Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leia and the Log

Our Anatolian Shepherd livestock guardian puppies are turning 10 months old.  You'd never know from their size that they are still growing puppies.  Luke is taller than our biggest greyhound now (and Louie's a big boy) and Leia isn't much smaller.  Luke's probably between 90-100 pounds.  He could top out around 120 when he fills outs.

There have been many challenges bringing up puppies with the other farm animals.  The Anatolians live in the barn in their puppy stall with access to an outside secure yard when we're not home.  We've had some brave chickens venture into the puppy area and not all have come out alive.  The pups are definitely getting better as they get older.  They haven't killed a bird in about 4 months.  They can successfully interact gently with the birds now and when we are home, they accompany me to do the chores in the chicken yard. 

Our most recent issue has been Leia chasing the alpacas.  Again, she's never allowed to interact with them unless we're home, but recently she's taken to chasing them (almost like a herding dog would do) and actually tried to wrestle one to the ground in play (like she would with a puppy playmate).  Totally unacceptable behavior for an LGD.  It got to the point where I called the breeder for help in finding a more acceptable home - perhaps with animals with horns that could teach her lesson in polite behavior.  During the conversation, I asked for suggestions and he offered one that I immediately dismissed.  Not sure why at the time - maybe my years as a pet dog trainer focused on positive reinforcement techniques made me think that I'd tried everything possible and that she just wasn't meant to be a livestock guardian.

He recommended attaching a log to her and having her drag it around when she had pasture privileges.  I thought it was a little crazy and possibly even a bit cruel.  But, I saw the point - prevent her from practicing the behavior and teaching her a more acceptable speed at which to move around the alpacas.  I talk to my clients about this all the time - how can you manage the situation so that the dog doesn't rehearse the bad behavior?  We can't keep Leia totally away from the alpacas; she has to learn how to interact and be calm instead of being a pouncing puppy.

Well. the log did the trick.  She wears a front clip harness so that she pulls the weight from her chest, rather than her neck.  The log itself only weighs a few pounds and is attached to the harness with old choke chains that I've been saving for 10 years.  I knew I'd find a good use for them!  She's definitely not entirely happy when it's attached, but if this is the way she has to learn, then so be it.  Otherwise, this is a dog that could be a danger to livestock and might have to be put down.  Here's a photo with her sad "I can't believe you did this to me" face.

1 comment:

  1. Way to go! Your perseverance is an inspiration to me. I'll remind myself of it every time I'm ready to give up on Reagan, which unfortunately has been often!