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March 17, 2012

Watch The Gate

My pal SD has asked me for some videos showing how I work with the dogs - or rather how the dogs work with me to get all this farming done. I've said before that having hard workin' farming dogs is like having an extra pair of hands. This is an example...

I posted this on my Facebook thingy - does everyone know I have this? Come on over and "friend" me to be part of the fun. Anyway this video was a big hit so I thought I'd post here also.

This command is called "Watch the Gate." That's Titan and he's keeping Dinah, the baby goat, in the pen while I'm busy with the Too Cutes. See how he goes and gets her, scoots her in, then keeps her in the pen with his paws?  See also that he is not aggressive but is firm. He uses is nose - not his mouth - but mostly his paws.

And she is a pip isn't she? None of the baby goats are afraid of him at all. Remember that he's been helping me with them from the start. I think its funny when he "gives licks" - and, no, he isn't tasting her. I taught him to "give licks" to the babies so he would clean them after their bottle feeding. This kept them clean and also stimulated them after their meal, kind of how a momma goat would.  I'll do a lot of things but licking goats is not one of them.

I should note this command, especially with a baby goat, is a fairly advanced move and folks with regular dogs may not have the same result. Unless you can stop your dog at a dead run while he's in full prey mode, I would gradually work your way up to this kind of thing. She is very very small and his huge paws could easily hurt her. Not to mention the pointy bits. Kai or Zander would not do well with a command like this. Sure they'd go and get her... but they'd bring her back limp.

Titan knows that the babies are "mine" and I've worked with him to make sure he knows not to hurt them. A rambunctious pup would just get over excited and would easily tip into "prey" mode. An untrained dog wouldn't know what was "play" and what was "work." You can see here how dogs play - this would not go well for a goat.

Note that Titan is intentionally keeping her in - he isn't randomly playing with her. All his moves are to keep her back.  I don't encourage people to let their dogs "play" with livestock. At all.

I've seen videos where people think their dog is "playing" with their goat. The people think its hilarious. But friend I'm here to tell you the next time that happens, or when the people weren't standing there..... that goat would be a gonner. And that goat is terrified, she doesn't think its funny at all. Remember that goats are a predator's delight - they smell like poop and run when chased. Goats = not playmates for dogs.

Titan never gets to decide he's going to "play" with the goats or any of the livestock. He only works them when I tell him. Smart dogs get themselves into trouble when they start making their own decisions like, "Say, that rooster is lookin' at me funny - I'm gonna go kill him."

If you see your dog take interest in any of your stock you need to stop him immediately. Make him sit in front of you, give him the "finger of discipline" (think mean teacher scolding you) to make sure you have his attention, and tell him "NO! That's mine! We don't touch that!" And then give him a time out. We gate our dogs on the deck if they are naughty - that way they can see all the good dogs having a fun time with us...while they sit up there sadly. Since dogs are pack animals and want to be with you this is very very very effective.

We started working on "watch the gate" awhile ago. Mostly so I could walk thru one of the gates with my hands full and not have to latch it. I'd call Titan to the gate, tell him "watch the gate" (which was a new command) then tell him to sit and hold. And lets face it, very few of our barnyard critters is gonna try and scoot out of the gate with a huge "wolf" sitting there. I'd keep repeating "watch the gate" to keep him there and pretty soon he knew what I was talking about. Then when I was in the goat yard, I'd randomly say "go watch the gate' and point to it. He'd run over and sit down next to it. Voila.

So now you know how Titan helps me with the babies. I'm working on some videos to show how he helps me with the Too Cutes also.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank C. who gave this baby, Dinah, a new home! We are thrilled that she came by yesterday and know that Dinah will be a welcome addition to her flock.

Happy Saturday everyone. The next time you see your dog just sitting there - give me a job. Teach him to "watch the gate."