As anyone who’s ever tried to “train” a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) knows, the first 18 months can be very challenging! Sure, they’re cute and cuddly and cute and adorable and soft and fluffy. But they also challenge every rule, chew up every garden hose, and cause general local mayhem.
Here at Phoenix Farm, we are currently going through these growing pains with our 10-month-old Great Pyrenees, Ruby.
In evaluating her progress as an LGD, I decided to fall back on military training to provide her with structure during this process. The following is her evaluation in military style. Breaking with Air Force tradition, I will be using a “pass or fail” format instead of the “hard 5 – soft 5” evaluation used by the Air Force during my active duty years.
Evaluation of Ms. Ruby:
Rank: Puppy – despite her very large size (Note: weight (approximately 100 lbs) is within standards and she will not be remanded to the “Fat Boy Program”)
Specialty: Livestock Guardian
- Threat Assessment Ability:
- Sub-category FELINE THREAT: FAIL – If a highly trained cadre of ninja cats descends upon Phoenix Farm, I’m concerned that Ms. Ruby may actually help them steal away with our livestock; providing they can operate with her puppy nose up their butts for the duration of their operation.
- Sub-category AIRBORNE THREAT: PASS – Migrating birds, passing airplanes, hot air balloons, drones, kites, clouds, and anything else which may find itself airborne over Phoenix Farm will be met by fierce barking and growling for the entirety of its passage even if that means several hours of sustained noise until said interloper disappears over the horizon.
- Sub-category TREE-BORNE THREAT: PASS – Squirrels are a great fascination to Ms. Ruby. Even while her peers are oblivious to the obvious squirrel gangs that pass overhead and almost unseen, she recognizes the dire threat these fuzzy-tailed rats represent to the livestock under her protection. Ms. Ruby can easily detect a squirrel at 1,000 yards. At this point, she will jump every intervening fence with no regard to the damage to the infrastructure that her large girth is inflicting. She then bounds (puppy-like) to a location under said vermin where she will watch for hours. To date, she has never actually engaged this threat but, through her many hours of observation, she has compiled detailed knowledge of their methods of operation. Ms. Ruby is fully prepared for a potential squirrel invasion!
- Sub-category AUTOMOBILE THREAT: PASS – Through her mentoring partnership with the local Alpha dog, she has received highly advanced training in automobile threat recognition. Her keen abilities allow her to know when an automobile will be traveling past Phoenix Farm, as much as five minutes before it is visible. However, she will need further training on her automobile tracking as she can only pursue said vehicle for a few feet before she requires a 4-hour recovery nap.
- Sub-category HUMAN THREAT: FAIL – Despite the fact that humans are second only to coyotes/wild dogs on the threat spectrum, Ms. Ruby refuses to believe that anyone from the species that created “cookie” could ever be bad. An actual event which recently occurred may best illustrate her inabilities. The man who provides hay to Phoenix Farm called me on the phone recently. Informing me that he was already at our barn, I asked how he had managed to survive the LGD’s. He informed me that they had not even “got up from their nap”. Evaluator’s note: SMH!
- Additional Duties: FAIL – During her spare time, Ms. Ruby enjoys chewing up water hoses, chewing up pipes which lead to the water hoses, chewing up large branches, chewing up food bowls, chewing up the livestock’s food and mineral bowls, climbing over the fence and into the yard where she can then chew up garbage cans and their contents as well as chewing up the handles of rakes, shovels, hoes, and garden gnomes. Additionally, she enjoys standing in the water trough – especially if it’s recently been cleaned out!
- Final Assessment: PASS! Training an LGD can sometimes require a ton of patience. However, once they get through those “difficult teenage years”, something always seems to click in their brain. Their unruly behavior is never the result of aggression and doesn’t come from a threatening place. They’re merely learning the rules of their surroundings. I’m still confident that we’ll soon be watching a fully trained Ruby as she protectively follows her herd as they venture out to graze a different part of the pasture and all will be well at Phoenix Farm.