Friday, 21 July 2017

Introducing the new LGD into your flock



Some points to consider when introducing a new adult LGD into your flock.
Louise Liebenberg

For many people buying a “ready to go” dog, who knows his job is the ideal situation as it means instant protection, no adolescent hassle, and little to no time investment required for the owner.  This is absolutely a positive way to start with LGDs, but the reality is often very different. It is hard to find those good dogs. Most sheep keepers simply will not part with their best dogs.  Only on rare occasions will great dogs come up for sale.  The dogs that are often for sale are mostly young, adolescent dogs who are being sold for a variety of reasons such as; the person having too many dogs, in pack fighting, roaming, downsizing, or retiring. Buyers do need to be very alert that they are not buying the problems from other people.

Young, immature dogs may be good prospects, however the buyer really needs to be prepared for a readjustment time for the new dog, where plenty of supervision is provided.

Introducing a new adolescent or adult LGD into your herd of flock requires time and guidance on your part. Most LGD hate change. They are comfortable with routines, and quickly notice things that are out of place. They know individual animals in the flock and can be very bonded to some. A change for an adult dog is quite hard as he must adapt to a new area, new owners, new flock and in some cases even different predators.  This transition needs some thought and facilitation on the part of the new owner to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Before you bring the dog home, make sure that you have spoken in depth with the seller. Do ask the following questions, the more you know about the dog, the easier the transition will be. The more you know about the dog the better prepared you will be.

The most important question to ask the seller is why he is rehoming/selling the dog. Listen carefully for red flags; listen for clues about his behaviour, roaming, rough play with the stock, in pack fighting or health issues. Ask what type of livestock he is bonded to and how he works. Find out his age, breed, vaccination schedules, if he is neutered/spayed, or intact. If a female, ask when she was last in heat and if there is a possibility if she could be bred. Ask questions about how the dog is around newborn lambs, cats, different stock, and other dogs. Ask directly what issues the dog might have or any behaviour you should be aware of. 
Ensure the dog you are considering is from the various LGD breeds and from a working ranch, as a cross of unknown breeds can certainly be risky for your livestock. Where possible go, and see the dog and the situation he is working in. Watch how the dog behaves around new people, the stock and if he is in with the stock or sleeping on the deck. Ask the owner if he will mentor you.

Introducing the new dog is not just an adjustment for you and the dog, but is also a big change for your livestock. Be aware, if this is your first LGD, that your stock will probably be very fearful of the new dog, this can lead to the stock crowding in a corner, panicking, running, hitting fences, jumping over fences and in some cases the stock can become quite belligerent towards the dog. Some dogs know how to calm a situation such as this, but don’t just assume that your new dog will.
So, here are some tips on the introduction of an older dog to your flock.
Try to collect the new dog during the day, so you can do some initial introductions, this will make the dog feel more comfortable as he should be happy to see some livestock. Ensure you have a place ready for him that is very secure and safe for the night. LGD can become shape shifters if they feel they need to get out or away, no hole is too small. Consider placing the new dog in the stock trailer for the night, or if you have a good kennel with a roof then that is a good place to start. Personally, I like to tether (with a good chain) the new dog in the sheep barn, ensuring that his collar is snug so that he cannot slip his head out. I will check all hardware on the chain to ensure it is functioning well and not showing any signs of wear. I will tether the dog close to some sheep, so that he can see and smell them. Make sure that he cannot jump over a panel and get hung up. 


Take time for introductions, let the dog get to know you, the pasture, and the stock. Just sit with the dog if the stock want to come over and sniff him. If the stock are used to LGD, then the introductions will go quicker and smoothly. If you have very flighty stock, take extra time for the introductions. Always keep the new dog for at least 4 to 6 weeks under close supervision. Some perfect dogs can go rogue with a big change, so make sure he is supervised with young animals, and does not display any chase, play or rough behaviour towards the stock. Expect some naughty behaviour, and be prepared to deal with it directly. Until you get to know the dog, don’t just place him in with newborns, weak or sick animals, or stock species he does not know.

I like to “re-bond” a new dog. Get a few nice, kind calm ewes or rams into a smaller safe place and allow the dog to bond to this group, just as you would a puppy.  Let him settle with this group before being allowed out into the bigger pasture. Make sure that your new dog will respect your fences and boundaries, before you allow him access to all the pastures. Some LGD will roam as they are not bonded to your flock nor the area initially.  Make sure your dog has your contact info on his collar just in case he does slip out and escape. We microchip all our dogs, but having a phone number on his collar might make it easier to find him. Take a few photos of the new dog, you never know if you might need to be able to identify him.


Another good way to introduce your new dog to the stock and pasture is by placing him on a zip line in the pasture. The zip line allows the dog plenty of movement and interaction with the stock without the risk of the dog running away, or getting rough with the stock. The stock can get to know the new dog at a distance, and in this way the dog cannot get into trouble during these initial introductions.  Make sure he has a shelter and can access to his food and water.

Some dogs are very food aggressive, so be aware when you feed the new dog, that he can eat his food alone, and without the stock trying to bully him away from his food. Feed the new dog in a quite place, away from kids, other animals and the stock until you know how this dog is around food.
Be aware when introducing a new dog into an existing pack of LGD, fighting can really set the tone for a very bad experience, and can lead to injuries and big veterinary bills. Give the new dog a friendly, opposite sex companion initially.  Supervise. Do not leave a new dog on the zip line or tethered if there is any chance the other dogs might fight with him. 


When preparing for the new dog, you must be willing to facilitate him, to ensure he will be a positive addition to your farm. By facilitation I mean having a smaller, pasture available, some nice kind stock to bond to, good fences, zip line, kennel or tether ready, and most importantly some time to ensure that his integration into your farm is smooth. 

Have your contact info engraved on a plate you can rivet to his collar. Lambing time is often when you need a new dog the most, but with the added workload of lambing, this might not be the best time for you to introduce a new dog.

We like to have a new dog updated on vaccinations as you do not want either your own dogs or the new one to introduce diseases such as parvovirus or distemper into your group of dogs. Make sure the dog is free of ticks and fleas and certainly deworm the dog, to ensure he will not pass parasites on to your dogs and in some cases, the sheep.

Integrating a new dog can be stressful to you, the livestock, and the dog. Some dogs acclimatise in a day, while others can take months to settle in.  Some dogs re-bond to the stock directly and others may have more difficulty in this process. For the new dog to be successful take your time, ensure you have the facilities in place to ensure his and the livestock’s safety. 





Sunday, 2 July 2017

Summer pups




I am super excited to announce that our lovely Lucy, and valiant Vuk are going to have pups in a few weeks time.
Both of these dogs are phenomenal livestock guardian dogs and both have very stable temperaments.
These dogs know how to balance socialization  and real work.
Both dogs guard both sheep and cattle in an area that has a heavy large predator load.


These dogs and pups are raised in with sheep from birth, and are handled and socialized in an appropriate manner. 
These pups will have all their age appropriate  vaccinations, multiple dewormings, microchip and registration papers.
For more information on how we do things regarding the purchasing of a puppy click on this link:

http://www.grazerie.com/index.php/sarplaninac/purchasing-a-pup

If you are interested in a pup or would like more information about the breed please feel free to contact me.
http://www.grazerie.com/index.php/contact-us

Here are the parent of the pups to be:

VUK:

http://www.grazerie.com/index.php/sarplaninac/our-sarplaninac/vuk





LUCY:
http://www.grazerie.com/index.php/sarplaninac/our-sarplaninac/lucy




Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What makes a LGD a LGD?


 Written for the Shepherds Magazine
©2017 Louise Liebenberg



For people who rely on LGDs to keep their flocks safe from large predators, it is obvious what makes a LGD, a LGD. It is a unique blend of both physical, temperamental, and inherent traits. However, for many new people in the sheep industry, it may not seem that obvious. Many people looking for their first LGD often end up with crosses between LGD and other breeds, believing that a lab cross or heeler x with a Great Pyrenees will make a great LGD. I have even had someone try to convince me that their coyote x Pitbull was a great LGD.  These crosses can seriously place your livestock in jeopardy, either from the dog itself, or from predators.  It is unfair to place a dog in a situation he is not equipped to deal with, be that mentally, physically or because he has conflicting instincts.

In this article, I will discuss certain physical traits that are common in most LGD breeds. I will briefly explore some of the temperamental characteristics found in LGDs, and finally, I will look at inherent traits/instincts that are essential for these dogs to be able to fulfill their role as livestock guardian dogs. These characteristics have been selected for over thousands of years, by shepherds, to ensure the dogs are physically and mentally capable of doing this job. Shepherds have culled unwanted qualities out, creating a dog “breed” that can do the job of protecting the livestock against large predators over various geographical and climatic regions.

The term “livestock guardian dogs” refers to a very specific job these dogs must do. It is a collective term, it is not a single  breed but, refers to a group of breeds (from various countries) who share the same job. The sheepdog category can be divided into two groups; herding dogs, and protection dogs.   Almost all the European Countries have their own breed/s of LGD, for example: in France the Great Pyrenees dog, in Poland the Tatra, in Macedonia the Sarplaninac, in Hungary the Komondor, The Turkish have a few breeds, such as the Akbash and Kangal, Central Asia has it Ovcharkas and Spain has its Spanish Mastiffs. There are more than 40 breeds that fall under the category of Livestock Guardian Dogs, some are extremely rare, others are more common.

Despite the large geographical area where these breeds are found, all share some physical similarities. 
Size and weight: all LGD breeds are regarded as large dogs, most weigh between 80 and 160 lbs. Size is of importance when dealing with large predators. These dogs need to be large, but not overly heavy, they need to be physically fit, agile, fast and have enough body mass to have a chance of survival should they get into a physical confrontation with a predator. 
Coat: colour does not matter. You have both white and coloured sheep guardian dogs. What does matter, is that these dogs have a weather resistant coat suitable for the climate where they work. Most have a double coat which is comprised of a thick dense woolly undercoat, covered by a weather resistant outer layer. Many short-coated dogs, such as the Kangal, are double coated, the outside guard hairs are just shorter.  A rough or long coated dog, should not be too “fluffy “and soft, it will otherwise lose its water-resistant qualities, and the coat will become matted and hard to maintain. Some LGD have single coats, due to the very warm climates they live in, another exception is the  Komondor, who have a corded coat.  The coat must provide protection from the elements as these dogs live outside in all types of weather.


Skin: LGD have thick, loose skin. This has the function of protecting the dogs in a skirmish, as the loose skin may get bitten, but as it is loose, it moves over the muscles protecting the muscles and organs from deep bite wounds.  Ears: all LGD have ears that hang down, no LGDs have erect wolf-like ears. It has been suggested that the floppy ears have a calming effect on the stock. In some cultures, it is tradition to crop the ears. Teeth: LGD have big, strong teeth, that are correctly aligned in strong jaws.  Strong teeth are essential in any situation where a confrontation might occur. 

A shepherd in Macedonia showing the strong and large teeth of his dog.


Angulation, most LGD are built to be free moving, and agile relative to their size. Too large, too small, too heavy, and too cumbersome reduces the efficiency of these dogs.

These are some of the physical traits found in LGD. They do not vary very much with some other large breeds such as the Saint Bernard or the Newfoundland dog, this is where the temperament separates LGDs from other similar large breed dogs. Where both the Saint Bernard and the Newfoundland share large size, double coats, and hanging ears, the LGDs have very different temperaments.  When you speak with shepherds you will hear them describing their dogs as; independent, formidable, protective, wary, powerful, alert, fearless, brave, bold, dominant, intelligent, aggressive, and loyal.  If LGD did not posses these characteristics, they would easily be intimidated by predators.  LGD are independent thinkers, notorious for their poor obedience skills. The independent thinking is vitally important as LGDs need to make their own judgement calls when predators come calling at 2 am and the rancher is tucked away in his bed. These dogs need a bold and brave temperament for this job, and must have a gentle and loyal nature towards their livestock. Most Newfoundland Dogs or Saint Bernard’s are soft in nature, who have low aggression, making them unsuitable as LGD.



This leads us onto the next part of what makes LGD unique. This set of instinctual or inherent traits is perhaps harder to define, as it is a combination of drives, that are seemingly contradictory. The mandate for a LGD is simple; first, it must protect the flock from predators and secondly, it must not eat the sheep. The inherent traits that guides this behaviour are really on two opposite ends of a continuum, one being that the dogs need to be highly protective and willing to be aggressive to predators.   On the other end of the scale, it needs to be calm, nurturing, gentle and display a guardian type role towards its flock.  Bearing in mind, that most dogs perceive sheep as prey, one can clearly see that LGDs have traits that are very different to drives found in other breeds. Most herding dogs have a high prey drive, but no protective drive, this high prey drive makes them unsuitable as LGD. It is this combination of traits, the high protective drive combined with the low prey drive, that truly make a LGD unique.
The physical traits, their strong character and this unique combination of drives makes up the whole package. Understanding these elements, highlights why certain breeds and crosses with non LGD  are simply not equipped to do this job.  An owner who expects their non-LGD breed (Golden retriever, Pitbull, husky, or heeler etc.)   even if it is crossed with a LGD breed, to be a working LGD, is placing the dog at an unfair disadvantage, and endangering both the dog and the livestock. 

Thousands of years of selection have established these traits and physical features to be the most suited, desirable, and efficient for dogs to be able to protect their flocks. History has shown that it is easy and relatively quick to breed out traits and lose working instincts in dogs, rendering some breeds incapable of perform their original job.   It is only through real work, testing in the field, living among the livestock and meeting predators that will ensure the correct genetic traits are passed on to future generations.

 
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