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 and millennials 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)". I've heard more and more people lately claiming that millennial newbie, fad-driven hobby farmers have done more to destroy Livestock Guardian Dogs more than anything else. I agree with them.

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 fad-motivated people (Laura Spindler) breeding dogs to gain to gain the "likes" and social status they couldn't get before on their own merits, busy producing "¾ Spanish Mastiffs" being passed off as purebreds and "accidental" six (yes 6) breed crosses of LGD breeds - a "Hoof and Fang" specialty,  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.  They don't care. Just show them the money and write a positive review on their Facebook page so they can swindle more gullible people. 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 and copycats their mentor's breeding program; the established LGD breeder can only stand by and shake their heads as the cherished pups they produced, oft times from extremely expensive imported stock, go 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 fad-motivated amateur breeders ("Clark's Spanish Mastiffs", "Hoof and Fang" and many others) trying to copycat established breeders, offer no experienced support to their babes in the woods customers. They in turn flood Internet groups, forums and sites with cries for help from complete strangers.  A vicious circle.  And let's not let the bad and unethical established breeders off the hook, either, some who have taken secrecy and deception to new levels (Lois Jordan and "Fall Creek Farm", Anne Goetz, etc.) 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