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Monday, April 23 2018

Reason #465 for why you should train your dogs. One of these things does not belong.

There in the Mean Dog kennel, in a moonscape of holes Mesa dug, is a chicken. Apparently I did not realize Russell Crowe was inside the pen when I locked the Border Collies in their prison for the morning. They had already been alone together for at least an hour when I discovered the new roommate.

Had I discovered a pile of red and gray feathers I couldn't really have blamed the dogs. It was my mistake. Mistakes happen and dogs are just dogs - which is why you must train for mistakes. People with gray hair and busy schedules will, read my lips, WILL make mistakes. It is inevitable. You must be like NASA - train for every disaster.

So even though my dogs are accustomed to free-range chickens, I still dutifully toss out cat food and bread crumbs for the dogs and the chickens to share. Each morning they all peck and scratch together so they get desensitized to each other under the distraction of food. Chickens aren't toys. They are competition in the food hunt for cat kibble. This method has been working pretty well, but it isn't until you have a senior moment that the theory is tested in the field. If you have a brain fart and lock a chicken in with Border Collies, then you'll see if your theory pans out.

Apparently it does. A quite healthy, but somewhat miffed, Russell strutted out the opened door when I found him. I was so relieved I took the Mean Dogs for another walk. They earned it. Not killing a chicken is definitely gold star material around here. So we went for a walk and I gave it some more thought. Each day I hear about dogs being re-homed or killed because they kill chickens. It saddens me. Outside of beating the dog and tying a dead bird around its neck, neither of which work, most of the time little or no training is given to the dog. Training a dog takes time and patience. It also requires a reasonable amount of intelligence and common sense. A dog does nothing to spite you. I want a dollar for every time someone tells me Rover was angry and did such and such "just to get back at me." No, he didn't. Rover is a dog. Dogs don't think that way. I also want a dollar for every time I hear that a dog knows he's done wrong because he looks guilty afterwards. No, he doesn't know killing chickens is wrong. He knows that every time you see a pile of feathers and a dead chicken you go bat-shit crazy and he's afraid of you when your head spins around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Spend some time training the dog before you re-home it. Note that I didn't say, "take it to the pound." Do not, under any circumstances, take that dog to a shelter, or a pound, or God forbid, drop it off "in the country." People who do these things aren't folks with problem dogs, they're just assholes. Most of the time these idiots get another dog within a year, sometimes from the same shelter that put their other dog to sleep.

If you cannot train around the problem then yes, other actions must be taken. We had a Belgian Malinois who was retired from police work because of an injury. The dog churned all her energy into hunting sheep. She could not exist on a farm without placing all the small livestock in grave danger. In her case, we simply could not train around the problem. She was that dangerous to small animals. There was no second chance. She was bred to be a killing machine and could not be blamed for her genes. Ordinarily I would try to juggle a dog like that but I run a farm and am responsible for the safety of all the other animals on the farm.

A dog like that is a slave to her genes, so she was re-homed with a retired couple who wanted an active companion. She was a happy camper sleeping on the couch with her doggy roommate and jogging with her new owners.  All our other patrol dogs (all German Shepherds) were able to retire and co-exist quite happily on a farm.

You can't just go through dogs until you find one that acts the way you expect a dog to act, you have to train them. We ALL have problems with our dogs. My dogs aren't special. They are just as rotten as yours. My best Livestock Guardian Dog use to kill chickens. Another one killed one of my favorite barn cats. All dogs come with problems. Getting rid of a dog that doesn't meet your expectations and running out to get another one isn't your answer. I see a lot of really good dogs labeled as failures in one home that go to other homes and become the perfect dog.

Just train the damn dog. If you don't know how to train it, find someone to help you. If the dog simply cannot work out on your farm, be responsible and make the effort to find a good home. And most of all, remember that a dog is a dog. They are not furry children. They are not Lassie. They are primitive wolf-like creatures in nice cuddly suits who like to sleep on your couch.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
I love this post.
Posted by Res on 04/23/2018 - 01:10 PM
Love this post! So true, and so sad that many dogs are euthanized every year because people don't take the time to train them, or even make sure they have enough exercise and socialization. I hope it reaches someone who needs the nudge to give their dog another chance.
Posted by Cindy Tennant on 04/23/2018 - 03:23 PM
Yes YeS YES YES YES!!! Just TRAIN the damn dog, why is that such a difficult concept for so many? Thanks for this post!
Posted by Wendy Pinckney on 04/23/2018 - 09:15 PM
Yes! I get irritated trying to explain to people that dogs are DOGS, that's why they do things. They aren't plotting your demise. They are acting like DOGS and not secretly plotting anything but what their breeding or instincts tell them.
Posted by Nicole on 04/26/2018 - 04:16 PM
This great essay has landed in my note section of a rescue group for Maremma. As usual very well put.
Posted by Liz. [Vic' Aust] on 04/27/2018 - 06:22 PM
Thanks! I'm glad this post hit the mark. It's something I'm passionate about.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 05/11/2018 - 11:13 AM

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