Guard Dog Blog

on Livestock Guardian Dogs and small farm life…

Change is good!?

4 Comments

There’s been a bit of change here on the farm in the past few weeks. Titus, our Armenian Gampr pup, found a new home with first-time LGD owners, guarding the same kind of goats we have here. The landscape is more open than here and the main predators are coyotes, bold ones who don’t mind trying to get in the fences in broad daylight.

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Titus, the morning of his departure. It was snowing and oh, SO cold.

His new owners are quite happy with him so far as he sets down his boundaries with the coyotes and adjusts to the new animals he’s not seen before – namely, horses. He’s taken it all in stride, although I do have to say that the process of leaving us was a little stressful for him. Stress is not always easy to see in LGDs, and often consists of panting or heavy breathing, displaying submissive or aggressive behavior, becoming extremely sedentary, shying away and/or drooling. Some dogs are more active when under stress, becoming restless and pestering for attention, not listening well. Transitions are very stressful for the OCD mind of a LGD, as are new and novel experiences – especially if they have not been well socialized as young pups.

 

Poor Titus “dead weighted” when it was time to load up in the car, which really always was his go-to behavior when he wanted to avoid doing something. Walk on a leash? Dead weight it. Go in the car? Dead weight it. Go back in the gate when it’s more fun to stay out? Dead… well you get the idea. The term refers to when a dog (or any being for that matter) sinks into the ground, letting their body become literally “dead weight”. Titus hadn’t done this in some time as I’d worked to have him a willing participant in all things, so it was a little emotional for me. Having him leave was already emotional, so I won’t lie and say I didn’t shed a few tears. Once he was in the truck, he ate food willingly from the seat; this made it clear that he was not in a very bad emotional state and helped me feel a bit better. It’s never easy, moving a dog on.

Anytime I sell a dog, I spend a lot of time communicating to prospective owners about the realities of the dog: who they are, what I’ve done with them to date, what they need, what I think they’ll be like in the future. I’ve done a lot of rescue and rehab work so I’m pretty familiar with how important a good match between owner and dog is: so much so that I have nearly a 100% retention rate in the new home. This is never accomplished by being untruthful about the dog, as I see so many people do. Frank discussion is the only thing that ensures a good dog/owner match.

The second most important thing is to ensure that the new owners understand their part in the success of the match. For LGDs, this can mean talking a lot about the basics of keeping a working dog and how to understand the mind of a working LGD. I’ve learned, over the years, to listen to my gut during this stage and kibosh the match if necessary. Thankfully, Titus’s new owners were way ahead of things, doing tons of reading and researching on LGDs in general and Gamprs specifically. They were willing to listen to my commentary and work together to make the transition as painless as possible for Titus.

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Being really submissive at his new home on the day of the move.

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Working to blend in as seamlessly as possible with his new goats; the coyotes don’t stand a chance.

Clearly, it worked well.

With the absence of Titus and predators knocking on my door, I needed to look for a new partner for Ivy. As one of the main reasons for selling Titus was because of his difficulty in respecting Ivy, and because Ivy lost her entire litter and won’t ever have another, it was important to me to look for an appropriate pup more like her. Ivy’s guardian instincts are impeccable, but she contracted Lyme and anaplasmosis the year she was away from me and isn’t as resilient as she once was. I want her to raise a pup before she has to retire. Of course, this probably means that she will live a long time yet and will work strongly up until the end, but you never know. I want to reduce her workload some (she would never tolerate too much of a reduction!) and her stress as much as possible.

Enter Koda.

 

This sweetheart was living with her brother on a small acreage south of us. The owners bought them from a working ranch to be acreage guardians, but soon found them to be more than they’d bargained for. As a GP/Sarplaninac cross, she has the potential to be a sweet, yet serious livestock guardian. She hasn’t been around livestock for a while, though, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment for her. One of the biggest pieces of this has been (you guessed it!) learning self control. The other challenging piece was learning the appropriate respect for Ivy, who does not tolerate any guff from young female pups. This was their meeting:

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Koda, running for her life from the big, scary Ivy.

 

The adjustments continue, but in proper LGD form, Koda has sorted out that it’s best to try learning from your elders first before challenging them. They are getting along very well now. I’m excited to see where this journey with Koda leads us. Thankfully, before long, it will also lead to less snow and hopefully new babies on the farm!

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Good friends, as long as Koda minds her manners.

 

4 thoughts on “Change is good!?

  1. I would like to have a small conversation with you directly. Via email is fine – I’m pretty sure you will have mine via this comment, since this is your blog. I have some questions and thoughts about Coppinger and LGD in North America I’d like to discuss, and I’m not sure the comments area is the appropriate place for such. FWIW – I have herding dogs myself. No farm, so unfortunately, the only work we get to do is chasing Canada geese for pay. But they love it! –Mark

  2. Hi, I really wanted to say thank you for your blog! Only yesterday we brought home a rescue 5 month old desexed Maremma girl. She had been purchased as a house pet on a small block but her previous owners apparently had no idea how to begin to train her so when she started jumping on them when they got home (after being left alone all day by herself in the house with nothing to do and no human or animal companionship), instead of researching how to correct her behaviour, she was surrendered to the local pound. We found her through a rescue organisation. We’ve just moved to a 2 acre block, have chickens, cats and a couple of small dogs who are mainly house pets.

    We did some research into the breed before moving here because of the high incidence of fox attacks in this area. I knew the basics of the breed but I haven’t had hands on experience in introducing, training or helping a LGD to bond with stock. She was car shy at first but warmed up quickly to attention more so than the occasional treat I offered her so I think human attention may be her high value reward. Because the property is new to her and my understanding is that she hasn’t been tested around poultry (mine free range all day and are cooped at night), we’ve been doing a lot of perimeter walks on a lead to help her learn her territory. She’s very quickly getting better at walking with me without me needing to direct her with the leash at all as we walk around the yard. She hasn’t shown much interest in the chickens as yet which I’m taking as a positive sign. The rest of the time she is sitting in my laundry with a screen door so she can see the chickens milling about. I take her out for about 15-20 minutes every couple of hours. Today we’ll be building a run for the chickens so that she can have more control over her territory while still observing the flock. The idea will be to allow the flock to free range if she’s happy to sit and watch them and doesn’t show any aggression but not sure if I should be doing that in steps? Increasing periods of time?

    I’ve read quite a few of your posts and have learned a lot already about what corrections I should use and for what behaviours. I’m doing my best to instil in my children (17, 14 and 7) that Jemma is a working dog who has a job to do so they will need to learn that there is a time for play but the majority of her day she is meant to be working by guarding the flock and too much play confuses her about what her job is.

    I’ve seen some people recommend keeping a new LGD in a fenced off area until she becomes more familiar with her territory (some even suggested a couple of months) but as the block is only a couple of acres and fully fenced, I thought her set up in the laundry in between time outside was better than penning or crating her outside? Sorry if you’re busy as I’m asking a lot of advice here. I really want to do the right thing by this girl as her previous owners certainly didn’t. She spooks quite easily as well but the laundry seems to be a place where she is calm and happy to sit and watch the flock from behind the screen door. Ideally at night she will be able to sleep outside the laundry door but I want her to feel comfortable with her environment before doing that because she seems to scare easily, mainly at noises.

    Anyway, thanks again from a first time LGD owner. Your posts are great and I’ll be reading more of them as time allows to help me better understand our girl and what she needs to be healthy and happy in her new home.

    • It would be wise for you to learn about fear periods in dogs. Exposing a dog to something it is not sure of during a fear period can make it afraid of that thing for life. This includes noises.

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