Casaubon's Book

Even Dogs Can Go Local

We spent about 8 months looking for a suitable dog before we acquired Mac the Marshmallow last month. Until a little over a year ago, we had two American Working Farmcollies, half siblings. Rufus, our senior dog was an unusually large dog for his breed – half again the size of either parent or his sister, Mistress Quickly, and he died suddenly at 7 of a hidden heart condition that our vet says sometimes affects unusually large dogs.

We knew that we did not want another farmcollie – or rather we did, we had loved Rufus, but that what we needed in working dog for our family was slightly different than what we’d had. In both the case of Rufus and Mistress Quickly, their strong herding instincts had reduced their utility has guardian dogs – both were wonderful at driving off strange predators, but had difficulty letting the livestock be in normal circumstances. They both had a tendency to respond excessively to normal situations, and to try and herd the animals back to the barn if they ranged too far or even minor abnormalities occurred. Despite a lot of work, we were never able to fully curb these practices, so the dogs couldn’t be out entirely unattended with the livestock.

We decided we needed a dog that would be primarily a guardian, whose instincts would be protective, but more mellow. Because our barnyard is within a few meters of the house, however, we wanted the dog to be both protective of our livestock and also part of our family. We were given a mix of information about whether this was possible – if we selected a guarding breed, we were told, they might or might not be able to bond to both humans and animals, but enough people reported success this way that we decided we’d attempt it. We were looking for a dog of mixed or single ancestry that would have the livestock guarding instincts that we wanted.

No dog is perfect, and the expression of what they have been bred for is only part of knowing what they will do. We ruled out adult dogs for two reasons. The first is that we have younger children, and many adult dogs have endured some kind of trauma that could have made them unsafe around kids. The second is that it is impossible to know whether an older dog will have the instinct to chase and kill small livestock – we could do the best guessing we could, picking dogs who genetic heritage inclined them to be protective, but a dog who has had experience killing poultry or rabbits was not an acceptable option for us, and there’s simply no way to know. Many shelters cat and other dog test their dogs, but “chicken testing” is less common ;-).

We looked at rescue dogs for months, and found that we really couldn’t meet our needs there, which was disappointing. Several of the breed rescues we contacted required us to sign papers permitting them to come at any time to our property to inspect the dogs – that just wasn’t going to happen – this is a working farm, and giving up legal right to our privacy wasn’t something we would do. A number of the shelters we contacted didn’t want to place LGD breeds on working farms – their policy was that they only wanted the animals to be household pets. Others would have required we sign a contract keeping the animals in a fenced yard all the time – which sort of defeats the purpose of a working animal. The cost of adopting a rescue puppy was as high as purchasing an animal bred for working (I don’t blame the rescue organizations who use the more desirable puppies to fund the care of older dogs for this at all), without the assurances that a breeder would be able to offer us that the animal wouldn’t be disabled by hip displasia.

One of the things our search taught us was this – that the culture of animal rights and love of animals (some of which has been a very good thing) has become profoundly suspicious of the idea of using animals to work – even when they have been bred to work. For example, we inquired about a litter of Great Pyrenees/Old English Sheepdog cross puppies that were available at a shelter in an affluent suburb of Boston. I wrote that we were looking for a dog with the characteristics that these were likely to have, and described our farm, room to roam on a quiet street and the fact that the dogs would be doing what they had been bred for. The respondent told me that they thought that the puppies should be placed locally, in community where they could be pets. I actually know this suburb fairly well – I didn’t grow up very far from it, and what fascinated me was the idea that dogs who genetic history is pushing them to master a fairly large territory and work with other animals will mostly be put in small suburban backyards by people who will not give them any work to do. This was deemed to be preferrable. I admit, I find this hard to understand.

I love dogs, and I find it equally hard to understand why people so often choose dogs inappropriate to the environment they live in. I do grasp that many inappropriate dogs are beautiful and wonderful, but I also think that dogs, like everything else biological, have appropriate and inappropriate placements in sustainable systems. I’ve seen Newfies and Komondors in South Florida in agony from the heat, and keep high energy dog breeds alone for 10 hours a day in an apartment. I’ve seen families with young children and no experience with dogs choose dogs that are difficult to control and require strong alpha behavior, with the inevitable results. In today’s New York Times, there’s an article about the practice of cutting the vocal cords of dogs, making them unable to bark. I tend to agree with the article that the practice is probably more humane than euthanizing a dog because of its barking, but I also tend to think that in many cases, the problem arises because we are trying to make dogs live in ways deeply unsuitable to them – that the people with the barking problems may have chosen their dogs without regard to their environment.

I think dogs have an important role in the future – yes, they are another creature to feed, but they also provide a measure of security for many people. Even a smaller dog with a decent bark can be the difference between getting a good night’s sleep and being terrified for many people. A dog as companion for a walk for an older person in neighborhood with rising crime dramatically increases their safety. As we use less energy, dogs often detect fire quickly – an important supplement to (not replacement for) smoke detectors in tightly built neighborhoods where more people are using space heaters or other risky techniques to keep warm and cook. For the elderly, disabled and alone, dogs and cats provide comfort, companionship, warmth and a reason to get up in the morning.

And for those of us on farms, for hunters, for those in icy climates who can travel by dogsled at least part of the year, for the disabled with assistance dogs, dogs are a major part of sustainable systems – they allow us to live better. Coyotes den across the road from us – if we didn’t have dogs, the choice would be a major economic loss of livestock, giving up livestock keeping, or killing the coyotes. I don’t want to see harm come to the coyotes – we have an insufficiency of larger predators in my region, and coyotes have in some respects moved into the ecological niche that was once occupied by wolves. My dogs mean that we can listen to the coyotes sing and also keep them away from our animals – achieve a kind of detente.

Our working dogs are beloved by us – they get attention and brushing and good food. They also have jobs to do, and my observation is that the signs of dog happiness are never more in evidence than when the dogs are doing their job and doing it well – Mistress Quickly’s tail is flying with joy when she rounds up the goats, and when Mac and MQ drove off a fox, they were manifestly pleased with themselves. They did good – and of course, we let them know that too. Dogs are not humans, but the signs of pride are unmistakable.

There are a lot of issues around pets – the biggest one may be the meat that they eat and the way that the pet food market subsidizes and supports the industrial food system – but I don’t think pets are going away anytime soon. But what we do need to do is to think hard about the animals we raise and care for – just as we need to live lives appropriate to our place and climate, so should our pets. That is, they need to be well adapted to the lives. Picking a dog should take some thought and serious consideration. Ideally, one will be able to adopt a rescue – we weren’t able to do that, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ever go that route – we made a serious attempt at it, and when the kids are older will have more options.

In the end, we found a wonderful couple who breed Great Pyrenees dogs. Mac was a 7 month old puppy who had been raised with goats and horses, had the mellow temprament we were looking for, and also strong abilities to bond with the family. We were impressed immediately by him – he was nervous taken out of his familiar environment to meet us, but he expressed his nervousness gently, and gravitated towards the children, who he treated with consummate gentleness. We saw him around the animals, and he was calm, and the goats came right up to him. We watched a 6lb pomeranian take food out of his brother’s mouth.

So Mac came home with us, and after a few days, settled in comfortably. He’s a warm, affectionate sweet dog, and while there have been some adjustments (having a dog on eye-level with the kitchen counters was a new thing!), he’s been wonderful. So we’re currently working on teaching him his new role. This is a slow process – the goats are still afraid of him, although he’s in no way aggressive to them, and because he’d never seen poultry before, he’s not really clear on what these things are yet. He’s not aggressive at all with them, just puzzled. Our job is to show him what we expect from him, to praise him lavishly when he does well, and to show alternatives when he makes a mistake. He’s a good student, and we’re working on good teaching.

For us, a gentle, mellow but serious guardian dog the size of a small pony (he weighs 84lbs now, but will probably top out near 150) is a good thing – but he’d be out of place in a lot of places. It has been a long process for us, figuring out what kind of dog suited our place, and I hope that most people, when choosing their dog, will also be thinking about their local conditions and how their dog fits into their attempts to adapt in their place.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Coco
    February 4, 2010

    Awwwwww. Pics?

    You´ve probably discussed this elsewhere, but could you describe what you feed them? Offal, kibble, some kind of mix? Cooked, raw? I know Matron´s dogs like carrots.

    If we ever find our country place one of the things I am most looking foward to is getting a big ol´ dog. We´ll have to get livestock to justify it ;)

  2. #2 vera
    February 4, 2010

    :-) How wonderful. May Mac and you all give each other joy for many many years ahead.

  3. #3 NM
    February 4, 2010

    Most of our animals have been rescued, not through organizations, but upon being found abandoned, though a few have been taken in from other people who could no longer keep them. This has meant taking in a wider variety of breeds than expected, and learning to live with the characteristics of each. We’ve loved them all, but I’ve often thought that a few of them were wasted on us; they clearly have abilities we aren’t using. And it’s clear to me, too, that dogs are happiest when they have a job to do and are doing it well. These are active animals; they can learn to be couch potatoes, but it’s not really what they want.
    I am grateful for your attitude toward coyotes. At this end of the country, there’s still a “kill all the pesky varmints” mentality, and there are still states that have massive coyote kill days. It is horrifying.

  4. #4 Marcia
    February 4, 2010

    Sharon:

    Great post, as always. We are training our one-year-old Collie-Aussie-with-a-touch-of-Akita to be our helper on our sururban ‘stead. But so far, we’ve had no luck getting him to understand that chickens are not to be chased and held down. How will you teach your puppy about this?

  5. #5 Sharon Astyk
    February 4, 2010

    Marcia, one of the things we’ve done is pick a breed without a strong prey drive – so he’s not much of a chaser, and that helps. We had a dog who had a strong prey drive, and killed chickens once, so we don’t want to go through that again.

    We have actually had to hold the farmcollies down while petting them and letting a chicken actually sit on them. They are rewarded for mellow behavior. Otherwise, all the obviously things – reward for good actions, discipline for bad (gently, obviously).

    Sharon

  6. #6 M
    February 4, 2010

    We were rejected as ‘not good enough’ by rescue organizations too. I think it’s probably easier to steal babies than get a dog from a rescue organization.

    Glad you found the right pup. We have 2 labs. One we adore. One we can’t stand–a cute puppy that otherwise turned into a rather obnoxious adult with a fondness for eating poop (and then smelling like it). Bad personality fit for us. We talk about rehoming him, but no one wants him.

    Hey, do you want him? Other than the poop eating and persistent stupidity, he’s a good dog. Although, the chickens would probably make him their bitch.

    M

  7. #7 Steve
    February 4, 2010

    Congratulations on your new family member.

    My experiences with GP’s have all been wonderful.

    A dry mouth for a dog this big is no small benefit!

    I predict a wonderful fit. It is a lot easier to teach a dog to get aggressive with animals than to get one to settle back down.

  8. #8 Susan
    February 4, 2010

    WOW, Sharon!!! I am so glad I found your blog. Almost all of your topics touch an area that I have an interest in. I have been reading about guardian dogs in the last couple of months. I hope to get one when I get my dairy goats. Yesterday, I pulled out my dog book to show my dog expert friend the type of dog I was interested in. So today I look on your blog, and low and behold, here you are talking about your process when you found your dog. I am definitely NO EXPERT, but am a voracious reader on subjects I am interested in. All of the experts I have read so far recommend getting a guardian dog as a puppy from a good line and breeder; then bonding the dog with the livestock it is expected to guard. So, for what it’s worth, and even though I can fully identify with your desire to rescue a dog for that purpose, I believe you chose the wisest route. Please keep your thoughts coming and don’t get too discouraged by the beauracratic dances with correcting environmental issues. Also, is there a spell check for this thing, as I am not a great speller?

  9. #9 Brad K.
    February 4, 2010

    What strikes me about your discussion here, I think, should apply to selecting tools, allocating fields for various uses, designing a barn – or picking a mate.

    I think the disconnect between what people pick for pets and how the pet’s needs, use, and nature are ignored – applies also to to many intimate partner selections. Including the interest in “saving” one at the Rescue (local watering hole).

    Next time you ask at a rescue, try using the phrase “structured play” every time you might have used the word “work”. They may well think of the same exercise, the same precision, accuracy – and enjoyment – as the dog does! Consumerism has taught too many people to avoid work – most don’t even know why – even those at an animal rescue.

    Luck to Mac, and blessed be!

  10. #10 D. C. Sessions
    February 4, 2010

    Susan@8: I’m using FireFox and it spell-checks in the comment entries just fine.

  11. #11 Pat Meadows
    February 4, 2010

    Hi Sharon – Our big collie, Sean, weighs 80 lbs and is definitely slender at that weight. He’s much considerably larger than collies are ‘supposed to be’. I know what you mean about the kitchen counters – he can get things off my desk too. And does. He’s a thief at heart, although a Very Good Dog nevertheless.

    I’m glad Mac is working out well for you! He sounds lovely.

    When you come down to visit us (which you ARE going to do, sooner or later, since it doesn’t appear that we’ll ever be able to get up your way) I hope you will bring him.

    Pat

  12. #12 Vicki
    February 4, 2010

    This is part of why I don’t have a dog: I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. A cat can fit comfortably into that environment. A dog large enough for me to be comfortable with (I don’t like the tiny breeds) wouldn’t. Neighbors of mine keep a doberman, and have made major adjustments to their lives to give the dog the amount of time and exercise it needs. I am not willing and able to devote that much of every day to a dog, so I am not getting a dog that would need that.

  13. #13 Sonrisa
    February 4, 2010

    Don’t even get me started on these nutty shelter types! I used to Vet Tech at the Humane Society, so I had a front row seat to the codependency parade. One of the girls had five or six cats and TEN (mostly large) dogs in a one bedroom apartment, but she would get hysterical when someone would say that they were going to keep the dog outside during the day. At the same time she was sending perfectly good people away (for really dumb reasons), they would be euthanizing animals by the dozens in the back. Arg!

    My old dog died about a year and a half ago, but I haven’t had the heart to even consider a new dog. We got a cat to help with the mice and we really love her, but a cat is not a dog. She was a mutt and didn’t see her first farm animal till she was six years old, but she took to herding and protecting like it was second nature. We lived in the city when we got our first chickens. One day I had the back door open and my old girl came inside, sat down at my feet, and looked up at me with the “come see” look. I looked out assuming someone was at the gate, but instead I see chickens everywhere! I ran out to round them up, instantly she went into herding mode. And in very short order we had them all back in the chicken yard (which was good because our hens weren’t legal). She had found her calling. One of our milk cows adored her, the goats not so much. I miss her dearly. A new dog would have mighty big shoes to fill.

    As a side note, some of our goats never got used to the dog (or the cat for that matter).

  14. #14 Greenpa
    February 4, 2010

    Weird that you’ve got a new pup, and we do too.

    My only addition to the info and discussion here is that I’ve become a very firm believer in getting new critters into the family just as young as possible. I don’t really want a kitten that has been weaned- it’s too old to truly bond. We’ve bottle-fed 5 at this point, and every last one of them has startled visitors with their “dog-like” affection and behavior.

    Puppys too; we’ve got two sisters, 3 1/2 months, half collie/half German Shepherd, from our friend at the shelter, who keeps her eyes peeled for dogs that fit us. We let her know 6 months ahead of time- and she comes up with interesting stuff.

    It’s way more work, when you get them that young, and you have to do more of the basic training; but I truly prefer it. I think the depth of the attachment is just very hard to get unless the animals are very young.

    That, of course, is a problem with many breeders- they won’t let people take extremely young animals for fear they won’t be treated and socialized properly, and their fear is not foolish.

    Another advantage for “local”! Folks know us- and have no problem trusting us with their babies; many of them have known our animals, and been surprised by them. When we had a cut your own Christmas tree business, people would ask to see Inkspot, our big neutered tom, year after year; he was such a charming and memorable – and friendly- character.

  15. #15 hickchick
    February 4, 2010

    One of the saddest things I see in my neighborhood is the two grossly obese blue heelers right down the street. Those dogs want a job.

  16. #16 Anna
    February 4, 2010

    If you haven’t already, I think you might enjoy reading Cesar Milan’s books about dog training/psychology. He agrees completely with your point that dogs need to do a job if you want them to be happy and well adjusted.

    We use his really simple technique of walking our dog twice a day in a certain way, and have had amazing luck training her to do things outside her normal character. For example, when we first got chickens, our dog went a little nuts and I could tell that her instinct was to kill them. But after we took her for a long walk, we sat her down beside the chickens and told her “no” every time she started to show the first signs of excitement. Surprisingly, it only took about fifteen minutes before she realized what we were saying. Now, when chickens ocassionally get out of their tractors, she’ll help herd them back in (even though she was bred to retrieve dead birds, not herd live ones.)

  17. #17 Amy Whitney
    February 4, 2010

    Years ago we adopted a four year old black lab mix. She was big, too–skinny at 90 pounds. She fit just fine into our household, but she wasn’t truly happy until we subscribed to a daily newspaper and let her go “retrieve” that paper from the top of the driveway every morning. It was her job, and she was proud of it. That was a lesson for us, to make sure that our dogs since then have jobs that suits their breed.

  18. #18 Lora
    February 4, 2010

    We weren’t good enough for the shelters either. One breed rescue we looked at actually made a big honkin’ deal about how they had many Saint Bernards with AKC papers–silly me for thinking that might mean they’d be willing to let adopters train the dogs for breed-specific AKC-regulated competitions like drafting. What floored me was that these working breeds ended up in rescue because they were neurotic from being left alone and bored all day…but you weren’t allowed to do anything about that by giving them something to do, especially not the very job they were bred for, especially in regulated competitions for titles, not even a Therapy Dog certificate! Instead, the expectation appeared to be more that you would tolerate having your couch shredded and shoes crapped on, rather than taking more time to train the dog and provide it with adequate exercise, companionship and social structure.

    Glad to hear Mac is fitting in well. He will get the hang of birdies eventually, I am sure! My Pyr, upon figuring out what he was expected to do with a loose bird, started herding all birds larger than a pigeon into his barn. The local wild turkeys, owls, hawks, ducks & Canadian geese avoid our property now–they prefer the long route through the neighbors’ yards.

    A *LOT* of people, including the local ag extension people, told me it was Not Possible to have an LGD come indoors to be a friendly cuddle-ball at night, that this would either ruin the dog for guarding or the dog would be a terrible companion. I am happy to report that this piece of advice turned out to be complete horse puckey. I confirmed with a few other Pyr owners: this myth is apparently the result of people who do not put much time or effort into training at all, and expect that all behavior ought to derive from genetics alone. You know how there’s people who get Rottie mixes, put them in a junkyard and tell the dog to “guard,” and complain about the mutt mix when the dog does not display absolute territorial aggression and enjoys cuddling with the owner’s nine-year-old? Sorta like that. The Rottie mix “guarding” the junkyard is not even playing the same game as the police-trained K9 unit that knows 100+ commands and can bring down a fleeing suspect without leaving so much as a scratch–but the junkyard owner won’t ever be persuaded of it. You put time into consistent training, the LGD with its low prey drive will do what you ask.

    If you think about it for a minute, the whole “bonding” notion doesn’t make any sense: How could you have a working livestock guardian and still slaughter the livestock? Every time you tried to take a chicken to Freezer Camp, you’d get your head ripped off by 150 lbs. of canine fury. Clearly the dog doesn’t really bond to the stock instead of you, you’d have to have a new dog every year, and since they take nearly 2 years to train fully, it’d be insanely time-consuming, not to mention foolish, expensive and wasteful.

  19. #19 Nadia
    February 4, 2010

    Congratulations on your new “pup” One word of warning, in big chested dogs watch out for the early signs of bloat. Even possible in breeds such as standard poodle (friend caught the early signs and dog’s life was saved). We have a 2 yr old Bouvier. This is a little risky because we are quite remote and the closest vet is an hour away. Best wishes!

  20. #20 Teresa
    February 5, 2010

    First of all, congrats on the new family member.

    And a big *headdesk* for that suburban Boston shelter who wants to put HUGE working dogs into little suburban homes where no one’s home all day.

    They’ll probably end up in another shelter down the road, when they start acting out from boredom and frustration. With luck, it’ll be the one my DH runs and he’ll be able to find a suitable home. Can’t tell you how much time he spends trying to discourage people from adopting dogs totally unsuited to their real lives. I really hate to see another shelter encouraging bad matches and discouraging what would have been a good one. (Probably the same kind of shelter that would rather see a skittish semi-feral cat put down or spend its life in a cage rather than being a barn cat. Overall I think kitties belong inside, but some just are better suited to the outdoor life.)

  21. #21 Laney
    February 5, 2010

    Mac is one lucky dog to have found a home where he can be the dog he was meant to be.

    We adopted a 5-year-old border collie out a rescue group three years ago. She had been raised inside, and we started out with her there, only going outside when we did. I am convinced she was depressed. Once we let her move outside to our 2 1/2 acre yard, she became a much happier dog. She has good food, love, and shelter, but she also now has a job other than fetching her tennis ball. (She brought us the ball incessantly while an indoor dog, but is now satisfied to have us throw it a time or two as a greeting.) She chases the squirrels away, barks at visitors, and charges our perimeter fence when another dog wanders by. When we got chickens last year, we assumed she would be a threat, as we had read that the herding instinct is a tamped-down hunting instinct, but she is great with them. If the ladybirds are out freeranging, she is constantly working to make sure they stay in a flock, but she doesn’t threaten them. She is the perfect example of a dog who didn’t get to live the life she was bred for, but I believe we have given her a bit of peace by allowing her to supervise our “farm.” She is a joy.

  22. #22 david
    February 5, 2010

    We have always had dogs, and we’ve had a few cats, and since they live relatively brief lives we have been saddened at times, our own lives being much longer. Sure we have dog stories.

    We feel we know dogs. We have gotten many statements such as “great dog” after the dog has been with us awhile. Well he or she should be great, they’re part of the family.

    And some people have asked us what to read. Well hell you need to know how and where to hold your hands, palm downward to start, and the dog, who is smarter than you are about that, can teach you. That’s got to be in some books but I never read those.

    The best book to read on dogs in my opinion is by the Austrian behaviorist Konrad Lorenz, titled Man and Dog. It contains a few pages on how one might select a dog. That’s the same Lorenz who got the ducks to fly with him as leader.

    As to children’s books I would say Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen is my favorite and could be yours. Really good children’s books are often very poignant, so you might find your eyes watering.

  23. #23 notscarlettohara
    February 5, 2010

    Actually, I wouldn’t read Cesar Milan. I would recommend Dr. Sophia Yin at UC Davis. She uses non-confrontational, positive reinforcement training techniques that get the same (or better!) results as Milan, with significantly less emotional trauma to the dog. Milan bases his training methods on “dominance theory”, which was discredited by animal behaviorists decades ago. (Traditional dominance struggles only occur in captive wolf packs – wild wolf pack hierarchies are based on age and family relationships, much like our own families. Feral dogs show a different set of social behaviors.)

    For more info, check out ASVAB’s (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) position statement on dominance theory.

    The most effective way to correct an undesired behavior is to teach the dog something *else* to do, rather than teach it what not to do.

  24. #24 JuliaL
    February 6, 2010

    Just a few words in praise of small city dogs:

    I had a Pekingese (10-12 pounds) who lived to be twenty, and one of her puppies, who lived to be sixteen. Living as I did in a townhouse-type apartment in a city, I was very grateful for their protective presence. The dogs were my alarm clocks, and my warning bells, and my friends. They killed mice, but walked politely around the aged cat that liked to nap in our alleyway. They moved guardedly between me and any strange male who came near, but they licked and nuzzled young children who ran over to hug them and pull on their big fuzzy ears.

    On two different occasions, they drove out someone breaking into the apartment. With their short legs, they made considerable noise half running and half falling down the steep stairs. Add in the one bellowing her deep bark and the other snarling loudly, and they must have sounded pretty scary as they charged the would-be burglers in the dark.

    The mother, Kwan Yin, attacked a husky that grabbed my hand on the street one day. The husky let go and backed up, maybe just in surprise at the animal no taller than his kneecaps that was leaping and snarling at him, but it saved me from what could have been a nasty bite.

    After a big hurricane went through, for two weeks I was in a crowded city almost as dark at night as any countryside, in a house without gas or electricity or fire and with no front door. Though all the rest of her life she slept at the foot of my bed, for those two weeks, Kwan Yin lay all night at the top of the stairs with her head just far enough over to give her a view of the front entrance. I slept soundly.

  25. #25 GlennM
    February 6, 2010

    I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience with rescue groups. My wife and I help out with a rescue group for Cocker Spaniels. And my first dog came from a Bouvier rescue group. Just wish I had some stock for the Bouvier to work to keep him really happy. :-)

    The rescue group we work with will do a single home visit to make sure the dog will be safe and that they’ll get along with any children and/or other pets in the house. But I’ve never heard of going back to a home after the initial visit. Part of “safe” is not having the dogs chained outside without anything to do if the owners are at work during the day. The original goal was to make sure the dog isn’t put in a situation where they’ll be bored and act up. I’m sorry to hear that some groups have lost sight of what makes dogs happy.

    Glad you’ve found a dog that’s working for you. The only bad thing I’ve heard about GPs and farms is that they’re protective once they get established. Which meant it wouldn’t have worked out too well if I’d brought my Bouvier for a farm visit.

  26. #26 rheather
    February 8, 2010

    Dr Patricia McConnell(animal behaviorist) has a working sheep farm with Border Collie(s) and has had Pyrs for guardians. She has an informative blog and I love her book ‘The Other End of the Leash’. It really explains the difference between primates and dogs and made me realize why my dogs act like I’m crazy at times.

    Just so you have information overload. ;)

  27. #27 Jon Anderson
    February 9, 2010

    Nice to hear the Pyr is settling in. One problem I ran into with my Pyr was that he favored my wife’s company to that of the sheep flock he was to guard. The breeder had “Mo” and his pack/family housed with chickens. Once we brought him home, he was housed within the sheeplot, separated by a fence. Once he learned that “wooling” the lambs was unacceptable, he was allowed complete freedom of movement. Unfortunately for the sheep, once he mastered escape from the sheep pasture, he proved uninterested in guard duty and spent all his time on the stoop outside the kitchen! After several predator kills, (and because we were moving to a different part of the Midwest US,)I sold the sheep and left Mo as a big hungry gift for the new owners! They were elated, or so they said.

  28. #28 Rebekka
    February 15, 2010

    We were lent Martin McKenna’s book The Dog Man (his blog is here http://thedreadlockdogman.blogspot.com/) when we first got our dog (we adopted our pug as a rescue, aged around 10), and his way of training works like a charm.

    We live in an apartment, and I was worried that the pug would bark and disturb the neighbours. We’ve now had him around a year and a half, and I’ve heard him bark exactly three times (one at thunder, one at fireworks, and once in his sleep – must have been having a bad dream). You can take food or a bone from him, the cat can steal his food, he is “bottom dog” in our pack, so he just takes it. He also stopped marking his territory indoors, which he did when we first got him. I really can’t recommend it enough.

    I also don’t know what people are thinking trying to keep working dogs as pets in suburbia. When I look at the local shelter’s website, nine out of ten dogs needing a new home are herding dogs. These dogs are meant to be out running around a farm most of the day, why people think that will mean they’re a great dog to keep in the suburbs and take for a short walk once a day (if that) is just utterly beyond me.

  29. #29 kelvin
    February 21, 2010

    Interesting and great post! Are you still wondering why your dog is a lot different from those energetic dogs you see in parks? A training might’ve been missing with your dog. Don’t take this privilege away from your dog and visit this site howtotraindog.net now and start noticing the difference.