The following three part article was published in the Anatolian Times. Part I was published in Volume 37 in 1991, Part II in Volume 39 in 1992, and Part III in Volume 40 in 1992. The cover picture of Volume 40 is of Ebling's Kasif (CASY) guarding me (lying on the ground taking a picture of my house) from my cows. Casy was my first Anatolian Shepherd Guardian Dog, had incredible guardian ability, and is the foundation sire of my bloodlines. Volume 40 of the Anatolian Times, with Casy's picture on the cover, was the second time a picture of an Anatolian Shepherd belonging to a member of ASDCA was placed on the cover!
In addition, this article was translated into Swedish (? I can't read
it!) and printed in their "Anatolian Times" called Paskutgava in April 2002
and Anatolian Shepherd Dogs International, Inc printed the article
in Choban Chatter, 2002, Volume 12, Issues 1, 2 and 3.
At about four months of age, I make an appointment with the vet to vaccinate
my pups for rabies. (Four months is the age my vet recommends for rabies
vaccinations.) I use this trip to the vet to introduce each pup to the leash
and to gain additional information regarding each pup's basic personality.
Several days before this trip, I introduce each pup to the collar and leash. Although this introduction is the first time the pups have worn a collar, I have already familiarized them with the concept of being led. (When I moved them between pens, I held the loose skin of their necks and encouraged them forward by enthusiastically saying, "Good dog!" as they moved along with my urging. However, I am aware that leading a pup by the skin of the neck can be very intimidating to the pup, so I am especially careful to avoid creating a situation in which the pups feel bullied.)
Since the pups understand the concept of being led, which involves submission to my will, the lesson usually proceeds without incident. However, it is essential to maintain a positive, encouraging attitude. The pup is generally apprehensive, so I begin in the pup's pen. I remain calm, regardless of the pup's reaction. And I always, always pull-release, pull-release on the leash; never pull steadily without immediate release! A steady pull on the lead may cause the pup to become sullen or to fall down passively. Alternately, the pup may violently attempt to flee; it may throw its body backward in terror at being so firmly secured around its neck. I have never had a pup attack. My intention is to reassert myself to the pup as the pack leader.
I first teach the pup to merely "give" to the pressure by walking to the pup's side and gently pulling-releasing. When the dog clearly understands that it can avoid the pressure by giving in to it, I give it a short break, then begin again. I next urge the pup forward (pull, then release, pull, then release). Each time the dog moves forward, whether by my physical effort or the dog's own, I say, "Good dog! Good dog!" with eagerness! I believe that praise for correct behavior is the most important factor in any training situation. As the pup realizes it must always yield to the collar's pressure to remove the pressure, it quickly calms down. After this one short lesson, I can lead the pup out of its pen and to my stock trailer for the trip to the vet without a struggle.
Since the pups have not been in direct physical contact with another dog since they were eight weeks old, I carefully note the reaction of each young dog to the other dogs during this trip. When I return the dogs to their individual pens, I again worm them for roundworms. I also reduce the protein level of the dog food to around 18% and decrease the total food volume I feed each pup to an amount the pup can consume within twenty minutes twice daily. I do not believe in accelerating growth at this stage by full feeding a high protein feed. I believe a pup that grow too rapidly at this stage is more susceptible to bone, joint, and tendon damage than a pup whose growth occurs more slowly.
I believe that when the pup's growth is slowed to a more natural rate for this breed, there will be very few problems with sprained ankles or other limping problems due to excessively rapid growth. When a young dog has been out to pasture with it herd and develops a limp, I reduce its overall food volume and restrict its pen size until a week or so after the limp has disappeared. Then I release the dog again and watch for any further problems. If further problems occur, or the limp persists more than several weeks, I take the pup to the vet for examination.
In selecting my own young dog, a trait I favor is a contained negative and/or aggressive reaction toward new and unusual events or persons. If a young dog will easily allow strangers to touch him, I doubt that dog's ability to become truly devoted to the herd. Since I do not tolerate a dog that engages in overt aggression toward sheep or goats and yet insist that a dog exhibit aggressive-protective responses, a dog I will be pleased with must be both exceptionally intelligent and genetically predisposed to correct guardian behavior.
During these early months, especially when sheep or goats begin lambing, the young dog must begin to integrate many conflicting and confusing instincts; a pup has to determine the correct response to these instincts each time it faces a new situation. A good pup desperately wants to be near and protect the new borns and also to protect members of the herd. Therefore, when a new born's mother attacks a young dog, that dog may analyze the situation improperly; it may perceive the mother's protective response to be an attack against the new born. And its response to that misperceived threat may be to attack the mother to protect the new born, injuring the newborn in the process.
I try to beware of misinterpreting dog/goat interactions, especially during these early stressful, learning times. I attempt to understand why a young dog acted in the manner in which it did. Was the pup confused? Did the pup believe it was being protective, even when I perceived its actions as destructive? For example, what may appear to me to have been unprovoked aggression on the part of the pup may have seemed to the pup as necessary aggression to protect a young goat/sheep. Before I decide my response to the dog's action, I attempt to think through the situation from the dog's perspective!
During this phase with my first Anatolian, Ebling's Kasif (Casy), I was horrified to discover him eating a newborn. I was convinced he was ruined and that there was nothing I could do to correct the situation. In an agony of indecision and uncertainty, I did nothing except watch Casy "like a hawk." Quite a few more lambs and kids arrived without incident. Then a young sheep lambed and Casy took up his customary "lambing position" about 30 feet from the mother (something he had learned earlier).
The lamb was particularly weak; I worried as I noticed the keen interest Casy displayed toward this particular young lamb. Periodically Casy stood up, walked slowly to the lamb, placed his muzzle by the lamb's nose, licked the lamb gently and nurturingly, and then returned to his nearby position. I checked the lamb several times myself and discovered it was very weak and listless, barely breathing.
All afternoon and evening Casy's unusual lamb "inspection" kept repeating itself. I was beginning to be unconcerned by his interest in the lamb when, to my horror, Casy picked the lamb up in his teeth and walked away with it. I yelled, "NO! DROP IT!" and he set it down and looked at me with a puzzled expression. When I picked up the lamb, I knew it was dead.
I gave this incident a great deal of thought. I believe Casy's frequent trips to the lamb were to check the lamb's breathing. As long as the lamb was breathing, Casy remained watchful and protective. However, when the lamb died, Casy felt free to dispose of it in the same manner a bitch with a new litter disposes of any pups who die - by eating them. This trust I have in Casy's reliability has been reinforced over the years by his incredibly loving, protective attitude toward anything weak or helpless. To more fully understand a young dog, I attempt to be present during that dog's initial contact with a newborn. Also, my presence allows me to caution the pup to move slowly and show respect for both the baby and the uneasy mother, if necessary.
During this initial introduction, I am especially pleased with a pup that falls to the ground immediately in response to a nervous mother's first aggressive move. I am even more pleased if a pup crawls with slow eagerness toward the newborn, especially if the pup crawls on its side, maintaining the lowest possible profile. I like to see a pup stop moving when an agitated mother butts it. I like a pup who remains passive under this assault until the mother backs off, then who slowly continues crawling on toward the newborn. When a pup reaches the weak, wet newborn, I favor a pup who carefully, gently, licks the kid with maternal affection or stands immobile above the newborn, trembling with eagerness and exaggerated caution as the newborn nuzzles the pup in an attempt to nurse. When I find a pup who will do all of these things, and more, I know I have found a valuable working Anatolian.
However, every dog is different. Some young dogs display less tolerance for severe correction from goats or sheep than others. Although I prefer a dog that will tolerate a great deal of correction without complaint, I do not want a dog to allow other animals to abuse it through extended, extensive correction. The most intense conflicts between young dogs and goats usually occur over either food or new borns, and each dog must learn when to take a stand and when to back off.
Goats quickly learn to defer to young dogs who are particularly protective of their food. However, because protection of their newborns is such a strong, basic instinct, goats or sheep frequently attack a young dog that doesn't either keep a respectful distance from their new born or maintain a properly submissive attitude. Many young dogs, excited and confused by the smell of the new borns, are unable to do either. Their inability to maintain the proper distance and attitude may provoke a nervous new mother into a severe, sustained attack.
When I am present, I give a young dog guidance in proper behavior only if absolutely necessary. In future encounters, the dog's initial experience is reinforced by other goats or sheep. If I am not present for this initial encounter, most young dogs do fine on their own. However, I believe in neutering any dog who remains unable to interact with new borns without considerable assistance, even though, with supervision, the dog eventually learns to behave correctly.
If the young dog was raised in a manner that created a strong bond with goats and/or sheep, the dog will become a part of the herd. However, as a young dog matures, it begins to explore to determine the limits of it's territorial boundary. Some dogs are inclined to maintain very close contact with the herd while others are prone to establish a more expanded area of protection.
Even in large pastures, ranging too far from the herd is not desirable, since the dog's absence leaves the herd vulnerable. In smaller pastures, when the dog leaves the pasture, the herd is not only more vulnerable, but neighbors can become upset, frightened, alarmed, or angered by the young dog's unexpected presence, causing problems with the neighbors.
I decide early in the pup's life the extent of that pup's range. In deciding that range, I consider a variety of factors. I don't expect any dog to stay with the herd all the time. Guardian dogs instinctively mark their territory. In smaller pastures I walk the boundary I want to establish; I include the dog and the herd on this walk in order to reinforce in the dog's mind the boundary I expect that dog to maintain.
Dogs strongly attached to the herd are generally content to stay with the herd, inside the fence. However, even the best dog will ignore a fence if the dog believes its boundary is beyond that fence. When my dog leaves the herd (and my property), I try to immediately correct this unwanted behavior. I attempt to convey to the dog my displeasure by forcefully ordering the dog to return to the goats.
If my dog returns to this location, I greatly increase the level of displeasure I display. This time, rather than verbally admonish the young dog, I place the dog between myself and the goats and discharge my shotgun into the air (I live in a location where this option is available to me.). Most dogs will not require this level of response more than a couple of times. I would rather shot into the air than have an irate neighbor shot my dog! Hopefully, the dog now understands the limits I have placed on his territory and will remain inside that area.
The only dogs I have successfully kept inside fences were raised from puppyhood onward inside a fence that they could not go under, over, or through. Once one of my pups has ever discovered it is able to cross a fence, that dog has from that time on been able to go through any fence. My experience leads me to believe that after an Anatolian has learned it can get out, it cannot be contained when it decides to leave. This ability has both advantages and disadvantages and increases the importance of the dog's understanding of territorial limits.
Some dogs are more interested in chasing animals than others. A dog that was properly conditioned by goats or sheep since birth generally develops little interest in chasing young herd animals. But occasionally a young dog will be especially playful. A playful pup that is deeply bonded to goats can play too roughly, occasionally becoming rough enough to cause herd animals' ears or legs to bleed. If this type of dog is placed with a herd that is unfamiliar with guardian dogs, or animals that are less dominant than the pup, the pup will be even more tempted to play chase and become too rough. In this situation, I collar the dog and attach a rope to the dog's collar. I attach a flat board about two feet long at the end of the rope. When the dog merely walks, it easily drags the board. But if the dog begins running, the board bounces about and hits the dog's front legs, providing instant correction for negative behavior. When the dog has gained a little more maturity, I remove the rope and board and expect the dog's to have no more interest in chasing.
A pup who doesn't have incorrect behavior reinforced in a timely manner may develop bad habits that are more difficult to correct. A pup I raised begin playing with young chickens. Initially, the pup only chased the chickens, pulling out a few feathers. I chided the pup, but was not too concerned at the time. Later, I found several chickens with most of the feathers pulled out of their backs. But since I didn't see the dog do anything, I did nothing. Finally, I discovered a mangled, partially eaten chicken in the barn.
I punished the dog, but the behavior didn't stop. Each time I discovered another partially eaten chicken, I felt defeated. I released chickens so I could punish the dog immediately, but the dog just learned to avoid chasing chickens in my presence. Finally, I tried a method that worked -- I scolded the dog severely while holding the chicken under the dog's nose. Next I tied the dead chicken in the dogs mouth for a couple of hours. (I used masking tape.) When I removed the dead chicken from the dogs mouth I tied it under the dog's chin in a manner that didn't allow the dog to play with the chicken in any way. I kept the dog in a small pen during this phase. After a few days, the chicken had decayed dreadfully, so I removed it.
I went through this cycle two times. The second time, I kept the chicken tied in the dog's mouth six hours (I was very careful not to leave the dog before I was certain that the dog was able to breath easily). After the second time, the dog had no interest in chickens. Initially, I did not respond quickly or forcefully enough to this situation. The more immediate the response, the more likely the behavior will be modified successfully and permanently.
Raising an Anatolian puppy as a working guardian dog is hard work and takes a great deal of time, effort, and thought. Many people do not have the perseverance or the innate understanding of animals I believe is required to successfully finish the task. These individuals will be too easily discouraged, too easily upset, or too easily disappointed. I know that many dogs become successful guardians without extensive thought or care on the part of their owner. But I believe that most dogs develop at least some habits an owner cannot accept and require some form of guidance and supervision. I also believe that if an individual works with the dog intelligently and consistently and has herd protection as his/her ultimate goal, the time and effort expended is repaid by the dog tenfold!
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