On Fencing and Our Maremma's in the Neighborhood.
I am hoping to create a blog to really capture a first timer's experience with Livestock Guardian Dogs in hopes to grow the acceptance and increased use of LGD for responsible pet owners on farms.
One of the biggest concerns and hesitancies I heard voiced against LGD's was that "LGD's wander" "LGD's dig under fences" " LGD climb fences". Well, that sounds like a nightmare and I was pretty hesitant to bring such a "nuisance" to our farm. None the less, coyotes had just come on our property and had attempted to break into our rabbit colony. They had pushed the wire in pretty severely and were spooked away luckily. Brad was also talking about planning a lambing season for the Valais upbreeding program, so we were talking about some serious money invested in one tiny lamb.
While we are not in the middle of nowhere, the ranches behind us are over 100's of acres and we can hear coyotes at night.
After much talking Brad into it... and man.. it was a heavy investment on our new farm because we needed TWO... we decided to get our Maremma's. We decided to install Sport Dog In Ground fencing. I hope to write an entire post on this because I am 100% satisfied with our fencing and them as a company. I have Brad to thank because he took the lead on this and installed the entire system around our 5 acre farm, installed the white flags, and trained the dogs onto it. I think this is the biggest investment of time that pays dividends in the future. Time spent training.
Fast forward to a year later. Merlin has left the property a total of 5 or so times. Let me first tell you, we do not have a front gate... so they can just walk out the property. But, overall they do not because of the underground fencing. Each time Merlin left, it was an error on our part. The system was not working or his collar was dead. We had a connection issue with the system and had "jimmy rigged it" and I just wasn't any good at making sure it was connected- so there were days at a time the system would not be on. Not to mention, the outlet it is on is connected to a light switch, so every now and then it gets shut off. After breaking a clip on the system, I finally called the warranty and was connected immediately and had a new system under warranty on it's way in 5 days. Some quick feedback of the system, I wish there was a better way to monitor the charges on the collars. I wish the collars didn't have the huge prongs, but they overall don't seem to bother the dogs. I make it a habit to try to pull the collars off for a brief period of time each day to give them a break. I also try to make it a priority to charge the collars once a week.
Another note, we have tried to lock Merlin into two smaller area's on the property, and yes, he has climbed and broke out of each of those two smaller area's. Roxy, never.
The thing I am most proud of with our Maremma's is their ability to self-monitor. We have a neighbor that has four hunting dogs that love to run and bark the joint fence-line. When our Maremma's were puppies, they engaged at the fence line. Never in a fight. Just naughty puppies barking. Now, I will catch my two dogs laying in the front yard not engaging even while the neighbors' dogs are barking. While they used to bark at our neighbor who walked the back dirt road, I just don't see it anymore. Most recently there was a random unleashed dog on a walk with a couple that came to the back fence. I observed the other dog barking while my dogs observed the dog. Nothing crazy. No vicious attack mode. No crazy barking, just the Maremma, this is my property warning bark. At which point, I yelled from my back porch "leave it" and "come". To my delight, once the dog was away from the fence line, Roxy and Merlin came to me. In the same week, a lady was running her dogs on the road in front of us. While I personally would hope people would run their dogs on backroads and not in a neighborhood, this was not the case. And again, I observed Merlin and Roxy standing the front line of the property with no gate. I heard the famous Maremma bark. And, at the same time, observed my dogs abiding the invisible fence and standing their property line. Again, I shouted a "leave it" and "come"! They abided once the threat was no longer there... the dog had moved along past the fence line and they came. I heavily rewarded my dogs with the usual pets, "good dog" and excitement.
So on barking... since that is part of the being in a neighborhood part. My dogs bark at night. Not all night. Not every night. Only as part of patrol duty. Some nights more than others. And less and less the longer we have had them and they get used to the surroundings. I have never heard a complaint. It has never been incessant. I think if we didn't have deer that moved regularly through and around the property, it would probably be less. I understand that their barking is part of their job. The idea of a LGD is not to have them actually fight predators. Yes, if that times comes, you want that. The bigger idea is that their presence alone, made known by barking at the threat, keeps predators off my property.
While we are still new to the Livestock Guardians, we feel like the past year has given us a good idea of our partners. I really do think of them as partners on our farm. I could not imagine it without them. I remember the feeling walking in the dark at night without them to do chores or check something. I appreciate the comfort I feel with them on our farm. I appreciate the excitement they show in our driveway when we get home. While they jump and play in front of our cars and that can be annoying, I'm always just happy to see them and know that they kept an extra eye on everything for us while we were gone.