Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 4, 2013

Raising Puppy

It was hard when we lost Shotgun and really we didn't plan on getting another puppy for quite some time, however....we did. Now we have Titan (pics soon I promise), an English Mastiff/pit bull mix. He looks like an English Mastiff with just a few less wrinkles. I am sure that he is probably slightly smaller than a purebred mastiff would be. We would like it if he stays midrange of a mastiff and pit (even that is a BIG dog). He definitely has the personality of a mastiff which sometimes makes it hard to forget that the pit bull is lurking in there somewhere. No, that isn't a bad thing and pit bulls have never been an issue with me. I guess I have know too many good ones and like many other people know that there are good dogs and there are bad dogs no matter what the breed is. Believe it or not I have been bitten by more cocker spaniels than pits, rottweilers, dobermans or other "guard" type breeds. And don't even get me on the subject of jack russels! Enough of that though. This is about raising a new puppy in a farm situation. The first rule of thumb is don't trust your puppy. Puppies chase and chew and pounce. It's what they do. Puppies should not be allowed around livestock without human supervision because they will need correction for not allowed behavior. Depending on the breed will depend on the type of correction. With Dakota, I had to roll her several times to make her believe that the chickens belonged to me. With Titan a sharp no sends him running back to the house with his tail tucked shamefully between his legs. Take the puppy with you everywhere you go on the farm and enforce good behavior (just sitting watching the chickens) and correct unacceptable behavior (pouncing at the chickens). Consistency is important and even if your hands are full of feed buckets when bad behavior starts you must stop right then put the feed buckets down and correct the behavior. Dakota caused a good deal of spilled feed, while I haven't yet had to drop the buckets with Titan. Notice I said yet. He is 9 weeks old and we have a long way to go. Some dogs are much easier. Dakota, even though she is an LGD, was tough, adult chickens were great play toys. Valentine a pit mix was easy except for chasing the horses, small livestock she didn't pay attention to. We had a hound at one time that was terrible about chasing the horses. Not only would she chase but she would grab onto their tails and swing from them as they flew across the pasture. It took extreme measures to break her of that and even then we couldn't always trust that she wouldn't try. Shotgun was so bonded to me that he stayed by my side no matter what, but then he didn't have very long in life to figure out that chickens made great chase toys. Titan loves to pounce cats and is beginning to look at the chickens with interest. The next thing is to teach the dog not only basic obedience commands but give them a job. A working dog is a happy dog. Dakota guards against predators and she takes her job seriously. Valentine used to be my personal guard or the children's guard when they were in the yard. Those were her younger years and the days before her skin allergy became her obsession. She was also Cujo's muscle in confronting stray dogs. She always engaged the stray first. Cujo was our all around farm dog. He guarded against both two legged and four legged intruders. He watched over the children like a hawk. He babied and protected a lone chicken without a flock. He helped to move animals when needed. We are hoping Titan will be an all around farm dog. So far he has been learning to move pigs. To teach him he walks with us and we tell him to bring the pigs. Repeating this each time we move the pigs back to their pen (they have become Houdinis) teaches him that when I say bring the pigs they are to be herded back to their pen. Same movement, same command, same end result. He is not a herding breed so he won't ever herd like a border collie would. However, like any command he can be taught to do that command. Raising a puppy on a farm is a huge undertaking, so much more than raising a town dog because there is so much more stimulation and so much more for them to learn. Commands that we use a lot and consider key commands for a good farm dog are: Leave it (it's mine don't even look at it), sit, stay, drop it, come, and no. Of course there are other commands that are great but those are the main ones that we use on an everyday basis. I am the alpha and my dogs know that everything is mine. To have a dog on a farm the farmer absolutely must be alpha and that means that you have to behave that way from time to time. The dog has to believe it, understand it and live with it. With Dakota it took rolling her and growling at her when she grabbed a chicken or grabbed at one. With Titan it takes a sharp NO in a growly voice (so far). I truly believe that most any breed of dog can be a good farm dog if raised in the right situation with the right praise and discipline. Some breeds that have a higher prey drive (terriers, hunting breeds, herding breeds) are gonna be tougher than others and if one isn't up to the task then choose another breed. Pick a job that suits the instincts and nature of the breed or breed mix that you have. If you work with those instincts then chances are much higher of success that you can let your dog in the yard with free-ranging chickens and there won't be a bloodbath. Titan has the instinct to guard and be a companion from the Mastiff side, the pit side gives him a high prey drive. He has to learn when that prey drive is acceptable (moving pigs) or when it isn't (chasing and killing chickens). Both breeds are territorial so hopefully when he gets bigger and more confident he will be able to be Dakota's muscle. Hopefully, both sides will give him a fearlessness where predators are concerned. Anyway, that is how we raise our puppies here on the farm and in a farm situation. It is a full time job and one that we invest heavily in. A good farm dog rarely happens it is usually because someone has put a lot of work into that dog. Blessings, Kat

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