Our livestock guardian dog (who still doesn’t have a name!) is doing pretty well. She’s definitely got the right stuff- big bark, loves the sheep, weatherproof coat, and just lays around most of the day. But, right now, she is still incredibly SILLY- just like any four month old dog would be.
In general, she gets along well with the sheep, she likes them, and they don’t mind her. Their inter-species communication functions well on a basic level, they understand she means them no harm, and she seems to find them to be pleasant company. But where this breaks down is that she still wants to play like a young dog does, and she hopes they’ll want to as well! She has moments of high energy and exuberance, where she leaps about, grabs the sheeps’ body parts, and tries to get them to engage in a good old wrestle. Of course, another dog would gladly sign up for such a ruckus, but wrestling is just not in a sheep’s repertoire.
The adult sheep have been able to manage this so far, they just move away from her in irritation, or butt her to send her on her way. Though I’ve seen her tugging on their tails and ears, she hasn’t seemed to do damage to them. Her advances are purely good-hearted: I don’t see any hint of prey drive going on, she honestly does just want to play with her “friends” and she’s disappointed when they flee. But, this has not been good for the lamb. He tends to just hunker down and try to wait out the rough play. At first, she just made a few small tooth marks in him. But eventually, she bit him up good in the hock, and now he is lame. So, I had to make a separate section of the pen for his mother and him.
I’ve tried a few other things, with limited success. First, I tied an empty milk jug to her collar, with the idea being when she leaps and pounces, it’ll bounce and hit her in the face, providing enough of an irritant to slow her down. This actually worked well for a few days, she was terrified of the thing, and sat stock still for about 24 hours. But, now she’s used to it, and though I do think it makes her walk more carefully, it doesn’t slow her down that much.
The second thing I tried was making a creep for the lamb to get into, that would keep the dog out. I made an open-ended tunnel out of a grid of wire, so that even if she did a bunker crawl in after him, he could exit the other end. I showed him this, and he seemed to “get it”- I often saw him sleeping in there, and the dog couldn’t do much to him. But, I the ewes kept wrecking the tunnel. They are shedding now, and are itchy, and they found that cramming their huge, pregnant bodies in there made for a splendid all-over scratching tube. 😛 But then they’d get stuck in there, and brute-force their way out, wreaking havoc with my petite lamb hut.
So, for how, he’s segregated so his leg can heal, poor guy. I have ordered 320 feet of electronet and a battery + solar panel charger. That should arrive next week, allowing me to re-configure the sheep and dog areas a little. Everyone can have more room, and I can separate out the soon-to-lamb ewes from the dog. Just in time, as they’re due the first week in March!
2 thoughts on “Curtailing the Exuberance of a Young LGD”
I’ve had issues with my airedales and prey drive. My male puppy “red” killed a duck day before yesterday. I think I got it across to him that that wasn’t ok, but if he does it again he’ll get a duck necklace for a couple of weeks. Same basic concept as the jug, but it stinks and smells like duck and rots off and the last thing the dog wants is another duck after that.
Oof, I’ve heard of that method before, hopefully I won’t have to resort to that, as I’ve been trying to socialize her more to me- don’t want to cuddle with a dead thing hanging off her neck! I bet you do have to lay down the law a lot more with Airedales, since they are such an all-purpose breed. This Maremma is pretty laid back, you can really see how all the prey drive has been bred out, and protective behavior amplified. She is very snotty to the Border Collies (whom she can read are all about prey drive). It’s such a paradox to see her shun other dogs and prefer company of her sheep.