9/18/2012—This post is falsely dated, cause I wrote it yesterday on Word and just didn’t post it.
Where did I leave off last time? With Minnie, the new doe. She has warmed up to me now, and is just as greedy as everyone else as far as food/greens goes. Maddie (the young white Flemish doe) has taken it to extremes however. Maddie and Minnie’s cage is separated by a 3’wide x2’tall (it’s homemade remember?) and this is usually a pretty good barrier. But now if I get Minnie some greens and I don’t get Maddie some in less than 30 seconds—I may or may not be exaggerating—she will do some acrobatic move to jump over the window and chow down with Minnie. Goofballs.
We got our puppy on Sunday, and his name is Zeus. He will be the goat dog, or livestock guardian dog as some prefer to call it. He is 8 weeks old and a mutt. There is A LOT of debate about the breed thing as far as LGDs go, and the argument is as such: certain breeds were bred to do a certain job, and you cannot train a dog to do a job that it was not bred for. Meaning that because Zeus is not a Great Pyrenese or a Meremma sheepdog or one of those other “guardian” breeds, he will ultimately end up killing our goats because his “prey drive” is too high. I don’t believe this. If this were true, you wouldn’t have people with pitbulls as service dogs and beagles as well-trained housedogs. Right? If it were true, then all pitbulls would attack any dog in sight and beagles would be following their noses right out the door and you wouldn’t be able to get them off rabbits/squirrels/etc. I guess that yes, some breeds may be BETTER at doing a certain job, but that doesn’t mean others absolutely can’t do it.
Anyway, my mother has a dog from the same parents, just from last year’s litter. Her dog, Max, has shown potential that I really like. Since being a pup, he has been very low key. Not a jumper or a nipper, but pretty relaxed. He barks and will go greet a new arrival, but doesn’t do anything really. However, he knows how things are supposed to be. My mother was rotating her goats throughout the yard to trim things up, and occasionally a goat would break the lead or somehow get unhooked. Every time this happened, we would be alerted by a loud barking. Walking back around the house to see what had happened, Max was barking at the goat, keeping it in its designated spot. He didn’t make any advances, but would circle and herd the goat to keep it in the “tether” area. I think this is a great quality. He isn’t over enthusiastic, but respects rules and expects other animals to respect the rules.
Brendon and I decided to take this a step further. A low-excitement dog, protective of his family, and respectful of boundaries. Sounds like good guardian qualities to me. Our plan is to raise Zeus in the goat shed (he has a safe “pen” area where the goats can’t hurt him) where he can bond with them and see them as family. During the day while we are at work, he is locked in the pen, and when we get home we take him out to roam with the goats. First day went well. He met all seven goats, and not a single one was upset by it. They let him follow them around. He seemed especially taken with Fern.—As an aside, I think it is odd that all of the young animals are so taken with Fern. She must just have that motherliness about her that the young ones like, even though she hasn’t ever been bred.— Even Billy was nice to him. Billy isn’t even that nice to Jack (our 6 month old whether)! That night he slept inside his pen, and the goats opted for outside.
Yesterday we let Zeus out of his pen when we got home, and we walked out into the pasture where the goats were. We didn’t say a word to Zeus, but just let him follow. If he tried to act playful or nip at our feet, we ignored him and kept walking. Upon arriving where the herd was, he immediately tries to greet each one, especially Jack, the little whether. He walks up to each goat, sniffs them, and if the goat lowers its head or acts upset that the pup is so close, the puppy gets submissive and lays down until the goat sees that he means no harm. (Something I noticed the bitch—his mother—did quite often.) The only goat who had a problem with him being too close was Jack, the little 6 month whether, and Jack gave him a little bump, and the puppy immediately corrected what he was doing. So we ignored the puppy, only petting him if we were petting a goat at the same time, and just kept watching how he interacts, and I think he is bonding really well, especially considering today is only day three. Then last night, it started thunderstorming like mad, and sure enough, the puppy was sound asleep in the pen, goats laying just outside of the pen, not a care in the world. When I checked on him this morning again, as all the goats were starting to head outside, Zeus was still happy with his goat family. He did get upset when they went outside without him, but I don’t trust him out on that big of a pasture just yet.