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Monday, December 21 2015

My posts have spawned a lot of discussion regarding the pros and cons of working homes versus pet homes for Livestock Guardian Dog breeds, so let's wade into this debate today. And yes, this argument really applies to ALL breeds of working dogs. It's not merely a Livestock Guardian Breed issue, just as many Border Collies are at the pound for the same reason. People get a Ferrari when they should be driving a Volkswagon. Folks, an Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a Ferrari. A Border Collie is a Ferrari. A Great Pyrenees is a Ferrari. I'm not saying you can't drive one, I'm just saying that if you don't do your research and learn how, you're gonna end up wrapped around a telephone pole.

And this never ends well for the dog.

Don't let this become a pride issue for you. I've trained dogs my entire adult life and I can assure you, I just "thought" I was a dog trainer until I got a working Bloodhound. Tried and true methods I'd used for years simply did not work with that highly intelligent dog who had very little motivation to do anything other than the mantrailing game. I had to throw out the playbook and try something else. She made me a better dog trainer and really prepared me for the world of Livestock Guardian Dogs, so don't let hubris get in your way. Training a Labrador does not prepare you for the independent mind of a Great Pyrenees.

 Does that mean you can't do it? Of course not! I ended up with a great working Bloodhound. Just do your research and prepare yourself. Look at the pluses and minuses of that breed very carefully and decide if they're things you can live with, and this is different for everyone. Trust me, I think Jack Russell Terriers are the cutest little farts, but I know enough about them, and me, to know that I'm not man enough (wo-man enough!) to handle the things they do that terrier people just take in stride. We all have things that are deal breakers. Since I accept my limitations, I just admire terriers from a distance.

Some may argue that a Livestock Guardian Dog needs a flock and cannot function in a pet home. The same is often said of Border Collies. This rhetoric leads people to believe that unless they live on a large farm their dog won't be happy. On the flip side, we've got folks feeling guilty because their farm dog is also a pet. They're told their dog is not a REAL Livestock Guardian Dog if he's not living in the Back Forty alone with a flock of sheep.

First and foremost, any dog is happier in a good home where he has a job and is loved by a responsible owner. The word "pet" is often seen as a dirty word in ranching and working dog circles. It shouldn't be. All my dogs are pets - even the working dogs. I believe "pet" dogs have a better working relationship with their handlers than dogs that are treated simply as tools. The real issue is not is the animal a pet, but are his physical and psychological needs being satisfied?

And before we go any further, read this: No dog is happy thrown outside with no social contact. If your dog is living on a chain or in a tiny fenced area in the corner of your back yard, where company won't see the holes he digs, you are the problem, not the dog.

So back to Livestock Guardian Dogs, a pet dog wants a something to guard and a working dog wants the security and stability of a happy home. I would argue a dog is far better off in a good pet home than he is thrown into the pasture by a rancher who thinks that Livestock Guardian Dogs shouldn't be handled. I also believe that a pet home is not a "good" pet home if they don't do their research and fully understand and appreciate what drives that dog. Generations upon generations of behaviors are hardwired into the DNA of your dog.

So let's summarize the three main points:

1) If you have a Livestock Guardian Dog and don't have livestock it doesn't mean your dog won't be happy guarding you and the kids, just prepare yourself for barking all night and crawling over and under the fence. Yes, I understand not every Livestock Guardian Breed dog does this, but enough of them do to it that these dogs should come with a warning label, so don't fool yourself into thinking that cute little polar bear cub won't act that way. He will. Get over it, work around, or don't take him home in the first place.

2) If you have livestock and a Livestock Guardian Dog, but it's also a pet, you shouldn't feel guilty about that. The proof is in the pudding. If you wake up in the morning and all your sheep are still there, I guess it doesn't mean a tinker's damn that the dog comes in the living room to watch television with the kids, now does it?

3) If you have livestock but don't have a Livestock Guardian Dog, I can't help you much. I got nothing. If I were you, I'd get a dog. Trust me, they're worth it.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 06:06 am   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
I wish everyone would read and heed this! By the way, I have small terriers. As a teacher, I'm happy to come home to dogs who just do as they damn well please.
Posted by Mae Wilson on 12/21/2015 - 08:34 AM
Great post! I had no idea I was feeding a controversy the other day, though I did know I was stereotyping "pet" homes. My dogs are pets too, two Border Collies and a Jack Russell, even though they also work. My rescued Pyr was a pet the entire rest of his life. My point was that these dogs aren't just a mountain of fluff and grins, like some people seem to think, and as you pointed out, people need to know what they are getting into to make it work. Peace.
Posted by Patty on 12/21/2015 - 07:53 PM
Patty this has spread far and wide. I took it to my 4000 + rescue list as well and this follow up. I wonder if LGDorg would consider it for library with permission?
Posted by Liz (Vic. Aust.) on 12/22/2015 - 04:01 PM
I know you don't trust donkeys but they are great if you can't do well with a LGD, busy road, barking, etc. We barn birth anyway and it is not so difficult to reintroduce. Our Mama Donk is a tiger. She knows the b.c.s but God help anything else, 2 or 4 legs that appears to threaten her charges. I do want LGDs in the future but for right now she works great.
Posted by Andrea on 12/23/2015 - 10:21 AM
Andrea, I'm not totally against donkeys. Some folks swear by them. I think that donkeys are probably like LGDs, they need a lot of training, and I know how to train dogs, but I'm clueless as to how to train donkeys. Lol
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 12/28/2015 - 07:09 PM
Thank you for you vast experience, wisdom, & especially sharing it with the world. This is a great post! Found your site via Sarah Bell's share on Facebook.
Posted by JayDee Wilkins on 12/29/2015 - 12:49 PM

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