By Erick Conard, February, 2020
Training a young working Anatolian can be easy if done correctly. It can also be a total disaster, depending on the actions of the person supervising the training as well as the working genetics of the pup. The single most important thing a new owner can do for success is to create an environment that automatically corrects the pup for improper behavior whether the owner is there or not. As the human in the equation, we are supposed to have the big brain. It's important that we use it!
Below are some of the things I watch for in training young working Anatolians.
1. Make certain the pup's ancestors are proven excellent working Anatolians
Before I select a pup from a breeder, I make certain the pup's ancestors are proven excellent working Anatolians - proven with sheep/and or goats in a predator rich environment. I don't just take the breeder's word that their dogs live 24/7 in a true working situation. I check this out myself - I am skeptical since many times I've discovered that the actual working situation is very different than what the breeder says it is.
2. Show Championships are meaningless when picking an Anatolian Pup for Working Ability
If I require a working Anatolian and pick a pup whose parents are excellent show dogs but untested for actual working ability, the pup may or may not have the high level of working ability I require. Frequently they don't. For a first-time owner of a working Anatolian pup, a show-only breeder without working experience might lack the knowledge the new owner requires when various working problems arise as the pup ages. Also, many show-only breeders select for behavioral traits that have helped them win in the ring, since they have little to no experience with the temperament, demeanor, and behaviors required of a true working Anatolian. When a breeder says they are dedicated to the preservation of the breed I expect that breeder to make every attempt to maintain superior working genetics in their lines. But when I see generations of show-only genetics without proven working genetic being introduced into these show-only lines, I question the level of dedication to breed preservation that breeder actually has. Sadly, "generic show dog" traits are antagonistic to excellent working behaviors and when selected for over generations, these "generic show dog" traits will ultimately reduce that lines ability to produce superior working Anatolians!!! Surely nobody wants that!
3. Never blame a pup for improper behavior - Blame yourself
I never blame the pup for behaving in a way I don't like. I blame myself! If the pup gets away with bad behavior, I failed to create an environment for the pup that automatically corrects all improper behavior. Therefore, I am at fault, not the pup!!! I immediately alter the pup's environment so that the pup will not engage in bad behavior without immediate correction. Right now, I have two Anatolian pups (3 ˝ months old) with Nubians having babies. The pups have been in the pasture with the goats and remain there as the kids are being born. Now more than a dozen kids are running around the pups' pasture all day and night and more are on the way. Naturally the pups are curious. However, these goats, selected for their excellent training ability, don't allow the pups near their kids. When the pups move too fast near the kids or get too close to the kids, the nannies charge the pups and knock the pups over if the pups don't retreat quickly enough, then the nanny returns to the kid. The pups are learning to watch from an appropriate distance. This situation works because the pups are always corrected whether I am there or not! Each day I evaluate the pup/goat interactions. The moment I see the level of power of the pups increase to almost equal the level of the goats, I will remove the pups to another pasture with more powerful goats without kids. (See "NOTE" below.) When in training, I cannot allow the young dogs to ever believe they could or should play with and over-power a goat, no matter how small, weak, or helpless! With the working genetics in these pups and the early excellent training they are receiving from the goats, it is quite possible that they can remain with the Nubians and their kids indefinitely. However, I know it is totally my responsibility to watch and observe the puppy/goat interactions and change the pup's environment the second I see the goats are unable to successfully punish the pups for improper behavior! The puppy play seems most insistent when the pups are 4 months to a year, so no matter how well the pups are doing now in the near future their larger size will be more intimidating to the goats and they will want to play with more enthusiasm. Only the most secure and protective goats will stop a pup determined to play with his/her goat friends during this energetic phase!!! It is my job to be certain that never happens!
(NOTE!!! Most owners should not place their unsupervised pup with goats who are kidding. Success doing this is only possible when the owner has a high level of experience, the working genetics of the pups are truly superior, and the goats are completely comfortable with Anatolians and have been selected for generations for their superior training ability! As a precaution, after seeing one pup [at 4 months] use its mouth to play gently with a kid, even though the pup turned loose the moment an adult goat approached, I moved both pups to another pen. [These pups had also been with about 60 ducks daily without incident.] This new pen had 20 goats [10-12 months old] who were with multiple adult Anatolians since birth. They were friendly but didn't allow any improper behavior in the pups; they didn't tolerate any puppy play! This move provided lots of goat interactions and provided strong reinforcement to proper behavior around goats. However, if the pups, as they age, become so bold they no longer respect these young goats, my next move will be to a pen of older dominant adult nannies. If this fails, a next step would be to a pen of adult male goats. If those goats couldn't control the pups, my final move would be to remove the pups from the goats entirely except when under my direct supervision, when the pups would be placed with young tempting goats. I would supply the necessary immediate corrective discipline. That being said, with the early training experiences I provide to my pups, who all have excellent working genetics, I have never had to move past step two.)
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: For my management purposes, I had placed three young Anatolians in with older pregnant goats. My intention was to identify goats near kidding and provide carefully planned introduction to kidding goats for each pup. However, the record ice and snow in mid-February, 2021, changed all my plans.
First we had an ice storm that left an ice layer of 1/2 inch on everything. That was followed by a total of about eight inches of snow. The temperature didn't get above freezing for six days and remained below freezing for two more nights. In the past we've gone years without getting below freezing for more than a couple of hours in the night. We've never been below freezing for six straight days and nights!
I lost electricity and water and moved into town, thinking I could return each day to feed the animals. Luckily, I'd put out plenty of hay and I use mollassas tubs, so my goats, horses, and llamas had food to eat. However, for three days, even though I tried, I was unable to drive out to my ranch. No food was given to my dogs.
Making things worse, I had scheduled my kidding for the day after that first ice storm! So for the three days I couldn't make it out to the ranch, my goats were having kids with lows between zero degrees F and five degrees F. Even though they had shelter, wet newborns can't survive at zero degrees F. All kids born quickly froze.
My three young dogs' first kidding experiences seemed to be a disaster! As they were supposed to do, the dogs cleaned up the dead kids by eathing them, which also provided their food.
The first day the temperature was above freezing (47 degrees in the afternoon) I had a kid born that dried out and survived. As I was leaving I wondered if I'd see that kid alive the next day or if these young Anatolians would use him as food also. Just before I drove off, with the temperature already dropping below freezing, I saw one of my young dogs curl around the kid, who snuggled up against her stomach.
The kid's mom stood calmly over her dog-warmed kid, occasionally putting her head down to smell the kid. Dog, kid, and mom were all calm and at ease, putting me at ease as well.
That kid and all kids born after that day survived and are currently living with the young dogs who cleaned up the dead babies as their first exposure to kidding. I have selected for superior working ability since 1985 and this experience proves that selection for superior working ability pays off in the behaviors of the dogs produced through selection of superior working ability!
4. Correct the pup at the earliest possible moment in the pup's steps toward play
Puppy play doesn't begin when the pup grabs a goat's neck or legs. Puppy play is a series of steps taken by the pup that ends with improper grabbing. The first step is taken when the pup develops a heightened interest in a goat. This heightened interest is observable in the dog's posture and facial expressions. In the next step, the pup moves quickly forward toward the goat. The pup's interest is obvious and apparent. In the final step, the pup engages with the goat by grabbing the goat's neck or legs in play. The pup is completely unaware of the goat's discomfort. The most effective time to stop this bad behavior is the first step in the series - when the pup displays a heightened level of interest in a goat. The degree of difficulty in stopping puppy play increases exponentially at each step of this series leading to physical grabbing. It is vital you disrupt the behavior before the pup moves forward. Absolutely don't wait until the pup grabs the goat with its mouth!!! The correction is verbal, NEVER physical; it is immediate and harsh. In a grating, coarse, and guttural voice, I say the pup's name, then something like "Cut it out" or "Stop that" and I point directly at the pup. I expect the pup to immediately drop to the ground and show submission and contriteness for "thinking" about playing with the goat. At the least, I want the pup to lower his/her head to the ground in submission. If the pup doesn't immediately respond this way, I would have failed to do the necessary early interactions with the pup to establish my proper alpha position (correct alpha position is not "mean" dominance… it is "loving" dominance). This failure means I should move back to an earlier phase of training - I must properly establish my alpha dominance before I introduce my pup to kids or poultry! Never forget that it is vital to stop all play behavior with charges at the earliest possible moment! When the pup drops to the ground, showing submission and contriteness, I wait a few seconds and then call the pup to me in a loving voice. Then I pet and love on the pup, saying to the pup, in a sweet and loving voice, that I know the pup didn't mean to puppy play and is going to be good from now on. Forgiveness and loving acceptance are perhaps the most important part of the correction cycle. It seems to encourage pups to engage in better behavior than if it is not given. It also sets up a learning response I use for many different situations. The learning response series is: (a. Harsh verbal correction, (b. the Anatolian drops to the ground and shows submission and contriteness, (c. I verbalize and physically show forgiveness, and (d. the Anatolian comes to me for loving kindness.
5. Be smart - Feed pups well prior to placing them with kids or poultry
It's important to feed a pup generously, especially as a pup begins to learn that play is never appropriate with kids and poultry. (I assume you have already proven that the pup is completely free of play with adult sheep/goats! If not, do not begin training with kids or poultry!) When I place the pups and kids together just a few hours a day (under my supervision at all times), I feed the pups just before I put them together. When the pups and kids are together 24/7, I am especially careful to feed the pups excellent quality food with lots of variety and quality (high quality non-grain puppy food with fresh goats milk, organic duck eggs, and fresh meat cut in small pieces) … and I feed often enough that they are satisfied all the time. A satisfied pup shows less predatory puppy behavior! With poultry, I only turn the ducks loose after the morning feeding, never before. And I supervise from a short distance for weeks before I begin to feel more confident in the pup's reliability. Generally, when a heat wave comes through or summer sets in, I tend to trust the pups throughout the day with the poultry. I use high temperatures to help calm puppy play with my poultry! (It works well with kids also!) As always, stop all play behavior at step one (sudden and intense interest but no motion forward). And keep in mind that a full puppy on a hot day is less likely to want to play, even with little and exciting animals. If the pup is full and it is really hot and the pup still wants to play with animals it is supposed to guard, you have moved forward too fast in your training program. Take a step or two back and work more diligently on the basics!
6. Extra work is required when a pup was allowed to play-chase without immediate correction
A pup who expresses too much interest in chasing its charges must not be placed with an animal the pup has successfully chased unless the owner is right there and actively watching the pup and available for immediate correction. The pup can be placed in an adjacent pen so the pup can smell and see the animals but cannot chase! Each day re-introduce the pup to the animals and if that pup even thinks about chase, the owner must immediately shut down the thought of play with a harsh and intimidating correction (NO HITTING - EVER)! Don't wait! The moment you see the thought of chasing on the pup's face, chastise the pup harshly (AGAIN - NEVER HIT!). The pup should drop to the ground at the owner's first yell and demonstrate submission. (If this doesn't happen, the owner has moved too fast and should go back and work on alpha control!) The worse the offense is the longer, louder, and harsher the owner's response needs to be. It is important, however, that the owner is completely under control of his/her emotions. If the owner isn't, the owner must put the pup up and go in until they have their own emotions under control. If the owner can't control his/her own emotions how can the owner expect to effectively control a pup whose emotions are out of control? The out of control owner's training won't be effective. A method I have used successfully is to realize that each misbehavior I see is an excellent training opportunity for the pup because I am right there and can demonstrate to the pup that the pup's behavior is completely unacceptable!! I actually get excited and happy when the puppy misbehaves in front of me because I can correct that misbehavior!!! My challenge then is to have the right harsh tones … but I'm in complete control of my emotions as I train the pup!
7. Hot days and a full belly are your friends
As the owner begins to believe the pup is reliable with its charges, the owner should wait for a relatively hot day to initially test the pup's reliability with more distant supervision. A full belly and a hot day create an excellent environment for this phase since the full belly seems to reduce any predatory-type puppy play and the hot day causes the pup to want to lay around. Everything an owner can do to increase the pup's chances of success should be done! Hot days, a full belly, and excellent training goats really help an owner feel quite successful with their puppy training. But if a cold front arrives and the temperature drops 20 or 30 degrees, don't be surprised to see that "lazy" pup jump up and start running around with excitement, looking for something to play with! Also, watch out for early morning and evening twilight surges of energy! Just because the pup was laying around most of the day, don't expect the pup to always lay around. A change in the temperature can revive and energize the pup in ways that require different and more direct management!
8. Praise for good behavior is even more important than correction for bad behavior
An owner should praise a pup generously when he/she sees the pup NOT chase; it's wonderful when the pup choses to remain still and calmly watch during a potential puppy play situation. Watching the pup sitting calmly is exciting and rewarding and the pup needs to hear that kind of approval in the owner's voice as often as possible. The more often the pup is given a clear understanding of the behaviors the owner likes, as well as the behaviors the owner doesn't like, the faster the pup will behave in the way the owner wishes (as long as these behaviors are within the Anatolian behavioral patterns). Some behaviors one might want in an Anatolian are outside the range of Anatolian behavioral patterns. Please don't expect an Anatolian to behave in a way that is completely alien to his/her genetic programing. No amount of praise or chastisement will ever work if the behavior being asked for is alien to the Anatolian! It is important that you learn exactly what is and what is not normal Anatolian behavior in various situations. Having an experienced and knowledgeable breeder who enjoys providing assistance and information to his/her puppy buyers can be a real asset!!!
9. Fully investigate disasters you didn't see happen before you blame the pup for them
At some point the owner will conclude that a pup's behavior is reliable and place the pup with its charges unsupervised. Later, if the owner finds an injured or dead animal, the owner must not immediately blame the pup. Examine the dead or injured animal carefully. If the pup were involved, there should be teeth tears on the legs and/or neck. Also, the saliva in the pup's mouth will be transferred to the fur. As the pup's saliva dries, the hair where the animal was mouthed looks like hair gel was applied. Without teeth tears or any areas of "hair gel" observed on the dead animal, it is unlikely that the pup caused the death. The owner should then consider all alternate possibilities for the animal's death. In any case, being cautious, the owner should move the pup to a more supervised situation while he/she makes the determination. Perhaps, however, the investigation points directly at the pup. At this time, it is important to be much more watchful and vigilant than in the past, to take a step or two back in the training program with the pup, and to be prepared to take instant and verbally harsh corrective action for any misbehavior. (You should be doing this anyway!) A really good option is to move the pup to a pen of stronger goats that won't allow any bad behavior! After a pup has engaged in improper behavior without being instantly corrected, rectifying the situation and eliminating the improper behavior will require much more work on the owner's part than if the pup had never been allowed to make that uncorrected mistake. And the owner must never forget that the reason the pup made that uncorrected mistake is that he/she misjudged the pup's level of reliability with its charges. In other words, don't blame the pup… blame yourself!! And then immediately correct the pup's environment so the pup cannot make that mistake again. At least, that's what I do!!!
Training a young working pup can be easy and rewarding if the owner creates an excellent training environment in which the environment automatically corrects the pup for any and all misbehavior. When something goes wrong, the owner should examine what mistakes they made in creating that "perfect" environment and rectify the flaw in the pup's environment so that particular thing cannot go wrong again. Naturally, it will be much easier to train a working pup if the pup's breeder has selected their Anatolians for generations for superior working ability as their primary selection criteria. The only way to evaluate true working ability in an Anatolian is when the Anatolian lives 24/7 with sheep and/or goats in a predator rich environment. All other environments might give hints and ideas, but you won't really know the true details of an Anatolian's working ability without observing that dog in a true working environment for the lifetime of the dog.