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Thursday, January 02 2014

There is more to this dog than fluffy white hair - and mud, and thistles, and bits of hay caught in her coat. While the battle to keep a white, heavy-coated, outside dog clean is a constant struggle, I've never regretted adding this Big White Dawg to the farm.

I cannot emphasize this enough: You should not take just any large, imposing dog, slap it in the farmyard, and expect it to guard your livestock!

It isn't safe for the livestock. I know, I know. Your friend's brother's sister-in-law's cousin had a Labrador that did it, and my cousin's uncle's aunt has a blue heeler that is supposedly the best livestock guardian dog ever. And both those dogs are just the perfect farm dog. They are gentle with lambs, children, and chickens. They have the remarkable ability to kill snakes (but only poisonous ones), pick up eggs (and put them in a basket), rescue Timmy from the well, and have the uncanny ability to know which stranger is the tax assessor and which ones are simply school children hawking overpriced fundraiser products.

Folks, if you can ever meet this remarkable dog that probably never existed, ask to do so. My experience has always been that Stoutheart the Wonderous Farm Dog is no longer alive because he was hit by car or shot by a local rancher, because Stoutheart was an unaltered male that ran loose. BUT - there are plenty of Stoutheart puppies available - in the pound, giving rescue organizations ulcers.

The true Livestock Guardian Dog comes from generations (read that: GENERATIONS!) of dogs that are bred to guard livestock! They are not bred to hunt ducks or herd sheep. They are bred to live with the livestock.  At no time is this more apparent to me than when the sheep are lambing or the goats are kidding. Briar is more than just an imposing white dog (in constant need of grooming.)

Briar is my first Livestock Guardian Dog. I've trained dogs most of my adult life (and I just hit 50!) but these LGDs are "a different breed o' cat!"  Briar is a mutt, but she is a product of two Livestock Guardian Dog breeds, thus, her genetic code still urges her to be gentle with her charges and yet protect them. Folks, you can't train this! You can train them not to be bumbling idiots that don't chase lambs and chickens for fun. In fact, all Livestock Guardian Dog puppies MUST be supervised, socialized, and trained, but the genes that kick in and tell the dog "these are helpless people that need my protection" are either in the dog, or they're not.  It's highly unlikely the average Labrador or Blue Heeler wants to live with the sheep and protect them.

I'm not talking about a dog that just guards the barnyard where the livestock live, and does various odd jobs around the ranch - the "jack of all trades' dog. My Border Collies and Blue Heeler are perfect for that. And that's where your Aussies and English Shepherds come in.  The dog I'm talking about is the Livestock Guardian Dog, the dog that recognizes the livestock as family, a dog that appoints itself as babysitter, a dog that walks through the stock without making waves because it submissively 'oozes' around them.

Briar met the baby goats yesterday and again I was blown away by the way she behaved. She oozed over, careful not to piss off their momma.

Then she sniffed them as they sniffed her - and she wagged her big plume of a tail.

And that was it. They are now part of her flock.

 Briar then wandered off a little way to sit down and watch them.

And when I put the babies in their playpen, she walked her big self over to the pen, sat down with her back to the babies, and put herself between the playpen and the rest of the world. If she'd had arms, she would have crossed them over her puffed up chest like a nightclub bouncer. No one was coming past this Big White Dog.

And this is when her relationship with the rest of my pack of dogs is iffy. When we have babies, it's imperative to keep the uppity Border Collie away from Briar, because she will not hesitate to eat my little black and white dog and pick her teeth with the bones. This Big White Dawg ain't playin'.
She loves babies. She loves helpless things. And something in her DNA speaks to her. It tells her that SHE is a
ppointed, she is annoited. She is their guardian. 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:43 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
GO pin up girl and now your blog is posted to
Posted by Liz VICt. Aust. on 01/02/2014 - 03:50 PM
AMEN SISTAH! So many of these dogs (that live) end up in impounds because the owners didn't know what they were doing. (They hide that stuff in books!) Cute puppies grow up not knowing their job because the 'seller' said to just throw them out in the field with the stock at 8 weeks of age. It doesn't work that way, folks.
Posted by paulainnevada on 01/02/2014 - 05:19 PM
The sheep are lambing, the goats are ... kidding? If that's a real verb, it's brilliant. I'm a wordsmith (technical writer/editor), but I've never heard that term before. But then I've always been a city, er, kid. Thanks for adding a new term to my vocabulary, and best wishes to you and the two- and four-legged family in the new year!
Posted by Heather in Vancouver, Canada on 01/02/2014 - 05:48 PM
Briar is blessed with a boss who understands her skills, who praises her for success, and who has no foolish notions about 'cross training' or 'multitasking' to increase the productivity of her "employee." Wish my human boss had those smarts!
Posted by clairesmum on 01/02/2014 - 06:17 PM
The coolest thing ever was watching my friends old Marema lie with a lambing ewe and help clean off her new lambs until we'd show up to hustle the brood inside and under a heat lamp. The Marema is great with the other dogs and they can be around the lambs, but they must toe HER line. They also have one of those rare, rare exceptions - a lab/border collie they acquired as a rescue. She is useless as a herding dog but has found her niche in two areas: catching and killing gophers, and she hunts/chases coyotes along with the BWDs. It's pretty cool to watch. But realistically, she could care less about the sheep, she just wants the coyote!
Posted by AlbertaGirl on 01/03/2014 - 10:29 AM

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