Chicken killer, or untrained?

Guerrero watching the flockOne of my favourite hobbies is dog training and the study thereof. I love studying dog psychology in particular. This comes in handy on the homestead because we keep livestock guardian dogs as well as a couple of pet dogs and a guard dog.

Something that drives me a little crazy though, is that I frequently run a cross people who claim that once a dog has tasted blood, it will be a killer for life and therefore, if a livestock guardian dog kills an animal, it will never be any good.

Earlier this year, we chose to get a cat for our farm. When we were still in the process of introducing it to the livestock guardian dogs, the cat escaped one early morning and got out with the dogs. Two out of three left Tux the cat strictly alone. Unfortunately, the oldest of our dogs who is 5 years old, had it ingrained in him that any cats that showed up on the farm were to be done away with. Tux was no exception despite the fact that we had begun the process of introducing him to the dogs. It was heart breaking. Guerrero caught up with the cat, and killed him in a single bite. We never had a chance to catch Tux before Ger did.

We didn’t get rid of Ger though. Instead, we chose to bring home a little younger kitten the next time and made a specific point of calling Ger over when we had the kitten with us. We made a point of telling him and showing him that the kitten was our cat and we liked that cat for 4 or 5 days. By the end of that time, the dog understood. Our new barn cat, Patch, sometimes sleeps on Ger now, and often Ger allows Patch to eat from his dish. He is the dog pictured at the top of this blog post.

Commando and Patch

Right now, we have a couple of new dogs on the farm who will be with us until probably sometime next week. These two young girls are a 3 year old and an 8 month old. They have killed some birds on their last farm. We were told about them as the last place had given up hope on them and was going to have them destroyed. We are working with them, and their problem isn’t aggression. It’s playfulness. They aren’t trying to kill the birds.

img_0427We are seeing rapid improvements with the both of them and expect to have them re-homed by next week.

All that to say that any dog is likely to require training in the task that you want it to do. There is a fallacy among some of the livestock guardian dog people that they ought to guard without being trained. That is ridiculous! In all the years of working with dogs that I have, I have only ever heard of maybe two livestock guardian dogs who didn’t require training. However, I have raised and seen many dogs be trained into fine livestock guardian dogs with patience. As with many things, they do take work, but it is so worth it in the end.

If you are interested in doing some reading on dog psychology, I would recommend the book Decoding your dog


When launches, we will have a more in depth course on how we train our livestock guardian dogs.

Sassy the 8th month old who has a strong urge to please, once she understands what you want.
Chyenne, the 3 year old who just can’t get enough of being told that she’s really a good dog who makes some mistakes sometimes. She like Sassy is eager to please and is learning fast!

Persisting through imperfection


As someone who always likes to have something new to learn or do, I love homesteading and craft projects. One of the things that I think I’ve mentioned before, is the fact that I am learning to spin and learning to knit. Something that I’ve noticed though is that people seem to often be intimidated and choose not to try to learn because their project might not look perfect.

Please, give things a try anyway. True, the first multiple times that you do something, it probably won’t be perfect. Take my spinning and knitting for example. Right now, both are full of lumps and bumps. But, I am having fun in the process of learning. If you can enjoy the process of learning, perfection will come with time.

Here is a ball of homespun wool, and my scarf in progress. It’s not perfect, but I’m having fun and learning in the process.

The same thing holds true with caring for and raising livestock, or a garden. Anything that takes skill, takes time. But the process of learning itself can be quite enjoyable. Give it a chance. A real chance. Not just trying something a few times.

As a violinist, I know how hard it can be to learn something. However, if you are determined enough, you can develop the skill. When I first began playing violin, I was tone deaf and dyslexic. I had a violin teacher quit on me and tell my family that I would never make a musician. However, like the Vikings of the movie, How to train your dragon, I had and still have some serious stubbornness issues.

Between my stubbornness, and my parents help  in finding a new teacher, I did eventually develop the skills I needed to become a violinist.


Was it ever easy? Certainly not! Oh, but it was so worth it in the end! You’ll find with the skills that you wish you could develop, that it will likely be the same. Perhaps not easy, but certainly worth the battle!


Until next time I get a chance to write,

Emily McLaughlin

Fiber on the Farm

Lucky as a lamb
Lucky as a lamb.

Some years ago, my mother got involved in a spinning group. At the time, as a young adult, I didn’t really have much interest in the spinning group. I did crochet a little after attending a university where my room mate loved doing that in her free time, but it would be a few years before I began to have an interest in fiber for myself.

Despite crocheting, my interest in fiber didn’t start until a very special lamb was born on the homestead. Her mother was a small Shetland sheep. Her father was a large merino ram. It was, as I recall, her mother’s first time lambing and it all started on a Sunday during church. My mother went out to the barn to check on the sheep just to be sure that all was well. She came hurrying inside and called me out of the church service. One of our little Shetland ewes was lambing and she was having difficulty.

When I had a feel to see what was going on with her, I first discovered that her uterus was twisted. In order to begin to get to the lambs, that had to be untwisted. So, I told my mother to roll the ewe to the left while I hung onto the one leg of a lamb that I was able to grab. If I shouted, “STOP!” she was to stop instantly and roll the ewe the other direction as that would mean that I had felt the uterus tightening on us rather than opening up.

Thankfully, on our first try, I felt the uterus loosen up. But, our troubles weren’t done yet. The lamb that I had gotten a hold of it’s leg, had it’s head laid back to the left, and the right leg was back along the rib cage. It still couldn’t come. I had to push the lamb back, carefully bring the head forward, and then in a rush, the creature hit the ground.

This should have been a relief. The first lamb had been born and I ought to have been able to focus on helping the next lamb. It wasn’t. Our first lamb wasn’t breathing. I tried spinning fluids out of it’s lungs. No luck. Still nothing. I was inclined initially to call it a lost cause and move on to the next lamb. It’s a sad fact of life on a farm or a homestead, but not every baby is born alive.

My mother though, was about to go into tears. The lamb was a stunning little ewe, and we didn’t have many ewes on the farm. I couldn’t stand to see Mom cry. I braced myself, tried not to think about what I was about to do…..and started CPR on the ‘dead’ lamb. Within two breaths, I saw the rib cage rise and fall on it’s own and heard a weak bleat. That baby was alive!!!!!

While I was working on the one baby, the next lamb arrived with no complications and was able to be handed off to it’s mother. It was a satisfying feeling to see the three all up and doing well. Fast forward a few years. Lucky, the lamb had grown into a beautiful ewe. She had lambs of her own. However, ever since Lucky was still at her mother’s side, she always considered me to be another momma. I became very attached to Lucky. She peaked my interest in keeping sheep for fiber.

Some of our flock with their lambs

Fast forward a few years. We hit some times where we needed to make the painful decision to sell our sheep. I’d continued crocheting and had taken an interest in knitting during my childhood. Now, my mother is teaching me how to spin and a friend of mine has started to teach me how to knit.



My hope is that one day, I will be able to make my own clothing from the wool that I have from Lucky. Eventually, as well, I will also learn how to spin dog hair to be able to use in clothing as well. I hear it is much warmer than wool. Someday, hopefully, I’ll be bringing home a Kerry Blue Terrier when either my boxer or rat terrier passes away and aside from helping me with the animals on the farm, being a companion, and going to dog competitions with me, I hope to have learned to spin, knit and crochet well enough to be able to use Kerry fiber which the breed is also known as Irish Blue terrier, in order to make cardigans, scarves, and mittens. Homesteading is ever an exciting journey, and even for those of us who have been doing it for a while, there is always something new to learn that will make your life all the richer.

December on the farm

Bravo Guerrero and Dad
Guerrero on the left and Bravo, his dad on the right. They preferred being out with people and animals even though they have the option of the barn.

Right now the weather has cooled off. Life on the farm is in one of it’s interesting stages thanks to the goats. Most of the does go in heat during this time of year, and the bucks stink. Our milk production is slowing down and the does are starting to dry up.

We can tell when the does are in heat when they start butting heads a lot, and wagging their tails quite a bit. If they are able to get close to the buck pen, of course, they will display quite a bit of interest in him.

In a few months, we will be having goat kids be born. It makes dealing with our buck worth it all. This is one of last years little does. I look forward to seeing who arrives this next year.Cafecita

Aside from the goats, right now is firewood season. We have been splitting and stacking wood for about 2-3 months now. Our home is primarily heated by a wood stove. We find that with living where ice storms are common, having a second method of heating the house is very important. Plus, not only do we need to be sure to have more than one way of heating the house, but we have found that we have some problems with central heating and our health when we use central heating.

Ice storm emergency preparedness picture
One of the spectacular ices storms that has hit our farm in the past.