You know when people, for one reason or another, develop a strong relationship with their pet that the animal becomes even closer than beloved pet and transcends to child? You know what I’m talking about : Fur Babies. People do grow to love their pets so much as to buy clothes for them, treat them to expensive spa days, drive them around in a puppy stroller, etc. As a matter of fact, today is National Spoil Your Pet Day. I’m not even joking. Well, out here on the farm as you may have previously read, all our animals must have a job. There are no free rides. Even the dogs must work and contribute. Chelsea is my 4lb yorkie. She contributes by loving us and barking at air molecules and any animals she may spy through the windows when she is not busy napping on our laundry. So, all our dogs have distinctive personalities and skills that help us here on the property but when we moved from the city to the country we didn’t know if our dogs would do well. We moved out to the country with two lap dogs and a Rottweiler mix. City Dogs. Well they all adjusted and we were very lucky. But deciding on acclimating your dog or bringing in a new friend requires some things to think about and sometimes the hard facts and truth hurt.
Dangers are everywhere and you can’t always see them.
Moving to the country brings your pet into contact with animals that are not on vaccination schedules or regular feedings. There are many predatory animals lurking day and night to carry off your pet or hurt them badly. Hawks and wild dogs roam fields and forests looking for easy prey. Cats and smaller dogs are in danger and can be carried off in a matter of seconds by a watchful hawk that sets up a lookout tracking your pet’s habits. In the early evening and overnight, coyotes will sneak up to your porch and grab an unsuspecting pet as well. You should be careful if you chose to let out your animal at night for its last potty break. Even in your eyesight they can be attacked as wild animals are not afraid once they know that there is a meal nearby.
Fleas and ticks along with other biting and stinging pests are common and easily antagonized by curious pets. I hate seeing the pictures that circulate of curious pets that poke their noses into pest’s dens and get stung or worse, they get infested with flesh eating parasites that set up a nursery in their snouts or mouths. Our dog Tucker was stung by a wasp and his entire fore leg was swollen twice the size of his other leg. It took about 72 hours for the swelling to completely go down, but he was uncomfortable and limped the entire time.
We keep all our dogs on chewable flea and tick preventative that is effective for 90 days. It’s a little more expensive than the more common flea control meds but we won’t take a chance with missing a dose and our dog getting heartworms or worse from being unprotected.
Bats and raccoons can carry rabies and if your dog is curious enough to find a sick and dying animal, they put themselves and your other pets in danger. Possums do not transmit rabies. It’s rare for rabies to survive on an Opossum and its speculated that it may have to do with their low body temperature. But still, don’t take any chances. Keep your pets vaccinated and be aware of what is on your property and where your dogs roam.
Livestock Vs. Livestock Guardian Dog
After we went through all the drama and heartache of losing our goats, we researched the best kind of Livestock Guardian animal. Here is a quick rundown of what other people are using on their homesteads or ranches to protect their animals.
Donkeys– They are known to alert for coyotes and bears. Some will even attack them (see above). They HATE dogs. They are solitary animals but the downside to having a donkey is that they must be castrated or they will try to mount your goats and they have been known to pull the tails off goats. I would never want to see that. I would also be afraid of getting kicked by a donkey.
Llamas– They also are considered Livestock guardians along the same lines as Donkeys, but without the kicking. But like the donkey, you would only be able to have one because once there are two or more, they tend to stick together and ignore the livestock they are supposed to be protecting.
Dogs– There are specialty dogs that have thousands of years of training and breeding to protect and herd livestock. Most of the ones that will defend and fight off predators curiously come from Turkey. There are some people that keep them as household pets but most of these animals are used as working animals and are treated with greater respect and an expectation to keep home and work life separate, just like a real job.
We were lucky to find a pair of sisters that come from a working farm background with 100% LGD breeding in them. The most amazing part is how ingrained their instinct to protect kicks in, even at 5 months of age. I’ve already witnessed them protect and patrol the paddock when a perceived predator was nearby. Sugar is getting used to her new roommates and they are always tailing her to see where she is at, that I’m sure she finds them annoying. They have identified our Nubian goat as their ward to protect and sound the warning every night if they hear anything daring to get close to our fields and paddocks. I think the word is out that they are on patrol now. But also, to be fair, these girls still have almost two years of growing up to do although right now, being only 5 months, they are the same size as Tucker, who is a full-grown Rottweiler/Shepard mix. These girls will be huge.
Livestock Vs. Pet
When we moved from the city, Tucker, Edmund and Chelsea had never been around livestock. Our first adventure in the country had us quickly gather our own little menagerie. At that time, we had chickens, goats and pigs. Edmund and Chelsea had come from a breeder’s home and had only known their littermates. Tucker was adopted at the Texas State Fair and we had no idea what his background was. Chelsea was prohibited from going back outside once she got a tick on her forehead like a jewel, so no outside for her. Edmund thought his job was to herd pigs that outweighed him by 120lbs. He would closely follow at my heels when I went outside and thought his job was to tell every other animal what the deal was. Tucker, well he was just his laid-back self and spent most of his summers taunting other neighborhood dogs and swimming in our pond. Sometimes he would chase the goat sisters but most of all, he just hung out. Oddly enough we never had to worry about him chasing or pouncing on our chickens. He just wasn’t interested in them. We were very lucky because many dogs do have the pounce instinct. Unfortunately, we discovered these last few days that we now have a dog that has that instinct and we won’t be able to break him of it.
A few months back while we were at the local feed store, they were having an adoption fair. I loathe seeing them because all the pets deserve a good home and you can’t adopt and save them all. It just doesn’t work that way. You are dealing with an animal with a mostly unknown background as to what they were exposed to and what training they did or didn’t have. My husband fell in love with a husky mix and we named him Odin. Odin is loveable and has a strong need to be loved right back. He just wants to nuzzle and hug you and sleep on the tile. This dog is not meant to be a country dog. First, he doesn’t like being outside. He is an air conditioner dog. If he’s outside he wants to run away and run far. He has a natural curiosity to the cattle in the field next door and wants to play and taunt them. The cow mommas won’t have any of that especially with their new calves. But Odin doesn’t know any better as he bounces around like Tigger. He is exactly like Tigger and that should have been his name instead. He also loves to swim, in anything, even his water dish. But in these last few days he has picked up a new habit that we can’t support or break him of because it’s in his nature. He’s gone from pouncing on chickens to biting their backs to the point of killing them. And we can’t have that on our farm. It’s not his fault that he does what he does, it’s part of who he is as a dog and it is part of his instinct. Even if I made the excuse that he’s young, this is something that he won’t outgrow or be trained out of. Do not fool yourself and convince yourself that you can train a dog away from its instinct. You just can’t and its cruel in the training process to make that instinct a negative response. It’s also not the chickens fault that it’s a chicken. They just walk around and eat and poop. Sometimes they lay an egg. I have cried over this issue since my husband mentioned that Odin needed to be rehomed. I cried because I don’t like giving up on animals that we made a commitment to. As I have said many times, we are their stewards and it’s our responsibility to nurture and care for them so that they contribute back to us. When you adopt a dog, you have many responsibilities to consider that this animal probably won’t change, and you have to accept that. You can’t keep a large dog in an apartment and expect success. You can’t take an older dog to a home that has lots of stairs and expect him to renew his youth, that’s just not going to happen. Odin needs to be with a young family, couple or person that can take him on adventures hiking or swimming in the nearby lakes or rivers. Even if they arent that active, if you can give Odin unrestricted access to air conditioning, he will bask in the cold all day. A home where he can just be himself with all the desires that make him Odin. That is my new task for these next couple of days, is to find a home that Odin can succeed in. One where they take him swimming and let him sleep on the cool tiles throughout the day. A home where it’s ok that he sheds enough for almost another dog coat in 24 hours. A family that needs a Tigger dog, a forever home away from the dangers of country life and fluffy chickens. 🙁