Friday, December 23, 2016

The Year of Livestock Guardian Dog Books: Much in The Window; Nothing in The Room




Thumbs Down!: 
Book Review of "Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers, and Other Canine Working Partners"
by Janet Vorwald Dohner
Storey Publishing, LLC
Copyright 2016




We have now entered the Era of LGD Lite, as I sarcastically refer to it.  Vapid, banal, non-original.  Shallow gabby fluff takes precedence over depth and thinking.  Quickie LGD 101 lessons and slapdash solutions to problems that require major surgery, not a bandaid.  Social media allows anyone to be anybody, and they do.  Myths rehashed again and again until they turn canon; bad information, blatant fact manipulation, sources with shaky credentials, if any.  Instant experts and trainers you never heard of just two years ago.  Spineless, sappy writing placating and soothing instead of prompting you to think.  Politically correct preening; full time garnering of accolades to further prop up obese egos.  When you read about some Wyoming goat herder spending $500+ on a custom made flat "buckaroo hat" trying to look like the desert cow punching buckaroo they will never be, erstwhile claiming they "can't afford" to run the appropriate number of guardian dogs because "it costs too much to feed them", the blatant hypocrisy is thick enough to cut with a knife, and you know you've gone down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, and into Wonderland.  Bring on the Mad Hatter - scathing pun intended, thank you.

This book review will help explain to you further, I hope, just what I mean by that paragraph.

2016 was the year of publishing books on Livestock Guardian Dogs.  From the self-published blip on the radar that hardly made a splash by some well meaning hobby farmer who documented her LGD experience, to two much ballyhooed and hyped mainstream publications from two noted, published and established "LGD expert" authors, it's out there.  

Oh brother, in spades, it's out there.

I'm reviewing one of the books here in this post.  It's my opinion - take it or leave it….or shut up and do better yourself.  


/////////////////////////////////////


“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him….”
                                                                        ------ William Shakespeare

When someone sets about trying to write what amounts to an encyclopedia of certain types of dogs, it is a monumental task.  Of course, there is no way any author can own and experience in real life, all 93 breeds covered in Janet Vorwald Dohner’s Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers, and Other Canine Working Partners.  And by not living with them or owning them, they don’t really have real life experience with them nor do they know all of their quirks, their temperaments, their health issues and their ways of doing things well enough to be considered an “expert” on them. 

Thus having said that, one should approach this book for what it is: an all encompassing book that is impressive on first blush, grand in scale, with some cool photos, many of which she has used in a previous book, but upon close inspection shows its real face within as a profound, at times glaring weakness in the all too important facts about individual dog breed details.

Therein lies the problem.  Call me old fashioned, call me square, but I’m the sort who bases her opinion on experience, not all on what I read, or pick up on the Internet.  Likewise, when someone calls me an “expert” on Livestock Guardian Dogs, I typically cringe, and I don’t like it.  Yes, I’ve raised them since 2009, yes, I’ve owned a huge pack of 25 dogs at one time, yes my dogs are in print and in an award winning film, yes, I’ve been retained as a very high-paid consultant and expert witness based on my LGD expertise and experience, yes I regularly write for several national ag-based publications on LGD training, psychology and breed specifics of the breeds I’ve personally owned. 

But do I call myself an expert? 

NO. 

I cringe when I’m called that.  That is a label that infers I know everything.  And the day I know it all about LGDs is the day pigs will fly. 

However I also recognize my humility is not the norm; the “expert label” is a much-bandied about moniker that many others freely use – whether earned or not - when it comes to Livestock Guardian Dogs.  The author of this book on 93 Farm Dog breeds is just one of them. 

My time constraints being what they are my review of this book, after a quick perusal, focused mainly on two chapters covering two Livestock Guardian Dog breeds that I have owned and bred now for several years and have extensive experience and expertise with – real life experience, not book-learned or ideas garnered off of Facebook groups crammed with pseudo and armchair  “farm dog experts”.

Before I dive into those chapters, I do note first, that Dohner lost even more credibility in my book trying to divide Livestock Guardian Dogs into two “sub groups”: “farm guardians” and “working livestock guardians” – thus inferring a dog is incapable of being or doing, both.  Huh?  This is just simple baloney and shows lack of understanding or an open mind.  How can I say that?  From experience, with my own dogs, and the many litters I have working in half of the USA (to date 25 states) many of which, prove her labeling very wrong.  They can do both, and do it well.  That she can’t fathom that is – well, you can come to your own conclusion.

I was deeply disappointed in the two chapters covering the two breeds I own, work and raise, Spanish Mastiffs and Pyrenean Mastiffs.  The Spanish and Pyrenean Mastiff chapters leave much to be desired.  And I’m being generous.

Dohner does not own these breeds and her experience with them to my knowledge, is zero.  Therefore her information, which was probably culled off of the Internet, is shallow, and shaky at best, and outlandishly wrong at the worst.   How bad is it?

At one point she goes as far as to claim in so many words that the Spanish Mastiff is “a mastiff in name only” – wrong, wrong, wrong!  This is more mythology being put out  about a grand giant breed by those who’ve never owned one.  The ongoing battle in Spain between so called “real working Spanish Mastiffs” vs. “show ring Spanish Mastiffs” is a topic I have blogged on in the past and too complex to go into here.  Suffice to say, this author, and she’s not alone – has bought into the farce that “large Spanish Mastiffs can’t effectively work and guard livestock”.  A mindset that is outright pitiful, ridiculous and so untrue it is laughable – but this is what happens when someone with no experience with this breed, dips their toes in a topic they basically know nothing about.  Giant (220+ pound) Spanish Mastiffs do and are working, Ms. Dohner, both in Europe and here in the United States.  I should know.  I produced some of them!

She further hurls a slap at the Spanish Mastiff by condemning it’s being crossed with other LGD breeds – as if this was something that was only happening with the Spanish Mastiff.  Oh, spare us.  There are 100’s of crosses of LGD breeds out there in America – Great Pyrenees x Anatolians, Kangals x Akbash,  Komodor x Polish Tatra, you name it, it’s out there – for better or for worse.  That she’d specifically pick on the Spanish Mastiff reeks of an intentional smear job, and I don’t mind calling her on it.  It’s also laughable that she lacks the “cajones” to name the bogus Boz Shepherd breed in a small window box paragraph where she condemns made up LGD breed crosses flooding the American market.  Too bad she couldn’t say the words.  European breeders do plenty of crossing too – some under the table and some admitted to, and frankly tried as an experiment.   This is not solely an Americanism, though she tries to make out like it is.

From claiming there are "only" "250-300 Spanish Mastiffs in North America" (I hate to inform you but we passed those numbers a long time ago), to claiming Pyrenean Mastiffs don't bark as much as some other LGD breeds (she obviously does not own one; they can be very – some extremely - vocal) and are (in so many words) “slower to respond to threats” (don’t tell mine that as they flatten you on their way to the fence line to engage a predator), and much more misinformation about these two Spanish breeds - far more bad info than I care to upchuck in this review - I would only recommend this book to the very greenest, neophyte "farm dog" fan, or beginning hobby farmer who knows absolutely nothing about any of these dogs to the degree that they must be spoon fed and coddled and hand held down the path.  The photos are nice.  I can see it gracing coffee tables for casual thumbing through and enjoying the photos.  For general casual information for a rank beginner, it’s fine….well, barely.

However.  If you want in-depth and valid information about Spanish and Pyrenean Mastiffs, please look elsewhere.  This is not the book you should base your decisions to buy or how to train and understand these breeds on.

I also own Great Pyrenees and used to raise Turkish Kangals; however again time constraints prevented me from going over those chapters as well.  In all honesty, I’m half scared to.  I’ll leave that for others to do. 

The copious praise heaped on this book that appears on Amazon seems to have come from her friends, neophyte farmers and those who are probably easily swayed by size and pretty photos while not really looking hard at the stated “facts” of this many breeds.

As far as solid information to base purchasing a dog on, I would definitely go elsewhere (as in, talk to actual breeders of these many breeds of dogs) for more reliable information before I would base my choices on what is written in this book.  Any of the dogs in this book are a commitment of time, energy, money and more.  Choose wisely and remember it is a huge responsibility, no matter what breed or type of dog you buy.

As for general Livestock Guardian Dog breed information, the author mostly lifted from her previous book on Livestock Guardian Dogs.  This was another “catch all” book covering numerous LGD breeds, again most of which she has no personal experience with.  It is extremely dated now, with both good information and bad in it.  Specifically in one of her biggest gaffes, she denounced the use and running of sibling pairs of LGDs – one of the most successful and smartest ways to “dog up” your operation for non-lethal predator control.  I think in the revised updated version, she backed off on that; I’ll wager only after reading my  many papers on the inherent plusses of running sibling pairs of LGDs which have been published in magazines.  Her chapters on the Spanish Mastiff and Pyrenean Mastiff only furthered more misconceptions and myths about the two breeds and were lacking in substance and factual information.

So her new stab at this in “93 Farm Dogs” is just  - again, in my opinion – more of the same, from someone who does have verifiable experience and expertise in some areas, but only in one LGD breed I know of, the Kangal – and none with others – and tries too hard to convince the reader she is the “end all expert” on ALL Livestock Guardian Dogs.  No one can claim that title in my opinion, and anyone trying to do that – and again there are plenty of folks out there doing just so – is pulling wool over your eyes.  You could do worse, but honestly, this book could be better.  And I don’t recommend it.  Even her previous and dated book is preferable to a book like this one, which just stretches too far in trying to cover all these breeds, and in doing so, rings shallow and misses the mark….time and again.

Some may think this a harsh review.  Maybe it is.  But these things need to be said, and sugar coating it is not my style. 

With the proliferation of bad advice and information on Livestock Guardian Dogs out there especially on misguided LGD groups on Facebook and in forums, with more and more of these poor dogs being abandoned in shelters, with rescue groups overloaded with working dogs many of whom who never should have been brought into this world to begin with, and with the explosion of backyard, puppy mill and fly by night hobby breeders turning these noble breeds into a cash cow, with the USDA only further adding to the problem by refusing to properly train farmers and ranchers, and continually laying it all on the dogs, I feel it imperative that people stop accepting what passes as “LGD Lite” and start demanding better, in depth, solid information from the so called self anointed “experts” out there who’s ongoing desire to be liked, be popular and make money off of Livestock Guardian Dogs drives them to produce works as this one. 

I don’t know about you, but the promoters of “LGD Lite” got old with me years ago.  I know I have higher expectations, and this book does not meet them.

Save your money.


*** Note: Mathieu Maurie’s book on The Great Pyrenees, published in France, is a far more in depth, serious and highly practical book based on his experiences over decades, that I highly recommend.  See my website's Resources page for a link to his website and information on how to purchase his wonderful book.  Or visit his website here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"No Mind": Using Livestock Guardian Dogs in Winter With Increased Predator Presence

"No Mind": Using Livestock Guardian Dogs in Winter
With Increased Predator Presence

Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved
Brenda M. Negri





In most parts of the country, with winter's snow and chill comes an increase in predator sightings and activities as they forage and hunt for a decreased food supply.  The success or fail rate of many ranches and farms is based on how adaptable the rancher or farmer is willing to be in in times of drought, or extreme weather and winter's increased predator presence.  It is a matter of choice.

Many farmers and ranchers refuse to change old ways that have decreased effectiveness, and their enterprise and livestock suffer for it.  Not too many people like to hear this because it does not allow them to point their fingers at problems "out there".  First, you must look in the mirror, and point the finger at yourself, and say, "what can I do to make this better?"  "Can I change my ways and succeed?"  "What am I doing wrong?" - instead of always pointing "out there" and blaming the dogs or others.  Put egos on the shelf.

Successful ranchers and farmers are more willing to "empty their cup" and approach each challenge with what I refer to as "No Mind".  

"NO MIND"

"No Mind": What does that mean?  It means you empty out your "cup" of preconceived notions, habits, opinions.  You empty your cup, so that more and new information - and possibly solutions - can come in to it.  You empty your mind.

When your mind is full, just like a tea cup filled to the brim, you can't take in any new thoughts or ideas.  A full cup of tea overflows it's boundaries.  But nothing more can come in because there is no more room in the cup. But when you approach each situation with No Mind - your cup is empty - and you are open to new ideas, new techniques, solutions, and paths that will lead you to a satisfactory ending for your situation.  No Mind simply means you ditch your hardline approach and opinions.  You say, "Well, I have not tried this yet.  Maybe I should.  Maybe it will work."

That is what "No Mind" is.

If it works, you are that much closer to a solution.  

If it does not?  For the rancher with No Mind, it is never a failure.  You simply take a step back and try again, another way.  You do not consider yourself a failure because the one thing you tried, did not work.  You show more persistence than that.  You try again, another way.  When you have No Mind, you can do that.  When you close your mind to new ideas, you can't, and you suffer for it in the end.

Think of No Mind as no boundaries.  Think of what you could do with no boundaries?  Just about nothing would be impossible to you.

Let me show you a quick picture of a man with No Mind.  

PIA AND ZACA AND THE MAN WITH "NO MIND"

Although he does not even think of it in those terms, this man is a customer of mine who lives in Minnesota on a 40 acre farm thick with coyote and wolf packs.  He has two "retired" older Spanish Mastiff females from me.  Zaca Tornado Erben and (Pia) Amaya Dartibo, left my ranch and went to live out their "sunset years" on Chuck Avila's goat farm.  But instead of being sleepy lazy old girls (one, Zaca, with HD in one hip!) lounging around the house, getting fat and sassy, what happened instead?  

Not what you would expect.  The girls went right to work, like they had done here, and prefer to stay out with Chuck's goats. These old girls have already deterred wolves (!) and coyote packs.  They are loved and cared for and get time to sleep in the house where they are handled daily, and groomed and fed.  They know they are loved.

Because Chuck has No Mind, this happened.  He did not limit the possibilities with these girls.  He did not go into this saying, "Well, it will be this" or "It must be that", or, "Only this will happen".  He went in with an empty cup.  He approached this experience with No Mind.  

Because he did, his cup has since been filled with wonderful things.  These two old girls, are doing a job beyond his - and my - wildest expectations.  They are also proving other "LGD experts" who say, "It can only be this or that", to be so sadly wrong. 

There is a constant ongoing argument in the Spanish Mastiff community internationally on what constitutes a "real working Spanish Mastiff" and what does not.  Unfortunately by doing this, by setting these boundaries with the breed, many people are closing their minds to the endless opportunities out there to take "show ring bred" Spanish Mastiffs and make them into outstanding guardians of sheep and cattle and goats, such as I have done here for years.

These are the ones who claim, "If a Spanish Mastiff is too big, or too heavy, or too much skin, or this and that, or came from a show breeder, they will not and cannot work".

Just recently two new LGD books have been published in America by two women who promote themselves as "LGD experts": Cat Urbigkit and Jan Dohner. Both women have advanced degrees I will never have. Both are published authors, as I am. However, I do not count myself amongst their followers or fans. I have been deeply disappointed in them both, and their books.  As others in the past have written, they are again saying in so many words, those very things said above, about this breed. The books are claiming that "show Spanish Mastiff dogs" are not considered working dogs because "they cannot do it".  

That is where they fail.  

Here is Chuck, with Pia and Zaca, absolutely proving both Urbigkit and Dohner very wrong - extremely and embarrassingly wrong.   All because he chose to have No Mind.  And because he did, look what he has accomplished: what those "experts" call, "the impossible".  Two old, crippled show-lines bred Spanish Mastiffs, one from an International World Champion no less, routing wolves and coyotes like there is no tomorrow, as if they'd come out of the top working breeders in Spain, instead of two respected show kennels in the Czech Republic.  Aged, crippled, heavy and "the wrong kind of conformation" to work.  

Really?  Don't tell them that.

This is the power of No Mind, when you have it.  Anything - within reason of course - can happen.  I am not saying, you can turn a poodle into an LGD because you can't.  There are common sense boundaries and limitations to No Mind.  You do not foolishly take your Australian Shepherd or Yorkie or any other non-LGD breed, and expect them to guard stock from wolves.  Use common sense.  With Pia and Zaca, there were sensible - doable - opportunities, and Chuck Avila and emptied his cup - and let it happen.  So another winter is here, and his goats are snug, warm and very safe because he chose to open his mind and "risk" using two LGDs other "experts" claim could never do what they are doing.  They only speak words.  Chuck, Pia and Zaca on the other hand, show you proof of what they can do.




AUDRY, MIA, "THE POCKETS" and "THE A TEAM": TWO LADIES WITH NO MIND

Just after posting this, I realized, there were two other dog customers of mine, who I wanted to specifically name, who have the ability to have No Mind.  Both are first time LGD owners.

There is Diana J. in Pasadena, California, who had never owned an LGD breed in her life, and went on to own two Pyrenean Mastiffs from me.  This soft spoken woman blossomed with these dogs.  She soon took them beyond mere personal pets and companions, and they became therapy dogs, and mascots and keen obedience trained dogs that she could take anywhere, to large events, and public functions.  Whether mastering obstacle courses or giving attention and solace to a lonely elder, visiting firemen and policemen on duty, or greeting handicapped children, Mia and Audrey were and are a hit with the public, where ever they go.

There is Barbara Judd of Froghaven Farm in Washington.  A heritage Buckeye chicken breeder, Barbara did what most would call impossible to do for a first timer: she bought two Pyrenean Mastiff x Great Pyrenees siblings, Lucy and Patty, dubbed "The Pockets" because they were the runts of the litter, and single-handedly with my guidance, brought them up to guard poultry.  She was so successful in this endeavor, that Barbara and her dogs were featured in two published articles I wrote on training LGDs to guard poultry.  She later added "The A Team", Argenta and Agostin, two sibling Spanish Mastiffs I bred, to her pack.  They, along with "The Pockets, now guard her farm and flocks from predators.  She has had zero losses with her dogs.

In both Diana and Barbara's situations, neither woman put up blockades in their minds, or in their opportunities with my dogs.  They didn't listen to people who said "it cannot be done".  They achieved what most say is not achievable with first time LGD owners.  All because, they came into this experience with No Mind, and empty cups, and let them be filled with wonderful dogs giving them loyal and devoted service and companionship.

THIS WINTER, RIGHT NOW

You think on this now, and winter, and what is happening now on your farm or ranch.  You reflect on what needs to happen to make your ranch or farm work, your animals safe and well, and yourself, happy and safe.  How do you set it up to succeed, and deal with increased predators?  There is no quick or single answer to this.  There are many.  What is on your list?   Here is some of what is on mine.

In the winter, I want my livestock safe.  
I want them well fed, with unfrozen water.
If it dips into subzero temperatures, I want them to keep warm enough as not to suffer.
I recognize in winter, the coyote population around my ranch, tends to increase and threats increase.
I recognize they are hungry, looking for food, and more apt to test fences and measures I have in place.
I recognize my dogs are not made of stone, and that they need food, warmth and comfort in winter.
I do not expect my dogs to work 24/7 without a break in bad and extreme weather.
I put my sheep and cattle up in a barn or covered enclosed area to enhance safety and comfort.
I recognize in deep snow, fencing must be checked for holes, wear, or in some cases, coverage.
I recognize the added stress of extreme temperatures can tire out my working dogs faster.
I allow my dogs access to heated enclosed areas where their feet may thaw out and they recover from cold and high winds.
I de-worm them going into winter.
I put Musher's Secret on their pads to help deal with the snow and ice.  It is cheap and very effective.
I make sure they are eating well.  This means in my personal situation buying them the best dog food I can afford, which is a four star rated brand of grain free kibble.  I add bacon fat, cocoanut oil, eggs, scraps, bread, probiotic yogurt, and raw meat when I can afford it to keep them well.  
If a dog is down in weight, I supplement them with Satin Balls when the temps take a down turn and we do not go above freezing for weeks.
By doing these things, my dogs stay alert, strong and are less stressed, and better able to deter increased pressure from the large coyote packs who come down off the surrounding mountains in search of food.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Many new hobby farmers in America are new to agriculture.  Unlike some of us, they come to ranching and farming from the city.  They held city jobs.  They did not own livestock.  They never punched cows or herded sheep for a living; they have never lived in a remote cow camp, or sheep camp.  They continue to hold full time non-ag jobs to pay their bills and support their new farm venture.  Their husbands or wives bring home big paychecks that pay for their 'self sustenance' venture that is in reality, nothing close to that, but instead,  just an expensive hobby they enjoy.  At one time, when I ran 25 dogs, and had several litters a year, my dog business was self-sustaining.  It is smaller now, and not.  But back to my point.  Many hobby farmers are gone during the day at work at jobs.  They are away from their stock when predators come around. What does this mean?  

This means they are not with their dogs or animals and don't know what is happening.

Then there are some, who are home, but spend all day in front of a TV set, or video games or on the Internet, or tending to screaming children instead of paying attention to what their Livestock Guardian Dogs are barking at, or what is going on with their calving heifers, or their goats and sheep. These kind of people often have little if any connection with their animals and LGDs.  They don't watch.  They care - barely - some not at all.  They expected this to be easy, and when they find out it is a lot of hard work and commitment, they get angry and impatient and frustrated.  They are disconnected.  I have blogged about this before.  This mindset and way of "farming" is causing more and more problems to happen now with Livestock Guardian Dogs, and you read about them in forums and on Facebook, every day.  These are the people who do not understand, farming and animals are not "out there".  They are here.  The animals think and feel.  The dogs think and feel.  The predators too, think and feel.

RESPECTING NATURE

Many people resort to shooting, trapping or poisoning predators.  Why do I not advocate this?

First of all, even recognizing their threat to my stock and operation, I respect them as animals, and I recognize, they are complex creatures - far more than most understand - that they too, think and feel.  I have read enough books now and followed many co-existence groups and organizations to realize that a pack of wolves or coyotes, is  very similar to my own pack of LGDs.  There is a highly organized, fluid, dynamic familial unit that these creatures live in and I respect that. When that unit, or pack, is disrupted by the death of a member, that does not guarantee anything.  Many people are under the wrong assumption that by shooting one or two coyotes they will go away.

That usually backfires on them.  In Nevada our popular saying here is "if you shoot a coyote, three come to it's funeral". In other words, suddenly your predator presence has tripled from what it was before you took the animal's life. Therefore I only advocate killing a predator when all else has failed or in the most extreme situations where the predator has become too bold, and solely exists on domestic stock or fowl, and stops hunting wild game.  I  will shoot in the air over their heads before I take their life.  Usually that suffices and they will run away.  There are so many other solutions out there that do not require killing.

LGDs are not meant to be a one stop solution to all your winter predator problems. And too many people say, "it is like this" or "it can only be that".  They expect dogs to be a "Magic Bullet". Too many people use them as that, then get frustrated when the dogs cannot save all their stock, or they begin to dig or climb out, and are lost, run over, stolen or killed, etc.

WHERE IS YOUR DOG NOW, AND WHAT IS HE DOING?

Particularly in the winter, some Livestock Guardian Dogs will try to leave their confines, usually for many reasons:

They are bored.  They have nothing to do.
The containment of the area (fencing) is substandard, incomplete, not adequate and/or non extant.
They are being perpetually kept in too small of a confined area (for me, this means anything under 3 acres).  It simply is not enough room to allow them to travel and feel as though they have a purpose.
They are hungry or neglected and have no water to drink because it is gone or frozen solid.
They are overworked and cold.
They see predators on the other side of their fence, and want to engage them.
They are frustrated or afraid or upset at the predators outside their fence.
In some situations the wrong breed is being used - i.e. a hyper, far ranging breed is put on a tiny plot of ground and expected to stay put and be content. 
Non-LGD breeds crossed on LGD breeds is usually a disaster and creates confused dogs with conflicting drives/traits - these dogs will often escape or be unable to operate normally as LGDs.
Something or someone outside of the fence is taunting the dog, or causing them frustration to the degree they want to tackle it "mano a mano" - hand to hand.  So they climb or dig out to confront the issue.
There is minimal or no interaction with the dogs and their owners who do not check on them or back them up in a situation.  They feel unwanted, neglected and sad.  They are never stroked or petted or feet checked or hugged. 
On commercial operations, in some cases the herders are ill-traind and prepared, and don't keep track of the guardian dogs - in extreme cases of inept management, shepherding or undermanned, under-dogged situations, death and disaster strikes.  In the worst cases there is outright neglect and what is blatant abuse.  The dog's motivation and loyalty to the owner decreases and they finally have none because it is not returned by the owner.  They leave.

Can you blame them?  I can't.  The owner has reaped what he has sown. 

THERE IS A BETTER WAY

People and Carnivores is one of the best resources I know of for links and papers on how to better co-exist with large carnivores such as bears, lion, wolves, coyotes, badgers, bobcats and large birds of prey.  It is an extensive website, and I strongly recommend everyone take the time to peruse their site and see what they have to offer you for free - so much of it is accessible and free to read from a computer (get off your Smart Phone, and sit down, in front of a real computer for a change).  They are the organization that came to my ranch to make this award winning film several years ago on using Livestock Guardian Dogs in combination with other means to protect livestock.

If you will approach your predator issues with No Mind, you will find doors open up for you in terms of opportunities and solutions.  When you close yourself off to new ideas, just because they don't "jive" with what you have been doing for so long, for decades or months, you will find you will probably not succeed.  You must have common sense.  Without it you will not succeed.  But you also must be open to new ideas.

Winter is here.  You can do many things to make it a good one for your operation, livestock, dogs and yourself, if you will try it with No Mind.

If you keep closing your mind, if you will not empty your cup,  if you fail, you will have no one or no thing to blame, but yourself.






Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cinco Deseos Ranch Livestock Guardian Dogs www.lgdnevada.com




If you have not been on my website in some time, it has been updated with new photos in the slide show, Spanish Mastiff and Pyrenean Mastiff litter plans for 2017, some great resource links for your education and convenience, and more.  It's best seen from a computer, not a phone or you'll not be able to access most of the information.

Check it out:  http://www.lgdnevada.com/news---litters.html

"Hombre alto, sin carácter ... es un tiempo cuando hay mucho en la ventana, nada en la habitación".

When you breed dogs for as long as I have now, and on the scale I have, it is inevitable that some customers go south on you and/or turn bad or turn out to be a huge disappointment, or worse yet - and this has happened to me - you realize too late you made a huge error in judgment and they were a bad placement - of course this is assuming that you have expectations of your dog customers.  And I do. 

It's become very unpopular in these days of uber political correctness to have expectations of anything.   In the LGD world expectations of LGD prospective buyers and breeders have reached new lows because this huge, new influx of mostly millennial aged, inexperienced, city born and raised, first time back yard hobby farmers and psuedo wannabe farmers do not want to have to wait for results with livestock, farming and/or dogs.  They want everything now or yesterday, with minimum work on their part.    They come into this with a chip on their shoulder and an attitude that they think they already know it all. They are often spoiled, obnoxious, impatient and typically with little or no common sense.

It has as the Dalai Lama says, become a sad time of "Tall man, no character.....it is a time when there is much in the window, nothing in the room".  

This profound observation can be applied to many if not all aspects of our lives - in and outside of the agriculture community.

Because I am a published author and public figure,  I must always try hard to stay on the high road.  It is not easy and that is why, I am not in any Facebook LGD groups which are typically a waste of time and often cesspools of slander, character defamation, lies, finger pointing and ceaseless "I want it now" demands from people too lazy to do the real work and research required.  Drive by posters, fake accounts, pot stirrers, dog fighters disguised as "LGD breeders", arrogant armchair "experts" running huge useless groups with very little decent information is sadly where too many people go now for their "advice" on Livestock Guardian Dogs.  They always pay for it in the end.  Sadly, so do the dogs.  Hence, other than my kennel Facebook page, my participation on Facebook in terms of LGDs is minimal at best.  

But when concerned customers reach out to me and point out blatant lies and misrepresentations being put out on Facebook and other venues by a customer of mine about me and my dogs, I am forced to confront this ongoing problem and post this disclaimer so that people out there know fact from fiction. 

By being purposely ambiguous and playing with words, one customer of mine is leading prospective customers into thinking something that is not true about the dogs she is breeding that came from me.   Judging from the way some of this particular customer's own customer base has continually come on to my kennel Facebook page, posted slander, defamation of character and trash posts, that I have had to delete and then block the posters, speaks volumes about their lack of integrity and their obsessive drive to bad mouth me at all turns.  All because someone wants credibility without paying dues, a reputation without earning it. You do not become a reputation breeder of LGDs over night with just a few litters under your belt.  There is much more wood to be chopped and water to be carried than that.

Reputation dog breeders and trainers abide by certain unwritten rules.  One of those rules is that you always acknowledge where you got your dogs from. You don't make it up and you don't lie about it or misrepresent.  You don't remove their kennel name prefix or suffix off of their name in order to disguise where the dog originated from.  "The man who honors his teacher, honors himself" is a sage quote noted below.  Only evasive, unethical and dishonest LGD breeders lie about the provenance and source of their dogs and breeding stock. 

I have posted names and references of the people I bought my dogs from all over my website.  There are references to who the parents were of my dogs - and who they came from.  Both here and on my blog the names of the great breeders I owe so much to, such as Farma Stekot, Tornado Erben, Abelgas, Viejo Paramo, Alto Aragon and many others are named on my pages with profound thanks and appreciation because I would not have gotten my start without their great dogs and their trust in me.  I would never ignore them.  However, there are sadly those out there doing just that in the Livestock Guardian Dog breeding arena - some of my customers being some of them.

When I see some of my customers now breeding my dogs they bought from me and either purposely not saying where they came from (me), or in the worst cases ambiguous, deceptive wording inferring that they bred the dogs from me, themselves, or brought them over from Europe, when they did not, I feel it is necessary to alert people to these  purposeful misrepresentations.  

I ask people to go deeper, and do your homework and ask the questions that need to be asked of these people: why are they doing this?  What is their motivation, to try to destroy the reputation of the breeder who gave them their very start, and their great dogs that they own and breed? 

Perhaps It is that they have succumbed to the "Tall man, no character" syndrome.   There is much in their window but nothing in their room.

It is truly sad indeed I have to even publish this disclaimer but due to recent events I feel forced to in order to defend my own honor. It will remain on my website now as a permanent fixture on the page.  In closing, to those of you who are indeed, scratching your heads wondering about some customers of mine who adore my dogs and are breeding them, and promoting them as being the best there is, while in turn slandering me and my kennel operation out of the other side of their mouths: again ultimately what and who you choose to believe is up to you and says just as much about you and your character, or the lack of it, as it does them and theirs.  Think on that.

"The man who honors his teacher, honors himself"  
                                         --- Colin Chou as the Jade Emperor in The Forbidden Kingdom
      

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dogs are Pack Oriented, Not Solo Operators




Livestock Guardian Dogs 
are Pack Oriented 
- Not Solo Operators
Brenda M. Negri
Copyright 2016
I'm re-posting a note I put up on my kennel/ranch Facebook page, which now has over 10,000 followers, sharing insightful comments and observations from a man who contacted me about what he is seeing out there in LGDs and what their owners are - and most sadly are not - doing:
This past week I was contacted by a man who had read an article I wrote nearly 40 years ago for a national magazine (Dog World) about Catahoula Leopard Dogs - a colorful working breed from Louisiana, that is renowned for it’s stamina and herding instinct as a cow dog and a hunting dog for wild pigs. It seems my article so influenced him that he went on to buy and raise and use Catahoulas for 18 years:
“Hello Brenda. I wanted to thank you for such an informative, honest and helpful Website. You actually influenced me many years ago- you wrote an excellent article on Catahoula Leopard Dogs. That article cemented my interest, and I worked, owned, and hunted with Catahoulas for 18 years. After living and working all over U.S., I'm going to settle and have a little place. I have to decide on Oregon, ( currently live here) Texas, or Appalachia North Carolina. and I'm not looking for a pup now, doing my homework. I had 3 dogs, one recently died at 14. However, I know when I get my place I will want 2 or 3 dogs to join and be our family/guard/multipurpose dogs. I have been looking at LGD the past month, your site was extemely informative. It's a bit scary looking and talking to some folks. I've looked at Anatolian, Pyrenees, Komondor, Caucasian, or mixed. Some dogs are overworked, wild, over aggressive. I think vast majority of folk don't have history or sufficient time with working animals, or realize how important training, exposure, etc. I visited a place but when asking about the stud was told he had turned feral and wasn't around, but would come in to breed, eat, etc..so a site like your is a touch of sanity and real world. My goal is to have a dairy goat herd, I made cheese for over 13 years, and am going back to it. My dogs are an intergral part of family, farm and home. Like you, I have lived, worked, learned from dogs all my life. And still am every day. I'd be lost without them. Also, I enjoyed your personal thoughts and philosophy. My father is Buddhist, and many of its teachings help me daily. I love the looks of your dogs. And I can see you " are there" for your dogs literally. They look secure and calm. People sometimes see these massive strong dogs and literally leave them on their own to face the whole world, totally isolated with no backup. How much better for 2 or more dogs to support each other. Especially when facing people ( thieves) or growing numbers of wolves in western areas. Anyhow, I am reading reading reading, looking and listening. I am keeping your site and contact info, this was a great find. Please keep on doing your fine work. Saluds, Lou V.”

Lou and I have continued to exchange E mails and he is sharing with me, his forays into researching LGDs. He has visited many farms and ranches to see working Livestock Guardian Dogs, and his insight and observations have been priceless. I have his permission to share them here. For those of you not convinced that Livestock Guardian Dogs should be run in the right numbers, here is yet more argument for it:
“BTW- I had a nice talk with a guy who has sheep and goats-and an Anatolian pup out there with them. I told him beautiful pup, etc....gonna be a big nice dog...etc.. I told him in the future I'm interested in an LGD myself, and asked why he got his.
He said he'd had bad troubles with coyote, and other dogs, killing his livestock. He also said wolves were appearing more and more and it was only a matter of time. I told him I'd been doing some reading, about just this situation, and about your articles.
He got nasty at 1st, asking me if I was a rancher, if I trained dogs etc. I told him I wasnt a rancher. But that I'd had and owned and trained dogs over 40 years. I know canine behaviors, and I know hunting tactics. And I know how math works, as well as psychology, people and dogs. I told him he has a great pup there. But that pup, as big as he was, was still a soft, tender pup. He was inexperienced, didn't know how to bluff, use body language or voice. Wasn't grown. I told him imagine an 8 year old boy or girl trying to guard a home all by themselves, with multiple gangs roaming and studying every move.
Scary. And inevitable failure. I told him that coyotes and wolves are very keen observers, and they want advantage. They want easy. They want quiet. A single dog isn't going to impress several wolves very much, especially far out without backup. Even several Coyotes or dogs can take advantage of only 1 dog. It's a numbers thing-4, 5,7 of us, 1 of you. Not good.
But imagine, any canine, or group of canines, Dog, Coyote, Wolf- imagine them approaching and thunderous barking erupts from several massive, cooperative dogs. A pack of giant, aggresive dogs. They know how to fight, and bluff and sound out a challenge. A united, fearsome challenge, and charge up loud.
Maybe lights from the house come on, people's voices join in. Wild canines are not going to hang around for that. That's a battle, not a hunt. I told him I totally respect him, and really admired that pup. But that like he said, sooner or later the wolves will come in. He then told me he'd been told LGDs work better alone or at most a pair.
I wanted to say even I know that's not really true. But instead I showed him your site, and told him when he has some time to read up. He turned out ok again, and said he was thinking of partnering his pup with another LGD or 2. I hope he does.
I'm seeing a common theme in the LGD. They want to do their part, and job. They are trying with all they have. But in America, it just gets so muddled. Old world dogs meet up with tech savvy yuppie wanna bees, or people that just take other people's advice and don't research.
These dogs are incredible. They will face weather, bears, wolves, coyotes, dogs, human intruders, and other challenges. They will think on their own and do their best.
But they can't succeed with ignorance. They can't do their job if abandoned. And like all of us, they need a team, family etc...to back then up. They need some security so they can perform their security. I keep thinking of that pup alone with sheep and goats. And how much better if he had an older dog showing him the ropes, and knowing he's not alone.
Well, we can only share info…..I've spent the last few months looking at LGDs, talking to different folk. I'm no expert on them, but I know dogs, and meditate on what I see. Unfortunately, I've seen some frustrating, sad situations.
Lou”

Finally, one more:

"Hi Brenda, another experience I had while looking at LGD's
I went to look at "Boss" because I was told he was father of some pups for sale.
Boss was in the rolling foothills of Oregon, nestled against the Cascades.
The area he lived in was an isolated one, and we reached his herd by truck.
When I saw Boss, I was awestruck by his size and demeanor. He literally was the biggest Great Pyrenees I've ever seen, unusually big boned and massive.
I am 5"11, and when he leaned his head again me ( surprising both myself and owner) it easily pressed up against my sternum. He was just huge.
As I talked with owner and watched Boss, his story was told. He was literally raised with sheep, and nursed on a ewe until he was 4 months.
He lived with this free ranging herd his whole life. He was the only dog in the flock. His owner visited every other day to check and feed, etc.
In his 1st year, Boss held off Coyotes during lambing season so well not a single lamb was lost, though he grew very lean and would hardly eat for weeks.
Boss was well known for his protective nature. He would stay with weak lambs or any sheep left behind. He would not leave his herd, ever.
Once, the owner found the sheep huddled against a hill and Boss terribly wounded.
He almost had been scalped, and had broken ribs. All sheep were accounted for.
The vet said it appeared from claw and bite marks, a young bear must have tried to grab livestock and met Boss. Within 2 weeks, Boss was back with his herd.
Boss had many, many scars from encounters no one has seen.
He has slept out his whole 5 years. He is very friendly, but will not approach buildings readily.
The owner said in pride of his loyalty and hard work : "The vet said he's the most stoic but exhausted dog he'd ever examined"
Same week, another dog visited. A Komondor with goats. He lived on a pasture within site of farm and home.
He too, was alone, but was very relaxed, yet intense. I could not approach him or goat pasture.
7 coyote skulls on a tree attest to his protective skills.
He too, was 5 years, but full of energy
and not tired at all.
I thought about both dogs alot. And how they looked, were kept, and their health.
These are just my imperfect observations
and opinion. But I will remember them in how I keep my dogs.
The Komondor was alone but in top form because he wasn't truly alone.
The pastures were all within sight or sound. His owners had other dogs. None of these were LGD. But ironically, all we're connected to the LGD.  If the Komondor barked, the Beagle kennels sounded off, which prompted the house dogs to sound off, which alerted the people. The fences were strong. And the sheep came into lean-to at night, with dog.
The dog was visited, inspected, and cared for daily. He was secure in BEING PART OF A GROUP OR FAMILY WHO BACKED HIM UP.
Back to "Boss". The Pyrenees of great size and character was more impressive then the Komomdor, which is quite a feat.
Yet for all his fantastic traits, he was in sad shape and exhausted. Why???
Boss was largely unsupported. Whatever he faced at night, all those years, he faced alone, out of sight and sound of help. No one came to his barking, no help when he growled a warning.
He literally carried on alone facing all threats. I rarely have met such a brave, loyal dog. But I also feel the mental and emotional strain weighed heavily on him.
Coupled with lack of sleep and scores of old injuries, I could only curse the ignorance that creates such a scenario.
All Boss needed, and it would have relieved him in so many ways, were some other dogs to help. Even just one more LGD would have shared the load, and been his partner in arms.
It hit me again- dogs are pack animals. Group living, and emotional. Especially dogs that face real dangers or challenges. What I see whenever I see an LGD out in fields and pastures is instant-I'm either seeing a dog that is supported, cared for and happy, or a dog living under siege physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Guarding is an ancient, and challenging skill for dogs. Eons ago they learned to stick together.
And I will always support my dogs with myself and other canine partners.
Your dogs are lucky Brenda. They have you, each other, and feel secure.
Lou"

Thank you Lou for your insights, observation and comments. I hope others can learn from them.




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