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.