Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quick Fix For Lazy Shepherds: Texas Livestock Guardian Dog Study a Study in How Not To Run LGDs

Instead of focusing on responsible shepherd training, using safe dogs that can be caught and handled and run in appropriate numbers, the researchers at Texas A & M University went the easy route - and in doing so, flunked out.  A  few successes didn't negate the severity of the failures, and as usual, the poor dogs paid for it in the end - this always happens when someone demeans them and treats them like disposable tools without proper risk management, respect or compassion. 

©Brenda M. Negri

The results are in from Texas A&M's LGD experiment, and overall, in spite of what their gushing press releases to Texas newspapers may be crowing, they aren't pretty.

If you've time to burn - it'll take you about an hour to really comb through all the results - then pour yourself a stiff, cool drink (make it a double), sit down and read all the results.  Some of the descriptions honestly, are stomach turning in terms of what happened to the poor dogs.  Granted, on what sounded like smaller, well fenced operations, there were some successes.  A couple of ranchers indicated they'd like to try it again.  But.  With changes.  Lots of changes.

But overall?  The results were dismal, at best.  They could have done so much better.  Ah, but this is academia!  They can basically spend lots of money just to tell most of us what we already knew.

Of course these dogs can work.  But you need to know how to run them right.

You also need to be able to safely catch and handle your dogs.  Apparently that one got by them.  The breeder they chose is infamous for rearing hands-off, nearly feral dogs.

Successful LGD use entails BIG participation and commitment from an owner who will show up more than the one participating rancher did - only once every two weeks, on 5,000 acres.  Good God, man!

An addendum:  I sadly noted they took a cruel, lazy shepherd cue from Canadian Louise Liebenberg and advocated the ridiculous use of cumbersome PVC pipes affixed to a dog's neck.  When I read that, it sealed it for me: epic fail.  Ironic how someone like Louise can blatantly mistreat LGDs yet get certified as being "predator friendly", isn't it?

Here's my Facebook response below to both of the gentlemen behind this experiment.  I also sent it via E mail.  Another respected LGD breeder also contacted them and chastised them for their flawed experiment.

Of course they never responded to me, or to her.  And I may have caught them slightly plagiarizing copyrighted material, no less.

Maybe they're making out like Donald Trump, and lawyering up.

Or maybe the Russians were behind this…..ya think?  (wink wink wink)


Cinco Deseos Ranch Livestock Guardian Dogs commented on an article.

There are two crucial factors that your study/experiment failed on – actually, more than that. But the two biggest “epic fails”:

The importance of socializing and handling LGDs, and running them in the appropriate numbers.

My paper on running LGDs in the correct numbers was published by sheep! MAGAZINE in their May/June 2013 issue.…/the-numbers-game-guard… It was the first article ever written to solely discuss and give advice on how to figure out the right number of LGDs to run on an operation. A shame you didn’t avail yourself to it and use the valuable advice I gave.
Upon reading your study I can advise you that most of your operators were severely under dogged. Only two dogs on a combo of 5,000 acres? No. The “two dogs per 1,000 head of sheep” rule is archaic and out of date and does not hold water. In Spain herders sometimes run 12-15 dogs. They also stay with flocks, and suffer minimal if no losses. They responsibly participate. They are hands on. The description of some of these Texas operations sounds as if they just dump sheep out in the wild, close a gate and walk away. No wonder their lamb crops are so dismal. Poor stock management at it’s best.

 Secondly and just as important is the ability to safely handle, catch and interact with LGDs. I know who you bought your dogs from; 5R and I actually share clients in common. Unlike my operation, 5R does not socialize their pups and they are typically frightened, unstable, feral acting, skittish and cannot be handled or caught. And you chose him? Well, that's part of why your study is a failure:…/why-so-many-lgd-owners…… This paper I wrote was published in sheep! Magazine in 2015. That you bought dogs from a breeder who practices the now very strongly frowned upon “hands off” type of rearing, almost sounds as if you were setting this up to fail. Again, what were you thinking? Or were you?

You also mentioned the Working Dog Liabilty Insurance program in a press release about one of your seminars in May. The American Sheep Industry owned insurance companies hired me as an LGD consultant to help develop and implement that program and I wrote the Loss Prevention Manuals for it. I gather you didn’t read them, or if you did, the advice didn’t click. Too bad.

Unfortunately, your operators who participated are also “hands off”. What I mean by that is they are never there. Checking on sheep and dogs every two weeks is hardly effective shepherding nor is it prudent in predator country, and thus I was not surprised to learn that the dogs were in poor condition, underfed and hungry, eating lambs, leaving the area, disappearing, trespassing onto other’s properties (which begs the question, why wasn’t good fencing made one of the requisites of LGD ownership?). This is not how these dogs are meant to be used. They are not a hammer or saw. They are living animals that require care and responsible management.

You are trying to turn them into a ‘quick fix for lazy shepherds’.

In short: your study broke no new ground in the LGD world, and only served to further exemplify what happens when these dogs are not run correctly by incompetent handlers in not enough numbers. Perhaps you will think about approaching other sources for dogs and advice in the future, obtain help from someone who runs these dogs correctly. Do it right or stick to studying goats and sheep – when it comes to knowing what you are doing with Guardian Dogs, obviously you are turning to the wrong sources for basing your methods and methodology on. I pity the poor dogs used in this project.

---- Brenda M. Negri Cinco Deseos Ranch Livestock Guardian Dogs, Winnemucca, Nevada