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.

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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

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http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/decoding-your-dog-american-college-of-veterinary-behaviorists/1118930964?ean=9780544334601&st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Shopping+Books_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP62465

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

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Sassy the 8th month old who has a strong urge to please, once she understands what you want.
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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!
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