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Did We Get the Wrong Breed of Dogs For This Homestead?
Heather wants to sunbathe comfortably on the deck, so we may have to rehome our English Shepherds.
That's the start and the end of yesterday's events. Let me explain.
Heather wants to sunbathe. So we go shopping for patio furniture. We order a pair of chaise lounges online, to be delivered soon. Except, our dogs chew everything that isn't metal on our deck. Seriously. Yesterday, Heather enjoyed a leisurely work day on the deck with cool breeze, the shade of an umbrella, and the sound of the rushing creek.
After a few hours of outdoor bliss, she went for a walk with the children, leaving a paperback book on the table outside. When she returned, the book was in shambles. The dogs had chewed half a dozen pages or more plus the book's cover. Did I mention it was my book? [Insert sad face]
A single chewed up paperback reminds me that our dogs chew EVERYTHING. Cardboard boxes, trash bags, plastic of any kind. You name it, the dogs will chew it.
Which led me to the next thought: Maybe we should add child gates to each stairwell to keep the dogs off the deck. Then we could eat meals and relax without worrying about losing property or having wet dog shaking beside us. Baby Levi could enjoy his bouncy seat without concern of giant dog face invading his space.
I'm liking this idea.
Except the idea leads me to the next thought: If the dogs don't hang out on the deck in the afternoons, what WILL they do? They don't actually perform much of a function except for barking at deer and turtles and other dogs who stray onto their territory.
Gigi (Heather's mom) asks me if they actually protect the goats and chickens. I think about it. The answer is "Sort of? Maybe? Sometimes?" That's difficult to answer because they don't spend most of their time near the barn or the goats, which is what I wanted.
They seem to be attached to the house, whether that's for food or for me, I can't say. But I know they sleep outside our front door and sometimes one will take the front and the other the side door and basically guard the house.
It pains me to say that our English Shepherds, while glorious creatures in their own right, may not be well suited for our farm. Somehow I didn't think this through thoroughly. English Shepherds are, after all, SHEPHERDING dogs. And I don't really need my animals to be shepherded.
Herding is the controlled movement of livestock. Dogs are born with instincts, and those instincts need to be shaped into skills.
But what do you do with a shepherding dog that doesn't shepherd?
What we really needed was a livestock guard dog (LGD), but I'm not a huge fan of Pyrenees, which is the breed most LGD owners swear by. My apologies to all who own and love them. I just don't find them appealing at all.
However, with our current mini-paddock semi-intensive rotational grazing system, all we really need is for a guard dog to sit inside the paddock with the goats and keep them safe.
Find additional tasks to train them to do (walking entire property perimeter?)
Change our grazing method to utilize our dogs' natural skill sets
Sell one or both dogs and acquire a traditional LGD
I can't imagine selling these dogs. Ironically, I expected Duke to be the alpha. He possessed superior behavioral traits among his fellow pups. Dharma was just the only female pup I could get my hands on. But Dharma has turned out to be the alpha between the two. She is the one to run off into the hills to scare off any perceived intruders. She barks more than I'd prefer, but she's actively involved. Duke has taken a more passive stance as a result.