Saturday, January 30, 2016

Spring & Barn Lambing: Perfect Time & Place to Start LGD Pups

Spring & Barn Lambing:
Perfect Time & Place to Start LGD Pups

© 2016 Brenda M. Negri
Cinco Deseos Ranch LGDs

For many sheep owners, the melting of snow and first sighting of a blooming crocus is accompanied by the bleats of newborn lambs.  Late winter and early spring is also a time when many operators invest in a new Livestock Guardian puppy to rear up with older dogs, or, as a first time purchase.  The operator lambing out his ewes in an enclosed building or barn, has a great opportunity to rear newly acquired LGD pups in a perfect setting. Here are some tips and ideas to help operators bring up confident and solid future flock guardian while taking advantage of their barn or enclosed building lambing set up.

First, the Basics

What is the goal?  To rear a stable minded, confident flock guardian pup who will provide flock protection when mature. How does the operator achieve that?

1.     If this is the operator’s first LGD experience, make certain to buy only a “real” LGD breed or LGD breeds crossed with other, legitimate LGD breeds. For those who are new to LGDs, here’s a partial list of recognized LGD breeds:

Great Pyrenees
Pyrenean Mastiff
Anatolian Shepherd
Spanish Mastiff
Polish Tatra
Turkish Kangal

The puppy buyer should do diligent homework on what breed possesses the temperament, guarding style, and traits they need or prefer, and which they find most suitable to their own operation.  What works for one farm, may be less desirable for another. 
2.     Pups should never leave their dam and litter before 8 weeks of age; between 10-12 weeks is recommended, as it has given the pup time to learn crucial development skills from its dam and littermates.
3.     It’s always preferable to buy from healthy, proven working parent stock from working bloodlines. 
4.     The operator should buy from a trusted breeder who produces healthy dogs of quality.  It may cost more in the beginning but will pay off in the end.  Regardless, the pup will have to be fed whether he’s junk or first rate; why not opt for the latter?
5.     Make sure the pup has had its first series of puppy shots – not just one – and has been dewormed several times before leaving home.  A vet check is also strongly encouraged once the pup arrives home.  If the breeder hems and haws on any health related questions you may have, or offers no references or guarantees, then keep looking.  Don’t settle for second rate.

Lambing Barn is Golden Opportunity

First of all, the benefits to lambing out in a barn for the producer are many:

         Confinement eliminates threats from predators
         All under one roof eases management & reduces effort
         Protection from the elements can lessen sickness, reduce loss
         Operational ease can reduce labor and lower costs

Those who lamb out their ewes in barns or enclosed buildings, have a golden opportunity for introducing young LGD pups to their future charges. Inside the building, lambing jugs are built which typically are small, portable pens where the ewe and her lamb(s) can safely stay, perhaps under a heat lamp, in a comfy straw bed for warmth.  Often there are holding areas for about-to-lamb ewes, and on larger operations, an area where the ewes and lambs are mingled after being removed from their jugs.

Because the ewes are restrained in their jugs or in small pens, this is a safe environment for a pup, and a great way introduce puppies to sheep.  Everyone is close in, out of the elements, under the operator’s gaze, and easily monitored and in a controlled environment.

If the new pup comes from a working home, the sounds and smells in the lambing barn will be familiar to the pup.  What will be different is: no mamma, and maybe no littermates! Buying sibling pups however reduces the shock of leaving his birthplace.  They have each other to “lean on” for the first few stressful weeks away from their birth home.  That is one less stressor for the pups, and a huge confidence builder (refer to my previous article, Sibling Success! Advantages of Littermate Guardian Dogs in the September/October Vol. 36, No. 5 issue of sheep! Magazine). 

We all recognize sheep have personalities.  Everyone has had that bottle- raised ewe with a sweet and calm nature.  If the operator has a couple of gentle, calmer ewes in their flock, these are the girls to position in the lambing barn, nearest the pups, they can be introduced to their lambs preferably first.  A patient ewe can instill respect and confidence in a pup, instead of frightening it by being too rough.

Adult Mentors & Outside the Barn Time

If the operator has an older, trustworthy LGD, the mentor dog can be in the barn with the pups during lambing.  After introducing the pups to the older dog, supervision may be necessary to make sure that the old dog accepts and tolerates the youngster.  Puppies mimic and follow adult leads.  They naturally take direction at this stage in their life, so a good teacher dog is a huge benefit. 

In a lambing barn, if the jugs are set up in rows, pups can be allowed to roam in the straw filled aisles, totally surrounded by sheep and lambs.  Yet they will not be vulnerable to an overly protective ewe who might head butt the pup and injure or even kill it.  This way, the pup still experiences that “total immersion” in stock that so many promote, but is allowed to be a puppy as well, to stretch its legs, to gambol and play with a littermate, to rest, all under the watchful eye of the mentor, older dog….and the shepherd!

Allowing pups to go outside of the lambing barn, explore the barnyard and property, is important to develop a well-rounded, confident LGD.  It’s recommended under supervision and/or with the older mentor dog(s).  Walking the property perimeters by the owner and adult LGDs showing the pups their boundaries is a great exercise for reinforcing the pup’s understanding of what is “his”.  Pups will learn to “mark” their territory by following the older dog’s lead, urinating in field corners to leave “sign” to predators to “stay out”.  These outside treks and time spent away from the sheep also accomplishes the following:

         Stimulation for pup’s psychological and emotional growth
         Boosts pup’s confidence and self-assurance
         Exercise necessary to develop muscles and coordination
         Burn off extra energy instead of taking it out on lambs
         Exposure to other livestock and animals other than just sheep
         Exposure to noises, traffic, visitors, ATV’s, tractors, crew, etc.

Watching Sheep, Watching Pups

How many people take the time to just sit in a chair in their lambing barn, and just revel in the miracles of birth going on about them?  Take a comfy chair, have a percolating pot of coffee nearby, and maybe the latest issue of sheep! Magazine, and sit down in your lambing barn, and enjoy your sheep!  By doing this, a pup can see his owner’s relaxed mood, and shared dedication to the flock.  This can send a very powerful signal to that puppy.  He will realize that the operator is part of the whole package as well, and this will strengthen his devotion and vigilance.  Young pups look to their new masters for direction, guidance, support and affection that they left behind with their mother and litter. 

Lambs are naturally curious and gentle by nature.  So are baby pups!  Encourage your pup’s good behavior around lambs by giving him a tasty bone or treat.  The operator can take this barn lambing opportunity to build his pups confidence and trust not just in the sheep but in himself, and the owner as well.  When a human sits down in a low stool or a chair around a dog sends a powerful calming signal to the animal.   European dog behaviorist, Turid Rugaas, has written a world-famous book on the subject of how humans can send calming signals to dogs by better understanding and mimicking their gestures and movements.  Rugaas’ book, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, goes into great yet simple detail on how to achieve this. 

Rodney Kott, Extension Sheep Specialist at Montana State University also summed it up in his paper, Managing the Sheep Flock During the Lambing Season:

Perhaps one of the most important and least stressed management tools available to sheep producers is observation. A complete knowledge of sheep production is useless if producers do not have the ability, or more appropriately stated, do not take the time to recognize problems as they arise. A part of a producer's daily routine should include close observation of all ewes and lambs. You would be surprised at the amount of things you would see by spending just thirty minutes per day looking at your sheep. After a few weeks you would know your sheep very well. You would know how they normally act, move, play, eat, etc. You will be able to tell when they are not feeling well. This will give you a head start on identifying problems during lambing.

Bringing up an LGD pup in a lambing barn with its bustle of activity, smells and sights, not only promotes good shepherding and provides a safe venue for ewes and lambs, but also a safe and secure area to bring up a young LGD.  It adds to the operator’s comfort, something very few will argue against!  Great beginnings for pups can produce great, solid LGDs and that is what the operator should strive for.  Take advantage of lambing out your ewes in a barn, and use it for your LGD pup’s “preschool”!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dogs Protecting Poultry: A Training Guide

My second "how to" article on using LGDs to keep poultry safe is out in Backyard Poultry Magazine!  

The article features Agostin and Argenta, two of my "A Litter" Spanish Mastiff siblings, and Patty and Lucy, Pyrenean Mastiff x Great Pyrenees girls, proudly owned and trained by Barbara Judd of Froghaven Farm in Washington.  Barbara raised the rare heritage Buckeye breed of chickens.

Get your copy today by subscribing here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds Classified as Fighting Dogs

Lufthansa Airlines has the following Livestock Guardian Dog breeds classified as fighting dogs (i.e., deemed dangerous):

Dogs classified as fighting dogs (dangerous dogs) 
The following breeds and crossbreeds are classified as fighting dogs: 
American Pit Bull Terrier 
American Staffordshire Terrier 
Staffordshire Bull Terrier 
Bull Terrier (Miniature Bull Terriers are not considered fighting dogs) 
American Bulldog 
Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd Dog) 
Dogo Argentino 
Karabash (Kangal Dog) (Anatolian Shepherd Dog) 

Lufthansa Airlines requires special crates for transporting the above referenced dangerous breeds. It seems the Germans are ahead of us in facing the reality of what some of these breeds truly are used for in their native countries.  

This is a topic I have waded into in numerous, previous blog posts (Note: the quickest way to browse through them on this blog is to view it from a desktop computer and choose the "magazine" viewing option).  As if to further exemplify the American penchant for excess, one Montana breeder, noted for crossing Kangals with the bogus "Boz Shepherd", is - surprise, surprise - running a Dogo Argentino in his "LGD" pack as well.  

The frosting on the cake: this lovely doctor has now gotten into "Boz Shepherds".  In what was likely a hurried attempt to distance themselves from him and/or deflect bad press, his nefarious name is now removed from their membership page. But are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Kangal purists dismiss the Anatolian as a "street mongrel".  In America, the AKC (gotta love them) has granted it "breed status".  It is no secret that dog fighting is a national pastime in Turkey, where these breeds originated.  The Kangal Club of America states on their website:

Aggressive dogs are a detriment to the breed, a danger to people and livestock, and a liability to their owners.

The Caucasian Ovcharka, along with the Caucasian Asian Shepherd, are known for sharp personalities.  Combine that with someone like the not so bright grinning woman on the human end of the leash below, and you are further amplifying the aggressive nature of a breed.  A recipe for disaster, and only done by self-absorbed idiots….like this woman.

Fast forward now to our not-so-bright government agency the USDA, who is hell-bent on pushing bigger, and potentially meaner breeds to keep North American wolves at bay.  In what has to be the Mother of All Gaffes, note how they even use a Mark Twain quote about fighting dogs on the link just given.  Many of these breeds are known for being used in the fight ring.  How they expect the average farmer out there to responsibly own and use these breeds remains to be seen…its a topic they never touch, but its already coming out that there is a plethora of "hands off/leave them alone in the sheep" going on with that experiment, which means potential trouble down the road.

Any dog breed can be made to be vicious.  Promoting and coddling and emphasizing that meanness, is bad management practice for Livestock Guardian Dogs, and should never be done, or catered to.  LGDs are supposed to nurture and protect livestock, not kill and maim people or predators, in spite of what some incorrectly boast!  I know this is a topic I repeatedly harp on, however, if we do not practice good management of these dogs, it could mean future bans and regulations imposed by the government.  Not what we want, or need!

Hats off to Lufthansa for calling a spade a spade.

The smart LGD shopper steers clear of anyone with even the slightest scent of dog fighter about them or one who purposely breeds for aggression and amplified "toughness", attack tendencies or extreme distrust of people.  A leopard is known by his spots, and people are usually known by the company they keep.  When you see an American breeder of the fighting crossbred bogus breed "Boz Shepherd", incessantly bragging about bringing over more imports from a known, bonafide dog fighter in Turkey, then do the math.  The apple never falls far from the tree.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How to Reprimand Your Livestock Guardian Dog

With a smile and a soft eye, happy Paloma is telling us she is not afraid.  She is secure.

One of the things I do when people come to my ranch is observe their body language around my dogs, and vice versa.  It's one thing to read Turid Rugaas and Tom Dorrance, and have the lights suddenly come on for you - which is an experience in and of itself - but its another thing to actually "walk the walk".

Speaking from my own experiences, it is not always as easily done as it sounds!  It is a constant practice, and you will learn something every day, if you permit yourself to!  First you must want to learn!

I want to teach readers something about correcting LGD pups and dogs when they are doing something that they should not be doing.

But at the same time I want you to understand about how your body movements, voice, and eye contact, can make such a difference in the outcome of your correction acts.

In other words, you get a double whammy.  A great technique on how to correct your pup and some information that I hope deepens your understanding of HOW POWERFUL your body language can be around these dogs.  

So pour that glass of wine or cup of coffee and sit down and learn…..


What do you normally do when your LGD pup grabs your pant leg, latches onto your hand, grabs the garden hose, your rug, a goat, a chicken?  What do you do when you catch your dog doing something wrong?

Most people yell!

They say "NO, Oscar!"  "Stop it, Sammy!" or how about the favorite, "Holy f**king SHIT!".

You know something?  That's all Greek to your dog.  He hears you screaming, and it doesn't cut it!

Dogs speak, but not in verbal languages like we do. They growl, they howl, they snarl, they bark - and barking has it's own in-depth language as Rugaas has written about.  On the physical level of this, they grin and smile, pout and look sullen.  Like humans, when they are pleased, their iris will expand and become larger.  When they are pissed, they will narrow their gaze and bare their teeth.  When they are happy, they will often bow their head coming towards you and raise a front paw up in a semi-salute or "wave".

I don't yell at my dogs/pups when they are in the act of something that's verboten.  I don't because it is not effective.  I also use specific body language.  But first, the verbal part.

When I verbally correct my pups and dogs, I use my "famous" "Mr. Miyagi grunt": the guttural, deep, from the belly "huwhehi!" 

I make this noise trying my best to impersonate the famous Karate master from the legendary film series The Karate Kid.  My customers all know about this.  And many of them use it. And it works!  And even my consulting clients try it.  And, that's right…..O ye of little faith…it works!:

Wow. Great information! I enjoyed both article and will use them as guides. Thank you again for taking the time to help me out. You gave me some excellent ideas.

Already with A---'s mouthiness, I did what you said and she's stopping the behavior much faster. She seemed a little confused the first time I "growled" at her. Also, G--- approached me on her own (tail wagging) after I did a "stretch and yawn" at a sideways angle. I didn't even have food with me!

Have a good evening! - H, Consulting customer in Texas

If you remember the movie, you know what I am referring to.  It's that gruff, rough, deep grunt Mr. Miyagi makes to "Daniel Son".  I posted a video of it in a previous blog post.  It is a clip from the film where you can not only watch but hear the noises Mr. Miyagi makes as he reveals to Daniel, that all the wall painting, car waxing and floor scrubbing he's been doing, has in fact, been his Karate 101 class.

Watch the video (again if you've seen it already) so you can hear the sound I am talking about.  That is the sound I make to correct my dogs.  And when my dogs hear it, they know.  It's time to stop!

Now, about your body language.  There are of course, cultural differences to consider here.  But.  Many people are stiff.  They are reserved.  They have perfect posture (I hate them).  They stand at attention even when there is nothing to pay attention to.  They are withdrawn, priggish, conservative…..I could go on.  This is not criticizing them.  Its just trying to paint a picture.  You know: cardboard, lifeless, bloodless, no passion, no vigor. They get excited and you know it because they blinked.  Once.

Then there's the other kinds of people.  Some people are hot blooded, passionate bastards (or bastardettes) like me. They've got that fiery Spanish or Italian blood coursing through their veins.  They talk with their hands!  They put their whole body into a sentence. They don't stand still.  They pace, wiggle, fidget, swoop!  If you are standing too close to them when they pick up the phone, you could be dealt a major concussion.  You get seasick watching them do laundry.  They speak…not just with their mouth; they put their whole persona into it.  We all have souls, but these types wear them on their sleeve!

Which one are you?  

If the latter, this won't be as tough for you. But if you are one of those types who could have an ISIS suicide bomber blow himself up next to you and you'd maybe turn your head and nod (once), then you need to keep reading, because you're the type who'll have to work on this.  Maybe even a lot.  Like…for the rest of the month….

Its one thing to read in a book about dog body language and human body language and how wonderful it is to understand it, but how the hell do you make sense of all of it? Doing it is another thing.  

Well, I'm going to walk you through this SOB, step by step.  This is how I reprimand a dog or pup.

Let's communicate to a pup who's just grabbed your priceless Ming Dynasty oriental rug you inherited from Aunt Martha, or the leg of your new $3,000 Boer buck, or a garden hose, or - you name it, it can be anything.  He's got it in his mouth.

You are standing oh say, 10 feet from pup.  He's got the rug/goat/hose/container of caviar/your new Victoria's Secret bra, and he's not wearing faulty dentures.  Oh no! 

You are going to face the pup directly, bend down slightly, and bare your teeth (here's hoping you brush regularly), and do your best Mr. Miyagi grunt/gutteral noise like in the You Tube above, making very HARD, focused eye contact with that pup. 

"Huhwehi!!!!!" you are going to say and I don't mean in your Lauren Bacall sexy bedroom voice, either. You're going to throw your whole 98 pounds into it.  From the gut!  Not your ring finger, not your left ankle, your GUT!

Now what happens next is key.  

Pup is startled. "WOW!", he's thinking…  "That sounds just like my mom when I grabbed her tit too hard last week!"  He lets go of the rug/hose/goat/bra.  Because when he grabbed ma's tit last week, she bit him, and it hurt!  Don't want none of that again!

The microsecond that pup lets go of what it is he had, you are going to immediately - and I do mean right now - stop.  You are going to turn slightly to one side showing a side to the pup - not a frontal position.  You're going to bend even lower and soften your stare and take it off the pups eyes.  You're going to duck your head down and to the side and break eye contact, rolling your  head in a way like you're nodding at the pup, "come on, come on over here!".  And you're going to do this all within about 2 seconds!

Remember how Jim Carrey does that silly head swing when he says "All righty then!", as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective?  Yeah…that goofiness.  Now you've got a visual.

And while bending over, you'll pat your knees and start immediately in your best baby-talk voice saying "Good boy!  GOOD BOY!"  Kissy kiss kiss!  SMOOCH SMOOCH!  You smile.  You scrunch up your eyes and smile and bare your teeth. You take one arm and kind of slap it out in front of you in the air, just like your dog does his when he's glad to see you.  The "wave". You exaggerate your joy over his having stopped.

And when the pup drops the chewed up bra (hey, you didn't need really need ALL of that padding in it, did you?), and comes to you all wiggly piggly and head down and sheepish and waving at you, you get down even closer to the ground and love all over that tail wagging bundle of farting fur.  No "couple of head pats"!  No "maybe/kinda/sorta"!  You put some feeling into this - or don't waste my time!  You smile - you rub inside of his ears - they love this.  You coo.  You get down there and do it, you don't stand straight up.  No stand offish bullshit!

What is key is timing!  Timing is everything.  You must react instantly.  You don't keep punishing the pup after he's quit.  The SECOND he quits, you are on it!  Like flies on shit, baby! You stop and go into complete non-threatening, motherly love mode.

What is key is feeling!  You put your soul into this!  You don't try. YOU DO!  No standing there like a plastic mannequin barely moving.  You express your joy that he quit doing the bad thing.  You show him how good he is for stopping!

But.  No one is perfect!

So say he turns around, goes to the rug/garden hose/baby duck/bag of dog food - it does not matter what it is - and grabs it again.  YOU ARE ON IT!  Not next week, not in 20 minutes.  NOW.  You repeat exactly what you just did the first time.  Trust me.  Unless you bought an inbred piece of junkyard crap bred by someone like….well, that's been addressed in previous blog posts….chances are, the pup will stop doing this very soon.  It takes consistency.  They WILL respond.  And they'll 'get' pretty damned quick that they don't mess with Mr. Miyagi when he grunts!

You don't just use this for the rug/goat/hose/etc. You use the same technique, over and over, for any "bad" thing this pup does.  You are consistent. You don't revert to screaming "NO" or "BREAK".  You stick with that guttural growl of Mr. Miyagi's.  

He's out in the pen chasing sheep?  You do the Mr. Miyaigi grunt and you do like Sensei Miyagi says:  "LOOK EYE!  ALWAYS LOOK EYE!"  

And trust me, your pup will soon be like all my pups and dogs.  When they hear that noise, they will stop.  And they will watch YOU and YOUR body language.  

Now, for the physical way you reprimand a pup or dog.

Notice none of my previous instruction entailed any physical striking or hitting of the pup. That's because we don't hit dogs.  We don't kick dogs.  We don't beat dogs with whips.  We never punish a dog by inflicting constant or long term pain or discomfort.  We don't take the wimpy cheese-ass route and cheap shot it with shock collars, pronged collars, shock devices, E-collars, prolonged chaining up and staking out ala Bogus Boz Peckinpaugh, nor do we resort to the notorious Liebenberg Frankenstein yokes or hideous Penner Inquisition barbed yoke collars and horse whips. 

If a dog or pup is doing something wrong, and you need to "kick it up a notch" from the Miyagi grunt, you don't zap them with cattle prods and sickening pain inflicting tricks, no matter what Loser Lewis and his inept gang tell you on Facebook forums.

Instead, you discount 110% of what those clowns have been telling you.  You understand that dogs understand communication best that is MOST LIKE THEIR'S…not a mercenary shock collar dealer's.

This is what you do:  You make that HARD EYE.  You grab flesh of the cheek or behind an ear.  You grab quick and hard, and maybe you even shake a bit if it requires it, and you do the Mr. Miyagi grunt - AND YOU LET GO, and you SOFTEN. Your eye.  Your body.  You don't hang on and keep doing it.  Quick.  Firm.  Then you let go.  Just like a dog would.  No drama, no goddamned prong collars, yokes, muzzles, no cruel and ridiculous "quick fixes".  Please.  Leave those to the idiots.   Hard - then soften.  Hard - then soften.  Hard when dog is doing wrong.  The second he stops - you soften your stance, your eye, your tone.  Instantly.

Because if you run a pack of dogs like I do, and if your eyes are open, you will notice how adult dogs reprimand adolescents and pups - by grabbing them - exactly where I told you.

Now, for your bonus training tip.

Do you ever sing to your dogs?  I do.  Dogs like music.  They like tonal sounds that are calming and pleasant.  They enjoy it.  They recognize it and unless its some scratch ass loud rock, it can be soothing.  

I sing to my litters from birth. 

My dogs and pups hear this corny, gawd-awful rendition of "Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane" from birth.  I sing it to them all the time, but most especially when it's chow time.  And my clients will attest to this.  Because I can start singing, "Toys and tots!  Little toy drums!  Right down Santa Claus Lane!", and out of nowhere, from all four corners of my ranch, there will be the deafening thunder of galloping 200 plus pound LGDs racing to me from all known points and directions, to the sound of "Here Comes Santa Claus"!  

Key element here: you have to start this from puppyhood.

You can do it. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Nobody Said This Would Be Easy

Three very content, healthy and loved LGDs from my ranch.

A reoccurring theme these days, splattered all over Facebook LGD groups, Internet forums and continually coming up in my own consulting work, is how darned "tough" it is to prevent depredation of livestock.  And how much more work running LGDs has turned to be out than the farmer/operator/rancher, thought it would be.  

So I am always mildly surprised, and very happy, to read articles such as this one, where a farmer admits, "there is no silver bullet" (not unlike my own recent article about LGDs and wolves in sheep! Magazine).  I continue to have hope that all is not lost, when reading a common sense, practical article by cattlemen, rather than some flaming rant against wolves and predators from the SSS crowd.  

Instead of setting themselves up to succeed, too many new LGD owners set themselves and the dogs up to fail.  They are in a rut, and won't think out of the box.   Their expectations are outlandish.  Their preparation is nonexistent or so shabby that all is bound to fail.

The biggest culprit of failure seems to be inadequate or non-extant fencing.  The next biggest complaint is dogs who don't stay put in their livestock or on the farm, and prefer to go wandering miles away.  Now some of this is breed related - sorry, but some breeds are just prone to wander more than others, a topic I have repeatedly touched upon in this blog over time.

However, I also note that often - not always but often - this "AWOL" activity is linked to LGDs who were reared with little or no socialization with humans.  They were barely if ever touched.  If they were raised hands on as pups, they go on to a home who then tosses them out in stock and ignores them.  The dog is shocked.  They are used to respect and acknowledgment, not being treated as though they had the plague.

I have a theory about this.  

The dogs - being smarter than most of us - are soon bored, and not happy with their being relegated out in the back 40 with nary a hello from their always "too busy to look or pay attention" owner.  The dog expects the owner to be participating in this as a good shepherd.  Alas, good shepherds are sadly becoming hard to find.  Because too many people out there seem to be too busy working town jobs trying to support their stab at farming.  Being gone a good part of the day, leaves stock and dogs, unattended.  This opens up the Pandora's Box of predators who also quickly sense there are no humans about, and come calling.  In addition to that, bored LGDs look around and say more or less, "The hell with this.  He could care less about us or the sheep.  Let's see what else is out there."

I don't care what the fancy pants "LGD experts" out there crow about "the necessity of bonding the LGD to stock and stock alone, never humans", in their eternal promotion of no handling of LGDs and minimal socialization.

Bull shit.

I'm upping the ante on them.  I claim, and from experience, not from books or from listening to armchair experts, folks, that these dogs will guard better for  you if you DO establish a bond with them, and interact with them, and respect them and yes, brush them, hug them and play with them.  

They will be more inclined to WANT to protect your stock because it is no longer just "their" stock.  

It is OUR stock.  

These dogs recognize love.  They acknowledge respect and they also recognize ignorance, ambivalence, laziness and they recognize an idiot too.  And they recognize when they are being treated like shit.  And they damn sure also know when you don't care enough to spend the time with them….or your livestock.  When you flunk the grade, guess what?  They show you, in the end, who's really the boss.

They leave you.

And why not, when you've made it so easy with inept or non-extant fencing, or spotty feeding schedule, or perhaps not feeding them at all, and never checking on them and your stock because, "you're too busy".  "So much going on".  Priorities that are always pressing, always out there, always all the time, all over, anywhere, except but what's staring you in the face, and under your nose.

Researching for another article I just finished, I stumbled upon a lovely paragraph in a great paper from an ag extension agent in Montana.  He is more or less, telling people to spend more time with their sheep OBSERVING THEM:

Perhaps one of the most important and least stressed management tools available to sheep
producers is observation. A complete knowledge of sheep production is useless if
producers do not have the ability, or more appropriately stated, do not take the time to
recognize problems as they arise. A part of a producer's daily routine should include close
observation of all ewes and lambs. You would be surprised at the amount of things you
would see by spending just thirty minutes per day looking at your sheep. After a few
weeks you would know your sheep very well. You would know how they normally act,
move, play, eat, etc. You will be able to tell when they are not feeling well. This will give

you a head start on identifying problems during lambing.

Now that may sound ridiculous to some of you, but I am here to tell you, there's a whole world of you back to the farm types out there who are too busy pontificating on Facebook, screaming at presidential candidates on TV, running hither and yon to every ag class out there or county fair, or craft bonanza, or - fill in the blank.  And you aren't spending enough time in your sheep, goats, cattle or hogs.  And your LGDs know this.  You're also not spending enough time with your LGDs.

You don't look at them.  You don't check them.  You don't know if they are in heat.  You are clueless about the laceration that is festering on their inside thigh.  You don't notice they are pregnant.  You don't see the pus filled ear or ingrown dew claw.

Because you are too busy.

Because taking the time and effort to check on your LGDs is - well, an effort that takes time.

Ruminate on that for awhile.  We all are guilty of this to some degree, now and then - some way worse than others.  Maybe your resolution for the new year can be taking more time to spend the time you should with your LGDs and livestock.  

Saturday, January 2, 2016

No Magic Bullet: LGDs in Wolf Country

1/8/16:  "The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1)

An update: apparently the latest article I wrote has stirred up an anonymous E-mail and phone call hate campaign to the magazine.  This effort erupted over a paragraph in which without naming the breed, I cite my failed and costly experience with a bogus LGD fighting designer breed from Turkey that was hyped by its dog fighting originator to be the "end all" for stopping wolf attacks on livestock (and by the isn't).  The fact that the breed was not even named, makes it all the more apparent who is doing the whining. Of course, we can easily assume that "Samantha", and her cohorts are affiliated with the Boz Shepherd designer breed.  Well, hear this: it backfired miserably on you.  And….upped the magazine's subscriber numbers as people scramble to get a copy and see what the ruckus is about.  Thanks, Brian, "Samantha", Lewis and the rest of you!  Keep up the hate mongering!

My latest article on LGDs in wolf country is out in sheep! Magazine.  Get your copy today….

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