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Evaluating the Rescue dog for the Family Farm

Placing a rescued dog as a Livestock Guardian Dog has special requirements and hazards. It is essential that all concerned - representatives of Rescue, Foster home, and potential new owner - understand the requirements of both the dog and the adoptive home.

DEFINITIONS:

Requirements for the adoptive home that wants a Livestock Guardian Dog

As a minimum, all of the following should apply

All areas where the dog has access must be fenced with the fences in good repair; all gates must be dog-tight. If the dog may have access to a driveway, there must be a dog-tight gate that is kept closed between it and the road.

There must be an adult normally present at all times on the property where the dog will usually reside.

The adopters must understand that they are responsible for the welfare and safety of their own animals; that they agree to properly restrain the dog with fencing or leash until they are satisfied that the dog will not itself harm their animals; that the dog will require a significant commitment of time and effort to train.

Evaluating the Rescued dog as a potential Livestock Guardian Dog

The farm is not a “dumping ground” for a rescued dog. Rather, it is an opportunity for those of sound temperament and conformation to fulfill a need and to pursue their age-old occupation of caring for the livestock. Not all dogs can do this. Some, by breeding or early experiences, require the constant presence of people to be happy. Some do not have the ability to “think independently” that the job requires. Some simply lack the basic temperament required and look upon the stock as prey rather than property. A dog that has been turned in as a “shape shifter” or escape artist cannot easily be taught to stay behind a four-foot fence.

Check for bodily sensitivity. A dog that does not object strongly to being pinched and poked probably won’t retaliate when prodded by livestock.

Does the dog exhibit the ability to quickly learn new tasks and commands? A working LGD needs to continually learn and to apply what it has learned to new experiences.

Is the dog willing to spend time by itself without constantly trying to get in the house, or pestering people for attention? The LGD will spend all of his time with other animals, and only minimal time with humans.

Is the dog aware of noises and activity outside its immediate area? This trait often results in chronic barkers when kept in town - not a fault on a larger farm - and is needed to alert humans to unusual activity.

Walk the leashed dog in a rural area where there are livestock nearby. Does it display curiosity rather than aggression? If it is possible to visit a farm, where the leashed dog can get closer to the livestock, so much the better.

Inspection of the potential adopter’s farm

Wherever possible, a representative of Rescue should visit the farm of the potential adopter. It is a big help if the representative has had some experience with normal farm life, in order to better evaluate the dog’s chances for success.

Walk all fence lines; are the fences in good repair, on solid posts, with no low spots where a dog can crawl under or weak spots where a dog can go through. Is there an initial training area small enough (1 acre or less) that the fence can be economically “hot-wired” top and bottom to train the dog to respect the fence?

Are all gates in good repair? Do the wood or metal farm gates need wire stretched across the openings to prevent the dog crawling out? Do they hang out too far from the swing posts that the dog might squeeze through? Tip: if goats can’t get through, a large dog probably can’t.

Are poisonous materials locked up where the dog can’t get to them? This includes farm chemicals, pool chemicals, anti-freeze, insecticides and fertilizers.

Can casual visitors accidentally let the dogs out?

Is the house close enough to where the dog will initially be kept that regular supervision is possible?

Are there other dogs on the farm? Can they get to the livestock (therefore into the LGD’s territory)?

What are the ages of resident and visiting children? Are they trained to close all gates each time they go through? If they regularly handle the animals, are the children big enough, and well trained enough, to keep the dog from going out the gates?

Discuss the training period with the adults and older children. Do they understand that they will have to work consistently with the dog to make this placement a success? That they will have to spend time, several times a day, introducing the dog to the livestock and to its new territory, on leash?

The adoptive home should sign a waiver at the time they receive the dog, releasing Rescue and its associated clubs and members from any liability for damage done by the dog.

During the early training, the adopter should stay in regular touch with Rescue or the designated Livestock Guardian Dog advisors, to help correct problems before they become too serious to correct. The LGD advisor may give advice on training and care and may visit the dog to assure it is being trained properly and given adequate care.