Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) are a big part of a ranch with livestock. They guard the property and the animals. Frostee is our LGD, that’s why she lives outside with the sheep and chickens. She has been a great guard dog since day one. When we went to Dallas for Josh’s appointments at Baylor , Frostee was just a puppy. We had Diego come over and let her out and feed her and the other animals while we were gone. We decided to come home early in the morning on our last day. When we pulled into the driveway, we could see that Frostee was in the paddock with the sheep. At first we thought that Diego came early that morning and let her in to play, but the more we thought about it, the more that didn’t make sense. Diego had no idea we were going to be home that early. We hadn’t planned on getting home until later that evening. We reviewed our camera footage and found out what happened. When Diego came the night before for the night feeding, he didn’t latch the lock on her kennel tightly. The next morning, Frostee woke up and jumped up on the kennel door and it popped open. She exited the kennel, walked around the yard for a while, then squeezed her way through the fence INTO the paddock where the sheep were. She instinctively knew that she belonged with her sheep, keeping them safe. She could have just as easily squeezed through the fence to the front yard and been gone. With so little training, she knew her job and just wanted to do it! From that point on, she lived with the sheep (and eventually goats) full time.
She has protected her sheep from a skunk, her chickens from hawks, and us from many invisible threats (real or imagined 😁). She did struggle a little bit with chasing the lambs and hurting them while trying to play. I reached out to the Texas A&M Livestock Guardian Dog program people and this is what they suggested: Dangle Stick. So, the next time we discovered an injured lamb due to Frostee’s “playing”… she got one.
She pouted for an entire day. Hardly moved, wouldn’t eat, not even a treat! The second day, she realized that this was a new part of her wardrobe so she might as well get used to it. The idea of the dangle stick is that it keeps her from running. Her legs get tripped up in it so once she starts to run, she has to stop or she will fall down. This discourages her from chasing the sheep. We also added verbal reinforcements as well. When we saw her walk past the sheep without engaging with them, we told her “good girl”. If we saw her going towards the sheep, we would say in a stern voice “stay away from the sheep”. She can protect the sheep without interacting with them. She wore the dangle stick 24/7 for about 10 days. Long enough for Gherkins legs to heal from Frostee’s bites 😥
Once we saw improvement in her behavior around the sheep, we started to take the board off during the day when we could keep an eye on her. She only had to wear it at night for another two weeks or so. This tool was probably the best training aid we have ever used. Frostee still protects her sheep, but she no longer tries to play with them which is exactly what we wanted. We did want to get her someone to play with though… stay tuned!