June 11th, 2020
With all the noise online today, it can be tough to remember to start at the basics… I want to address our responsibilities and expectations as LGD owners, since the opinion extremes flow so freely elsewhere. Let’s just start with some simple facts, shall we?
When you purchase an animal, you as the human owner take on certain responsibilities to that animal. Regardless of whether you own a single fish or 5,000 cattle, the basic responsibilities exist all the same- security, shelter, vet care, feed and water.
Let’s talk about the specific responsibilities we take on when we purchase a livestock guardian dog puppy:
Our responsibilities begin with sourcing a puppy from a reputable breeder (click for a PDF infographic on how to identify one) and bringing the pup home at an appropriate age. Once home, we are responsible for providing the standard security, shelter, vet care, feed and water, along with ongoing and consistent training to support that puppy in becoming the best working dog it can be. This includes seeking advice from the breeder or a trainer and following that advice when we are out of our depth. Regardless of what you may have read, ALL working dogs require monitoring, training and support to meet their full working potential. When you have a working dog in training, you are responsible for both the good and the not-so-good outcomes along the path to proficiency and trustworthiness.
Let’s reiterate: YOU HAVE TO TRAIN AND SUPPORT YOUR PUPPY. You. Not your neighbors, your priest or your breeder.
It’s all on YOU, baby! And before you buy a puppy, it’s also on you to evaluate whether you WANT that level of responsibility for the next decade+.
A Trending Responsibility Hand-Off
There’s a growing trend of people developing the expectation (perpetuated by some common myths) that a breeder should hand you a fully trained, ready to work 10 week old puppy and you shouldn’t have to do any work because you paid what you might consider a “high price.” This removes any responsibility for the training and support of that dog from you, the owner, and places it back on the breeder who hasn’t seen your dog in 6+ months when an issue pops up. Does that make sense?
It’s important to remember that you, the owner of this puppy, are responsible. The buck stops with you. Unless the dog has an improper temperament or is diseased when you get it- the rest is on you. This also means that when your puppy grows into a stellar working dog, that is also ON YOU! You did the work and you reap the rewards. Breeding matters, but your daily contact with your dog has an equal/greater affect on your dog over its lifetime. Take pride in your dog and his work. You earned it!
A good breeder will advise when you ask them questions about the lineage, general training and care of your puppy. They will do their best to support you in achieving your goals for your puppy. It is still up to you to implement your breeder’s advice, follow through with consistency, and seek out a qualified trainer if you are having trouble doing so. Accepting necessary help from a trainer is a sign of strength in a dog owner.
A Rundown of Responsibility
Some LGD/Dog Persons and Responsibilities:
Reputable Good Breeder:
1) health screening prospective breeding dogs,
2) evaluating temperament and conformation of each breeding dog,
3) matching a complimentary dam and sire for breeding,
4) caring for the dam through pregnancy, whelping, during litter growth and weaning of the pups,
5) evaluating the litter for faults and individuals for best home placement that will be ideal for pup and new owner
6) remaining a trusted breed and specific line-related information resource for the pup owner.
1) consulting when a client calls with a dog-related issue,
2) performing evaluations of needs for each client dog and giving a factual report,
3) training both dog and owner for sustainable results, if hired to do so,
4) offering alternative solutions when one is ineffective or not feasible.
1) providing the basic requirements of security, shelter, vet care, food and water,
2) guiding the puppy towards positive and desired behaviors,
3) correcting/redirecting undesired behaviors,
4) establishing and enforcing consistent and clear expectations,
5) seeking assistance when needed.
Once we all agree on the responsibilities of each participant in our puppy’s life, the next step is to manage our expectations (for ourselves and the others). It’s easy to slide our responsibilities into someone else’s column, or to pull their responsibility to ours! Your mileage may vary, but it can certainly be a challenge to know when to ask for help and when to forge ahead. I want to encourage you to regularly check in with your breeder. Let them know how your puppy and yourself are doing, and ask if anything concerning you is ‘normal’ or ‘interesting’ when compared to littermates or ancestors. Should you have doubts or concerns, always seek the experience of someone ahead of you on the LGD trail! Your breeder, trainer, or a trusted mentor are the best sources of reliable information. (You notice I didn’t say “Facebook Groups,” yes?)
In searching for my part of the mayhem of online LGD craziness, I found a few things about myself:
Managing my expectations has always been a conscious effort.
I have to remind myself constantly that what I see and do is NOT what others are seeing or doing, and expecting them to understand what I’m doing or thinking without clear verbalization is actually MY fault.
Going forward, I need to expect less and encourage more.
That is why I started an online school all about LGDs- to encourage, educate, and communicate clearly what I have learned (and debunked) over the last decade of working with these incredible dogs.
The Livestock Guardian Dog Online School launched in July 2020 on the tenth anniversary of getting my first LGD here in Montana. This includes access to all my courses, current and future, content like Infographics, Passholder exclusive Q&A sessions and email support, and you get input into the future courses I release!
My intention with this All Access Pass and course series is to give the information I wish I had when I started ten years ago. Some lessons are best learned the hard way, but I believe that any leg up is great when dealing with working dogs!
Learning can be tough reading through pages and pages of conflicting text online- but this series will include quick, 15 minute or less, video lessons that you complete at your own pace and come from myself and trusted sources- not just anyone with an internet connection.
I hope you have a wonderful day and learned something new!