Dog breaking = getting livestock used to responding properly to a dog herding them
Responding properly means turning and moving in the opposite direction of the dog without challenging the dog or running headlong into a fence.
Our ducks grow up around the dogs, so dog breaking just comes naturally as they grow up. Our sheep came to us from a farm that uses Corgis on a daily basis so no problem there. The goats, on the other hand, are a problem.
You see, a few days before we got our goaty gals their previous owner's pack of wild dachshunds (yes you read that right) got loose in his yard and killed all his chickens right in front of them. I suspect the dogs got a few chomps in on the goats as well as our girls came to us with a few dachshunds level scabby spots under their chests and stomachs.
When they finally came here, they were terrified of our pups. They would literally start quivering when the dogs would bark or come into view. This was a major problem since their pen opens into our backyard a.k.a. doggy play area.
The first step was just getting them used to the presence of the dogs. We put an xpen up as a buffer so that the dogs couldn't gawk at the newest additions thru the fence and right in their faces. After the goats got comfortable enough not to tense at every canine sound or movement, the xpen got taken down.
Next I tried bringing Sonny, the least intimidating of our shelties, in the pen with the girls just to get them used to him being around. The first time I brought him in, the girls actually walked up and sniffed him. Good progress.
We did this a few times until Jenni tried to headbutt Sonny while he was not looking. Ok, a little too comfortable there.
The next step was to get them started on learning to be herded. I put a leash on Sonny, brought him into their pen and had him walk up to their heads. The idea is that the goats learn to turn and walk away from the pressure of the dog. Heads turn and you call off the dog. It's a very simple first exercise. Dog walks up, goats turn away, dog gets called off. Rinse and repeat.
At this point, I made sure I had something to use as a stock stick in my hands. If you have ever watched anyone herding, they almost always carry a stick or a cane. This is not to beat the dog (despite what some people think), it is to help you communicate more clearly to dog and stock and more importantly, it's there to back up your pup against misbehaving creatures that are at the very least twice his size.
If a goat didn't turn away or started to look like it was challenging my sweet and not very pushy Sonny, they got a light swat with the stick. Goats are smart creatures. It doesn't take them long to catch on.
Tonight was the first time we would try herding them in the yard instead of in their pen. I brought out Nova first.
Nova spent a few years living and working on a small farm before she came to us, so I figured she would be a step up from Sonny in presence and pressure. Not so. Nova just ran in circles and barked at the goats. This does nothing to win the respect of the livestock. When I saw them starting to turn and challenge her (remember, our goats have horns!), I decided it was time to bring out the big guns.
Luna is 28 pounds of drive and guts. She has never balked at a challenge. When she walks out in a field, the livestock generally stand up and salute. With a leash on her to keep her from getting out of hand, we walked up on the goats. They challenged, they got a swat from me and a hard look from Lu. After that, it was like they'd been worked all their lives. We walked them across the yard and back again a few times.
Big Onion was hanging out at the halfway point handing out oats. It's another simple lesson for the goats - dog chases you, you find human, dog stops chasing, and you get wonderful things from human.
The gals are far from ready to put out in the field, but at least I think we are all heading in the right direction.
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