and leaves your flock less protected.  In short: there is not, in my opinion, a “better” or “best” combination.  Its a matter of personal preference.
  2. Observe the entire litter.  Inevitably in a litter, pups will often pair off with one another.  Some will be buddies, others will have minor conflicts, and some will be loners.  If you can, observe the litter you are choosing pups from and ask the breeder what pups seem to like to stick together, play together, or go off on “expeditions” together.  Those are the ones you want to pick as a team.  A reputable and knowledgable breeder will give you good guidance and help in the picking process, and they’ll also support your decision to buy two.
  3. Respect the pack.  Dogs are by nature, pack animals.  They are more secure and thrive in the company of other dogs, and their complex pack hierarchy is passed on from parent to pup. Puppies in a litter naturally grow up together bonding to one another, and what they learn from their parents and litter mates in the first several weeks of life molds them for what they will be in the future. Running sibling pairs reinforces this pack dynamic and thats part of what makes it work so well.  
  4. Bringing home babies: easier with two.  When you remove a pup from a litter anywhere from 8-12 weeks of age, he will naturally be frightened, confused, and insecure for the first several hours or days, depending on how he was raised.  When you take two siblings at the same time, however, there is less stress when separated from the litter and parents.  They still have each other to lean on, and this bond only becomes stronger.  They also continue the education of the pack and their other siblings, with each other.  There is a continuity in ongoing education that would not happen if the pup leaves by itself.  You won’t be up all night with a howling pup when you bring home two; they’ll cuddle up and go to sleep together, just like normal.
  5. Don’t separate!  One of the biggest errors I see first time sibling buyers make is that they bring home then immediately separate their sibling pups and try to keep them apart.  This defeats the whole purpose.  Don’t do it!  Let them sleep, eat, play, explore and work together.  Give equal attention: praise when they do good, correction when they make mistakes.  As time progresses and they age, you’ll begin to note personality differences.  This is normal, and use this opportunity to study and get to know your pups so you can better understand what makes them “tick”.
  6. Apples and Oranges. You may have the slower, shyer male pup, and a more vocal, vigorous or feisty female. Or vice versa.  Don’t consider the quiet pup a failure.  The quiet one may be the pup who will hold back and stay closer to your sheep while the more inquisitive sibling ventures off to do perimeter patrol.  These dogs are amazingly smart and if you will be patient, you’ll see they will work as a team so that all is covered.  I never cease to be amazed how siblings will cover for one another.
  7. Resolve conflicts.  Either free choice feed or make sure feed bowls are separate and apart far enough so one pup never “hogs” the meals to himself and you have food aggression issues.  If one pup starts to pick on the other, you need to nip it in the bud immediately; raising LGDs is not a “spectator sport”.  You get in there and let the instigator know the behavior is not correct.  A firm growl, or as I refer to it as, my “Mr. Miyagi grunt” (the Karate Kid star), and a firm grip on some neck skin will get any pup’s attention and a growl is usually more quickly understood by a dog than a “no”.  If you have a particularly rambunctious or stubborn pup, I will take one front leg and place it inside and through their collar, rendering them suddenly “three legged”.  A pup typically struggles a bit then settles and lies down.  As soon as the pup quiets, I take the leg back out of the collar and the message (90% of the time) has clearly gotten through to her to “settle down”.  I use this when verbal growling is not getting the desired response.
  8. Train as a team.  Take them both out on perimeter patrol once they are old enough to tag along, following you along the fence line.  You are pack leader and their new parent.  Praise them for following you.  Be consistent, fair, patient, and calm.  Don’t expect them to cover a mile the first time around your place.  When you go into your sheep, take them both with you, and encourage them when they nuzzle, smell and lick their charges.  Again, do this together, not one at a time...there’s no need to separate.  Give equal praise and attention; equal correction and guidance.
  9. Stay a team.  When its time for vet visits and vaccinations, take both in at the same time.  If for some reason you must remove the dogs from your flock (shearing time for example), remove both together and let them be in the barn together.  Big juicy beef soup bones are a bit hit around my ranch and can buy you lots of calm, and relax dogs who may be tense or worried from being removed from their charges.   Feed several feet or yards apart from each other again, to discourage food aggression.  When the shearing is done, let them both back in the sheep together.  Keep them together working as a team, as adults.  If you separate them, you are possibly setting up a scenario where one sibling will then begin digging out or jumping fence to join his brother or sister to bring things back to what he perceives as “the norm”.  When you rear your pups together, keep them together.  If you need to separate them to cover more area or increased livestock, the message is clear: you need to be adding more dogs to your operation, not separating the two you have!
  10. Spay/Neuter.  You don’t need a tragic “oops” litters from a brother and sister.  Ask your trusted vet for advice as to when is the best time for spaying.  I usually advise my clients to run males intact and spay the female but perhaps you’ll neuter the male as well.  Again, refer to your vet.
  11. Accept Differences.  No two sibling pairs will be exactly alike. You’ll see some who are glued to each other till death, never wanting to be a few feet apart.  I have two girls here who are absolutely inseparable.  In a fight, they are a force to reckon with and do great damage to an opponent.  Other pairs may wax more independent from one another, but still are not far from each other and back each other up. Example:  I have three very independent Pyrenees, my very first LGDs: brother Peso, and sisters Pinta and Petra.  They don’t “run” or stay together as a whole.  But several years ago, Peso and Pinta came to the rescue of their flailing sister Petra when she was down and fading in a vicious fight with a Kangal. I stood there unable to move in shock as I watched Peso and Pinta both take turns working as a team to dislodge the Kangal off of their fading sibling. Peso (a solid 150 pounds) would go off a distance then at high speed, body slam the Kangal, then Pinta would dive in and grab an ear or leg.  It finally ended with plenty of wounds but no casualties.  It was one of the worst dog fights I have ever had in my pack, but I will never forget the stunning display of intense partnership of those Pyrenees siblings coming to their sister’s rescue.  It added to my conviction of how valuable siblings can be to one another in a conflict.  
  12. The Dynamic Duo.  As they evolve, grow and mature, if you bought two healthy specimens from proven parent stock with good, ingrained guarding instinct, a bonded, well bred pair of LGD siblings is nothing to trifle with.  They will earn their keep and then some when it comes to staving off predators from your valuable sheep.  The sibling girls who took down a dog twice their size and age built each other’s confidence up by being together and growing up together.  Honing skills like this does not need your training as much as it requires your respect, understanding and support AND most importantly, allowing it to happen.  Because truly, so much of what makes LGDs great is their innate guardian instinct.  Most of the time, what we as owners and operators need to do, is just “get out of the way” and let them do their job.  And by continuing and nurturing the pack dynamic with a sibling pair that works together as a team, you encourage and enable the learning and growing to continue.
  13. No one’s perfect, all the time.  If one pup shows less inclination to guard sheep, don’t write him/her off.  Work with the pup and try to salvage his guarding role.  If he is just not cut out to be a sheep guardian, it may be you can put this pup on “farm yard duty” or guarding something else.  Situate him close or next to the pen of sheep where the other sibling is, so they are still in eye contact and relatively close to one another, thus preventing any separation anxiety.  Permanently separating siblings at an older age can be severely traumatic for them and can cause them to become depressed because their life-long littermate and workmate is suddenly gone. Don’t do it.  Work to keep them together, even if it means one pup is more of a family companion and guardian on your farm than flock protector.  Both dogs will be happier for it.  You may discover with delight that the non-sheep guardian has a penchant for fiercely keeping your hens, hogs or goats safe...or your children and home!  
  14. As time goes by.....  When your sibling pair becomes 3-5 years old, think about bringing in another sibling pair of pups for them to rear up and help raise so that by the time they are in their golden years and slowing down, you will have two youngsters coming up, offering you continued protection.  Remember it takes a good year and a half or longer in some cases for a pup to mature and be able to confidently and safely be on his own guarding stock.  The maturation rate will still remain the same even for siblings run together, even though they are more of a force to be reckoned with.  Don’t wait until your dogs are too tired and old to serve as teachers and mentors.  Depending on the intensity of their work, some LGDs are “done in” sooner than others.  Truthfully gauge your dog’s health, stamina and condition and don’t wait till its too late to bring in new pups to train.

As they progress and age, sibling “teams” present a much stronger deterrent to predators at a much earlier stage in their growth because there is indeed, strength in numbers.  Where as one pup could be viewed as an easy meal for a hungry coyote pack, two pups will present much more of a formidable challenge.  As many of my customers have found out, a pair of pups can tackle much bigger problems than just one alone, and at a much earlier age.  Running siblings can be done successfully, and is something to consider especially for those experiencing heavy predator loads where one LGD simply is not enough.  Next time you add to your pack, or if you’re just venturing into LGD ownership for the first time, give serious consideration to bringing home a sibling pair instead of a solo pup, and stand by to be pleasantly surprised.