Sunday, 31 January 2016

Heavy weights and teenage dogs

Most young guardian dogs go through a "pain in the butt" phase.
It often coincides with their notorious adolescent stage.
From baby pup to about the 8-9 month mark, they are mostly as good as gold.
For some, the most challenging time of raising up a young LGD starts at the "teenage stage". This is when they start to test their boundaries both in a physical way,
 and in their interactions with the livestock.

I like to change things around when I raise up young dogs, 
always the same routine and always the same patterns, makes things too predictable for a young dog.
They become bold and perhaps even a little obnoxious.
Change, really can put the young gun, down a notch or two.
Change will keep the young dog on its toes.

Changing the pasture they are in,
 changing the dogs they with,
 even the size pasture they are in
 or the type of livestock they are with,
 can really make a big difference in how the young dog behaves.

I believe these changes makes the dog more adaptable,
and willing to learn.
 As they need to adjust to new stock,
learn to work with different adult dogs,
and be flexible in a new setting.
I feel this makes for a well rounded LGD.

 Switching things up, ensures the dog does not only become protective of it territory,
but makes it understand that it is actually the stock, that is the constant factor.
Some dogs become highly territorial of their space,
we like our dogs to be territorial and protective of the bubble around the stock,
wherever the stock may be.

It is at this time, that working around various types of livestock becomes important.
They learn cattle behavior, they learn sheep behavior and they learn that horses are also part and parcel of their lives.

We always have a "boys pen", this is the pasture for the bulls, the rams and the stud horse and, 
a few mares.
This winter pen, it really a great place for a young LGD.
As this pen holds breeding males, the fencing is usually pretty secure and "hot", to prevent any bulls from pushing it over, or horses leaning on the fence.
It is a safe place to learn boundaries, and a safe place to learn all about livestock behavior.

Our livestock is well accustomed to the dogs,
they really are careful around the young dogs.
These mature, dominant and big animals certainly do not encourage ( or tolerate)
 any play-chase behavior from a dog.
 This is where the dog learns to be humble.
Being humble, whether you are a person or a dog, is always a good thing to be.

The lesson's learnt in the "boy's pen" include:
being appropriately submissive to the livestock,
being aware of how it moves around the stock,
confidence without being a bully,
treading lightly,
quiet posture,
reading the stock's behavior,
 and staying in the fences.

Sadie and Maddie, learning to stay behind electric sheep nets is a very important part of our young LGD education. Most of the summer, our sheep are fenced in using electric nets, so the young dogs need to learn to respect them as boundaries

I believe this is the time, that builds the  foundation for its future as a working dog.
It is a "make or break" stage.
If the young dog learns it can chase, and rough up the stock,
or forces the stock to engage it, or escape the field or pasture,
then these patterns become hard to break.
This is the age where most young LGD get re-homed,
or worse, shot.

It is at this time, where we pay extra attention to the young dog's behavior,
it is the time we change things up,
this adolescent stage is the stepping stone,
 to being a well adjusted and reliable adult or,
 one that fails at its job.

Sadie, ( our photo model) is a good pup, and has always been very quiet with the stock.
Even though she is a good pup,
she also gets her time in with the big boys.
Sadie is 8 months old, I love the way she walks unobtrusively around the stock.
Her movement is quite and calm.
She carries her head low, and does not stare at the stock.
She quietly walks around the animals, does not barge or bump through them.
She is attentive to them, respectful and mindful of her own behavior.

Just hanging out with the heavy weights.

Time spent  observing the livestock, is part and parcel of learning her job.

Our time spent  observing the adolescent guardian dog,
is time,  well spent,
and, rewarding,
and, fun.

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