Thursday, November 3, 2016

Do You Really Need a Livestock Guardian Dog?

Do You Really Need a Livestock Guardian Dog?

LGD Fad Fallout: Shelters and Rescues Overloaded with Dumped Guardian Dogs 
& Unwanted Litters that Binge / Puppy Mill / Fad Breeders Can't Sell;
Are Good Fencing and Responsible, Attentive Shepherding What You Really Need Instead?

Brenda M. Negri
Copyright 2016

It's been "unofficially official" for sometime now: Livestock Guardian Dogs have become a fad, a fancy and a fiasco in the United States.  

Yes, I said a fiasco.  In terms of overall wellbeing of the dogs and the precious gene pools of these great breeds  - a total meltdown fiasco.

Their popularity has soared through the roof.  Their usage in this country has probably quadrupled - and that is a conservative estimate.  

In a saner world with level heads and common sense, that would be good news, that more farmers and ranchers are trying non-lethal means of predator control with the use of these wonderful dogs.

Unfortunately, much of America's ag world is anything but sane these days.  

It is slowly being taken over by a whole new generation that sends shivers down my spine.  It is becoming more and more devoid of common sense with every generation, and - to grab a brutal but most accurate moniker from Clint Eastwood - the present and quickly upcoming "Pussy Generation" of "ass kissers and politically correct" types, has a glaring void of practicality about it, and a huge dose of self-entitled "it's all about me" running through it.  Arrogant. Impatient.  Detached.  Spoiled.  Okay, and I'll even say it: pompous, demanding, know it all assholes.  

Mix this kind of person with that kind of attitude with agriculture and animals, and it's a sure fire wreck in the making.

Okay, granted, I'm soon to be 61 years old, a hardened, experienced rancher and dog hand with higher than most expectations.  But my dismissive attitude about the present day "Gen X-Y", ad nauseum, is shared by many in my age group and older.  Honestly, on the whole?  These "kids" have done little to earn my respect when it comes to ranching and how they approach the LGD subject; and dear readers, these are the people flooding Internet LGD forums with more stupidity than you can toss a bone at.  It is why no one of credibility is on those Facebook groups anymore - they're run over by the masses of clueless clowns and armchair wannabe experts.  

Even noted French LGD breeder, farmer and now author of a wonderful book on the Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dog, Mathieu Mauries, has bailed off of and is shunning the 100's of LGD forums and Facebook groups, who are loaded with gushing  "Valley Girls" but low on intellect:

Mathieu Mauries I left all the groups they drove me crazy !!!!

But back to the "Pussy Generation": their profound lack of vigor in doing research and asking the right questions - if any at all - is appalling; they are easily buffaloed, they take everything and everyone at surface value, not bothering to even investigate many LGD breeder's bonafides (Me?  Glad to show you  mine:  I list them on a whole page on my website, which is way way more than most do on their's…maybe because…uh…they have no experience worth writing about….).

Because these types of pseudo "experts" have now flooded the hobby farmer/homesteading world, they've created what many of us older hands wink and call "boutique agriculture" - and that is precisely what it is. Noah's Ark.  Got the cow, the pig, two chickens and a mini-goat.  Whoohooo! Martha Stewart does Bonanza; Facebook Farming; Twitter Ranching; Vogue Meets Farmer John and Chicken Little.  You know what I mean - well, you older folks do, anyway.

But back to the poor dogs…and the question of do you REALLY need one or not.  They are the ones paying the price for this binge hobby farmer outbreak.

Our national rescues, shelters and county and city pounds are overcrowded with every Livestock Guardian Dog breed and/or cross imaginable.  From exotic rare breeds (that practically lost their rareness overnight due to fad breeders rushing in to make a quick buck off of them) to the tried and true popular breeds, LGDs have become a casualty of the latest fad hobby farm, "sustainable" (my ass they are) agriculture craze.  Never mind it's their husband's huge paycheck, earned from doing something decidedly NON-agriculture based, in town, that floats their five acre boat.  It's rarely their lamb or kid crop that pays all the bills.

These are the types flooding the LGD world.  And it's getting worse in terms of the damage they are doing to the dogs, overall.  (The few good ones are buried under the failures and flops).

It is no longer enough for a person to own one or two LGDs; now, they think they have to breed them, too.  (Be warned, the posted link will likely make some of you want to puke - breeding a five - 5! - years old Pyrenees 'just because' they want one - 1! - replacement puppy - and they don't even know how to discern when the dog is in heat - oh, boy.  Real brain trust here…and this is what is flooding the ag/LGD world….).

That's nothing but - pardon my French - bullshit.  And a fawning chorus of bobble headed goofus armchair experts and "yes men" just cheer them on in that nauseating thread of backslapping buffoonery.  

How many people out there are binge buying LGDs when what they really need is tight, good, strong fencing to keep their stock in, and predators out, and most importantly, maybe get the hell off their $800 smart phones, stop playing video games, get their fat asses off their couches and outside with their livestock and be responsible shepherds who are alert and in tune with what is going on, on their property, farm, ranch or homestead?

Lying to yourself and caving into binge buying a puppy from a shady puppy mill only contributes to a growing problem that few are willing to look at in this country - except of course for the good souls providing rescue services.  They will tell you the horror stories of chained up dogs, starved dogs, whole litters left to die, and worse; the stuff you don't want to listen to.  But should.

Over the several years of breeding and producing great guardian dogs, I've pretty much come up with a list of 'red flags' that will kick someone off my potential puppy or dog buying list.  These are road markers, if you will, that help me ascertain if someone really needs, or most importantly, is going to be a good home for, one of my dogs and/or pups.  

Here's a short list (there's more I look into but won't delve into it here) of the things that I use to determine if someone really needs an LGD and/or will be a good match for one - or not.  If you see yourself in this list, then listen up and look at it hard.  You probably  have no business trying to buy an LGD (let alone breeding them) and you need to re-assess your reasons for trying to get one.  

1.  Did you research into your local predator problems before you bought livestock?  
2.  Did you attract predators by putting out scads of predator magnets (geese, chickens, tiny critters) without appropriate fencing or containment?
3.  What shape are your fences in?  Are they dog/coyote/wolf proof, or easily scaled or dug under?
4.  What is your budget like?  Are you going to balk when it's time to de-worm, vaccinate and spay/neuter your LGD, or have accidents that require extensive vet bills? Because if you are, you have no business owning these dogs.  Are you buying junk for $200 and then wondering why they fail?
5.  How many times a day do you check on your sheep, cattle, goats or fowl?  
6.  How far is your residence from your livestock? If it's too far away, how do you expect to know what's going on with your stock?  How do you plan on backing up your LGDs if they need help?  And how do you expect to keep your stock safe if you can't see or hear what is going on and you hardly go see them?
7.  Have you tried several means of predator deterrents such as fladry, range riders, noise makers etc. first?
8.  Are you fighting a losing battle?  That is, did you foolishly decide to plop your huge, multi-100's of birds, cage free open grazing poultry operation in the middle of a coyote or lion hot spot noted for it's huge predator load?  Did you basically set yourself up to fail and go out of business in six months?  
9.  Are you one of those people (sadly, increasing by the year) who foolishly expect the LGD(s) to carry the entire load on their own without any participation or help from you?
10. Did you cave in to "cute puppy syndrome" and bring home some crossbred fluff ball that's half Border Collie and half Great Pyrenees and are expecting it to guard your stock?  (It won't.)
11.  Are you setting your LGD experience up to fail by buying a fake made up breed (bogus "Boz Shepherds", "Colorado Mountain Dogs", "Spanish Ranch Mastiffs", "LabraPyrs" to name but a few), put out by opportunistic backyard breeders, or junk bred dogs off of Craigslist or the local Pennysaver ads?  Did you go cheap instead of quality?  Did you balk at a breeder who required an application because "you don't have the time" or you don't "think it should matter" who they sell to?
12.  Are you aware that large LGDs eat a lot and require good quality food to do their best, not Ol'Roy junk and filler filled cheap dog food?  Can you afford to feed them what they deserve?
13. Are you already swimming in pet dogs and Heinz 57 crosses and expecting to integrate a real working LGD dog into this circus you've created?  Do you know how you are going to do that?
14.  Are you short of patience?  Are you expecting too much from a pup and already dumping it at 12 weeks old because it didn't do what you thought it should - which is no failure of the pups, just stupidity on your part?
15. Are you supporting bad breeders by purchasing from them instead of reputation breeders with proven track records of producing top working, healthy, Livestock Guardian Dogs?
16. Finally, have you tried all means at your disposal - this includes fixing and improving fences - to prevent predation on your stock before getting LGDs, which are a life time commitment and a huge responsibility?

Food for thought, and some serious self-introspection, folks.