Training, Life Skills and Born that way- Farm Dogs

I have talked about my farm dogs before and shared photos over the years and of the new boys that joined the farm.. They are awesome and amazing and while its crazy hard work to raise two pups, its been a joy as well

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Uther the labX is a fetching, hauling fool, he is a rock solid build, and it will surprise no one that he loves life HUGE and it would be a toss up between his favorite person (hubby) and the pond..

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Remmi the purebred Catahoula is everything his breed standard says he should be, a loving family member, a stand offish dog to other peaple, crazy strong work ethic, natural guard dog, amazingly good herding genes, rat killer and as hard headed nose driven as I expected.

Both of the boys have turned one of the past while and they have gone from bigger goofy pups to raptor teenagers, that like quick silver move between showing me the dogs they are, the dogs they will be and the.. “make me” or.. “teenage” are you sure I should know what that means.. or ya.. I heard you but??

Now when it comes to farm dogs, some of the leeway that town dogs get, they do not.. when I give orders on the farm, 90 plus percent of the time, it needs to be followed and right Bleeping now..

One of the things we rarely talk about about is farm dogs are killers, ok.. I know we like to say hunters because it does not give us that same gut check.. we say.. they are protective.. but can we have a moment of gettin real..

When I say my dogs hunt the farm rats, what I mean is that Remmi includes hunting and rat killiing in his daily rounds on the farm, and there are times he shows up at the door with big old norway rat to offer up to me.. hey ma…

My Freyja was a mouse, mole, and rat killer, she also was my tree it or run it off coon girl.. Remmi will follow in her farm footsteps, I have full faith in it..

Then we say they guard.. but what do they guard for.. fox’s that are coming for a free chicken dinner, fisher that is after the rabbits, coywolves that are after lambs, Raccoons that are after eggs, and all small stock.. Rabbits that are wanting to eat in our gardens or food forests..

Now ideally, Marking, Barking and a chase off will solve the issues but not always.. sometimes it pushes to the next level, which is a fight and often that fight can end up with kill depending on what it is..

But at the same time as all the above is true, we expect our farm dogs to learn and undestand “ours/Mine” .. man we ask a lot..

Chase off the wild turkeys from the food forest/leave our turkeys alone, they live here

Chase off the wild birds/hawks, owls, eagles, turkey vultures but do not even think about looking cross eyed at the farm chickens.

Clear off the wild ducks on the pond, but leave the farm ducks in the yard and on the pond alone..

and so on and so on.. and above all.. never ever kill the baby farm animals..

This week however we found out we have a baby killer.. it was as fast as it was shocking.. I didn’t see it coming, I have reviewed it over and over in my head, its my job to set the dogs up to win on their training and I keeping reviewing it in my head.. could I have made different choices yes.. will I make difference choices in the future yes..

We had a clutch of ducklings hatched out by a sneaky momma duck and we were gathering them and moving them to a safe spot, I was on back guard with hubby in lead and I had told the dogs “off” (which means move back) stay off (stay back, we have this)..

One of the ducklings did a runner, which was my job to catch but a blur of brown came past me and had that baby faster then a blink and was gone with it.. the shock hit me, the gut clenching horror of what just happened..

The worst thing was other then snarling in mean mom voice I had to hold my spot and one of my boys was still in the “hold”, in fact he clearly was like.. what the hell just happened.. head down insance intent look but also a man, my brother is in DEEP SHIT.. and he was so freakin right..

After the rest of the babies were safely gathered from the open place they had been hatched at, we went to deal with the teen raptor who had his prize, a prize he did not want give up.. he was just making it worse by doing the keep away one foot ahead dance and not listening to the drop it..

Finally it broke though that we meant it, stand/stay and DROP IT.. he paused and gave.. but there was NO signs of .. I did wrong.. it was straight up.. ok.. you are higher ranked and you want my prize, ok.. you can have it..

Now, I bet you have in your head picked which one of the boys was the dash/grab/run and which was the hold??? hmmm

Well the duckling baby killer was uther.. where you expecting it to be uther?

I was not expecting it to be him, I am still shocked he did it.. Remmi is always thinking, always willing to use his head and he is crazy strong willed.. if I had been asked last week, which one of my teen boys was going to have a opps, grips/bite or a grabbed that chicken as it flew by and bite down.. it would be my hunting boy, my herding boy.. but nope.. he back up on command, held his place and then appeared as shocked and suprised as me and he wanted nothing to do with playing or chasing his brother.. he stayed on his stay and just watched.. like.. I didn’t do it and I am not taking any of the fall out dude..

Uther on the other hand, does not feel bad at all.. during or after.. nope.. not even the smallest bit.. so this means a few things will have to change, the biggest one is that more short leads will be deployed around the farm, so when needed, he can be clipped and held in place.. and then its all about a combo of setting him up and then training training training and also never trusting him again.

Now that I know he can and will, it means I know.. i mean its always possable but possable is not the same as knowing he is willing.. that’s different.. and he will not outgrow it, it can be directed, it can be trained for and around and in some ways he will age into more control but overall, its on us..

Let me be clearly, Uther has been outstanding to date on his livstock training and daily works around and in and though the bird flocks, the sheep flock, the horses and the so on.. he is aware of the stock, he sniffs butts and licks ears and so on.. he has shown over and over and over again that he understands that they are “ours” and leave it..

He was introduced to the lambs in our normal way and got it figured out quickly and he adores our bop bottle lamb, hense the what the ??? happened..

The key is train, train train.. but also when a dog or a person shows you who they are..

believe it..

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2 Responses to Training, Life Skills and Born that way- Farm Dogs

  1. valbjerke says:

    Very smart of you to recognize the true personality of your dogs. So many people make the mistake of thinking they can influence straight instinct.
    Being a life long dog owner, I’ve seen it all. I picked up a 50 dollar Heinz 57 from a guy on the highway one day – goofy looking thing. I have never had a dog like him – his instinct to herd and protect everything from chickens and goats and and – was beyond belief. If something got out he would put it back where it belonged, or if he couldn’t, he would bring it to the back door and keep it there until somebody came out. He would also take you straight to the hole in the fence, or the fault in the building that was the escape route. On the flip side – my female wolf cross, at 13,still possesses lightening speed and an insane prey drive. She is confined to an acre around the house. She absolutely will kill anything that crosses her path. Woe to the stray cats that get get into her yard. Or anything that gets in there. It’s. It just the wolf breed – I’ve had another that thought all livestock were friends. Also had another awesome rescue mutt that up and decided one day to take down and kill one of my milk goats. I’m sure you know the decision I made there. I agree with you it’s sometimes not about lack of training – I know you do a stellar job training your dogs. Instinct is instinct. We now have a new puppy – neopolitan mastiff. He’s in the barn with the chickens every day, he’s with the cats…and I am socializing the hell out of him with friends and family because they are by nature – very protective and possessive of their people and they are very strong willed. He will have a job to do protecting the property from those he doesn’t know. But at no time will we leave him unsupervised around the livestock because I’ve already seen in him at eleven weeks (and thirty pounds) a disconnect there. He ‘tolerates’ the other animals – but will put himself between them and us. He’s going to require work for sure.

  2. Silver says:

    I’m so sorry. Please don’t beat yourself up about it – you have done your very best to train your dogs, and teach them what to guard and not guard. Hopefully a lot of training and reinforcement will teach Uther this.

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