Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Way of The Pack: The Wolves

When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!
— Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

Where I once was - in terms of my perception of wolves, and the use of LGDs in keeping stock protected from them - and where I am now, are perhaps worlds apart. When I finally took my “wolf hater” hat off, the more I learned about wolves, the more I admired them and began to learn from them. The more I realized their distinct similarities with my large pack of Livestock Guardian Dogs, the more difficult it became for me to hate, despise or fear them. I finally stepped over the line into the realm of complete respect, admiration and compassion. I cannot hate wolves. I could understand how they could hate us, but they don’t have the capacity to hate like we humans do. Perhaps in some sense that makes them even nobler and more evolved than we are.
Northern Nevada Wolves@water.jpg
Author Brenda Peterson summed it up best in her book, Wolf Nation: The Life, Death and Return of Wild American Wolves. She observed that “…wolf preservation has often been called ‘the abortion issue of wildlife’,” and I could not agree more. Truly, nothing seems to divide the ranching and farming community more than wolves, and what we do - and don’t do - to protect our livestock from them. 
The use of Livestock Guardian Dogs to deter wolves is ancient in history and use; many breeds come from countries where the wolf was their main foe. Spanish Mastiffs in Spain, for example, regularly fend off wolves from cattle and sheep and goats; the increase of wolves in France now sees Great Pyrenees tackling the predators. LGD use in America for non-lethal protection of livestock against wolves has experienced its share of some successes and plenty of failures where the LGD owners were not present or participating in backing up their guardian dogs.  

Yes, they were here before most people say they were. Three wolves spotted on a ranch outside of Wells, Nevada, in the early 1990’s.

Long before the USDA and Wildlife Services were hyping “bigger and more aggressive LGDs are better” and bringing over exotic, rare samples to America from abroad to “test in America,” I had already trod that path, long before they began whistling that tune. I’d received a call from USDA’s Julie Young that was more of a “pick her brains” kind of contact, because that was all that transpired. 
Talking to her, it didThe  not take long for me to surmise that at the time, she knew very little, if anything, about LGD use, breeds, unique guarding differences, and more - and to use one of my favorite lines, I’m being generous
I tried to clue her in on the basics, and why I was using giant Spanish Mastiffs and other breeds that were considered rare. I knew the breeds already worked, and I also knew some were not all they were cracked up to be as was the case of the fake Turkish fighting breed I got suckered into bringing over. 
The bottom line was this: these breeds didn’t need “testing” per se, as much as American ranchers and farmers needed serious training on how to correctly raise, own and use them. Ah, but that was not a very sexy line for the USDA and Wildlife Services to try to sell to Joe Rancher, so my advice went ignored by “the Gov.” Train the owners? Pshaw - that’s impossible, was the overall impression I got. More fun to spend thousands of dollars bringing over dog breeds that already work, and have worked for eons, so the government can test them to see if…they work. Right.

* * *

Thankfully, more intelligent and appreciative life forms came forth later on. 
One day out of the blue I was contacted by Winston Thomas, PhD, a representative from the organization Living With Wolves, I was turning from the “fear and hate wolves” mindset over to “consider them with noble regard” phase with wolves. 
Thomas was interested in promoting the use of LGDs for non-lethal predator control and protection of livestock. He had heard of my dogs, read some of my articles, knew of my “hands on” training methods and pro-co-existence program, and came out to my ranch to learn about why I had the breeds I did, and how they were working out on customer’s ranches and farms in wolf country. 
Winston Thomas, PhD, Living With Wolves representative, making friends with my pack.
Winston gave me the book Living With Wolves published by National Geographic, detailing Jim and Jaime Dutcher’s wolf studies, and reading that book really began to turn my mind. Their insights to wolf pack family life and behaviors were like nothing I’d read before and struck a chord: they were so much like my pack of LGDs. 
The coup de grace was reading the chapters on wolves in Carl Safina’s book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel; there was no more wolf hating for me after reading the epic, awe inspiring saga of the famous wolf “21.” The Dutchers also summed it up profoundly:
Wolves are capable of not only emotion but also real compassion. This is the view of the wolf that we want to share—a wolf that is neither saint nor sinner. Instead, they are intelligent and highly sensitive animals that are at once both individualistic and social. They care for their injured, protect their family, and instinctively need to be part of something bigger than themselves—their family, the pack. 
— Jim and Jaime Dutcher, Living With Wolves website

* * *

Washington State’s Living with Livestock and Wolves: Wolf-Livestock Non-Lethal Avoidance: A review of the literature, lists many non-lethal measures that are advocated in wolf country. Herd composition, i.e., mixing breeds and species, human presence and the use of LGDs are just three of the measures discussed. 
From the paper, this jumped out at me:
Guard dogs are used effectively in Europe and northern Asia where shepherds and ranchers work direct with the dogs. North American ranchers use guard dogs less frequently. In addition, dogs are often left alone to guard livestock, and some evidence suggests that this makes guard dogs less effective. 
Note their observance on how American’s penchant for not staying with LGDs lessens their effectiveness. Bingo! Was it finally sinking in?
As I wrote for sheep! Magazine in 2015, when it comes to using LGDs in wolf country, there “just ain’t no magic bullet.” Don’t be conned into it as I was, once. Against wolves, LGDs are pretty much lambs marching to slaughter, on the level of the Light Brigade. One LGD is useless. Two means nothing. The worst scenario I can recall is an entire pack of 8 or so Maremmas being killed by a wolf pack. What does that tell you? It says a lot.
It tells me that in order to effectively run LGDs in wolf country,  you - yes YOU - must participate fully and back them up. Depending on dogs alone is a death sentence for the dogs and your flock. 
This means you get off the couch or come home from the coffee shop. You stop being the social gadfly about town, jetting off to woolgrowers meetings, or spending half the day on Facebook, and instead, stay home and camp out with your cattle or goat herd if you have to. You bring your sheep into a barn at night if you have to. You make the rounds three times a day, not once. You urinate on fenceposts and defecate on rocks. Don’t laugh: that is a powerful way to send a message to all predators. Don’t come here: this is mine.
Wolves kill to survive; they have to. Our domesticated LGD breeds on the other hand, eat dog food and don’t have to kill something twice a day to fill their stomachs. They lack the fighting skills of wolves. Even if they did have them, a wolf pack decimates most LGDs because of their keen tactics and eons of practice that our trusty guardian dogs lack. The ballyhooed designer breed I bought over from Turkey turned out to be a flop, and it had a solid fighting background in the sport ring. But the truth hurts: it’s pretty hard to fight off a wolf if you are crippled up with elbow displaysia or a prolapsed uterus - just two of the horrific genetic diseases the supposed “wolf killer” breed unfortunately came with; it was the kind of baggage that doomed that experiment for me and many others.

Granted, size matters to a point. LGDs have never been meant to be medium or small sized dogs. Likewise, the “micro LGDs” I see regularly popping up in backyard hobby farmer for sale ads, won’t cut it. It is debatable if some of these stunted, poorly bred dogs could even stop a raccoon, let alone a wolf. Bulk, power, muscle, agility, must be there to just survive a wolf attack.
As for breeds, for every person crowing that “Great Pyrenees are not tough enough” I can point to a verifiable example locally, of a male “GP” that singlehandedly killed a mountain lion attacking his flock; I can point to people running Maremmas who keep bears and feral dog packs away. Breed bashing won’t cut it because in every breed you’ll find super heroes; in every breed you’ll find the shrinking violet. 
Grit, stamina, courage, bottom, heart and a level head - this is what makes a great guardian dog. Pack raised dogs do fight harder and have more combat sense because they had to have it in order to come up in a large pack. So it is, the rancher in wolf country should keep that in mind when he shops for his next pair or trio of guardian pups. You won’t get dogs who can grow up to deter apex predators if you buy from a green homesteader who’s worst predator is an occasional owl or fox, and who is pumping out puppies to make a quick buck and raises them and their pygmy goats in micro-pens. Sorry, but that won’t cut it. 
To a large degree yes, it is about running the right numbers in wolf country; surely in Spain, I know many pastors  who run livestock in wolf country with minimal losses thanks to a huge pack of lumbering Spanish Mastiffs. But even in the right numbers, dogs must be tested - tough and true. They need the mind and the heart and the resolve to tackle apex predators. 
But what is also important to remember is this: LGDs are not bred to kill predators. They are bred to deter them, run them off, bluff them and send them packing to dine elsewhere. They are not bred for bloodlust but for nurturing and protection.
The following article published by sheep! Magazine goes into what I feel the best bets are for using LGDs in wolf country. There is no cure all; those of you reading this hoping for some magic elixir that will solve all  your problems will be greatly disappointed. For those of  you reading this who think you won’t have to be involved at all, and not back your dogs up or keep tabs on what is going on, may  as well hang it up now. 
Because this much I also know: you are doomed to fail.

* * *

Using LGDs in Wolf Country: 
There Is No “Magic Bullet”
Published in sheep! Magazine, January/Febebruary 2016

That wail of anguish you recently heard coming from the direction of Northern California, was most likely from sheep producers, cattle ranchers and hobby farmers upon hearing the news that the wolf is back in California. As evidenced by recent game trail-cam photos of “The Shasta Pack” - so named due to its proximity to the legendary snowcapped peak that dominates the Siskiyou County skyline - the pack, consisting of five pups and two adults, is the first “official” sighting of wolves in the state since 1924.

Of all the large predators sheep producers must learn to deal with, perhaps none are feared more than a wolf pack. Their complex and intriguing pack hierarchy has been studied and written about extensively. Because they run in packs, wolves present a special and problematic issue in terms of what really works to keep them away from livestock, and this includes Livestock Guardian Dogs.
The use of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) as a deterrent to wolves was not considered back in the 1970s when the first trials of LGDs began in Idaho at the US Sheep Experiment Station. This was of course, “pre-wolf reintroduction” times, and the wolf population was not on the rebound. LGDs in their home countries had an impressive track-record of being useful in keeping European wolves, coyotes, bears, fox, badgers and stray dogs away from sheep, goats and cattle. But in 1970’s USA, once poisoning and trapping had been outlawed, producers were scrambling for alternatives to deal with the burgeoning coyote population. Soon, one began hearing the term “non-lethal predator control” meaning the use of methods that kept predators at bay without killing them. As word got out from the Idaho Sheep Station LGD experiments, the use of LGDs gained acceptance and popularity as one of the several “non-lethal” methods available to farmers in the USA. 

Since the wolf re-introduction program in the 1990’s, now sheep producer’s guardian dogs must often face wolves. Many LGDs have been killed in the line of duty by wolves. Why were they not more successful? There has been much speculation, heated debate and grant funded experiments with “new” LGD breeds to see what works best in terms of the use of LGDs to keep wolves away from livestock. What is regularly left out, unfortunately, is serious, practical advice and training for the owner and solid information based on experience instead of wild speculation about “magic bullet breeds”. And what is often missing is the “missing link” itself: in wolf country, LGDs should never be considered to be the sole and only line of defense for the stockman’s herd or flocks.

The “Magic Bullet “LGD Breed Fallacy
The “more aggressive LGD breed” idea is currently the theme song for USDA’s Wildlife Services. At no small cost, they’ve been busy importing exotic breeds with hard to pronounce names over to the USA in an attempt to prove that a much more aggressive LGD breed will be the elixir and salve for the wolf-strapped sheep rancher in the USA. 
Some of these breeds are heavily bred for and fought in the dogfighting ring in their native countries. Others are popular for use in military and police work and only lightly or recently used as stock guardians. 

This is where I, head bowed low in guilt, confess to being one of those duped early on (many years ahead of the USDA) by this same “meaner is better” theory. I was suckered by an overseas breeder of a designer fighting Turkish breed who conned me into thinking that his dogs could out-fight and out-last any pack of wolves. I was gullible enough to swallow the bait. At huge expense I imported specimens here, but quickly learned the more aggressive breed came with an ugly price tag: questionable temperaments, extremely dicey when living in a pack of other LGDs, and health defects so severe they quickly turned this much ballyhooed breed I brought over, into a high risk failure and a depressing money pit. 
In other words, be careful of what you ask for. You may get it.
What is wrong with this “the more aggressive LGD breed will solve all your wolf problems” theory? Several things.
What the USDA is not confronting is the very obvious added risk that comes with uber-aggression in breeds that often lack conformity in temperament because of their turbulent past as Molossers and “landrace” breeds. What often goes along with many of these hyped “better” aggressive LGD breeds is an alarming lack of predictable temperament stability; intense, sometimes highly complex and complicated personalities incapable of being safely run with other LGDs; and the kind of edgy or iffy temperament that requires the owner to be constantly vigilant and on his toes around the dogs. Again, I write this from actual experience – not armchair speculation. 

Is more aggressive what you really want? Moreover can you and do you want to handle that kind of grave dog ownership responsibility? Is this what is really needed for Joe Hobby Farmer and his family on five, ten or forty acres? Or can they do better by milder and more popular breeds already in use here? The aforementioned issues can be especially problematic if the owner/operator is a rank newcomer to LGDs, not experienced around dogs, or of the “hands off, don’t socialize your LGD” mindset. 
Let’s not forget the larger commercial sheep, goat or cattle producer running on public lands. Is a potentially vicious LGD what he really needs? When recreationists come bounding across his public accessed allotment or forest area, startling his flock and LGDs, is he prepared to deal with a dog bite lawsuit should one of those foaming at the mouth Eastern Bloc breeds he is using decides to turn a hiker’s thigh into an appetizer?
There is no “magic bullet” LGD breed out there, no matter what Internet blowhards may be claiming. Sheer aggression is not all that is needed in a well-rounded, reliable and serviceable LGD. In a wolf vs. LGDs battle, no matter how aggressive the LGD breed, a wolf pack is probably going to make mincemeat out of your protection dogs, unless they have back up and many other support factors are in place to help give them an edge. It takes more than just increased aggression from “the right breed” of LGD to succeed with these dogs in wolf country.

Multiple Protection Efforts Key to Reduced Losses
Some of those support factors include you being a hands-on shepherd and keeping vigilant eye over what’s going on in your fields, not just casually checking every other day or once a week. You may need to be bringing flocks closer, using electrified fence to “night pen” them or bring stock entirely in at night instead of playing Russian Roulette when a wolf pack is moving in. You should regularly check on your dogs, making sure they are fed and watered and healthy and no one is sick or too stressed or exhausted to perform their job. 
Using protective or spiked collars on your LGDs in wolf country is strongly recommended. They are still no guarantee the dogs will survive an attack, but can help give them those extra seconds to perhaps cut loose when attacked, and run and live to see another day.
Most importantly, and an area where most American farmers fail miserably at, is that the operator must be running enough LGDs to make them a viable deterrent, not just a wolf’s next easy kill. Regardless of the LGD breed, they don’t have a chance if there are not enough of them. This means you don’t expect two LGDs to do the job of nine or ten. Running LGDs in the right numbers is crucial for their success; it’s a topic I have previously discussed in sheep! Magazine (The Numbers Game: Guardian Dog Pack size Affects Success, May/June 2013, Volume 34, Number 3). 

Prudent selection of LGDs in wolf country should entail other factors besides amped up aggression. Lets also talk about guarding style. What has been shown in studies is that wolves are brilliant tacticians. Wolf packs can and do, strategize. As if they’d lifted a tactical maneuver out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, wolves have been known for sending in a few of their ranks to decoy and lure LGDs off from their flock, while the rest of the pack sneaks in the other side to raid and plunder the sheep. Meanwhile, the few LGDs lured away from the sheep, typically suffer a cruel, quick and bloody end at the paws of the wolves that duped them into leaving their flock.
On that note, is it really that smart in wolf country to have only LGD breeds that assertively patrol hundreds of yards if not miles away from your flock, hunting predators, while leaving the flock open to attack? If you are a smaller homestead or hobby farmer in wolf country, are you better off with breeds that are predisposed to close guarding and not continually wandering miles away?
Ideally, the producer should build a stable, solid pack of LGDs made up of the breeds that best suit his farm or operation, which in reality may include a combo of far off patrolling dogs and calmer, but more closer guarding breeds. Each sheep, goat or cattle set up and situation merits its own in-depth “study” by the producer for the right solutions, and no one should consider the results of a grant funded government experiment to be a blanket end-all-problems solution to their own situation. What works for one, may not for the other!
Let’s look at some proven and recommended livestock management protection solutions that – used in conjunction with LGDs – can increase your success rate, help out your guardian dogs and help reduce depredations in wolf country. 

Handy Handbook for Reducing Depredation 
Some years back I befriended Steve Primm, Field Rep for the People and Carnivores organization that works with ranchers to help them co-exist with and find solutions to, live and farm side by side with predators. Subsequently my Livestock Guardian Dog operation was featured in a film produced by Primm and Conservation Media called “Working on Common Ground: Livestock Guardian Dogs” (you can watch this short and educational movie online by accessing this link here: 
Recently People and Carnivores teamed up with wolf specialists Nathan Lance, Kristine Inman and others from the Brainerd Foundation, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Wildlife Conservation Society to publish Wolves on the Landscape: A Hands-on Resource Guide to Reduce Depredations. 
The handbook has a permanent link on the MFWP page. It is in a PDF format easily downloaded and printed from your computer for your reading ease and pleasure.

What instantly struck me about this handbook was its comprehensive and realistic approach. This handbook is full of some very practical measures the producer can take, all the while reminding us that just like with LGD breeds, there is no one, singular “magic bullet” solution. What resonates here is the acceptance of the fact that just LGDs alone, won’t be enough. Just fladry won’t be enough. It takes more than one device or practice, and YOU must be part of the solution. The farmer with the capacity to think out of the box and be flexible and realistic, is the one who will prevail.
Each chapter in this booklet goes into enough detail to give the producer a good start to implementing more proactive measures against wolves, and hopefully, sparks some ideas that they can enact and thus, reduce losses.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of their prescribed methods and management tools presented in their guide that can be used in addition to LGDs in wolf country:

Management Intensive Grazing (MIG)
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Livestock Guardian Donkeys
Carcass Management
Riders and Herders
Fladry/Electrified Fladry
Scare Devices
Managing Livestock on High Risk Landscape
Herd Composition

Reality Check
In Nevada, they have a saying: if you shoot one coyote, three will come to its funeral. Wolves are no different in that their complex pack hierarchy and family structure means that if the wrong wolf is taken out of the equation by being killed by the sheep producer, it can in reality, actually increase depredation and problems for the rancher, not decrease them. Think on that before you pull the trigger. “Shoot, shovel and shut up” is not always the best answer.
The reality is: like it or not, the wolf is here and not going away. How you and your sheep operation fare in the end, will entirely rest on your willingness to think out of the box and to become more involved. And this includes your Livestock Guardian Dogs. 
In the Old World, the shepherd interacted daily with his flock and his guardian dogs. The American “hands off” training and owning of LGDs was not practiced in Europe where dogs slept with their owners and flocks and sometimes ate from the same dish. LGDs were treated as workmates and with respect. LGDs were never reduced into a disposable tool to be tossed out in sheep and left on their own to try to save the world - especially when a pack of wolves comes calling. LGDs need your back up, strategy and help, too. They can be a successful part of many methods to deter wolves, if you are willing to use them in the best ways they are meant to be used: with plenty of support and an open mind for using other means as well.

LGD use in wolf country: pointers
Don’t make a puppy do a grown dog’s job
Run LGDs in the right numbers
Run LGD packs that are built on a core of older, seasoned dogs along with younger and middle aged dogs; never leave old timers out on their own to fend off wolves as wolves will sense when a dog is incapacitated or weak from age
Breeds: no “magic bullet breed” when it comes to deterring wolves
The dog’s rearing up and exposure to predator threats are what counts; you want pups out of parent dogs with the “Three T’s”: tested, tried and true
Your LGD pack must work together and back each other up; a fragmented pack won’t cut it; buy pack raised puppies from knowledgeable breeders with proven track-records of strong working dogs; this is no time to buy cheap pups from a backyard hobby farmer with no predator load and minimal ranching and LGD experience
Owner must be present and back dogs up; dumping dogs in sheep or cattle and then leaving will typically result in dead LGDs if a wolf pack attacks livestock
Run a combination of close guarding breeds and breeds prone to go further from livestock; i.e.,  heavy breeds and lighter breeds running together

Light breeds can run faster to the perimeters and sound the alarm; the heavyweights meanwhile, remain imbedded in the herd and are there to tackle any wolf that may have gotten through the first line of defense

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Now It Is Your Turn: The Way of The Pack

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, they will say: we did it ourselves.   
— Lao Tzu 

The Way of The Pack.  It is a holistic, kinder, spiritual, intelligent and compassionate path for shepherds using LGDs to effect co-existence with predators, and, by keeping livestock safe using non-lethal means, help restore and keep balance in nature. It is not an easy way, nor is it for everyone, yet anyone can traverse it. I want to show you this way that has worked for me, my dogs, and my customers and their dogs, for many years. 
There is a good chance the reason this book is in your hands is that you recently purchased your first Livestock Guardian Dog, or are thinking of getting one, or have one or two or more, and want help understanding and training them. It is my hope that this book will lay out much needed practical advice based on compassion, trust, patience, consistency and respect based on my experience.

Livestock Guardian Dog use in the United States has been relatively recent, only roughly 35-40 years. Bred and used for centuries all over the world as flock and herd guardians against predation, now, the popularity of these ancient guardian breeds has exploded in North America. Not only do they protect livestock on large scale commercial, open range sheep, cattle and goat operations running on public lands and forest areas, they have become an increasingly common fixture on small boutique and family hobby farms, homesteads, off the grid farmsteads, and family ranches. Besides their traditional fare of sheep, cattle and goats, they guard everything from chickens to pigs; alpacas to horses. They serve as therapy dogs, service dogs and certified emergency response canines and many have crossed over into the pet and companion sector. In America, LGDs have become a huge fad. Unfortunately, due to this rapid growth in popularity, they have also become one of the most misunderstood, misused and often abused groups of dogs in this country. 

Why do such a high percentage of Livestock Guardian Dog and owner working relationships fail in America? Why are so many Livestock Guardian Dogs showing up in rescues, rehoming situations and shelters across the country? Why are Internet and Facebook Livestock Guardian Dog forums and online support groups overflowing with owners bemoaning one LGD ownership, training and/or use problem after another? 
I can tell you: most of the problems with LGDs are the fault of the owner. Human error, a total disconnect from the dogs and their livestock, lazy shepherding, relying on bad information has turned these dogs into disposable tools. That is not the right way.  

In their countries of origin, LGD breeds are typically handled and treated as family members who live 24/7 with the shepherd and their flocks as they transgress miles over open, unfenced terrain in what is known as transhumance. It is a centuries old cyclical, seasonal pastoral lifestyle where shepherd, flock, guardian dog, predators and nature are all part of a natural cycle of birth, life and death. It is ancient and spiritual at the core. Predators are a threat, yes, but also recognized as necessary in the scheme of things, hence the successful use of these dogs for eons as non-lethal means of protecting stock. 
It is also why you won’t find shepherds in Spain, Italy or France driving around with “SSS” (Shoot, Shovel, Shut Up) or “Smoke a Pack a Day” stickers on their vehicles.
In America however, we as a whole do not practice transhumance. And a frightening percentage of stockmen not only practice lethal control, they practically live for it, with a hatred of wolves and coyotes that borders on obsession. With the exception of large commercial operations running full-time herders living with their flocks, most LGDs are run under fence. They have to be, or they’ll roam off their property. But in using them this way, the American LGD user, in making his farming efforts and life easier, misses out on something: something big. They miss out on the true essence of the pastoral life. Romanian transhumance and human/predator co-existence researcher and photographer Paul White writes:
Many farmers in the west do not want the discomfort of living with their sheep in unfenced predator country and often rely too heavily on their dogs working alone and hoping they make the right decisions. This is unfair on the dogs and the sheep and can lead to livestock depredation very quickly. This can provoke calls for wolf and bear culls and disappointment in dogs which sometimes leads to abandonment. Shepherds in Transylvania are on the ground 24/7 and know their dogs intimately. They can mix and match the pack at any given time through the day depending on situations and problems as they occur. A sick or lame dog can be cared for at the camp whilst another dog is moved in to maintain the deterrent. If a wolf or bear runs into the flock, the deterrent is much more effective with shepherds and dogs working together. It must also be emphasized that a good LGD is a non-lethal deterrent. Their job is to protect but not to kill the predator.

In America, on large commercial sheep and goat operations, producers hire herders from other countries to do the lowly paid seasonal work keeping flocks moving through vast deeded and allotted lands. They move over vast, open range for months. It is the herder who lives full time with the sheep in a camp wagon and sees the Milky Way at night, not the owner; it is the H2A herder who connects with and forms a relationship with the livestock and the herding and guardian dogs, feeding them, caring for them and moving them; not the owner. How sad it has come to this.
But even smaller American hobby farm and self-sustaining operations have lost connection, or perhaps never cultivated it to begin with. Their owners may be present, but their LGDs often live in forced semi-solitary confinement, 24/7 with livestock, enclosed under fence often in extremely cramped spaces. In too many instances, the owner is gone from the hobby farm for eight hours a day or more to a town job that financially floats the hobby farm or supposed “self-sustaining” homestead. They are gone, not there. They don’t see what is happening. In turn, their guardian dogs, left alone all day, become frustrated, bored, and depressed. They try to escape – and typically succeed. From a Facebook post:
We see these guardian dogs all the time on our local lost and found pet pages. Somebody has either lost one, or somebody has found one. They go wandering when they have a spare moment.
In terms of using LGDs pursuant to their historical use, many Americans are trying to force a round peg into a square hole. Unlike Old World shepherds living with their livestock and dogs, Americans keep the LGDs – and subsequently their livestock – at arm’s length. It is wrong, and the root cause of most problems with these dogs. 

This misfire came about for a reason. In the 1970’s, when researchers brought over Livestock Guardian Dogs to America and placed them with sheep operations, instead of interacting regularly with the dogs, they wrongly advocated minimal human handling, claiming it would negatively impact the dog’s ability and instincts to guard livestock. The late researcher Ray Coppinger spearheaded this theory. He advanced the “hands off” rearing that promoted plopping a pup in a pen with sheep, and leaving it alone – for weeks. French LGD breeder, trainer and published author, Mathieu Mauries observed this about Coppinger’s methodology with LGDs:
Indeed, 25 years after the return of the wolf the situation of protection dogs in France is catastrophic. The method developed by Ray Coppinger, which consists in isolating very young puppies in a herd with little or no contact with humans for themselves claiming to promote their attachment to animals is an aberration. The basic needs of puppies (game, protection and education by adult dogs) have been totally ignored leading to dramatic situations where dogs have often been charged with a bullet in the head. The problems posed by dogs that have been given this type of education are innumerable, particularly with regard to consumers of nature who travel our mountains..(my dogs) are companions and not tools like the method, unfortunately worldwide, (promoted) by R. Coppinger. I cannot pay any tribute to this person who has poisoned the world of protection dogs with a so-called science.
In the summer of 2018 I was contacted by a gentleman who had worked with Ray and Lorna Coppinger and LGDs. His E-mails in part said:
“You are right on target. In the past I worked with guardian dogs, and made sure to always heavily socialize puppies. Socialized guardians tended to be more responsive, more balanced, (and) answerable to confront (the) unpredictable. Regarding Ray and Lorna (Coppinger,) I worked very closely with them. They were quite receptive to my way of handling my dogs. They did recommend more than one dog when it was a matter of predators like wolves. We are going back several years, but they did grow with their research. 
I just want to say that you are doing a great job educating ranchers and farmers in how to develop the best relationship with their guardian dogs. These dogs do perform better when they are socialized as puppies. Ray and Lorna were very attuned to my methodology in socializing puppies. They grew into their research. What they did that was important is blow away the myth that herding dogs chased livestock. I no longer raise sheep but was very much taken with your wisdom and knowledge. Some people simply refuse to train or understand dogs. 
I raised sheep and dogs to guard then years ago when I lived in New Hampshire…I live in the Berkshires in MA. Ray and Lorna also had their problems trying to educate some ranchers and farmers. They used to tell me that some livestock growers would keep the puppies too much in the house. They would not get enough exposure to livestock…Ray and Lorna learned a lot more over the years. I truly believe that sheep growers are very lucky to have you. You made a very good point in your video that each ranch has its own set of challenges, and it is very important to select the appropriate breed for the job. When I was out west I could not help but see the difference between the wide open range and our smaller fenced acres in New England. I look forward to reading your book.”  — AY

Unfortunately novice American hobby farmers and homesteaders eagerly followed Coppinger’s lead. Owners soon discovered how easily these dogs bonded to livestock and how naturally they performed their guardian duties, as if they were on autopilot. Of course the dogs bonded to the livestock: isolated with no human interaction, they had nothing else to bond to, and this “bonding” was typically done under forced if not extreme conditions. Operators looking for ways to cut work soon saw using the dogs as a way to lessen their own presence and time in the livestock, thus furthering the detachment from nature and animals. Let the dogs do it all. Just trap and shoot all the predators. Thus born of ignorance, the disconnected Lazy Shepherd came about and flourishes now, in America. 

Farming and ranching is not for lazy people who won’t invest themselves into it as a passion, or from the heart. Too many American LGD owners do not spend adequate time with their LGDs. They do not take time to train and observe and understand their dogs, and then the problems begin. Owners afraid to trust their dogs’ instinct try to micro-control their LGDs by managing their every move using ridiculous training devices, creating more problems than they solve. They “farm from Facebook” and that is why they fail.
Similar with many other domestic dog breeds that became too popular, too fast, LGD breeds’ sudden fame in America has come at an ugly price. Their use here is often shallow, empty and lacking in a productive connection.

In recent years, many LGD owners have voiced concerns to me over the detached “hands off” way of rearing and using LGDs prescribed by early researchers in America. They are searching for a different way that allows them to connect with these dogs in a way similar in their native countries – recognizing they thrive on and require a degree of human interaction, trust and respect - instead of a cold shoulder. Many people have expressed to me that they recognize and respect the dog’s emotional and spiritual aspects as well. This gives me great hope. 

Success with these dogs using a more holistic, compassionate method: The Way of The Pack can be lived and practiced by anyone. Imagine using responsible, humane training and rearing practices with an LGD so that challenges and issues can be greatly curtailed with humane solutions. Imagine being able to enable a more successful and fulfilling use of these dogs. By becoming a participant instead of a spectator, the training, use and understanding methods detailed in this book, can be your LGD experience. 

As the old Zen proverb says, your mind is like a cup: when it is full and overflowing, you can’t take in new information or learn. There is a kinder and more respectful and effective way to use, live with and train LGDs, and this book will show you how. 

It is time to empty your cup and fill it with The Way of The Pack.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Way of The Pack:
Understanding and Living With Livestock Guardian Dogs

Finally, my book will be available soon later this week on Amazon and KDP Kindle Store. 
There are over 40+ chapters on how to understand and use LGDs.
Just a few of the chapters include:

P is for Predator
Self-Assessment & Discernment for LGD Owners
Fining a Good SFD Mentor
Before the Dog, the Fencing
Feeding Your LGDs
Adding a New LGD to a Pack
The Use of Bells on Stock and Dogs

And so much more for you to learn.

You can buy my book from Amazon; $35.00 on Kindle; 
or, you can wait until the book is out on Amazon via $35.00 plus shipping and handling.

Also, I will be soon offering on Pay Pal, $40.00 includes the cost of the book and shipping, once I get copies sent to me. I will include autograph copies as well to folks, and those who want a book shaped via another postal such as in Spain, Turkey, Mexico, France, German, and other countries, etc.

Thank you for looking at my book.
I hope I can help people understand and use these dogs, and that my book will give people pause to think over these dogs, and why they are so important, and how we can learn so much from these dogs and from others as well.

This has been a very difficult time for me due to increasing health and I again thank everyone's patience and time with me getting this book finally finished and done.
God bless to all of you.

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