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Monday, February 26 2018

A couple of folks have asked for an update on Jury, Judge's brother, the dog who made the grievous mistake of murdering one of the feral barn cats. Although it crossed my mind and stayed there for a day or so, rather than re-homing him to a farm without cats, I opted to focus on intensive aversion therapy instead. Re-homing a dog is never my first choice. Not only can it be a death sentence for the dog, but I would also lose an already trained dog. The flip side of that is that I can't have an LGD killing my cats because if you keep a cat-killing dog, you can never have cats. Cats are not pets on my farm. They are a necessity. Rodents attract copperheads and rattlesnakes. Cats kill rodents. Since the introduction of cats, we've gone from 14 copperheads at the back door to three. The cats stay.

After giving the matter much thought it occurred to me that I had dropped the ball in my training. After all, if a dog can be trained not to kill chickens, it ought to be able to be trained not to kill cats. With that in mind, I enrolled every dog on my property in a curriculum which elevated cats to god-like status. The cats were thrilled with this new educational opportunity.

Within a week Jury wanted absolutely nothing to do with cats. Within a month he had resumed his normal Livestock Guardian Dog duties. Each morning I held my breath as I counted cats. Over time I quit holding my breath. Does this mean I can rest and that he will never kill a cat? Absolutely not.  He is a dog. Not only is he a dog, but he's a large primitive dog who thinks nothing of killing raccoons, skunks, and young feral hogs. He is, in essence, a killing machine. I have merely brought it to his attention that THESE cats (just these) are not prey. He could have another lapse in judgement. His brother could have a lapse in judgement. God forbid, Briar could have a lapse in judgement. Cats are very similar to the small predators the dogs already kill so the logic leap isn't that far. Because I am woefully familiar with the fact that dogs DO NOT GENERALIZE training, I must be vigilant when I catch anyone bouncing after a cat in fun. It simply cannot be tolerated. Black and white. There is no gray where this is concerned. A dog does not reason that since killing this cat is against the rules, then killing all cats must be against the rules.

So to answer your questions, Jury is doing well. He's back on duty. I wish he and his brother were able to be on duty together but alas, they cannot. I haven't been able to train around this problem yet. Independently they are mindful of their duties (Judge more so than Jury. When they were younger this was the opposite.) When together they are frat boys on spring break and choose to leave the property and go walkabout for a few hours or up to 24 hours.

When paired with Briar they stay near the barnyard or near the sheep. This leads to another issue - Briar. Briar is really beginning to show her years. She's dysplastic and this cold weather is rough on her.

I had hoped that by now I could retire Briar and trust both boys to guard together. That's not going to happen anytime soon, so I've begun casting feelers out for a Briar-like protege, a Pyrenees/Komondor cross female pup. (Yes, I'm well aware that other purebreds and mixes are just as reliable, but that's what I want, so I'm willing to hunt for it.) When Briar is having good days, I feel no pressure to find a replacement, but when Briar has a hard time getting up, or just lies around watching chickens, I feel the clock ticking. The Anatolians cannot train a Briar replacement. They are a different kind of dog. More confrontation to predators. More roaming. They pair well with Briar, but neither can be a replacement for Briar. I still need at least two Livestock Guardian Dogs, and considering the poisonous snakes, feral hogs, and cougar, it's nice to have at least three guard dogs. These dogs are on the front line.

Last week we were coming home a different route and stumbled upon a pasture with sheep and Livestock Guardian Dogs not far from our place as the crow flies. Other Half commented that they belonged to the local dog vet and he leased the pasture. There was no one around. No one. Just the sheep. And the dogs. In the middle of freaking nowhere. In a pasture surrounded by forest. Since the predators around that pasture are the exact same predators my dogs and sheep deal with nightly, I watched forty lambs and ewes bounce around and saluted the Livestock Guardian Dogs. One of the dogs was a big white Briar-like dog. He trotted over to inspect us. I saluted him. Good job, Dog. Good job.

I called the vet's office the next day to find out where he got that dog. Damn. Craig's list. Oh well, I will keep my eyes open for the perfect Pyr/Kom pup for Briar to train before she retires to a life of watching chickens in the barnyard. I think I'll name her Bramble. Don't get excited. It may take me a few years to find her. In the mean time, Briar will still be watching the chickens.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
I think Bramble is an excellent name.
Posted by Res on 02/26/2018 - 06:10 PM
Thank you! I'm in no real hurry to get her. I'm just putting feelers out so I can get her before Briar completely retires.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 02/28/2018 - 08:09 AM
I'm curious about how you train the dog to leave the cats alone. I just have a few chickens on a hobby farm, but I trained my silly house dog to believe the chickens had magical powers by using a electronic training collar with a handheld remote. I didn't call the dog off, just let her get within a few feet and then zapped her. She came running back and I comforted her. it only took twice for her to give the chooks plenty of space. When I've recommended this to others I've gotten a lot of flack about it. :(
Posted by Becca on 03/09/2018 - 09:20 PM
I toss cat food or bread crumbs on the ground for both the dogs and the chickens so they both will peck and scratch for the treats. They learn to ignore each other. Thus far it has worked on 11 dogs and 7 chickens. No guarantees but it's worked for me. That, and verbal reprimands.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 03/09/2018 - 10:08 PM

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