Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pack Raised Livestock Guardian Dogs

Pack Raised Livestock Guardian Dogs
Why They Succeed When Reared Right

© 2017 Brenda M. Negri

There are LGD packs and then….there are LGD packs.  Stable, familial packs of LGDs mingle like mine in the photo above and many other photos, below.  All genders, ages, breeds and crosses.  When you see a breeder claiming to be running a large pack of LGDs and/or pack rearing their dogs, yet all their photos rarely show more than one, two or three dogs together at one time, this tells you a lot about them: it tells you they are not really pack rearing their dogs; they are separating them for probable reasons of conflict within their pack - i.e., their dogs don't get along well together, males fight, their females fight over litters or refuse to let other pack members around pups, and that is a sign of an unstable pack of dogs that is not a solid family.  There is no trust.  Building a stable pack takes knowing dogs in depth, not just tossing a bunch of dogs together.  It requires patience, compassion, an intimate knowledge of dog body language, psychology, and pack dynamics to successfully be accomplished.

When I began my Livestock Guardian Dog venture back in 2009 no one was discussing pack dynamics or rearing and using LGDs in packs - save myself.  I started out with a pack of three Great Pyrenees siblings (Peso, Petra and Pinta) and then added "the Mafia Brothers" Pak and Pala (Maremma x Anatolian).  And added more from there!  Hardly a one dog outfit, ever.  

I was routinely scoffed at and called crazy for this.  In the end, it is me who is laughing as now more and more people come to realize that LGDs - being pack animals - thrive and do better when raised and run in a pack - from two or more dogs, depending on the need.

One of my most read articles and probably one of the most plagiarized in terms of having parts of it used and ripped off (as usual without my permission) is an oldie but a goodie I wrote for sheep! Magazine: The Numbers Game.  It has probably succeeded in swaying more people out there to run more LGDs than anything else.

Pack rearing LGDs is not simply running a bunch of dogs together.  When done in true familial style, all genders, ages, breeds and crosses ultimately mingle as one large pack.  Back when I ran 25 adult dogs here I was able to see and experience things the average person never sees.

Reared up in a secure environment from birth, my dogs have a sense of self confidence that is rarely shaken and enables more trust and less conflict than most situations would experience.  This wolf-like family reared the way I promote here, sees bitches literally sharing milk with other litters besides their own and intact stud dogs, who could easily kill pups, instead calmly laying with them, playing with them and acting as babysitters while they frolic in the sun or gambol about in my sheep.  It takes a well oiled pack to allow this and see this.  Mathieu Mauries in France has accomplished this with his pack as well and is probably the only other LGD breeder I have seen, doing it on the scale like I have, who has succeeded in that he too has bitches who share their milk with other litters, and studs who commingle without conflict.

The photos below are just a few from 8 1/2 years of Cinco Deseos Ranch pack rearing and are priceless proof of what is possible when these dogs are raised with respect instead of fear; and have confidence instilled in them instead of worry or exhaustion and mistreatment.  Adding dogs into my pack was done and is still done seamlessly as multi generations here know what to expect.  New pups arrive and are immediately immersed in the pack, not held back, sheltered or kept separate.  They quickly assimilate and find their niche.  No solo penning or coddling.  They get right in there.

Again this happens when you have stable minded, confident dogs.  A dog who is fearful or who has suffered neglect, unrelenting pressure and/or mistreatment will not know what to do.  He will have to regain his birthright of a pack life by learning to trust and live confidently within a pack. That will take time and careful work from the owner to build up that trust again.

Pack reared LGDs are usually more advanced than pups reared solo.  They are typically more confident, focused and assured of themselves and their futures.  It takes work and trust to achieve this.  Few people these days seem willing to extend that effort and alas you have too many epic fails out there in terms of bad owners, bad breeders and mis-raised dogs who are not given a chance or started out right or, are inferior bred specimens from puppy mills or junk breeders, who will fail because they were probably never meant to be born in the first place. 

On the topic of bad breeders and owners, I'll be tackling that subject in my next blog post…and telling you what to look for in good breeders and if you are a breeder, in good potential customers - and the hallmarks of the bad ones - to help you steer clear of them. 

Meanwhile, welcome to Cinco Deseos Ranch pack life and enjoy some photos: 

Just a few examples of REAL pack life!
There IS a difference!