Written for The Shepherds Magazine
This month’s article is going to be a “how to” make a few training tools for your livestock guardian dog (LGD). I am often asked how to make a yoke or a jump through gate or even a zip line. I know that for those on a range situation these items may not be necessary, but on some smaller operations, these tools could be helpful to your operation or an aid to help working and training your LGD.
|A young dog who really enjoyed digging under my fences, got to wear a yoke for a few weeks. This taught him quickly that he as simply too big to get through the holes he dug.|
A yoke is a temporary aid to help stop an LGD from digging under or going through a gate or fence. It does not prevent a dog from jumping over a fence. It is useful for young dogs who like to dig out of a pasture to escape. The yoke works by making the dogs head and neck area larger and in this way prevents the dog from crawling through or under the fence. Some people use a similar approach with goats where they duct tape a wooden plank on the goats hors to prevent them getting their heads stuck in the wire fence. I have found a yoke to be highly effective and after a few weeks, and with the LGD not having any success at escaping, it can usually be removed. It is important to ensure the dogs safety and well being while wearing a yoke. It looks unwieldy but I have found our dogs can move around, sleep naturally, chew bones and importantly protect their flock while wearing a yoke.
3 pieces of 1-inch pvc pipe, cut to a length of about 16 inches.
3 nuts, bolts and some washers, long enough to go through both pipes.
Optional: zip ties
Overlap the three pipes in a triangle shape. About 4 inches from each end, drill a hole through both pipes and bolt together, (I like to squish the pipes together in a vice and then drill through them.) Do, 2 of the three sides. Take the yoke to the dog and ensure it fits snugly around the dog’s neck. Mark where the last bolt needs to go. Drill holes and bolt together. You can attach the yoke to the dog’s collar with zip ties if you want. Ensure the dog can move freely, and that the yoke will rotate somewhat.
The yoke fits snugly around the neck, making his neck and head too big to fit through holes and small spaces.
On smaller places many people like the idea that their livestock guardian dog can move easily between pastures and various groups of livestock, this way, the dog can have access to multiple areas, while the livestock are contained in their designated pasture. If you teach the dog it is okay to jump the fences, it might be hard to contain the dog on the property as it will learn to come and go as it pleases. Making a specific jump-gate for the dog may be a solution to this problem. The most successful jump-gate I have heard about is the inverted triangle gate.
Wire cutters or saw, depending on the existing material of the fence.
6 pieces of wood, each length about 20-22 inches long.
Optional: latches and hinges
Cut a hole in the wire/ or wood where you would like to make the jump gate, clamp the wire between two pieces of wood in an inverted triangle shape, screw together. The inverted triangle makes it harder for a sheep or goat to jump through, while a dog can usually put one leg through and then the other, and then angle its shoulder through the opening. We all know that LGD can shape shift through impossibly small holes so a jump-gate should not be a problem. Some people make some fancy designs where they use another triangular piece to make a door that can be closed to stop access for the dog. Other people have made stand alone jump-gates that can be placed between electric wires or nets. Some people use this design for a dog feeding station, so that the dog can go into a feeding area with a self feeder that the sheep or goats cannot access. We have never used one, but I know producers who have, and many say it works very well.
This is a great way to keep a dog in with the livestock, without giving it total freedom. Some young dogs may need to be tethered at times. By placing the dog on a zip-line it safely contains the LGD in the pasture with the livestock. A zip-line provides a lot of movement and interaction with the livestock while keeping the dog contained. I sometimes will place a male dog on a zip line if I am concerned, he might want to jump a fence to get to a female in heat.
I usually lay the zip-line over the ground. I have found the sheep and cattle learn to step over it and we can drive over it with the tractor or truck. I never make it too tight so that it does not become a trip line.
14 gauge airline cable
2 rings or washers
10 ft chain
I clamp the cable around a post or tree, and then lay it out on the ground to another pole or tree. I like to do about 150 feet. Before clamping around the next post, slide on 2 rings or larger washers onto the cable. As the dog moves up and down the zip line the rings will wear through, by having 2 it helps wear a bit slower. I then attach a swivel and attach the 10 ft chain for the dog. As the dog can wrap himself around a tree I general screw on two pieces of wood on the end to make a “stop”.
The dog then has 150 feet length to move and 10 feet on either side of the cable. This gives him a lot of freedom, and yet remain contained. I will make sure he has a shelter and some shade places. I use a zip line if a fence is down, or for a young dog who might need more supervision or when introducing a new dog to our place. I prefer a zip-line to a kennel as some dogs can become very territorial of their space, a zip-line still allows for livestock interactions. If the zip-line is attached to an existing fence, the dog might jump the fence, ensure your “stop is placed far enough away that he cannot jump a fence and get hung up. Do be aware that a dog on a zip line can be vulnerable to predators.
If anyone has some other good nifty ideas and wants to share them, please them to me and I can share them in a future article.