Bringing in a Livestock Guardian: my journey to Dog

This is partially true for me - except specifically, I speak English and SPANIEL. The first dog I truly loved was a black and white English Springer Spaniel, what Americans would call Field Bred. She belonged to the son of my adopted Grandmother, and her name was Trudy. I was a small child when I first met her, probably around six.

I have had three springers of my own since then, along with a handful of other breeds, and I've never met found any other breed to be as smart, emotive or empathetic. While I love my German Shepherds and my mutts, I am a spaniel person, through and through.

For all of their wonderful attributes, however, they are no guardian dogs, that is for sure. I also know what I am not, and that is an alpha. My spaniels do as I ask them because they love me, and because they want to please me, not because they respect me. I do not inspire respect in dogs. It's sad, but it's the truth. And this is the reason why my previous attempts at livestock guardian dogs have failed. I was unable to get into the heads of my two crazy Great Pyrenees puppies and persuade them that playing tug-o-war with chickens is a bad thing, and playing catch with baby goats is equally bad. They ended up finding new homes on bigger farms, with better owners.

Fast forward to present day, and not long after we moved to the new farm, we discovered it came with its very own stray dog and coyote problem. After seeing them hunting a deer through the woods in broad daylight one afternoon, I knew that I had to find a Livestock Dog. Preferably an adult, already familiar with farming dos and don'ts, such as what is edible and what is not. Dog Chow good, chicken bad, that kind of thing.

As you may know, well-trained Livestock Dogs are expensive things, and funds are always tight on farms. But a good friend had a year old dog she was willing to part with, in exchange for one of my very favorite angora bucks. While parting with him was hard, it was a decision I had to make; the safety of my herd literally depended on it.

So then came Merry.

The concern in the family was that I would 'muffin' her into becoming a house dog, so I was carefully supervised to ensure that I didn't undo all her valuable training.

We started by crating her for several days, as she was super-spooked by the move, and would take off at the slightest provocation and refuse to be caught. I went out several times a day and took her for walks in the pasture, encouraging her to walk the fencelines and learn her territory.

Eventually we progressed to allowing her to be loose in the barn and the small pasture behind it. This took about three weeks, then one day she decided enough was enough, and out she went with her goats. And that's where she has stayed ever since.

She is ever watchful, and just because she looks like she is sleeping, doesn't meant that she is.

She's teaching me so much about the power of a working dog, and every day is a new lesson.