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Livestock Guardian Dogs ft Renee of Mountain Woods Farm

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Renee as they discuss everything you ever wanted to know about Livestock Guardian Dogs!


  • What breeds of dogs Renee has on her farm
  • Choosing LGDs for beginners
  • Raising livestock guardian puppies
  • Training livestock guardian dogs to protect livestock from predators
  • Fencing dogs in the property
livestock guardian dogs

Our Guest

Renee is a first generation female farmer raising poultry, dairy goats, wool sheep, beef cattle, and livestock guardian dogs. Her background is in veterinary medicine as a vet tech, and in animal husbandry. Renee lives with anxiety and Mountain Woods Farm is her therapy!

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    Announcer: 0:01

    Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from when we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: 0:17

    Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole, and today we're joined by Renee with Mountain Wood Farms. And we are going to talk about livestock guardian dogs, which is a topic that I'm pretty excited to talk about. So Renee, thank you so much for joining us today.

    Renee: 0:36

    Oh, thank you so much for having me. Nicole. I'm been so excited to do this podcast with you.

    Nicole: 0:40

    Yeah, you know, I really enjoy following your social media and the livestock guardian dogs are something. I personally don't have any but I would really like to get some, and I know that there's kind of, you know, a lot of questions and confusion that goes on with them because, I mean, I'm used to just having my dog in the house that sleeps on the bed. So, you know that's obviously totally different. So different mindset with a livestock guardian dog. So can you tell us a little bit more about your farm and not only your dogs but everything that you have going on there?

    Renee: 1:13

    Yeah, I'd love to so my farm it's female run by me. My husband gets to be my farmhand on the weekends, which I'm sure he greatly enjoys.

    Nicole: 1:23


    Renee: 1:23

    He is more of like loving the animals like less lugging hay right? But yeah, so I raised beef cattle. I have Highland cattle here on the farm. I also have fiber sheet called Jacob sheep. I have Nigerian dwarf goats, which I use for my dairy program. And then I also have an array of poultry. And I do run three livestock guardian dogs. I have Maremma sheep dogs, and also my token Great Pyrenees. And they're very different in their working abilities and very different and how they go about their jobs which I can get into a little bit later with different breeds.

    Nicole: 2:02


    Renee: 2:02

    But they are essential to my farm. The truth is I wouldn't be able to run my livestock without them. I live in the mountains of Colorado. So we do see our fair share of predators, both aerial predators and ground predators. And I have not lost a single bird or a single kid. I haven't had my animals harassed by any predators. And my neighbors also are very grateful that I have the livestock dogs because they keep a lot of predators at bay for even their families. So yeah, those are that's my farm. And you know, those are the three dogs that I run here and I absolutely am very passionate about using livestock dogs, so you know, cohabitate with wildlife and predators. And I definitely love the breeds that I run here.

    Nicole: 2:47

    Sure. So it's kind of small world because we live on the plains of Colorado, so we're not too far from each other. But we still have our fair share of predator problems and it's I think, it's kind of silly. We have a Rottweiler she's just our house pet but she goes outside with me of course and she has an innate desire to protect the chickens. So anytime there's a coyote or even hawks, she chases away birds and things but she's not a dog that we can just leave outside all the time with the chickens. And you know, I'm sure that with you guys with having a more expansive farm with your sheep and your cattle, which I love your Highlands, they're so darn cute!

    Renee: 3:30

    Thank you so much.

    Nicole: 3:32

    I could see how they'd be so instrumental in the protection. So you mentioned that you have a couple different breeds. Can you talk more about why you have a mix and not just just Great Pyrenees?

    Renee: 3:44

    Absolutely. So the first livestock dog that I brought in was a Maremma sheepdog, and I did a lot of research on the different breeds. I'm what I would call myself a pretty soft owner. I share my home with Newfoundland dogs, and then I have like the token Cocker Spaniel and so those they're pretty soft breed and I have a really soft hand so I know that I wouldn't be the greatest owner to have one of the more serious livestock dogs like Ganfers or even Kangals or Caucasian Shepherds. I definitely know my abilities and I love to train with like positive reinforcement. And I love to make dogs think and work. So it was important to me to bring in a dog that would fit my lifestyle and my farm the best. I also do have a lot of friends that come and obviously want to hang out with the animals, and we do have neighbors, not in really close proximity but close enough with children, and I want to have a dog that I knew that would be a little bit more friendly towards strangers, given my direction. The Maremma Sheepdog, they're known to not really roam as much as traditional livestock guardian dog breeds. The barking is supposed to be not as bad like the incessant alert barking especially at night. A lot of people run Maremmas on smaller farms. And I definitely would categorize my farm as being on the smaller side. And I actually, like I said, I started with Maremmas, then I learned through a friend that she actually was losing her farm and she had a Great Pyrenees started that needed a home. And of course, I like that big "S" for "sucker" on my forehead. So we got in the car, and we drove and picked him up. And of course, I did a lot of research on, you know, Great Pyrenees in the beginning as well, because I knew it was going to be the Maremma, or the Great Pyrenees that I would bring in here. And I was familiar with Great Pyrenees. Anyway, from the show circuit, I did show my Newfoundlands and Confirmation. So I did know Great Pyrenees breeders and I was no stranger to them at all and their disposition. And so yeah, we went to see Eddie and he was in my car within 10 minutes, and we were on the way back in the farm. Yeah. But yeah, and he fit in seamlessly here. And I did talk a little bit about how the breeds work differently. And of course, this is just by experience in my opinion, but most people that do have both Maremmas and Great Pyrenees have agreed with me. But I find Great Pyrenees is happier actively patrolling the perimeter. I hardly see Eddie during the day, he is a busy bee. He's constantly working to perimeter occasionally he checks in with the other two Maremmas that I have, or and he checks in with the stock occasionally, but his job is working that perimeter and that's where he's happiest, which really complements how the Maremmas work. So my Maremmas like to stick closer to the stock. And again, this is something that I've seen to be in a pattern and a trend for other people that run Maremmas as well. That's why everyone is always you know, so taken back with the videos of Mayday who's one of my Maremma bitches, and then Daphne, who's one of my Highland heifers, because they're always together and...

    Nicole: 6:56

    It's so cute!

    Renee: 6:57

    In a day kind of a super so cute, right? I know And people would think that I set that up. But like, I, there's no way I can do that. And they are together all the time, Mayday has really assigned herself to the large stock. And then my other Maremma William, he has really assigned himself to the small stock, so the sheep and the goats, and they really, like I said, stick very close to the stock. And if Eddie's bark changes, or if Mayday gives a good bark, or William gets a good bark, you learn immediately when you have livestock guardian dogs, which barks to ignore, and which ones to take seriously. And the dogs know that as well. And whoever alerts, the other two will come running as backup. So it's actually really interesting to see them work and see them think and especially as a trio. So yeah, it's been pretty fun having both breeds and getting to see them, you know, where they're happiest working.

    Nicole: 7:52

    And do you have any fences? Are these dogs totally, just totally loose to kind of go about wherever they need to go?

    Renee: 7:59

    I'm so glad that you asked that. So, usually people will say, "Where do I even start like before I bring in a livestock dog?" And of course, it's really important to do your research on breeds number one. Number two, it's imperative to have secure and appropriate fencing. As I kind of said, you know, Maremmas are not really known to roam, but given an opportunity, they will try to get out. Great Pyrenees are more known to roam. They like to kind of set their own territory.

    Nicole: 8:27

    I've heard.

    Renee: 8:28

    Yeah, they do. Yeah. You know, I sometimes will laugh and I think like that Eddie believes that he owns this entire mountain, like the dogs have never gotten out. But you know, he really takes his job that seriously where he would be so happy if I'll just like "Have at it, Bud. Like go do your thing." You know, they really like to determine how big they believe they're territory could be.

    Nicole: 8:47


    Renee: 8:48

    So absolutely, I have a very secure and appropriate fence. And anytime you're any, any of the livestock guardian dog forums, which I definitely recommend for people who are interested in getting livestock dogs, it's such a porthole of information that's invaluable. But fencing is always up for discussion every day. There's always posts about livestock dogs digging out, jumping out, not respecting gates. So yes, fencing is absolutely imperative. And I even know people that have like a physical fence and then put in like a sport dog, almost like an electric fence to really keep them in. But there's something to be said about the Maremma sticking close to the stock, they really don't like to be away from them. We're like I said, Eddie, if given my permission, he probably would be like, "I'm gonna cover this entire mountain."

    Nicole: 9:38

    So I was gonna ask how you teach them perimeters. But I suppose that the fence kind of does that for you,

    Renee: 9:43

    Yes and no. So as you get them and whether or not you're bringing in a brand new puppy, or if you're bringing a starting adult, or even an adolescent, it's really important to still teach them where the boundaries are. So twice a day, I walk the perimeter fencing and I do that, really just to check the fencing. Cattle could be pretty hard on fencing. And plus, as you know, Nicole, our weather up here has been pretty crazy. You know, we have almost three and a half feet of snow right now. And my pasture. The cow pasture is like heavily wooded, right, so we have really mature pine trees. Some of them are 60 feet tall. And we always worry about limbs falling or trees falling when our weather is crazy. Whether or not that's the winter or during our favorite hail season. So I'm always checking this. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

    Nicole: 10:32

    I do.

    Renee: 10:33

    So I always check the fence. So when I do that, the livestock dogs are right there with me, and it's very strategic and their approach to checking the perimeter. I always find that my Maremmas are behind me, my Great Pyrenees is in front of me. He's like, this is my thing. I know my fence. Come on, and the Maremmas are like, "we're just gonna follow the leader." Right? So and yeah, they're checking the fence with me. They're smelling it out. And there's been an instance last July, where a bear did actually take down part of the fencing. And I knew it was like 2 am, we heard the bark, so I ran out. The bear wasn't trying to hurt my livestock. To be clear, I think he was trying to figure out how to get around the pasture. And usually, for them the easiest way just to go through something they have the size, and the dogs immediately alerted me to the breach in the fence and were keeping the cattle back. So it's really incredible to see these dogs with these instincts. I never taught that. But they automatically knew it. You know, it's in them for centuries and centuries. They've been bred to do this job they knew, not only to show me, this great pasture where the fence is compromised, but they were also working to keep the cattle away from getting out. So yes, it's very important to perimeter train your dogs, learn as their puppies, adolescents, are you bringing a new adult to you? So yes, walking the fence with them, letting them know where their territory, is rewarding them for walking that fence line with you, I think is all very important.

    Nicole: 11:59

    So like in that instance with the bear, if there is a threat to your animals is their job to alert you so that you can come and intervene or will they eliminate a potential threat themselves?

    Renee: 12:11

    No, that's a really good question. So they'll eliminate the potential threat themselves because of the size of the predators that we have here. You know, especially up here we have a big problem with mountain lions teaching their cubs to hunt. And you know,a lot of it is because you know, we are pushing these guys you know, out of their territories. Chickens and turkeys, especially turkeys are really easy prey for them. So, and they're pretty fun for kittens to chase, right?

    Nicole: 12:37

    Oh, sure!

    Renee: 12:37

    Yeah, the dogs definitely deter... right I don't even livestock guard dog puppies, believe it or not, love to chase poultry. You know, it's a very rewarding behavior. Yeah. One that you shouldn't allow. But so they'll definitely keep predators at bay deter them just by their presence and by barking. However, livestock guardian dogs are incredibly smart, they're going to use the path of least resistance. They're not just going to go full force and attack something unless they feel like that they need to because at the end of the day, they know, they have to keep themselves safe in order to keep the stock safe. So I know for a fact that they got a few bites on that bear, I could tell because they had some of his hair in their teeth. And it looks like the bear had moved on even before I got down there. But I do go down when the bark changes during the night because I do want to go down with backup. I use rubber bullets for bears to deter them. Because in Colorado, we have a big problem with nuisance bears. And we always have a problem the night before garbage pickup here on the mountain where we see a heavier bear presence. And I want to do my best as a Colorado civilian, to keep these bears from thinking that being this close to home and garbages is not a good idea. I am not one of those livestock guardian dog owners that it's like, though they're going to which I know they're going to do their job. But I want to go down there and assist, because I care for those dogs very much. They are the heart of my farm. And really, they're the most important beings on my farm. So if I can help in any way that I can, and I certainly do.

    Nicole: 14:09

    Now, one thing that I meant to ask you earlier, when we were talking about which breeds that you can use for your farm. Does it matter where you get your dogs from, do you need to get them from a breeder that raises livestock guardian dogs, or can you adopt a Great Pyrenees from the animal shelter? Does that have much of an influence?

    Renee: 14:29

    That is a great question. So what I usually tell people is, of course, the choice is your own. For me. I will always go through a responsible breeder that uses their dogs actively for livestock. And the reason really is three parts. For me, one, I want to know their health background, their history, that's really important. Secondly, I want to have that Lifetime support in relationship with the person that I get these dogs from. For example, when my Maremma bitch was younger, she had what was presenting as like a Luxating Patella, which is when the kneecap is a little bit loose and moves in and out. She was still really young puppy, but I dialed up her breeder, I was like, "Hey, just to let you know, have you seen this in your lines?" And immediately she was able to tell me "I did. I've seen it before, usually between eight and 10 months, it tightens up." Sure enough, it did. Where if I adopted her, I wouldn't necessarily know that and of course, there's always going to be people that will run to surgery, right? Or they do like these extreme medical, you know, interventions. And then the third reason that I choose to go through, you know, reputable breeders for these purposely bred dogs is I really want to know what their temperament is going to be like. As we kind of discussed you know, I do have neighbors that have small kids, I do have friends here that you know, come over and they want to hang out with the goats, and a predictable temperament is very important to me. I'm not saying that you can't find a greatest livestock guardian dog at a rescue and shelter because people do and they have done that, for me, that's just my personal choice to go through a reputable breeder. But yes, you definitely can go through a shelter and rescue, there's no guarantee that that dog is going to be completely a livestock guardian dog. Some of them are mixed with Border Collie we're seeing which is really detrimental because you have this livestock guardian dog bred with this herding dog. That's two very different instincts. And you never know which genetics are going to come out. You can do either. I will always go to a reputable breeder.

    Nicole: 16:35

    So you mentioned their ability to kind of get along I guess with other people that visit the farm or kids. Could they potentially be a threat to other people would they see as somebody that's not like you were your husband as invaders and potentially try to do something about it?

    Renee: 16:54

    That's a good question. So if somebody came and approached them without me or my husband down there, they react appropriately, they wouldn't act friendly, they would bark to let them know to back off and you, you don't even have to be a dog person to see that behavior kick in and not start to feel a little uneasy and like that, you probably shouldn't move forward.

    Nicole: 17:12

    Okay, so just kind of the typical.

    Renee: 17:14

    If somebody did get into the pasture, they would do their best not to allow that person near the livestock and of course, however elevated that person gets is however elevated my dogs would get. And even when I do have people over you still have to do appropriate introductions with the livestock dogs, which means the dogs are really looking to me to see if I invite that person in and if I trust that person, and usually once they see that I'm okay with that person, then they'll check that person out, go smell them. I usually instruct people not to pet them, just to let them check them out. And you know, Mayday one of them Maremmas, she likes to smell people's hair for whatever reason. And so that's her thing. So you know, I'll ask people once I can tell that the three dogs are comfortable with that person, I'm like, Can you just kneel down and let her smell your hair get over with. And you know, it's funny, but it also helps to lighten the mood. You know, people, even if you're a dog person, it's intimidating to walk into three dogs who are like, not welcoming at first. And then once the dogs accept you, then you'll be good for life. they'll remember you for life. Sure. So then they go right back to work, they could care less about you.

    Nicole: 18:24

    So it's not so much that they're aggressive. They're just protective of what they've been trained to protect.

    Renee: 18:30

    Exactly. But of course, if somebody went in there, even if I did proper introductions, and they went in there and they started to act inappropriately towards the livestock, the dog would step in.

    Nicole: 18:39

    So have you had any issues, maybe you had to go and grab a goat and pick a goat up and the goat didn't like it. Do your dogs kind of react to that or do they know that you're the pack leader? So if you want to go grab a goat, you can go grab a goat.

    Renee: 18:52

    Yeah, that's exactly it, Nicole. No, you nailed it. So we actually had a baby goat born to a first time doe in the middle of a snowstorm. And usually I can tell when the does are getting close to kidding because they lose what we call like their tight ligaments, which are like on either side of their tail and they you do see a little bit of a discharge, she gave zero indication that she was going to kid and normally go to kind of remove themselves from the herd. They don't really eat. She was eating. She was like head butting the other goats. She dropped that baby in the middle of a snowbank, let me tell you, and thank God we were home the dogs were alerting us to that. But yes, I went down and I picked up the baby who was screaming and of course my doe was like head butting and like really nervous and not sure what was happening and the dogs acted appropriately. They knew that I was there to help that baby. They followed me they were more interested, of course, they were more concerned, of course. But at the end of the day, they knew that I'm their shepherd, and that I'm there to take care of the animals and that I'm going to do everything that I can to help that animal and they knew that there's something wasn't right. So yeah, I had the baby in the barn, we got her warmed up, and we got mom on the milking stand and got claustrum into the baby and they stayed there the entire time.

    Nicole: 20:07

    Oh, how neat.

    Renee: 20:09

    Yeah. Very sweet.

    Nicole: 20:10

    So now you mentioned a couple times of course living in the mountains of Colorado that you know, snow happens occasionally. And are these dogs just outside all the time? And you know, in snow, rain, hail everything?

    Renee: 20:25

    Good question. So this goes for anyone. All livestock dogs should have access to a warm and dry and wind shielded shelter. So my dogs have access to the small stock barn through a dog door which they can go in anytime. They also have access to the big stock barn, which again, they can go into anytime and they dug like this fort, which fine... in the middle of the pasture. Yeah, I know. It's like there's like two dead tree trunks. And they actually they've done a really good job because predators can't see them. They can see out from there and it's completely blocked from the wind and from the snow. Yeah. So they essentially have two really good shelters and then one that they've made themselves. They choose the outside all the time, the only time where I won't see all the dogs outside is like what you explained with like the inclement weather, it has to be really inclement Nicole like it has to be like, well, we just got like a foot and a half of snow and the wind was 45 miles per hour. Then at that time, what happens is you see they take shifts.

    Nicole: 21:26

    Oh, really.

    Renee: 21:26

    And they do this at night too, because I do have cameras in the pastures and I do have cameras in the barn and you will always see two dogs in and one dog out. And when it's really bad weather I see their shifts are about every 20 to 30 minutes when the weather's not bad, there's a dog, that same dog will be out all night. And I always will know who's going to be on duty that night because they're doing more napping during the day when the other two are working. So it's very interesting to see, but yeah, I mean, they really they live for this weather they love this weather. I always say they get hot when it's above 50 degrees.

    Nicole: 22:00

    Sure. I know that that's been one of the concerns. I've really thought about getting some sort of a guardian dog but it's so hot here and I don't know that that would be the best for them.

    Renee: 22:12

    Well, a great breed that people often will choose to bring in when they live in warmer more humid climates is something with a shorter coat like an Anatolian Shepherd for example.

    Nicole: 22:22

    I would love to have one.

    Renee: 22:23

    Those are big dogs and you know, so they do well but of course you're going to have to provide them you know, cold water all the time and appropriate shelter to get out of the sun and you know if they need to escape that. But yeah, I mean there's people that have these dogs everywhere. The desert it doesn't matter I have friends in Florida that are running Anatolians you know, there are Cougar problem down there. So yeah, where you live should not matter. You can bring in a livestock dog. It's just about finding the right one for your environment.

    Nicole: 22:51

    I've just kind of just barely had this idea. I actually didn't even think about it until I met somebody about two summers ago that had an Anatolian and I just absolutely fell in love with it and then thought, "Well, you know, that would sure be helpful because we have a lot of predators in our area", but I didn't really think that there you know, would be options, but that's a really good point.

    Renee: 23:11

    Yeah. And they're great dogs. They are awesome dogs.

    Nicole: 23:13

    In regards to your previous story. I think that that's really cool how they just naturally work together. One of the my favorite things to watch is just a working dog doing their job and the fact that they just understand and they naturally know, to take shifts and to protect the animals and stuff. I just think that's so fascinating.

    Renee: 23:35

    It is amazing to watch them in action. I mean, sometimes I know it sounds silly, but I do get choked up watching them because if you think about it, they're willing to put their life on the line for me they're willing to put their life on line for the animals that I have without a second thought.

    Nicole: 23:50

    Yeah, it's amazing that an animal is so dedicated to their people to their animals to their job that they would do that.

    Renee: 23:56

    Yeah, I mean, that's really the importance of having these purposely bred dogs. You know, there's a lot of people like there's a breed that's, that's kind of started here in Colorado. I won't say it because I don't want to shed terrible light on them. But all I will say is you just have to be really careful with where you get your livestock dogs and that they're represented as true livestock guardian dog breeds because there's this breed being formed, where they're starting to bring in or are talking about bringing in a Newfoundland as a stud, or a Burmese Mountain dog as a stud. And neither of those dogs are livestock guardian dogs, and when push comes to shove, you want to have the right dog that's been purposely bred for centuries and centuries to do this job. We're you know, Newfoundlands, since I have a house full of them, you know, if they saw it, like they'll look at a fox, they like bark at it from the deck and then like, they'll be outside and they're like, "Oh!", run the other way. They're like, "Mom, what is that?" You know, and even like, I don't know if you have fox there, but they'll like steal the dog toys. Oh really and like we'll find dog toys or if we like put socks or our boots outside, you'll see Fox tracks and they like to steal anything that we leave outside. And you know, the Newfoundlands are like, you can have it like they're just not like white flag, take what you watch. Even like Burmese Mountain dogs, right? They're bred for herding, and they could be phenomenal farm dogs, but they're not one of these livestock guardian dogs and like we talked about before genetics can go either way and you would hate to bring in this dog, it takes a lot to train up a livestock guardian dog puppy... a lot, and there's moments when you literally come back into the house and you're like what have I done? You know the six to nine months adolescent phase is just... Nicole I remember Marco would get home from work my husband, he's like, "How was today?" I'm like, "Don't ask me about it." You know, but you know you, you love them and you continue on and it's worth the frustration. But you know, you just have to make sure that the dog that you are bringing in, it's not a marketing scheme, and that truly there's these livestock guardian dog breeds behind it. A lot of people reach out to me for questions about livestock guardian dog puppies. And the number one question that I get from people is what to do when their puppies chase livestock.

    Nicole: 26:16

    So what do you do?

    Renee: 26:17

    And that's something you would definitely encounter and every owner of lifestyle of dogs encounters, and a lot of people they think they could just put their puppies out in the pasture with the livestock and be like, "Good day", like, you're gonna be fine. But the truth is, like we kind of touched on before is livestock Guardian dogs will or any breed really I'm just like the dogs. They like to chase things that are fun and it's very self rewarding, right because endorphins get going and the animals run and that is a really fun game. Actually for poultry there's like feathers flying and they make these weird noises they run like dinosaurs, right? So I always tell people, it goes back to the same thing. You have to set your puppy up for success and you have to redirect any behaviors that you don't like and capture behaviors that you do like. So if you're not able to be with your livestock guardian dog, puppy or even a new dog to you and they're chasing, they need to be penned or tethered. That's what it comes down to at the end of the day. And a lot of people like Well, I didn't get this puppy for it to be in a pen and it's not forever. But if you don't do that, then you're going to have this dog that is going to form this really bad habit that's going to be even harder to break. So I always like to tell people like set up a time before you bring in your puppy. It could be in the middle of your pasture. That's what we did. And you know, it's good because your puppy will start to learn that the livestock is not that fun. They're pretty boring and then the livestock who might not be used to seeing a dog in their pasture especially because you livestock are prey animals, you know, dog could be very threatening. And they start to learn, oh, well that thing that white fluff is not that bad either. And you know, when you are able to work with your dog down, you know, with the livestock, that's when they should be leashed or tethered to you. Because at that point, that's when the training is happening. Again, you're capturing these good behaviors and rewarding them and you're redirecting any behaviors that you don't like. They're very eager to learn and to please, you just have to find what their niches and what makes them tick.

    Nicole: 28:18

    Now, I've always heard a rumor and I don't know if this is just like an old wives tale or if there's any legitimacy to this, that if you have specifically a livestock guardian dog as a working dog, that you're not supposed to pet them and treat them like your house pet. Is that accurate? Or is that just kind of misinformation?

    Renee: 28:37

    So I don't agree with that way of raising livestock dogs at all. You will find that a lot of like the old school, farmers and ranchers are really diehard like livestock people, do not believe in spending a lot of time with the dogs. They are more like kind of like the old wives tale that you were speaking of where you kind of like put your puppy down with the stock you only interact with it like once or twice a day. And that's it. And even the same goes for adult dogs. I am the complete opposite of that. I actually start my livestock guardian dog puppies in the house. Everyone's probably gasping right now. I do. What did she just say? Yeah, so I do and I found me personally, that helps me learn who they are quicker. So I can really learn like we talked about, like what their individual motivation and triggers are. It helps me form a bond with them. They form a bond with me. They learn to trust me and listen to me at an earlier age. And I also, there's something to be said about putting a 10 or 12 or even a 16 week old puppy who is just with mom and littermates in everything that's ever known, and just picking it up and popping it and putting it outside even at night by itself.

    Nicole: 29:53


    Renee: 29:54

    So I just am not a believer in that. And truthfully, Nicole, we are the only country that does it, where we just put them outside. And it's low contact. If you really research back and to true shepherds over in Europe for centuries and centuries and centuries, they're never ever, ever not with their dogs. They are there 24-7 with their livestock dogs, they're very hands on, they're there. 24-7 with their puppies. And of course, that's not always manageable for all of us right there juggling 100 things at once. But I want to mimic that as much as I could. So I'm very hands on I start my puppies in the house. And then usually by five to six months, I have them outside with stock full time. So it starts with they're with me all the time in the house. When I go do chores. They come down with me on leash, I have like a really fancy fan, fanny pack, which you know, bring it back, bring it back. And I actually clipped her. Yeah, very fashionable. I clipped their leash to that. And I also have treats in that fanny pack. And so they only go down with me when I'm actually with the stock and doing chores. And then eventually they'll be out in their pen during the day for certain increments depending on age and where I feel they are in the level of how comfortable they are down there and how confident they are down there. I don't want a puppy to be scared down there. And then we'll as the time progresses, I will just bring them in at night into the house at night. Again, I want them to feel safe and secure. And, um, you're not fooling anybody by saying that, you know, a puppy can defend against any predator it's not gonna happen. You know, livestock guardian dogs really aren't even mature until two. So that's my, I'm very hands on. I spend a lot of time with those dogs. I do training, I have canine good citizens on my dogs which are titles that you can get for them. I love spending time with them. I love training with them. And I always, it bothers me so much Nicole, when I see on these forums, that they're like, my dog doesn't listen to me, you know, I don't even know like, and everyone's like, well, they're just independent thinkers, and they're not bred to listen to you, which is true to some extent, compared to a Newfoundland that will do anything that you ask them anytime without even thinking, right?

    Nicole: 32:10

    They're like, "Mom, you know, whatever you want."

    Renee: 32:13

    Exactly. You want me to jump off that I'll do that. That's fine. Where the livestock dogs, they are independent thinkers, for sure. And you definitely see that, but because of the way that I rear them, and the relationship and bond that we have, and the trust that's built, they listen to me, it might take them a second to think about it to come to their own conclusion that they should probably listen to what I'm saying. But it's the relationship and bond that you form. And they like I said, I have CDC's on my livestock dogs. They love to work, they love to think and I really do help A lot of fun with them. I spend a lot of time with them.

    Nicole: 32:59

    Yeah, I think that would be a challenge to get a dog and then not treat it like a dog a little bit, you know, it seems so just so instinctual to want to be able to interact with that dog. And so, the thought of just throwing a dog outside and ignoring it, for lack of better terms. Seems I just couldn't do it.

    Renee: 33:09

    Yeah, and honestly, in my opinion, is pretty counterproductive. I make sure that my puppies are confident and secure when they go down to the stock full time. I want them to walk in there and be like, "This is where the fun happens. And this is a great safe place." And you know, there's, there's something to be said about seeing puppies out with stock who are scared. You're not really teaching them anything. You're doing a true disservice in my opinion. So yeah, I mean, I'm not one of those people either Nicole who could just like put a dog outside and call it a day but I will say it is very different. Sharing your life with a companion dog, and a livestock dog. I own my Newfoundlands right and I own my Cocker Spaniel. I usually tell people you don't own a livestock dog.

    Nicole: 33:54

    Fair enough.

    Renee: 33:55

    It's a partnership, and you work alongside one another. And to know that is to be in it and it's incredible.

    Nicole: 34:03

    So are there any other common problems or tips that you would offer somebody that's looking into getting livestock guardian dogs?

    Nicole: 34:10

    Like we said, Really, the main question that I get from people is, "How do I stop chasing behavior?" So again, that pen is really essential. I also get how do I keep my dog in again, like you and I discussed like appropriate secure fencing is non negotiable. You should not bring in a livestock dog unless you have that fencing in place and people do come to me and asked me what I use for fencing. And you know, I do have horse fencing, 2x2 horse fencing with cedar posts and then I do run barb on top just because we do have a lot of elk and deer in the area. And as much as I love buying hay, I don't really want to feed all the mule deer and the elk in the area. So that really does keep them out. And I would also say a lot of frustration that owners have when they do reach out to me with their first time livestock dogs or puppies, is just trying to get that dog acclimated with poultry. So the truth is, livestock dogs do not bond with poultry like they do with other stock. So it's much harder and much more time consuming to train up a livestock guardian dog to be appropriate and to want to stay and protect poultry. I usually tell people that process we can't even start to perfect it until they're two. We talked a little about they really don't mature until then. And that's the truth. So usually I will tell people start your livestock dogs with your other stock but certainly do let them see the poultry and then at starting before two you can start to work with them, on leash, again, redirecting behavior that you don't want, capturing behavior that you do want. But it's also very hard because goats and sheep, you know, at least my guys, they're pretty they're mountain tough, right? And they're pretty bold. And you know what, even if a puppy is acting inappropriately around them, and I'm doing correction, they also try to correct, right, they're like, we're not taking this. We're chickens, you know, they're like, oh, and they start running. So it does make training a little bit harder, you know, that saying, "Oh, look, a chicken." That's kind of what you're dealing with. But I always tell them, don't be frustrated, because if you're frustrated, your dogs gonna feel that down the lead. You just have to be confident work in little increments every day and know that every minute that you're putting into that training, you're going in the right direction, but that is definitely a frustration that people have they assume that these dogs are always going to be great around poultry. And that's not always the case.

    Nicole: 36:40

    You know, I think that's a good takeaway. So can you tell us where we can find you online and maybe reach out to you if we have any questions about our dogs?

    Renee: 36:50

    Yeah, of course. So I don't have a website. I have a Facebook page, Mountain Woods Farm. And then I also started my Instagram account a year ago. Again, it's Mountain Woods Farm. And yeah, that's where you can find me. I love DMs I'm always happy to help other people because we all started in the same place. And I really wish that I had a person to kind of guide me but I learned the hard way, right. And you're, you're gonna make mistakes along the way, whether or not it's with farming or bringing in livestock guardian dogs. So yes, I'm always happy to help and answer questions and I really do get hundreds of messages a day and I do absolutely answer all of them. It just might take me a day or two.

    Nicole: 37:34

    I think that's super generous that you help people. Thank you on behalf of anybody that's messaged you, thank you for being so generous and helpful.

    Renee: 37:40

    We all have to stick together especially this you know time when farming unfortunately, is not as well received due to some animal activists, you know? So yes, we all have to stick together waiting for each other and help each other.

    Nicole: 37:54

    Absolutely. Well, Renee, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and sharing your information about livestock guardian dogs. I hope that this helps anybody that's looking into getting some. And I think that you really shared some wonderful information. So thank you so much!

    Renee: 38:10

    Oh, thank you so much for having me. And yeah, like I said, I was looking forward to speaking about livestock guardian dogs, as you know, having them and raising them and train them is truly a passion of mine. And yes, I'm happy to help you and your journey or anybody else who's you know, thinking about jumping into the awesome and amazing role of owning livestock guardian dogs.

    Nicole: 38:29

    Wonderful. And for those of you listening, thank you so much for joining us, and we'll see you again next week.

    Announcer: 38:36

    Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show. please email us at [email protected]. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week!

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