A few days ago, I happened out onto the back porch and my attention was immediately drawn to a chicken fuss. I looked, and saw a brown animal running behind the bushes. Thinking it must be Billy, our wether, I wondered why he was running around like that. Then I saw it run the other direction. Of course I had to investigate and quickly realized it was in fact a big brown dog. It was in the buck area, chasing chickens. The boys were trying to hide in the undergrowth of trees.
I took off running, wondering what I could grab to fend it off, throw at it, or use to clobber the living daylights out of it. Dan keeps a rifle and a handgun in the house, but I've only had lessons once and and at that moment, regretted not insisting on regular practice. I definitely would have shot that dog. As it was, I grabbed an old bed rail that was in use to hold down tarps.
I was fighting mad by the time I got there. When the dog saw me, it ran to the opposite corner of the fence. The goats came to me when I called and I let them out the back gate. As I stomped toward the front, hefting my mighty bed rail, the dog watched from his corner. At the front gate I called the chickens, who came running too. I shooed them out the front gate, and the dog was trapped in the buck pasture by himself.
I looked at him. He looked at me. He looked just like my next door neighbor's dog, except they keep their dog collared and on a chain when he's outside. This dog had no collar. I decided my best course of action was to call animal control. As I scanned the area to reassure myself that the dog was fenced in alone, he turned, hooked his front paws over the top of the fence, and hoisted himself up and over to the other side. This is a 4 foot fence, and I've never seen a dog do that. I watched it run around the trees and into the next door neighbor's yard and onto their porch. It was mid morning and no one was at home.
I went to do a check on the goats and count beaks. The boys (especially Billy) were upset but fine. Of the chickens I could only account for 11. I went back to the buck pasture for another look, and saw that the dog had come back and was standing on the other side of the fence. He took off when I yelled. Next I walked the perimeter of the front pasture. My neighbor from across the street came over to tell me he had seen the whole thing, if I needed a witness.
I found a couple scatterings of feathers on the ground, but couldn't find the missing chicken. I spent the rest of the day outside, keeping watch. The dog paced his own yard and ran around in the luxury of his freedom. Dan got home about the same time the dog's owners did, and he went to talk to them. Fortunately they were apologetic rather than defensive. They have been responsible with this dog and we realize it was an accident. Still, accidents can result in dead livestock, because unless a dog is bred for working with livestock, it will (no matter how nice, well trained, or sweet) chase down small livestock to the death. It's not necessarily malicious, but instinctive, because dogs are after all, predators by heredity.
Dan and I had a long talk that night, which resulted in taking a course of action we had discussed previously, but not pursued until now. Meet Kris ...
|This is the photo that was linked to the ad.|
He's a 7 week old Bernese, Pyrenees, Anatolian mix. His father is a registered Bernese Mountain Dog, and his mama is a 50/50 mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd. All three of these breeds are classified as working dogs, the Pyrenees and Anatolians bred specifically as livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). Bernese Mountain Dogs are used extensively in Europe and some places in the US as general purpose farm dogs.
We've been thinking about getting a dog for a long time, ever since Charlie (my llama) died. We've been told that at one time, there were coyotes, bobcats, and black bears in the area, but no one has seen any of these in over a decade. Our current predatory problems are stray dogs and hawks, deer too, if one considers how well they prey on the garden. Since our acreage is small, I don't necessarily need a guardian to stick to the goats like glue, but we do need a dog that we can trust with our livestock, will live with the goats, and has strong guarding instincts for the property in general.
I am hoping that this will be a good genetic mix for us. Genetic instincts seem to be key, and cannot be trained into or out of an animal. Purebreds are way out of our price range, so breed mix was something I considered carefully. It was also important that both this puppy's parents worked with livestock. Personality is a factor too, but this would be harder (for me at least) to discern with a puppy.
Neither Dan nor I have had dogs around since we were kids. Still, this seems to be a necessary addition to our homestead.
|What, is that|
|Introductions were supervised|
|The chickens kept their distance|
|Cattle panels make a great puppy yard, both for their sake & his.|
My missing chicken eventually showed up at the coop, Billy remained skittish for several days, and we haven't seen the neighbor's dog since.