Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Protected

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Working Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs)

Dogs have been used to protect livestock as long as people have been raising sheep and goats. Livestock Guardian Dogs live with and protect their charges, instead of herding them like Border Collies, Shelties, Corgies, and other herding breeds. They are large dogs, independent, and have definite minds of their own.

Traditionally, LGDs worked in conjunction with shepherds as flocks ate their way through the landscape. The use of dogs as flock guardians had dwindled by WWII, and after the war it was rare to see working guardians in Europe.

In the 1970s the USDA started experimenting with LGDs to prevent coyote predation of sheep, the Coppingers did research at Hampshire college, and several dedicated Great Pyrenees breeders started placing dogs into working situations, and learned how to support the livestock producers who took on their puppies.

The role of the working LGD in the United States is quite different from their historic roles. They and their charges are usually kept in fenced pastures without a constant human shepherd for backup. LGDs are used to guard a wide variety of animals - sheep, goats, llamas, poultry, and pretty much any critters that need protecting against predators. The predators are most often coyotes and loose dogs, although cougar, bear and even wolves threaten the more remote farms.

Of course, even those dogs kept as companions work. They protect their homes and people, and any other animals within their domain. This means they bark a lot. They make their own decisions, which means they are stubborn and tend to go deaf when what they hear isn't what they want to do. They don't take well to strangers on their territory. Wonderful dogs, but not for everyone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sunny Day Dogs

Berna and her mentor Hannah the Border Collie. Ursa is in the distance in one of her favorite spots, overlooking the sheep field and enjoying the view.

Ursa and Charlie strolling along the fence, each in a different field. The lamb was raised near the dogs, and now thinks he's a livestock guardian sheep.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Berna - Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Berna is a guardian-dog-in-training. Isn't she lovely? Pinto markings aren't common for ASDs, but I think they are beautiful. Anatolians are the Turkish version of Livestock Guardian Dogs.

This summer my challenge is to teach her that birds are to be protected, not chased. She was raised by Hannah the Border Collie, and Border Collies think chasing is what life is all about. At two, Berna is maturing and calming, and I have high hopes for her working career.

Foster Tor

Tor the foster Great Pyrenees thinks he's part of the dog crew.

Tor came to me starving and almost without coat. While he looks scrawny here, he's fattened up nicely, and has a full undercoat - amazing what plentiful food and good nutrition can do. Tor suffers from claustrophobia (making him difficult to contain) and low self-esteem. He's much improved, but still a handful.

He is, however, an excellent working dog. He's great with any animal I put him with.

Ursa the Caucasian Ovtcharka

Ursa is our Grand Dame and primary (vocal) backup. She's 11, and thinks belly rubs are more fun than photo posing. Ursa is from Boston, where she was the ultimate city dog - familiar with transit systems and busy streets. It took her awhile to adjust to farm life, but now she considers herself an integral part of farm security. She still loves car rides.

Working Dogs - Charlie

In charge of security, predator control, and farm oversight is Charlie the Great Pyrenees.

Here he's enjoying the view in Ken Stallcup's picture "Charlie's Mountain".

Charlie guarded at least 2 farms before he came here. Although he was charged with chicken-killing, here he is reliable with day-old chicks (and everything else!)


Ravenwood. My small piece of the world, on a ridge overlooking southwest Washington, Mount St Helens and the south Cascades. I live here with a small flock of sheep and goats, a donkey, various birds, and dogs.

Winter went out with a flurry of snow. Each season seems to bring its own delightful views.

This is my first year here, and I wake up every morning wondering what this day will bring.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Jesse and Hanna

Jesse is my constant-companion Samoyed. He likes to hang with the big dogs, but agreed to pose with Hannah. Hannah-the-Border-Collie is friendly, intense and single minded. She took charge of Berna the ASD when Berna arrived at 5 months old.