“no, don’t do this” – then don’t do it!
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Tips for Finding a Quality
Livestock Guardian Dog Breeder
©2017 Brenda M. Negri
and Dairy Goat Journal
Sept/Oct Vol 95, No. 5
Just ten years ago you had to hunt long and hard to find a breeder of working Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) in many parts of the country. Not anymore. With the burgeoning popularity and use of these flock protectors, now it seems as though everyone with a male and female LGD is breeding them – in all honesty, for better and worse. “LGDs for sale” groups and forums and “LGDs wanted” groups pop up every week on the Internet, and flood Facebook and social media sites. Craigslist explodes with ads faster than they can be flagged as prohibited and removed.
Choices, choices everywhere: ranging from great to good to bad to ugly!
For the future of LGD gene pools, this mass production of a faddish nature is not good, often producing substandard dogs of poor quality, lacking in size and often possessing inferior working and guarding instinct. Livestock Guardian Dog breeds bred by fad-motivated breeders are demeaned and cheapened and used as hobby farm cash crops like pigs and goats. The problem is, they are not butcher animals, and should never be reduced to that level and lack of respect.
What typically comes with fad breeders is zero support for the buyer. Why else do you suppose so many forums are filled with people having issues they need answers for about their LGDs? It’s because they bought from bad breeders who won’t or can’t support them.
Your goats are an investment and a valuable part of your farm or ranch. You need them kept safe and sound. Along with good fencing, attentive shepherding and other predator deterrents, a good LGD can be your goat herd’s life insurance. The decision to buy and use LGDs is a serious, time consuming and costly commitment. Do it right by buying quality dogs from a trustworthy, reputable and dependable breeder.
How do you sort out the reputable and trustworthy LGD breeders from those who are not? By doing your homework and asking the right questions, you can narrow down your choices to trustworthy breeders who will not evaporate the minute you take their pup home with you, or disappear the second your check clears. Start by asking the right questions. Then, observe. Listen to your gut. If your gut says
“no, don’t do this” – then don’t do it!
“no, don’t do this” – then don’t do it!
The Top Ten Questions Every LGD Buyer Needs to Ask LGD Breeders
1. Why are they breeding LGDs and how long have they been doing it? Do they require an application? Are they simply breeding dogs as a cash crop to make money on a fad? What is their game plan and their reason for breeding? Can they document how long they’ve been breeding LGDs? Do they strike you as someone who is truly invested in their dogs, or cavalier about them and disconnected? Reputation breeders have an application process that vets out potential customers. Instead of fearing this, the buyer should embrace the process as it shows the breeder cares enough to place their pups with the very best homes possible.
2. Are they breeding a legitimate LGD breed or cross of LGD breeds? Where did their dogs come from? Unfortunately with the LGD popularity boom has come an increased lack of transparency and truthfulness amongst breeders. In a perfect world, there’d be no deception and lies, but we don’ live in a perfect world, do we? Many examples exist of breeders claiming their dogs were imported over from another country when the dog was domestically bred here in the USA. If a breeder can’t or won’t tell you the name of the kennel or breeder they supposedly imported a dog from, that is a huge red flag. Imported bloodlines typically add to a dog’s price, so steer clear of anyone using the import ruse just to charge exorbitant sums for their pups.
The explosion in popularity of LGDs has unfortunately fostered increased bad breeding choices bordering on the ludicrous. Classified ads abound of LGDs crossed with everything from herding dogs such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, to Great Danes, Newfoundlands, pit bulls and more. The list is upsetting and endless. The sellers of these dogs often try to pass them off as “the newest breed of farm dog” or a dog that “does it all: both guarding and herding”. Some go as far as to try to create a new breed by crossing several breeds together and giving the end product a name. What this does to the gene pools in America is pollute and dilute great working instincts, physical soundness and type, and threatens to destroy guarding instincts. It is every honest LGD breeder’s nightmare.
Typically bad breeding choices turn out to be high-risk dogs thick with prey drive and dicey if any guarding instinct. Avoid these vanity based “Heinz 57” breeding fiascoes. Stick with a legitimate, known LGD breed or a cross of legitimate LGD breeds, and don’t risk your goat’s lives and safety on a crossbred mongrel. Remember: a bad dog will cost you just as much to feed and take care of as a good dog.
3. Can they provide you references? Everyone has to start somewhere. If this is a first time litter the breeder won’t have references on pups but you can ask neighbors for input on if the breeders’ dogs are trustworthy in livestock. The new breeder will be forthcoming on their start up and not lie to you about it.
4. Puppy health: what’s included? First puppy shot series? Several de-wormings? Micro-chipping? Health papers including documented dates of vaccinations and de-wormings and any vet exams? These are what separate a fad breeder from a professional, ethical breeder dedicated to producing top quality pups. You’ll often see ads saying “up to date on shots” or “current on shots” – up to date from what date? Current as in when? Bottom line: how many shots were administered, and when? Ask them! Health issues can crop up even with good breeders. It’s how they handle them that counts. Are they forthcoming about structural testing such as OFA hip certifications and other recognized and respected health testing? Do they frankly discuss losses or diseases they’ve suffered, or cover them up?
5. Are both parent dogs on site? Are they working in livestock? Are the pups in livestock? Make sure the parents are what the breeder claims they are (especially with all the crossbreeding that goes on these days). Ask to observe them in livestock so you can see their behaviors. Whether a handful of stock or hundreds of head, you should see calm, nurturing dogs showing protective instinct, not rough housing or aggression.
6. Do they offer work guarantees? Occasionally a pup comes along in a litter that just does not have “it” and fails as an LGD. Will they buy back or offer a replacement pup?
7. Can they describe the training they put the pups through? Many ads will say “exposed to” or “have been around” as they describe their litter’s time in livestock. What does that really mean? Press for detailed answers. Are the pups regularly with livestock? Part time? Or hardly ever? A photo is worth a thousand words. When you see ads for pups with photos of them without livestock nearby, or locked up in a chain link kennel, this can mean they really aren’t being exposed to or raised in livestock. Can the breeder describe to you in depth their training and rearing process? Remember, you are going to need to lean on them for support. If they can’t give you good answers now, they won’t be of any help later on.
8. What kind of breeder support do they offer once you take the pup home?
Do they expect the buyer to keep in touch and keep them abreast of how the pup does? If the breeder stops taking your phone calls as soon as your check clears, you can pretty much rest assured you made a huge mistake in breeder selection. Will the breeder be there for you with training support or not? If not, keep shopping! Good breeders expect and need feedback from customers. Be a good customer and give them progress reports on their pup so they can plan wisely for future litters and are able to better help you.
9. If the pup comes down with or dies from a genetic disorder will they replace it? This is an easy yes or no answer. If the buyer provides x-rays and/or a vet’s description of the malady that has struck the dog or pup, the breeder can then discuss with them the options for replacement.
When you go to look at a litter of pups, look for healthy pups that can be approached and handled. They should have clear eyes, healthy coats, be confident and not frightened of visitors. The breeder should be handling them and socializing them.
Good LGD breeders are “open book breeders” who run a transparent, truthful breeding program that does not hide health ailments or losses. They have high expectations of themselves, their dogs and their customers. They don’t pressure sell because they recognize that LGDs are not the answer for all situations. They are honest enough to tell the buyer they’d be better off with good fencing or other predator deterrents than the time required to raise and train an LGD, and the costly investment a good LGD entails. They respect LGDs enough to do an application process for potential owners and don’t sell pups to just anyone who flashes cash under their nose.
There are enough top tier, honest LGD breeders in business to not have to settle for poor ones. Do your goats and yourself a favor. Don’t go with the cheapest, closest, easiest LGD breeder simply because they are convenient. If they pass muster, answer questions and have quality dogs, great. But if they don’t, instead of taking the easy route and paying for it in the end, plan on taking more time to find the right LGD breeder with trustworthy LGDs. Travel time, price and what you have to go through to purchase the LGD pup will pay for itself in the long run if you go with a reputable, reliable breeder who’ll be there for you and your pup when you need them. Your goats will thank you for it!
LGD Breeder Red Flags
★Premature weaning of a pup from it’s dam and litter has serious consequences and reputable breeders keep litters till they reach at least 8 weeks, sometimes as old as 12 or 14 weeks. Puppies need to be with their dam and littermates for as long as possible to develop important social skills, and foster physical and mental development a human cannot replicate.
★If the breeder acts uncomfortable as you ask questions of them, is vague or refuses to answer your questions to your satisfaction, keep shopping. If the breeder is evasive about where they bought their breeding stock from, then you’re better off going elsewhere. If they claim to have imported brood stock, ask for proof; novice LGD breeders “faking” imports has recently become a disturbing trend.
★Most veterinarians will tell you puppies need a series of parvovirus and distemper vaccinations by a certain age in order to be properly protected from those potential killers. Likewise if a breeder has only dewormed a litter once by the time they are 8 weeks, it is not enough and pups will likely be full of parasites. Find out what other vaccinations are mandatory in your specific area and ask if the breeder administered these as well.
★Somewhere between price-cutting and price gouging lies the sensible answer to the “how much should I pay for an LGD puppy” question. Steer clear of pups priced ridiculously cheap (typically anything under $300) or priced at high extremes (very few ranchers can afford $2,000-and up working LGD pups). The average price for a good pup out of more common LGD breeds (Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Anatolians, Maremmas) is $400-700. Rare LGD breeds, registered (i.e. AKC papered), or those out of verifiable imported stock typically bring more, $900-1800.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The Aging LGD: Caring for Senior Livestock Guardian Dogs
Sept/Oct Sheep! Magazine, Vol 38, Number 5
© 2017 Brenda M. Negri
Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) research studies have shown that a working LGD often suffers a short lifespan, the average full time working flock protector dying well before it’s eighth or tenth birthday. Those results typically came from studies done on “hard core”, large commercial livestock operations running LGDs in a 24/7, no rest, no breaks situation. In most instances the dogs were barely handled, sometimes went without food, and were given minimal if any, vet care. They typically worked in heavy, large predator load country and took great risks in their protective duties against predators that often ended in confrontations and death. Thus it came as no surprise that a short lifespan would be expected under such harsh circumstances.
But on smaller specialty purebred operations, small family hobby farms or self-sustaining homesteads, and closely managed and monitored targeted grazing operations where guardian dogs are used, LGDs typically receive more, if not better, attention from their owners, regular preventative health care and live much longer – even into their ‘teens.
Aging and elderly LGDs have special needs the owner must be vigilant to and changing requirements as aging takes it’s toll. The following are measures the owner and operator can take to ensure their “old timers” are comfortable, cared for, and rewarded for the hard work and protection they’ve provided the operator and their flocks over so many years.
What Constitutes “Old” in an LGD?
There is not pat answer for this. A dog that has been worked hard all his years from youth may be crippled, exhausted and “done in” by the time he reaches five. Another who lived a less stressful life will still be vibrant and active at this age and at his peak. Although breed type and size factors in to this, what has transpired during the dog’s life will dictate how he ages – gracefully or quickly; youthful till he is gray muzzled or finished before his time. Large and giant LGD breeds reach their zenith in life at about four to five years of age. A smaller, lighter breed may not age as soon. By the time most LGDs with moderate work history and in good health reach seven years of age, they are beginning to slow down and show their age. Past the age of seven the aging process increases and the operator begins to see changes in their LGD.
Changes With an Aging Dog
Here are some of the signs seen in an aging dog, many of which mirror those that we humans experience:
✓Graying around muzzle, ears and head
✓Soreness, stiffness, aches and pains
✓Increased difficulty in hearing or deafness
✓Increasingly protective over space or food
✓Requires more sleep
✓Change in eating habits
✓Weight increase or loss
✓Digestive issues (diarrhea, constipation)
✓Teeth loss, plaque build up, gum issues
✓Eyes begin to cloud up and sight diminishes
✓Discernment becomes less accurate
✓Barks unnecessarily or excessively at perceived threats
✓Decreased play with other dogs
✓Fatigue, becomes tired or winded sooner when working
Adjusting Your Expectations
The most important steps for LGD owners of aging dogs is to adjust accordingly and change their expectations of the dog’s work output and abilities to competently do his job. Too many LGD owners run too few of dogs, and thus put constant pressure on their senior dogs to perform. When the dogs begin to age, instead of cutting them needed slack by lessening their work load or bringing in young LGDs to take off pressure on old dogs, they continue to expect their senior LGDs to work at the level they did when young. This is an unrealistic and perhaps cruel expectation.
The time to bring in replacement pups is when your LGD is in his prime, not past it. Ideally, when they are three to five years old. By letting the older dog teach young pups when he is at his peak performance level ensures your pups will have a better and less stressful beginning and the transition will be much smoother. Adding new LGDs to an established pack of working LGDs is my next topic that will be covered in depth in the Nov/Dec issue of sheep! Magazine.
The owner can better assess his old dog’s condition by observation and responding to the aging dog’s needs. Maybe his days of realistically being able to tough it out in 30 below zero temperatures are through, and the owner needs to construct a warm, safe shelter for the dog, or bring him into a barn, lean-to or inside the house in inclement weather.
Instead of expecting him to patrol a large acreage alone, pair him up with younger dogs who can back him up. Predators can sense when a dog is failing due to his age and will target the weakened senior dog for attack. The operator should never set their old timer up for this. Bring him closer to the house or barn, and back him up. If the dog does not want to leave his flock, then be creative. Put him with bummer lambs in the barn so he is content, or with some older ewes or rams who are penned in a smaller enclosure, closer to facilitate easier observation. As I have promoted with puppy training, a huge juicy soup bone can buy lots of mileage in terms of a dog’s contentment. By doing this, the owner provides the older dog with a mission and fulfills his need to guard, while making it easier on him and giving him needed comfort and safety.
Proactive Health and Feeding Solutions
Anyone over the age of 50 knows what comes with aging: joints, muscles and bones begin to 'speak' of more rowdy, rambunctious, tougher days of yore: and we start paying for playing in our youth. Dogs are the same. Thankfully there are a multitude of remedies for aches and pains for dogs. Older dogs will slow down and suffer pain just like humans do. When an operator sees them struggling to get up or whining in pain or showing discomfort, check them out immediately. Take the dog into a vet for an examination and assessment. Once a diagnosis is given, either follow the vet's advice or, obtain a second opinion, and/or seek alternative, holistic remedies to pharma-type solutions.
The one pain medication I always keep on hand from my trusted vet is affordable Meloxicam. It is non-steroidal and an anti-inflammatory for dogs (and humans). A bottle of 100 tabs runs me less than $10. Ask a vet about it's proper use and dosage. Glucosamine is another favorite addition to older dog's diets. I also sprinkle Dr. Harvey's Golden Years - available through Chewy.com - on my older dog's food for a supplement. Dr. Harvey produces many great dog food supplements. Check them all out and ask your vet for recommendations.
Feeding and Food Intake
Oldster LGDs may change eating habits. Some eat more. Some eat less. As they age, their teeth deteriorate and begin to fall out; gums recede and plaque builds up. The time comes when they may have trouble eating hard kibble; it can be moistened to facilitate easier consumption and digestion. Then there's the topic of what is best for them to eat. Some will prefer raw food, other owners will put their old timer on a senior variety of quality dog kibble. Senior supplements can be used. Old dogs may show increased food protection. Feed them apart from others in a secure area or space where they can eat at leisure and not be competing against other dogs to get their sustenance.
Senior dementia in dogs can take on many forms and can come gradually or quickly – depending on the dog. With my own experience one of the biggest 'starter' flags of it has been excessive barking over things that usually didn't bother the dog, and another one is food possession. My old timer Great Pyrenees Petra is often barking at nothing these days. Petra hyper-responds to certain vehicles that pass by that set her off. A gentle reminder to her that all is okay, and reassurance that she's needed and doing a good job, is what she gets from me. She also has shown increasing turf and food control and guarding. I assure her no one is after her food, and "her space" in the dining room by my kitchen is always a safe spot for her. Older dogs will often pick a spot to rest where they feel less threatened and safe. Let them do this! Don't push them out or scold for protecting their food and space. Redirect other younger dogs to respect it in a gentle way.
Exercise for the Senior Dog
It's still vital that an old timer gets exercise to combat obesity that can typically set in with older dogs. My Pyrenean Mastiff Sally who's coming up on 6 years of age, is a pudgy gal who I have to really make sure gets her leg stretching and calorie burning. She's still sharp as a tack mentally but becoming "pleasingly plump" as she ages. This brings on stiffness. Because in my case I free choice feed my dogs, it's pretty difficult- with 12 dogs - to only feed her certain dog food that is low calorie. But I'm going to have to attempt it so she does not fall away to a ton! There are many senior varieties of dog food brands that have less calories for less active dogs and are easier to digest for older dogs. Again, Chewy.com is my source of choice and has a huge variety of top quality foods for aging dogs.
Owner’s Devotion and Compassion is Key
Dogs have feelings too. They respond to the owner’s care and love with devotion and loyalty. How the owner treats their old timers is so important. Do not disrespect them or dismiss their importance.
My older dogs get the red carpet treatment here and are always placed above younger dogs in little ways that show them they are "still a part of the picture" so they don't feel abandoned emotionally. Whether backing them up in a scrap, or letting a younger dog know it's out of line pushing an oldster out of their 'favorite spot' or away from food, I am there for them. It is the little things like this that count.
Truly, times come when older livestock guardian dogs must die of old age, or be compassionately put down. Don't force an older LGD to suffer needlessly; when the time comes, let him go “over the rainbow bridge”. Until that time comes, be an appreciative, sensitive owner who shows compassion for canine partners, and make their sunset years as comfortable as possible. After all, they have given their lives in service. It's the least one can do for them.
Compassion – Grow Some, Show Some
Much of what makes for a successful transition into an LGD’s Golden Years is how his owner handles it. Be patient, understanding and compassionate with your aging LGD. Reduce expectations of your aging dog and cut him slack. An example: my 8 ½ year old Great Pyrenees Petra is showing signs of dementia and her discernment levels are becoming less accurate. She barked aggressively at me when I came into the house, not recognizing me at first. Instead of chastising her, I bent down and soothingly spoke to her and stroked her head and ears as she lay in the kitchen. I calmed her and showed affection. By being patient and understanding the owner will give the older dog reassurance that they need not be afraid or concerned.
Friday, August 25, 2017
What Is “The Way of the Pack?”
The first chapter from my book in progress.
© Copyright 2017
Brenda M. Negri
“If you like sweets and easy living, skip this book. It is about men tremendously…intent on enlightenment.” --- Ekai, called Mu-mon, The Gateless Gate, early 13th Century
Before I even knew enough to name it, I was living it.
In the latter 1970’s into the mid-1980’s, I was making a hardscrabble living off the back of a horse as a full time buckaroo on huge cattle and sheep ranches, scattered across the far West in remote corners most people have never heard of. Fields, Oregon. Likely, California. Battle Mountain, Nevada. Weiser, Idaho, and countless other microscopic dots on old maps – many which no longer exist. Summering for a large cow/calf operation in a flimsy cow camp cabin with hole-pocked walls, an ancient wood cook stove, a resident pack rat and no electricity or any modern conveniences, nestled within groves of quaking aspens and ponderosa pine, accessible only by a rutted dirt road in a remote corner of Modoc County in California on the Nevada border, this is where my introduction to The Way of the Pack informally began.
Basque sheep herders passed through our area with huge bands of thousands of head of sheep to stop at our cabin and rest a day, parking their creaking horse or mule drawn wooden sheep wagons with fading, cracked green paint under the shade of a tree on the only water we had: a babbling brook tumbling down out off a mountain. Greetings were made in an awkward yet musical combination of broken English, Spanish and Basque. As night fell, a fire was built, cast iron Dutch Ovens greased and readied, and huge fresh medallions and chops of lamb, coated in butter, garlic and drenched in sangria wine, were braised then tossed into the ovens and covered in a deep pit with coals. Handmade hard crust sheepherder’s bread, slathered in hand churned butter, red wine drunk from traditional Basque leather wineskin botas, and thick wedges of smoky, hard Manchego cheese accompanied a fire lit feast under a Milky Way filled expanse of endless night sky. Far off, coyotes wailed their haunting, age old songs to us while the herder’s Great Pyrenees guardian dogs came up to the circle of firelight where we were seated; heads lowered in greeting and with softened, half lidded eyes, they cautiously yet trustingly approached us, to be given greasy chunks of lamb fat, bread soaked in drippings, meat-covered bones, and a welcomed rub behind an ear.
Call it holistic, call it “eco-friendly agriculture” before the term was even coined, let alone thought of, but it was co-existence in the purest of form. This ancient ritual was in fact, The Way of the Pack.
During those many seasons, not once did I ever witness a Livestock Guardian Dog being beaten, or wearing an electric shock collar, or kicked, or pushed away from a campfire or herder. In those days the continuum of it all was the “us” of it; how humans, nature, guardian dogs, herding dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, predators, sun, snow, wind and rain were all connected. Nothing was held at arm’s length, it was a life and a way embraced in its wholeness. We lived full time with our livestock: moving it, watching it, fretting over it, admiring it, branding it, castrating it, wondering at it, occasionally cussing it, and protecting it with our own lives 24/7. It was always thought of in terms of “us” – never “them.” It wasn’t “out there” but “in here.” It was a simple way to live that embraced and demanded loyalty, back breaking work punctured with moments of rest, and our utmost attention and commitment; it was the modest, sometimes dangerous life of a shepherd and a Great Basin buckaroo, humble caretakers of beasts clad in wool berets and dirty denim cuffed pants or dirty, blood spattered leather “chink” leggings and silver spurs ringing sweet like church bells; a way of life that was pure and often tragic, harsh and unforgiving, but true, endlessly and unspeakably beautiful, an existence drenched in awe, infused with the kind of peace only a Spartan existence in the wilderness can bring, and a foundation built on simplicity. The desolate vastness of the country we lived in demanded our utmost respect or it ate us alive. Our losses of stock were minimal because of the human presence that made predators keep their savvy distance. The dogs we used to move and protect our stock were always at our sides, and never considered simply tools, but were cherished family, friends, and confidants, who ate at our table, and slept often in our bedrolls beside us when not scattering a pack of coyotes or running off a mountain lion. The trust between shepherd and dogs was earned and mutual, the bond and respect deep and lasting.
Sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, men: we were all a family in the raw, purest sense. We were a pack that transcended species. It was a way of living that was not easy, that required courage, humility, devotion, commitment and a burning desire to understand what was going on around us in a much deeper level than we’d ever experienced. It was a way that had ancient pastoralism and transhumance as its roots and a profound, never ending, eternal soul to it.
A way so simple, that it can get along without even being named. This is The Way of the Pack: a way that is based on these five core values in living with, the use and training of Livestock Guardian Dogs:
Patience – do not expect too much, too soon and give the LGD pup time to mature
Compassion – do not use harsh or cruel training methods or gadgets
Respect – respect shown to your LGD will be returned
Trust – allow the pup or dog to show you what he is capable of doing
Consistency – dogs, like people, appreciate a routine and a level of predictability
Nothing happens fast in the maturation of a LGD pup, thus, man needs patience. Cruelty towards LGDs only begets fear, anxiety and loathing. Respect of these dogs garners respect and loyalty from them in return. Trusting an LGD enables the dog to fulfill its potential and destiny. Consistency builds contentment and security and reduces fear of the unknown.
This is a way of raising, living with and training LGDs that demands the owner taking complete responsibility for their actions and inactions. It requires honest ownership of these dogs – and of livestock. It requires accurate, frank self-assessment of the owner’s abilities and shortcomings in terms of their total dog experience, ability and capabilities to own such large, powerful and historically independent breeds. It requires an unflinching open mind willing to learn a productive yet compassionate and kind way to use these working dogs to their fullest. It requires letting go of obsessive control tactics, and trusting a dog’s instinct, even above one’s own. It demands keeping eyes and ears open and developing acute and persistent observation skills of their dogs and livestock that will enable a more fulfilling and responsible ownership experience. It calls for respecting dog’s emotions and limitations. This goes hand in hand with the owner’s developing patience and modifying expectations that are more in sync with the LGD’s capacity to provide as guardians of flocks, farms, ranches, commercial operations running on open range and herds and flocks kept under fence. It also means using other methods of non-lethal predator control in conjunction with LGDs; i.e., not laying it all on the dogs.
There are no shortcuts in The Way of the Pack, nor will you find any in this book. No easy ways out, no compromise, no tolerance of any training method that is harsh, hurtful or does not adhere to common sense. Nowhere will be found advocacy of use of physically and psychologically painful “quick fix” gizmos like electric shock collars, prong collars, heavy tire drags, and grotesque inhibiting neck “yokes.” Those are gadgets used by lazy shepherds: people who have no empathy or connection with their dogs or their livestock. Those ways have no place here.
My Livestock Guardian Dog experience began out of the blocks with a pack. I brought home three Great Pyrenees siblings to protect my thirty-plus head of goats. By starting out with this family “mini-pack,” these three grew up to be staunch, dependable guardians with minimum if any behavioral issues. They never chased or worried my livestock out of boredom because they had each other to play with. They staved off attacks from predators at a much earlier age because as a trio, they together presented a much more formidable deterrent to livestock predation than only one. By running three siblings, I was fostering and encouraging the lessons and important social skills that come naturally at a pup’s mother’s side, and in a dog pack. In turn, these three Great Pyrenees went on to mentor and teach countless pups I added on to my LGD pack and program over the years. Reliable, self-confident, trustworthy, safe and sound minded guardians, they benefitted greatly from being brought up and raised as the family they were. I became the parent, and carried on the learning process.
I didn’t know it yet, but I’d just opened the door to The Way of the Pack.
Throughout this book the LGD training methods used and promoted always put the dog’s well being first, not last. The old ways that honor the pastoral history of these breeds are recognized and followed in advocating the dog be treated as part of the family. The family is The Pack, and The Pack includes the owner/user of the LGD. The dog is respected, never demeaned. I promote the LGD owner as a nurturing and parenting pack member, not a hands off, disconnected, harsh ruling “alpha”. The training methods prescribed in this book are not magic; no PhD is required to decipher canine body language and communication; the reader need not own thousands of head of livestock, or live on hundreds of acres nor face packs of wolves on a daily basis, in order to benefit from and use these techniques with their LGDs.
What I prescribe in this book is nothing new. It is ancient. It is profound in its simplicity. I am no master, no guru of new training. I’m only one who opened their eyes and emptied their cup to see and learn from my pack of LGDs an ancient, more compassionate and ultimately better way to own, train, use and live with Livestock Guardian Dogs.
Now, it’s your turn.