Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring cleaning...and I don't mean my house.

The buck pen, AKA "San Quentin."
After warm weather, then snow and more snow, we are FINALLY enjoying a warm up.  As the snow quickly melts, I'm left with a winter's worth of muck.  All of my pens are a disgusting lasagna of ice and manure.  Yuck!  Now the springtime fun really begins.  I'm assessing winter's aftermath and it ain't pretty.  There's lots of fencing repair work to do, but the biggest obstacle is mucking pens.  I cleared a heavy bag of dog poo from Sunny's favorite spot.  I tried kicking through the hay layer in the buck pen and have yet to hit dirt.  Ewwwwww!  The doe pen has ice patches so covered in manure and hay I'm not sure it'll ever melt.  Don't get me started on the chicken run.  Wait, what am I doing sitting inside, there's work to do.  Be back later!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My Case for my Love-able Great Bernese

Lazy Sunday afternoon! Sunny and Denali
Today in the Livestock Guardian Dogs group on Facebook, a heated debate broke out about what they were calling "mutts, " LGD, nonLGD mixes.  I did tactfully, give my opinion on this subject. Trust me, it was not easy!  I did my research before getting an LGD/nonLGD mix.  For the haters out there, Berners are very intelligent, easily trained, AND were originally bred as working farm dogs.    

Herding can be a rewarding activity for dog and handler, an activity that brings back the heritage of the Bernese Mountain Dog. The Bernese, an all-purpose farm dog from the heart of chocolate- and cheese-producing rural Switzerland, historically and to this day helps in the daily chores of these alpine farms. Duties such as rotating stock among pastures, bringing dairy cows and goats in twice daily for milking, supervising grazing and guarding the farm were among the daily chores. Aiding in the delivery of livestock, milk, cream, and eggs to market were among the weekly duties. The skills required for some of these duties were also in demand by drovers routinely delivering cattle to town markets and by butchers moving livestock around their stockyards. Many Bernese are still performing some of these duties today. Many others possess the ability to work with and around livestock, even if only as hobby herders.*

I've found that crossing a Great Pyrenees with a Bernese Mountain Dog has created a loving, intelligent guard dog.  Despite Sunny's love for fence hopping, he is incredibly easy to train.  He picks up on commands within a few lessons and retains them with lags in his training.  Sunny and Pearl's pups are remarkable dogs as well.  Jojo would have been a fabulous LGD if I hadn't decided to keep her a house dog.  There are some true LGD that actually make terrible guardians.  It really is a crap shoot as to what you get.  I think the most important lesson to learn is to research dog breeds thoroughly before you add a new dog to the family.  This definitely helps find the best breed to fit your needs.       

*Compliments of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America

Bringing up Denali: Part I Learning Curve

Working girl!

Denali joined the Ranch a little over a week ago.  In this short period of time, I am seeing amazing potential in her.  She may be young, but she is already displaying behaviors sought after in a livestock guardian dog(LGD). 

I am realizing that I have trained Pearl and Sunny completely wrong.  They were both born on farms, raised with livestock from puppyhood, but they got too much human attention early on.  Sunny was even in the house for a while, HUGE mistake!!

Denali is in the pen with my does and their kids.  I tried to separate them, but they kept sneaking into each other's sides of the pen.  Now my doeling Rosie sleeps with Denali.  Most of the time Denali is displaying proper LGD behavior, she sniffs and licks the does.  The does correct Denali when she gets a little rough.  

Denali's training is taking a very hands-off approach.  Even my family has barely had contact with her.  I only interact with her when I feed and milk the rest of the critters.  I correct her when she's getting a little rough with the goats.  The way the pens are set up around the house, I can see most of my pasture through the windows.  Other than that, I ignore her.  Denali needs to bond with the goats, once that happens I can start obedience training and get her comfortable with the family.  So far, so good, but we do have a long road ahead!