Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tips for Administering Medications to Your Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD)

Tips for Administering Medications to Your Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) 

Copyright 2016
Brenda M. Negri

Sooner or later, most Livestock Guardian Dogs need to be given a pill or drenched with a syringe into their mouth.  It could be for de-worming, antibiotics, or any number of reasons.  Some dogs are easy to administer medications to.  Just wrap the pill in a strip of bacon, cheese, liver or hamburger, and they practically take your hand off gobbling it down.  Others however, seem to possesses a sixth sense and just know that there is something "evil" lurking inside that hunk of cheese in your hand, and they skeedaddle as soon as you come around the corner!

In my pack of 14 LGDs here I have a spectrum of "types": those who are easy to put anything into their mouths, and those who are a bit more of a challenge.  Here is how I successfully manage to administer pills or liquid via a syringe into my dogs.

First of all, let's look at the dynamic going on here.  You need to get your dog to swallow something he may not be too crazy about (especially if he's accidentally chomped down on a sour tasting pill before - yuck!)!  

How's the best way to approach him and get this done with as little stress, struggle, drama or excitement as possible?  How can you turn this potentially negative experience into a less stressful, and comfortable one, so that the next time around might be easier?  After all, most LGDs weigh a good 100 pounds or twice that - and tussling with one is not high on anyone's list!

Here's how I have been doing it successfully for years, and maybe it will work for you, too.

  1. If it's pills, I will coat or wrap the pills in a gob of butter, bacon grease, hamburger, liver or peanut butter - what ever that particular dog happens to be fond of.
  2. I never approach the dog head on.  I move casually and relaxed, and approach the dog from it's side.  This is always a less threatening manner to approach a dog, by turning your side to it and going to it's side, not face to face or directly to his front.  This relaxes the dog more, and lets him know he is not being challenged or forced into something that could be fearful for him.  By taking away that fear, by encouraging calm and trust, the dog will in turn trust you more, be more relaxed and manageable.
  3. I ask the dog to sit for me - most of mine will do this with minimum encouragement - or if the dog is an "easy to dose" dog, allow him/her to stand at my side.  A way to get a large dog to sit for you is to place your right hand on it's collar.  Take your left hand and place just below his buttocks deep into his haunches.  While you ask him to "sit", pull his collar towards his rear slowly, while pressing in on his haunches.  Just about every dog I have here - including my giant ones - will respond to this, and sit for you.  Give plenty of praise and gentle strokes on his ears.
  4. I stand next to the dog, not in front of him, on his right side, so he is on my left.
  5. This whole time I am talking in a calm, low voice and praising the dog. You want this to be remembered as a good experience, not a bad one, so next time it is even easier.
  6. With my left hand I stroke his ears, rub them a bit and stroke his muzzle.
  7. I place my left hand's forefinger in the left corner of his mouth and with slight pressure ask the dog to open by pushing my finger in further.  
  8. When the dog opens his mouth, I bring my right hand around with the coated pills, and as quickly as possible, lay the pills at the back of his tongue.
  9. I close his mouth and all the while telling him what a good dog he's been, gently stroke under his chin with my right hand while my left hand keeps his jaw closed.  You don't want it shut so tight he can't swallow.  The stroking will encourage the swallowing reflex.
  10. Once you've heard your dog "gulp", release his muzzle.  He will lick his lips.  This is the sign you've succeeded, and your dog's taken his medication!
  11. To reinforce that this was a "fun" experience, I often treat the dog with another bite of liver or cheese or a raw chicken thigh or leg.  Do this enough times, and the dog will associate the brief sitting and swallowing with a pleasurable, non-painful or threatening experience.
  12. Administering liquid wormer or medication via a syringe can be more difficult but using the above technique can still be done in a manner that is not so stressful for the dog.  After years of experimenting I have found the best syringe for this is one that is used for sheep and goats, not the thick plastic disposable type of syringe.  The disposable plastic type syringes seem to get stuck or wear out too fast, for me.  Premier Supplies carries a very affordable syringe that can be completely dismantled and put back together again to facilitate sterilizing and cleaning. Valley Vet's drenching syringe is my personal favorite as it holds 20 cc's, and is easily dismantled for cleaning, and lasts with care for years.  I have one that is 30 cc's and it works wonderfully on larger (200 + pound) LGDs who take a higher dose.  The longer, bent syringe makes it easier for me to get it down to the back of the dog's mouth, and the molded finger/thumb grip gives me a steady hold on it.  

Most antibiotics usually require several days of repeated dosage to an animal.  Instead of dreading "pill time" for your Livestock Guardian Dog, you can make it a pleasant experience.  You may even want to "pretend" you are giving the dog a pill and practice the steps above with just a piece of cheese and do some "dry runs".  The dog gets a treat and a positive experience which will make it even easier for you when you actually need to administer a pill or dose him with a syringe.  With patience and by staying calm and relaxed, you can turn the "trip to the doctor" for your LGD into a less stressful event for you and the dog both!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Humanely Slowing/Calming Down Livestock Guardian Dogs

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video on my Facebook kennel page of my Maremma / Anatolian, Pala, calmly walking about with a chain drag affixed to his collar as an example of what I jokingly refer to as "The Chain of Shame" (and yes, you heard that term here first, not from someone in Canada…).

Pala is the only dog of the 14 I own here who will go easy as pie, willy-nilly over my 6 ft. fence.  The clasping of a long 25 pound chain onto his collar is a humane manner to slow him down, make him think and prevent him from going over my steel bar and no climb horse fence while NOT impeding his ability to do his job, go piddle or potty, sleep, eat, rest, etc.

The chain featured in the photo above, is the shorter version I use on my younger pups if needed.  If need be you can affix a short stick on the end and voila, you have the "LGD dangle stick".

If I ran barbed wire fences, this chain and/or the longer version, could and would pose an issue as it could hang up in the barbed wire.  BUT - if I ran barbed wire, I'd also be very vigilant and checking on my dogs and stock frequently to make sure I didn't have a dog or stock caught up in wire.

In classic Facebook shallow, slash and run style, I had some yokel come onto my kennel Facebook page the other day and on the Pala dragging a chain thread, make a real smart ass remark about the chain getting caught in fence wire and blah blah blah.  Well, the woman never looked at my fence type in the video to see that I don't run barbed wire, but no climb horse fence framed in super heavy duty welded iron pipe that is round and can't catch or hang up Pala's chain.  Aw heck no that would have taken some actual effort on her part.  Sigh.

Speaking of Facebook, a place I spend less and less time on by the day since it has hands down become the Poster Child of all that has gone ghetto gutter bad with social media platforms - the other day I looked in horror at a Facebook photo of a dog that I bred and had sold to a goat farmer.  My poor dog was tied up to a huge auto tire in a large field supposedly to "keep her from chasing goats".

Well, what happened to owner participation, correction, praise and training?  Too much to ask?  Tying up an LGD for anymore than a very short period of time is wrong, and this includes tying them to an extremely cumbersome and heavy object such as a car or truck tire, that would impede their efforts to stop a predator from attacking their flock or herd.

It is amazing however, how many people don't stop to think about this obvious fact.  They are so consumed with containing or controlling the dog, they go to extreme measures that end up entirely defeating the dog's purpose.  This includes the ridiculous "yokes" (more on that later).

Using a chain drag can have the same calm-down, slow down effect without endangering the dog or being abusive and inhumane.

Tying up any dog for prolonged periods of time can incite increased aggression and frustration and it goes down hill from there.  Tying a dog to a heavy tire drag in complex or heavy predator load areas is pretty much signing off on the dog's death warrant.  No dog can defend itself let alone it's flock if it is trapped by tethering and/or attaching it in a semi-permanent fashion to a super heavy, large object or a wall or chained to a barn.  But look at all the people out there doing it…..yup yup yup.  Sickening.

As LGDs become a fad - and they are now - the average American hobby farmer is consumed and obsessed with controlling them.  These dogs - the good ones anyway - work off of instinct (unless of course daddy was a Labrador or a St. Bernard then you can kiss that goodbye).  Sadly more and more, people running these dogs - because they lack the depth of understanding needed to really run these dogs correctly - they think they have to control their every move.  Barking, moving, you name it, they have to control it.

No.  You don't.  You need to understand them better so you can set them up to succeed, not fail, or become the next lunch for a wolf pack because you staked them out to keep them on your property.  LGDs must be able to move, run and meet a challenge - not become a sacrificial lamb to a wolf, dog or coyote pack, or a marauding bear or lion. Trust me, my Anatolian/Maremma Pala can still kick ass dragging his 25 pound chain.  In fact, he's even gone over my fence with it….to attack a stray dog on the other side.  In other words, even with that chain, he is not so encumbered or trapped that he can't perform his function.  And on the occasion where he does go over my fence dragging a 25 pound chain in order to run off a potential threat, ya know something?  I cut him a lot of slack, because…he was doing his job.

In the book I am writing about Livestock Guardian Dogs I will go into this topic in much more detail and depth.  But for now, I'm trying to impart  just a few gems of advice in order I hope, to help stop the suffering so many poorly managed LGDs are being put through by too many lazy shepherds.

Let's back up - and look at just a few of the core reasons LGDs challenge and jump over or dig under, fencing.

  • Wrong Breed  - I've blogged about this in past posts. Instead of thinking through his LGD selection, the impatient and fad following mini-farmer has his heart set on a slender, light framed LGD breed or crossbreed that has the "roam-lust" genetics in him, prefers to patrol far away from his flock, and is easily bored on 5-60 acres without enough work.  If it is a cross - it is a crap shoot.  Close guarding or a roamer?  You cannot predict what the dog will work like until….you see what the dog works like, about two years later.  Hmmm.
  • Inadequate fencing - How many people can lower their heads in guilt to this point?  Most of you who are perpetually complaining about dogs getting out, that's who....  There's a reason why I dumped fifty grand into re-fencing my five acres - because I wanted this place to be Ft. Knox, and it paid off in the end.  Other than Pala, no one gets out.  Period.
  • Bored LGDs - The crux of more escapes than most people care to discuss.  Not enough threats to merit an LGD in the first place, or minimal owner participation and interaction with livestock and the LGD can lead to your guardian leaving for more interesting pastures and much needed mental stimulation and a sense of being needed and appreciated.
  • Mistreatment - How many LGDs out there just want to get the heck out of Dodge because they are cursed with an uncaring, flaky owner who does not participate, does not see, or care about, what is going on with his/her livestock and LGDs?  More than you care to know, dear reader.
There's much more to this, but again that's coming in my book.  You'll have to wait...

Back to the chain drag.  Below are some photos taken today of Cinco Deseos Ranch Bobo (Troy Farma Stekot x Sally Farma Stekot), a grand young Pyrenean Mastiff I bred, and Cinco Deseos Ranch Hermosa (Furiano de Puerto Canencia x Crisa de Abelgas), a beautiful young Spanish Mastiff I bred.  

Bobo has the longer 25 pound version of my "Chain of Shame" on.  He was fence fighting with Furiano this morning, and so he needed to "think about it" for a spell.  He knows the minute the chain goes on, he messed up…he gets that "aw shucks Mom I'm sorry" look on his face (that disappeared as soon as he saw the camera come out - he is the world's biggest egomaniacal camera hog and ham…as the photo below shows).  CHEESE….

But the photos show you clearly how the chain works.  Bobo can still boogie along with the best of them, but the cocky attitude goes out the window instantly when the chain goes on his collar.  He soaks and he slows down.  Really, it is that simple, if you allow it to be and open your eyes.  What is imperative here is that you are WATCHING your dog, his body language his eyes, his posture.  Yeah, Bobo's tail is still cranked up, but he's off his war wagon, and calmed, and not itching for a tussle with Furiano now.  And the chain comes off after he's shown me he's back on track.

Hermosa, below, has a short dangle chain on her collar today - not because she was chasing any livestock - she wasn't - but because she's been caught twice now in my front yard peeling bark off of young trees (!).  I admonished her for bark chewing, then when I put her out back in the stock, I gave her plenty of "atta girls" and hugs - important because she is not being punished by being put in the stock, mind you, but being rewarded - and I put the chain on her to let her "soak".  When the chain goes on the collar, just like Bobo, she knows she needs to chill, too, and this just reinforced it with her and made her slow down and think.  That's her half sister Gwangi bathing in the tub, left.  Note the chain just reaches the ground.  It maybe weighs just under 10 pounds and is the chain pictured at the top of this post.  Note the push in style clasp I like to use that facilitates easy on and easy removal.  The collar Hermosa is wearing is leather and not thick; if she ever did get that chain caught in something (attention: smart ass lady on Facebook), it would break instantly and free her.   Voila.

And no, you do not leave it on 24/7. The dog will tell you when to take it off.  Mine do and I always know.  How long, you say?  You don't know, you say?  Gee, I guess you'll have to read my book.

Meanwhile, Hermosa is happy, she's with her sheep and cows and no chewing off bark of young trees (there are none in the pasture, chuckle…).  She is hands down, one of the most promising guardians I've seen when it comes to wanting to stay close to my stock.  Encouraging close guarding behavior is something I foster here in many ways, but breed choice heavily factors into this as well.  Which is why I now run the breeds I do here - Spanish and Pyrenean Mastiffs - and why I also have cut back on my crossing my females with Pak and/or Pala - two incredibly great guardians who's style is more inclined to be "out there" like Anatolians, far ranging, intense and going to the problem, not sticking close (like Hermosa, below) and waiting for / daring it to come to them.  Big difference there.

These photos don't lie; here she is literally 'cheek to cheek' with my Mini Hereford Thelma.  That's what I want.  An LGD who is here with my cows and sheep, not 20 miles off chasing coyotes. Of course as if on cue one half of "The Mafia Brothers", my big white boys Pak and Pala had to photo bomb and make sure they are seen standing and lying "sooo close" to the heifers…instead of doing fence patrol as usual.  Dogs. You gotta admit, they are smarter than most of us!

Wrapping this up: please dear readers, shy away from the obviously inhumane extreme "yokes" being promoted far and wide by people on Facebook LGD groups by lazy shepherds unwilling to do the work that comes with owning these great dogs.  Don't cave into tying your dogs up for long periods of time, staking them out or dragging big tires (put one around your neck for half a day and see how you like it) or using these dreadful torture devices:  

Commit and run these dogs right, in a manner that shows understanding, respect and compassion.  Short cuts don't cut it.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dog Grooming Tips for Summer

Little or big, short haired or long - all LGDs can benefit from some simple grooming

Working LGDs usually get full of mud, dirt and grime.  No one expects them to continually be spic and span, but I know my dogs all adore their "grooming time" with me and relish the individual attention.

Spring time typically brings coat shedding with most LGD breeds - even those with shorter hair such as the Spanish Mastiff will "blow" their thick winter undercoat this time of year in preparation for the hot days ahead.  Many people resort to body shaving longer haired LGDs such as Great Pyrenees and Maremmas.  This should never be done.  Why not?  See below!

This diagram is one of the best descriptive attempts I've ever seen on why you should not shave your long-haired Livestock Guardian Dog for summer.  The chart is courtesy of Riverside Grooming, Riverside, California.

Please, if your LGDs are long coated, read this and study it before you get those sheep shears out and go to shaving.  You can actually cause your dog to suffer MORE by shaving him.  See why here:

In other words, nothing beats a good brushing and combing out!  A good brushing will also soothe your dog and give you both time for bonding and relaxing.  Its a great way to find burrs, wounds you didn't see because they were obscured with hair; it is also a way to check for fleas and ticks.

While you are at it, don't forget to check those nails and dewclaws too.  This diagram is courtesy of "The Hydrant" Blog:

Some long haired breeds also may develop dirt caked mats or small balls of fur and mud between the pads of their feet.  If left unchecked they eventually cause the dog discomfort.  I find my two of my male Pyrenean Mastiffs develop these because they both have exceptionally heavy feathering on their feet and hair between their toes.  My females don't seem to have the problem quite as much, nor do my Great Pyrenees.  By carefully tugging on these matted balls of dirt and hair, one can extract them out far enough so you can then take sharp but blunt nosed scissors and shred out and cut the mat out from between the dog's pads.  I've seen "toe mats" like these cause my big boys to slightly limp from discomfort, but as soon as I work them out, they show instant relief and gratitude.

Don't ever neglect to have plenty of cool, clean water available for your dogs during summer, and make sure the water trough or container is not so high that a smaller or young pup cannot reach the water.

There are many other "should do's" for the approaching hot months ahead.  I have an article coming up in the next sheep! Magazine about "prepping" your LGD for the upcoming summer heat and all that comes with it….watch for it in the upcoming issue.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dogs and "The Brindle Factor"

Zaca Tornado Erben 
(Int. Ch. Quanto Tornado Erben x Roxana Tornado Erben)

Brindle dogs of any breed are striking, unique and non-stop attention grabbers.  I've always been a huge fan of brindles.  Their endless variety of tiger-like stripes and exotic appearance make them an oft-coveted color in the dog world, and this includes Livestock Guardian Dog breeds.  Some of the LGD breeds who can come in brindle or brindle spots include Spanish Mastiffs, Pyrenean Mastiffs, Kangals and Anatolians.

One of the most incredibly colored rare black brindles I've ever owned or seen,
Zzeleste Tornado Erben, littermate to Zaca, pictured above.

A partial brindle Spanish Mastiff male I bred
(Furiano de Puerto Canencia x Zaca Tornado Erben)

Mind you I'm no scientist and there is no PhD. hanging after my last name.  So what I'm going to share in this blog post is based entirely on observation and experience.

Over the years I've noticed some unique traits, attributes and temperaments with brindle Livestock Guardian Dogs.  I've dubbed it "The Brindle Factor".  Perhaps if you've owned a brindle LGD breed, you've noticed a difference in the dog from non-brindle dogs, as well.  I've owned and bred many brindle dogs - more than "the average guy" to say the least.   I'm not alone in my musings about brindle dogs.  I've exchanged ideas with Turks in Turkey who noted many of the same attributes in brindle Turkish breeds in their own country.

Xanto Tornado Erben
He personified all that was uniquely brindle in temperament and looks

Encomendador (Jefe) de Puerto Canencia
A reserved, cautious young male I lost to pneumonia as an adolescent

Brindle spotted Pyrenean Mastiff, Atena Alto Aragon
had a solid brindle grandfather, and throws brindle marked pups;
she suffers no fools and is a very serious guardian

Here are some of the marked attributes I have noticed in my brindle dogs over the years:

  • Not as trusting of strangers
  • More suspicious
  • Added sharpness, in some instances aggressiveness
  • Less tolerant
  • Pack leader or high ranking in pack
  • Increased edge to temperament
  • Keenly observant and watchful
  • Sensitive
  • Extremely protective
  • More aloof with people they don't know
  • "Suffer no fools", no-nonsense demeanor
  • Brindle dogs can be average sized, smaller than norm or bigger than norm

Even at this tender age the brindle color was coming out in my "A" litter
out of Furiano de Puerto Canencia x Zaca Tornado Erben

My "B" Spanish Mastiff litter matched the world record at 16 pups born.  It was the only litter Xanto sired.  The dam was Crisa (Loba) de Abelgas.  It takes a brindle to produce brindles; i.e., one parent must carry the brindle gene to produce brindle pups

Cinco Deseos Ranch Beau Beau.  A stunning black brindle version of his sire Xanto

A few of the brindle Spanish Mastiffs I have bred over the years

The men I corresponded with in Turkey regarding brindle colored dogs also cited increased aggression and suspicion of strangers, and a sharper, less tolerant demeanor in their brindle dogs.  

Many years ago when I was raising Catahoula Leopard Dogs I become aware of what "too much white" on a dog's head could bring about: in many cases, impaired hearing or complete deafness.  In fact I had one white-based Catahoula male born completely deaf.  He went on to a special home in the East where he was coddled and cared for, and squired about in his own sidecar on a top of the line Harley Davidson by his proud owner.  

This page has interesting genetic information regarding the brindle gene.

There seems to be very little out there in terms of scientific research on the relationship between the brindle coat color and temperament.  The closest "science" I could wrap my brain around was this page here, wherein they state that "The link between coat color and temperament stems from a relationship between pigment production, hormone chemistry, and neurochemistry."  

That study was based on rats…and not dogs. Regardless, and science aside, from experience, I'm still convinced brindle dog's temperaments are different than their solid colored varieties, and in discussing this with other dog people, I'm not alone in this opinion.  

What has been your experience?  Perhaps after reading this you'll start watching your brindle dog and note some of the same attributes as I and others have!

Zaca and her proud new owner Chuck Avila

Below: more photos of many of my brindle dogs and pups I raised over the years

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