Thursday, April 16, 2015

Homestead: Dogs part 1

We all have a memory of the good old farm dog. Out by the barn with his head on his paws watching the farmer. The purpose of a good farm dog is one of a helper, guardian and companion as well as a reliable extra hand about the place.

I have had German Shepherds, Border Collies and of course several mutts over the years. I was not really breed specific and all of the dogs I had except 1 were great all around farm dogs, Protective and quiet around the livestock, well behaved in the house and handy to have when we were working the cattle. All of them would let you know when someone came into the yard but none would bite.  Well I should clarify that, none of them felt threatened enough to bite but I have a feeling if I had been threatened it may have been different.

We are looking into Livestock Guardian dogs for our new place. I have had experience with neighbors LGD's but have never owned one of my own. I do want a Border Collie. However there are wonderful dogs who need rescue so the humane society approach has not been ruled out.
Here is a list of dogs we feel would suit our needs.

Anatolian Shepherd

Most Anatolian authorities agree that, while they can make superb deeply bonded companions with proper and consistent socialization, they are not "pets" in the conventional sense of the word. Bred for millennia to exercise independent judgment in response to perceived danger, whether from four or two legged predators, these ancient guardian dogs WILL protect. While they are not aggressive the way guard dogs like Rottweilers or Dobermans can be, their protective reactions have been likened to the strike of a rattlesnake. Anatolians require substantial fencing in all but open range settings, and should never be allowed off leash off their property, with the possible exception of completely fenced in dog parks. Some Anatolians make wonderful Therapy dogs because of their calm temperaments, but "attack dog training" is STRONGLY DISCOURAGED for this breed because of their serious nature.
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog of today has remained relatively unchanged from its ancestors because of the nature of its isolated existence and the fact that it is a landrace that has evolved based on function and not just a pretty face or a particular color. The Turks have for centuries been dependent upon the land for their livelihood, relying on domesticated animals as an integral part of their existence. For this reason, perhaps, the characteristics of the Anatolian have been so exactly preserved, characteristics well adapted to: Turkey's hot climate and terrain; the lifestyle of the shepherds that, until modern times, was nomadic; and the job of guarding the village flocks against fierce predators.
The first active breeding program in the United States was the result of the importation of a breeding pair of dogs by Lt. Robert C. Ballard, USN, who was stationed in Turkey from 1966 to 1968. Upon their return to the United States, the Ballards settled in El Cajon, California, where on August 16th, 1970, their imports Zorba and Peki produced the first recorded American-bred litter. The year 1970 also saw the founding of the National Breed Club, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.

GENERAL APPEARANCE - Large, rugged, powerful and impressive, possessing great endurance and agility. Developed through a set of very demanding circumstances for a purely utilitarian purpose; he is a working guard dog without equal, with a unique ability to protect livestock. General impression - Appears bold, but calm, unless challenged. He possesses size, good bone, a well-muscled torso with a strong head. Reserve out of its territory is acceptable. Fluid movement and even temperament is desirable. SIZE, PROPORTION, SUBSTANCE - General balance is more important than absolute size. Dogs should be from 29 inches and weighing from 110 to 150 pounds proportionate to size and structure. Bitches should be from 27 inches, weighing from 80 to 120 pounds, proportionate to size and structure. Neither dog nor bitch appear fat. Both dog and bitch should be rectangular, in direct proportion to height. Measurements and weights apply at age 2 or older.
HEAD - Expression should be intelligent. Eyes are medium size, set apart, almond shaped and dark brown to light amber in color. Blue eyes or eyes of two different colors are a disqualification. Eye rims will be black or brown and without sag or looseness of haw. Incomplete pigment is a serious fault. Ears should be set on no higher than the plane of the head. V-shaped, rounded apex, measuring about four inches at the base to six inches in length. The tip should be just long enough to reach the outside corner of the eyelid. Ears dropped to sides. Erect ears are a disqualification. Skull is large but in proportion to the body. There is a slight centerline furrow, fore and aft, from apparent stop to moderate occiput. Broader in dogs than in bitches. Muzzle is blockier and stronger for the dog, but neither dog nor bitch would have a snipey head or muzzle. Nose and flews must be solid black or brown. Seasonal fading is not to be penalized. Incomplete pigment is a serious fault. Flews are normally dry but pronounced enough to contribute to "squaring" the overall muzzle appearance. Teeth and gums strong and healthy. Scissors bite preferred, level bite acceptable. Broken teeth are not to be faulted. Overshot, undershot or wry bite are disqualifications.
NECK, TOPLINE, BODY - Neck slightly arched, powerful, and muscular, moderate in length with more skin and fur than elsewhere on the body, forming a protective ruff. The dewlap should not be pendulous and excessive. Topline will appear level when gaiting. Back will be powerful, muscular, and level, with drop behind withers and gradual arch over loin, sloping slightly downward at the croup. Body well proportioned, functional, without exaggeration. Never fat or soft. Chest is deep (to the elbow) and well-sprung with a distinct tuck up at the loin. Tail should be long and reaching to the hocks. Set on rather high. When relaxed, it is carried low with the end curled upwards. When alert, the tail is carried high, making a "wheel." Both low and wheel carriage are acceptable, when gaiting. "Wheel" carriage preferred. The tail will not necessarily uncurl totally.
FOREQUARTERS - Shoulders should be muscular and well developed, blades long, broad and sloping. Elbows should be neither in nor out. Forelegs should be relatively long, well-boned and set straight with strong pasterns. The feet are strong and compact with well-arched toes, oval in shape. They should have stout nails with pads thick and tough. Dewclaws may be removed.
HINDQUARTERS - Strong, with broad thighs and heavily muscled. Angulation at the stifle and hock are in proportion to the forequarters. As seen from behind, the legs are parallel. The feet are strong and compact with well-arched toes, oval in shape. Double dewclaws may exist. Dewclaws may be removed.
COAT - Short (one inch minimum, not tight) to Rough (approximately 4 inches in length) with neck hair slightly longer. Somewhat longer and thicker at the neck and mane. A thick undercoat is common to all. Feathering may occur on the ear fringes, legs, breeching, and tail.
COLOR - All color patterns and markings are equally acceptable.
GAIT - At the trot, the gait is powerful yet fluid. When viewed from the front or rear, the legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. With increased speed, footfall converges toward the center line of gravity. When viewed from the side, the front legs should reach out smoothly with no obvious pounding. The withers and backline should stay nearly level with little rise or fall. The rear assembly should push out smoothly with hocks doing their share of the work and flexing well.
TEMPERAMENT - Alert and intelligent, calm and observant. Instinctively protective, he is courageous and highly adaptable. He is very loyal and responsive. Highly territorial, he is a natural guard. Reserve around strangers and off its territory is acceptable.

Border Collie

Introducing the Shepherd's Dog

The Industrial Revolution created urban markets for lamb, mutton, and wool; but how could the vast hills of unfenced land in the Borders of Scotland and northern England be put to raising sheep? Hardworking sheepdogs were the key, helping shepherds turn this inhospitable land into sheep-raising country. Our modern sheep-herding collie was improved in the nineteenth century, and the genetic refinement of its working skills occupies thoughtful livestock producers on several continents to this day. Breeders try to balance a dozen heritable working traits to produce the best dog for their purposes, factoring in climate, terrain, livestock type, and the kind of dog they get along with. Guided by a skilled trainer, a talented dog develops remarkable mastery over livestock. The true Border Collie is known by how it works sheep and cattle, and by no other standard.

Herding Characteristics

Because their early work was to gather sheep from the hills, Border Collies are, by nature, gatherers rather than drovers or tenders. They can, nevertheless, be taught to drive stock away from the shepherd and even to keep their charges within certain boundaries. They are also sensitive to commands from their handlers and can distinguish slight variations in the many whistles they understand, responding appropriately to each tone.

Shepherds look for exceptional athletic ability, a biddable nature, and superior livestock sense. In general, a dog that is light on its feet, flowing in its movement, quick to cover its stock, and has great endurance is the most valued. The dog's temperament must be sensitive enough to bend its will when asked, tough enough to stand up to the pressures of training, eager to learn, with enough confidence and determination to carry on with its work without constant guidance. Some Border Collies are reserved rather than outgoing, but they must love to work with and for the master. While innate livestock sense is bred into all good working collies, their working style can vary. Most people admire a dog that works with its head low to the ground, with its hindquarters high and its tail tucked between its hind legs. They can run as fast as the wind, yet stop in an instant or switch directions without stopping. They don't take their eyes off their sheep. Their intense gaze is focused on the stock, willing them to obey, to go where the dog directs them, to stop if the dog blocks their path. The stock aren't rushed or afraid, but they certainly respect the dog. A good Border Collie's obsession is its livestock, and this is as it should be.

Sheepdog trials have a very practical purpose of proving the worth of the most desirable Border Collie studs and dams. Each year, there is one, and only one, Border Collie champion: the dog or bitch that wins the National Handlers Finals sheepdog trial sponsored jointly by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association and the American Border Collie Association registry.

The Breeding Behind a Good Border Collie

How did Border Collies get to be such smart and useful livestock dogs? During the nineteenth century, forward-looking shepherds felt that the faithful farm collie could be made more useful with the addition of traits from other types of dog: the "eye" of a staunch setter, the speed and silent nature of a racing hound. No dog has all the herding traits in perfect proportion, and the intricate assemblage is easy to lose. Breeding a good Border Collie is not easy. It takes great experience with dogs and herding requirements, and a bit of luck in addition.

In the days when dogs that were unfit to work could not be kept, most dogs with physical problems were put down. As Border Collies became more popular with farmers around the world, hobby trials competitors, and pet and dog-sport owners, some latent problems began to surface. The International Sheep Dog Society and the American Border Collie Association have programs that are reducing the incidence of inherited eye diseases. All dogs should be tested by a canine ophthalmologist, preferably between 6 and 12 weeks of age. Dogs having or producing pups which have genetic eye abnormalities should not be bred. There is some hip dysplasia, and conscientious breeders have radiologists certify that breeding dogs are clear of hip dysplasia. The American Border Collie Association will record this information, as well as eye certification, on pedigrees. Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) occasionally causes shoulder lameness, and some researchers feel there is a genetic component. Epilepsy, which can have a genetic basis, occurs occasionally. Obviously, affected dogs should not be bred.
While a group of one hundred Border Collies will probably look as if they belong to the same breed, they will not have a uniform appearance. Since a "good" dog can be judged only by its herding performance, there is no "breed standard" of appearance to which Border Collies should conform. In general, they are of medium size (25-55 pounds), with coats that may be smooth, medium, or rough. Colors are black, black with tan, and, less common, reddish-brown, all usually with white markings. Predominantly white Border Collies and merles, though unusual, also occasionally appear.
Despite strong opposition from all people who value the genetic heritage of the breed, both the Kennel Club in Great Britain and the American Kennel Club have taken up the registration of Border Collies. They have imposed written physical standards as breeding guidelines and award titles for conformation in dog shows. In Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, where a strain of Border Collies has been bred for dog shows for twenty years or more, those dogs have a predictable physical type, but their ability to herd livestock has been severely compromised.

The United States Border Collie Club, Inc., opposes registering Border Collies with organizations, such as the American Kennel Club, which offer conformation classes for Border Collies. Since its formation in 1975, a primary purpose of the USBCC has been to protect working Border Collies from misguided efforts to create a breed based on physical characteristics instead of on skill in herding livestock.

Border Collies for Sports and as Pets
Because they are highly motivated to work in partnership with their owners, Border Collies are well suited to most canine sports. To compete in their performance events such as Obedience and Tracking tests without registering with the AKC, a Border Collie owner must neuter the dog and apply for an Indefinite Listing Privilege.

Many Border Collies and their owners enjoy the fast-growing sport of Agility, as it enhances the relationship between dog and handler and develops a confident, bold, and motivated dog. The best Agility is found in meets sanctioned by the United States Dog Agility Association, Inc., P. O. Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085-0955. Some Border Collies excel in Fly Ball and Frisbee competitions. In northern climates, Border Collie sled-dog teams are competitive in middle-distance races.

As pets, Border Collies have a mixed record. While some people have no difficulty controlling the dogs' herding instinct, high energy and quick minds, less-skilled owners may be frustrated by these traits. The calm, well-behaved dogs seen at sheepdog trials are the result of careful attention to the dogs' mental and physical needs. Border Collies that herd are fulfilled. In pet environments, with experienced dog people who give them the structure, love, and fellowship they crave, they can be superb pets. With less-skilled owners, unfortunately, they can become a neurotic nuisance. An honest appraisal of your lifestyle, skills and needs before getting a Border Collie can save you from heartache. It is very hard to find a farm home or a new pet home for a Border Collie which has developed bad habits, and every year many Border Collies are destroyed because they proved to be too much dog for their owners.


Yes, Border Collies shed. Rough-coated dogs develop thick undercoats in winter which must be combed out at the onset of summer's heat. Teeth must be cleaned and toenails clipped. A veterinarian will recommend a program of vaccinations and medications. Be aware that heat exhaustion is a killer. Border Collies often lie in shade or cool water after a hot run or hard work. Even so, their obsessive natures do lead to unnecessary deaths from hyperthermia. Be warned, also, that allowing them to roam free inevitably leads to trouble, as the herding instinct can be activated by anything that moves. Border Collies' attraction to motion should be confined to safe outlets, as most chronic car-chasing is eventually fatal. Inappropriate herding should be stopped immediately by saying no and meaning it. The USBCC recommends spaying or neutering pet dogs for the owners' comfort and for the sake of the breed's working instincts.

Dogs are a commitment. Before you acquire a Border Collie puppy, be sure you want to spend two years training and thirteen more enjoying a highly energetic dog that anticipates your every move, shares your every joy, comforts all your sorrows, and beats you in every race.

Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is, as its name suggest, a very large dog. It ranges in size from around 25-32 inches at the shoulder. In weight it ranges from 85-140 pounds. It is primarily markings of badger, gray, or varying shade of tan and has a long, flat, harsh protective coat.

The Great Pyrenees originated in the Pyrenees mountains of Europe which form the border between France and Spain. They were developed by the Basque people to protect their flocks from predation by bears and wolves. The dogs have been used for this purpose for over a thousand years. Since a lot of the bears and wolves have disappeared from the mountains, the dogs today are still guarding homes and property. Historically, the dogs have also been used in France to guard large estates. The ability of these dogs to work was achieved by selective breeding in which only the most successful workers were allowed to reproduce themselves, and therefore, a great deal of this inbred instinct remains strong. It is upon this thousand-year selection that we draw when we breed modern dogs for working purposes.
The Great Pyrenees is a territorial guard by nature, which means that he works to keep his territory free from predatory danger. Because of this, there may be times when the shepherd does not see the dog for long periods of time. He knows that the job is being done because the losses decrease. If the dog is working effectively, the stockman may never see a predator, and the flock will never be disturbed.
good working dog has been selected for hostility toward all possible predators. This is why Great Pyrenees, although bred to work on bears and wolves, are equally effective on wild and feral dogs which are an increasing problem to stockman. By nature, the Great Pyrenees is nocturnal. It has no tolerance for other dogs except the herding dogs that it works with, and very small dogs. It can be trusted with small, young and helpless animals of any kind, but it has to be watched as a young pup with some supervision as it usually takes a pup 18 months to become a livestock guardian dog. It is one of the most interesting qualities of a Great Pyrenees-the absolute intolerance of all predators, coupled with extraordinary patience and kindness to stock.
There are basically two ways in which Pyrenees are utilized as protectors of stock. The first is what we call an all-purpose "Ranch or Farm Dog." This is a dog that lives on a farm, usually in the proximity of the farmyard and ranch house. He is part pet, part guard dog. He takes care of the ranch, the family, and the stock that is usually pastured close to the house. The other Pyrenees is what we call a "Livestock Guardian Dog." The Livestock Guardian dog is not a pet, and he is not allowed access to the farmyard or to the house. His sole duty is to protect the stock, in some cases on large isolated pastures or ranges. Both types are a working part of the stock operation and function as such. Pyrenees have been known to increase their territory and may also protect stock belonging to adjoining neighbors pastures. The breed performs admirably in either of these situations.

This is "Pearl", you may know her from Thoughts From Frank and Fern. Fern notes: "LGDs have a very different personality than regular dogs like Labs or Border Collie's, and require a whole different type of training. Whatever dog you choose, get a book on how to train them. It made all the difference in the world for us."

Pearl with young "kids". Fran says, "Pearl is a great dog and is fantastic with the goats."
Thank you Frank and Fern for letting me use your photos.

Once the decision has been made to obtain a Great Pyrenees for predator control, the next question is what kind of dog to obtain and where to obtain a dog.
The first choice must be made between a grown dog and a pup. This will be based upon individual needs and available animals. In general, a pup is to be most recommended, but grown dogs may be very satisfactory on an individual basis. If you decide on a grown dog, be cautious of sellers who offer you a "Trained" dog. If a dog is already an effective worker, the chances are slim that a person would part with such a dog. Also, if such a dog should become available, there is still the problem of adapting the dog to his new environment and territory. A grown dog should come with a contract stating a trial period of time so if the dog does not work out for the new owner, it can be returned. The training of a livestock-guarding dog cannot be equated to the training of a herding dog. The next choice will be male or female. In this breed, either sex will do a very creditable job; so, if you have a strong preference, by all means exercise it. If you get a female, you should have her spayed at about 6-12 months. It she is not spayed, you will lose her usefulness for those 3 weeks twice a year when she is in season, and such a time may come at the peak of lambing. She will be more reliable and more effective if she is spayed. Contrary to popular myth, a Great Pyrenees female will mate with a male dog of any breed if he is insistent enough. Male dogs should also be neutered. The male dog will exercise his sexual drive in response to any female canine. This definitely includes coyotes. If you have a female herding dog, or if your neighbors have an unspayed female dog, your male working dog will quite naturally seek out the company of such females. A dog who is distracted from his stock is useless.

The Maremma

The Maremma is a large white or cream colored dog, usually weighing between 70 and 100 pounds and standing 25 to 30 inches tall. It is described in the breed standard as being majestic, lively, sturdy, distinguished, intelligent, and courageous without being aggressive. Properly trained, it has the ability to bond closely with sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas, with which it assumes a protective parental attitude, it demonstrate and an aloof awareness as leader of its adopted family, while at the same time readily accepting a secondary role to its bonded human.

A Maremma accepts the leadership of humans, but not their mastery. While being a good friend to man, the Maremma will not willingly be his slave. Born with exactly the right qualities for livestock guarding, the Maremma is not recommended for use as a pet.
The independence necessary for solitary guarding of a flock makes the Maremma somewhat unwilling to take orders, and all of its behavioral characteristics that make it an excellent guardian tend to become stronger as it matures. The pet Maremma, without a flock and large area to guard, will gradually become more possessive of its bonded humans and of its limited territory, and more defensive of its possessions, while it will also become less discriminatory between friend and foe.
A successful Maremma guardian dog will be good tempered, ATTENTIVE to the stock, PROTECTIVE of the stock, and TRUSTWORTHY with the stock. The ideal time for an inexperienced guardian owner to purchase a Maremma is as a recently weaned puppy so that it will bond strongly with its adopted family, its humans, and its territory as it grows. However, this also involved all the antics of puppy-hood; adolescence, and training in the "don'ts" of guardianship - it already knows all of the "do's" and will develop them on its own if exposed at the right time to appropriate guarding situations. Maremmas become mature, fully developed guardians at about age two.
For these reasons, some people may choose to purchase an older dog, closer to mature guardianship, that will readily transfer to a new adopted family, new humans, and new territory if it has been treated properly up to that time. In any case, it is strongly recommended that you do some advance preparation.

The German Shepherd
The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility--difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.
The desired height for males at the top of the highest point of the shoulder blade is 24 to 26 inches; and for bitches, 22 to 24 inches.

The German Shepherd Dog is longer than tall, with the most desirable proportion as 10 to 8½. The length is measured from the point of the breastbone to the rear edge of the pelvis, The desirable long proportion is not derived from a long back, but from overall length with relation to height, which is achieved by length of forequarter and length of withers and hindquarter, viewed from the side.

  The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious faults and any dog exhibiting pronounced indications of these must be excused from the ring. It must be possible for the judge to observe the teeth and to determine that both testicles are descended. Any dog that attempts to bite the judge must be disqualified. The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose.

* I have had German Shepherds as farm and working dogs. They are wonderful and intelligent and with proper training are excellent herding dogs. I am however saddened by what the show ring has done to this breed and the incredible genetic changes "Show ring Style" has made in their functionality. I had little success in finding information about this breed that did not promote the Show ring as a selection tool. That is just my opinion for what its worth.

This is the first set of dogs we have looked into. Part two will follow with other interesting breeds we have found.


  1. Herding dogs are whip smart and are bred to think for themselves. We always had Australian shepherds although I think now I would lean towards a smaller dog like the Border Collie. Now those are really smart!

  2. I have enjoyed my Border Collies and was always amazed at how smart they are, sometimes too smart for their own good! When my old dog "Boo" became deaf he learned hand signals to work cattle...the he learned if he pretended not to see he could cheerfully ignore direction he thought was redundant!

  3. I have some beautiful seven-week-old Maremma puppies at my farm right now. If you are interested, check out my friend's blog, which tells their story:

    1. Thank you for the info and link. They are beautiful. How do they handle heat and humidity?

    2. Hello,
      I believe they would be fine, as long as they had adequate shade and water. If you look back at the blogs for the entire month of April on my friend's blog, you will see more about the pups. I also have two border collies, which are often mentioned in her blog. If you have more questions, feel free to email me at:
      Good luck!

  4. Good information, Fiona. Pearl looks great, doesn't she?? But then, I guess I am rather biased. I look forward to part two.


    1. Nah....your not a bit biased! Ralph has a question about Pearl....being female is she is as aggressive toward intruders as a male would be?
      I think she is lovely too!