Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Whatcha doin' with them big dogs anyway?

Sometimes folks ask me what we are doing with all these big dogs.

My Number One Dog, Titan, on patrol. Isn't he something?

They ask, aren't they a lot of work? Expensive to feed? Provide jaw-dropping vet bills? And what about having those curly tailed bear killers with livestock - aren't they just gonna eat the goats? Is it worth it?

The answers are... yes, yes, yes, I hope not, and ohmigolly, yes.

Yes, I spend my days repetitively issuing commands, pointing in the direction I want the dogs to go, telling them "don't touch that", and standing there glaring while a stubborn pup walks painstakingly slowly toward me. I've probably only slept in past 8:30am twice in the last 16 months because one of them needed to go out and pee (who's idea was it to get a pup two years in a row?).

And I've had more than a few hair pulling, hat throwing moments punctuated by flying tackles to save a flappy hen from certain death at the hands of an over interested pup. But the training pays off when I'm watching Titan hot stepping a bad rooster back into the hen house, or when I send Kai around to "go bark" at something.

We go thru a 50 pound bag of expensive dog food a week - even with all the meat and stuff we supplement from our barnyard. As for the vet bills, well, I had an expensive truck repair and I tell you the truth - that pup gets better mileage... or should I say "smileage" than that truck, for sure.

As far as the livestock goes, any one, and definitely any two or more of those dogs working together could easily kill any of the goats. But so far the goats aren't stupid enough to get out of their yard and I haven't been stupid enough to leave the gates unlocked so the dogs can get into the goats. And we are working on carefully shaping those bear killer's prey drive...... without being fooled for a moment that their biggest joy in life would be to release their inner wolf and to pull down one of them meat bags... I mean, goats.

But even so, folks ask, isn't it dangerous having high-prey-drive-dogs with obviously-prey goats?

You know what's dangerous, friend?  Living out here in the country. Time was that you were safe living in a small town. Now things are different and this small town has seen its share of big time city violence. Living out in the country with the crazies and the ol' wild cats used to be manageable. But now, hell. Now you've got pot growers, meth labs, and just plain, no-damn-good folks with nothing but violence in mind. Throw on top of that the cuts in public service - many of the local sheriff and law enforcement agencies have had to lay off some of their officers - and at best we are 15 to 20 minutes from a 911 response even on a good day.

So while it would be sad if the pups went on a rampage and killed some hens or the goat - what I'm really concerned about is who is gonna show up here looking to do harm and what I'm gonna do about it.  Four enormous, barking, snarling, territorial dogs who work together are our first line of defense. Aside from, you know, the actual fence... and the gate, of course.

Big dogs are reliable, never jam, and are always loaded.  Unlike bullets, I can always call the dogs back. And I don't have to be around for them to work. Large barking dogs, like gunfire, are disorienting and tend to scare off opportunistic ne'er-do-wellers.  Or at least slow them down. Not that I'm against firearms. In this part of the world "gun control" means hitting your target and making it look like a defensive shooting, even if the offender is running away in a slow, arching pattern.

Having big dogs in the yard is also a good deterrent if thieves are out looking for their next robbery. If your house can't be seen from the road, a couple big dogs behind your gate are a great way to send bad guys to the next house. I didn't think this would actually happen to us until one day I had a guy pull into our drive "looking for directions." We got the gate the next weekend. And yes, the dogs kept him in his truck. I've never seen anyone roll up a window so fast. Just so's ya know, out here no one in their right mind would drive up to a house they can't see just to say "hi" and ask where Timmy's house is located.

Of course, having big dogs has its downside. The mail man and the UPS guy hate delivering out here. I tell them to hold our packages at the post or just throw the deliveries over the gate. Mostly the delivery guys are good sports about it. But I'd rather have the inconvenience of having to drive down to get whatever I ordered then to have a couple of Labradoodles out there scaring exactly no one.

I know a guy who lives in civilization. One night not too long ago a couple of them clipboard carrying types knocked, then pushed their way into the house when this guy opened the door. This guy's wife and two small kids were in the kitchen having dinner. This guy is man of action, so he got the bad guys shoved right back out. But this guy said to me that it was the first time he "got" the dog thing. Yep. Even if someone makes it down the drive, I only answer the door with at least two dogs at my six. Bad guys might be able to push their way in, but friend, I am here to tell you they wouldn't enjoy what they would find inside.

To be sure big dogs aren't for everyone. And families should have family dogs... but I am glad I've got all this mouth and teeth around me. Sometimes folks ask if Dog#1 is really just a big teddy bear. Nope. He loves me for sure, but the rest of your son's-o'-golly-whats are on your own.

We had a situation nearby that could have very easily gone even worse than the tragedy that was left when the smoke cleared. The dogs started howling at the sirens but I didn't think too much about it until the Good Neighbor Mom called and asked if I'd seen the warnings on the news. Suffice it to say we all locked the gates, got the guns, and put the dogs out. Mercifully the situation was contained but innocent lives were lost for no good reason.

After we got the 'all clear' I called the dogs back in and we all sat there. Me and the big dogs and the curly tailed pups. I'm not foolish enough to think that if home invaders made their way into the house that it would be like a movie scene with the dog saving the day. But I do know that it wouldn't be too easy for them bad guys to get inside in the first place.

That night, as we sat and watched the news report, Titan put his huge head on my chest and gave a big dog sigh. If it came to it I knew that he'd stand with me. I'd seen him stand in the splash zone and not flinch when the shooting started for our hog harvest, watched him get that pig turned when it was charging right at me, and scare back another pig who was coming over the fence.  And heaven knows my Dog#1 and I have battled that gander more than a few times.

I don't know exactly what would happened if violence came our way.  But I do know that me and the dogs, well, we'd  put up one hell of a fight.

Keep an eye out for malfeasance, friends, and keep the gates closed. You just never know what's gonna happen. 

Does everybody have today off? Everyone gets a holiday but the chickens never get a day off and neither do I.

20 comments:

tami said...

Great Post! I've often heard that dogs and livestock don't mix, but you put forth an excellent arguement of the advantages.

Not everyone wants to make the commitment to dog ownership. You think you own them? Ha! I've found that these dogs that I "own" really own me. I'm part of the pack now.

And as far as crime goes, unless you have something REALLY valueable, most criminals want to take the easy way and avoid dogs period. Criminals for the most part are "lazy". Why work for it if I can get it from you for free.

Now the "meth" heads...That's just freakin scary. Be sure and brush those dogs teeth until they gleam and glow in the dark. Might as well see em coming! (grin)

Beth of the Rocks said...

Well, I'm working today. I had Christmas off isn't that enough? Lol Of course that was on a Sunday...

I have a big dog and am working on big dog #2 who is now 5 months old and gets into EVERYTHING. Really, and apparently thinks chewing holes in my walls makes for a good appetizer. Yes, HOLES. THROUGH his kennel bars!! He's a terrorizer of anything paper, a knocker-down of counter top items, and destroyer extraordinaire of anything he can get his mouth around. I hope that means people's legs when he gets older and they make the mistake of running from the police through my backyard.

My big dog got out of the fence a couple of months ago. My neighbors called me. Waddles (I know, Waddles, but it was either that or "Spatula Boy"... long story) - I digress - Waddles wouldn't leave my front yard. But, none of my neighbors would come out of their houses. :)

Life is so good with big dogs.

~Beth

Blue Feather Micro-Farm said...

Not a lot of protection coming my way from Xena the cat. At the first sign of trouble she hides under a blanket. I have to rely on my trusty softball bat, my size, and my ability to channel the spirits of my shield maiden ancestors.

rkbsnana said...

Good post. Glad you've got them.

Chai Chai said...

Big barking dogs make excellent pacifiers. I hear geese can be pretty fearsome as well - you have all the bases covered there for sure.

darius said...

After reading a couple of your posts about having and training big dogs, I'm almost ready to consider one, for all the reasons you mentioned today. Of course, someone would have to train ME on how to train them!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

No one wants to get in the way of a big dog with gnarling teeth showing, good to have dogs to protect you and your right to your freedom and peace..but some have used them for other gains or means..that's what this Holiday is about.

Jenn said...

Wonderful post - and EXACTLY what I needed to push the big man over into buying a large dog for the new farm (because, I don't think a miniature dachshund has the same effect on meth heads... )And we'll be picking up a St. Bernard and a Great Pyrenees next weekend. While they are bear killers, they're big and they have loud barks, hopefully with small children in our house, that'll be enough to scare of the weirdos!!

Dreaming of Chickens said...

Little dogs are OK. They have their place and are great for snuglin and look'n cute. There usually good for rodent control. Heck I have a fluffy little 19 lbs Mini Schnauzer that will take down a big ole possum like it was a mouse. But, I tell ya, I love big dogs. I had a Mastiff for 11 years and he was the best dog ever. He never needed to use "all (that) mouth and teeth", but it was sure good to know that weapon was always loaded. I'll tell ya he stepped between me and a stranger more then once. He didn't do anything, didn't even lift a lip or show him any teeth. When you weigh 180 lbs and you head is bigger than that guys, and his face could fit in your mouth, all ya gotta do is look at him. He'll get the message. So, that's what he'd do. If a stranger tried to approach me (usually to ask what the heck that was on the end of my leash) he would step from my side, to in front of me and sit between me and that stranger. Good dog!
As for dogs and livestock. I think almost any dog, with a lot of work and the right handler, can be around livestock. It just takes more work with some dogs than with others.

IanH said...

Good advice! I know in the past that our 95 pound yellow lab saved us a break in when we lived in Thunder Bay. Our gate was unlatched, but nothing was broken or damaged. The houses on either side of us and across the street we all broken into. The rule of thumb is "Thieves tend to not get involved with big teeth"!

Kim said...

You can see the first four of my main line in my FB pic:)
Agree that big dogs are worth having....

freemotion said...

Wow, makes me want a big dog or four!!! Great article!

dragonlaurel said...

They're beautiful and they would protect you till their last breath, bacause they love you. That's a great situation for you.

Not so good for intruders, but if the realize that they are risking their lives, it may make doing
honest work a little more appealing.

the Fluid Druid said...

I'm an old country boy, and I have dogs most of my life.
I can't count how many times my dogs have saved my bacon.

I only had one dog that would bother livestock, and I had to train him away from eating chickens.

The only reason I don't have a dog (and I don't mean a rat dog, but a DOG) now is because they won't let me have one where I live now.

I miss country life...

Chai Chai said...

I wonder how good they would be in defending against the Zombie Apocalypse?

You never see dogs in those movies, I guess slow walking bags of bones are made to order for big dogs....

David said...

Excellent post! Living in town police response is fast, but alot can happen in 3-5 minutes. I prefer to be a bit more self-reliant.

I agree with Darius, I'd need someone to train me!

Vickie said...

Great post! We just got moved to our farm, and my first task was to find a good farm dog. I've got one and she's very protective of us and our home. I'm going to find another one or two to go along with her. And dogs and livestock can get along just fine if it's the right dog and with the right training.

DebiK said...

Love Them Big Dogs!!!!!
We have always had the big dogs around the farm even with chickens, ducks and turkeys. I wouldn't be without them for rounding up my feathered friends. It takes a while to get them all trained but once you do, you won't go back. My four footed kids have "had my back" more than once and I wouldn't be without them.

Sara said...

Love this post! Your "voice" is so awesome. One of our first orders of business when we get our farm is to get two big dogs. I need my rottweilers again. Puppy dog is stupid dog and she ain't gonna scare nobody off. :) Be safe and give the pooches a good rib thumping.

jj said...

We, too, are a long ways from police - probably three quarters of an hour, at best, assuming the cop has been around awhile and knows how to read county maps and legal land locations. We generally assume we're on our own. So we keep dogs, too. Three of them - one bull mastiff and two big-ish mutts. That mastiff is some fierce about strangers coming up to me, and she's the one I keep close by when I'm concerned about who, exactly, is knocking on a door in the middle of nowhere after dark. The other two are just backup, really, but intimidating enough in their own right. So far, we've had no problems - you'd have to be pretty high or pretty stupid to want to get close enough to see if all 200+ pounds of dog are friendly...

I have not even done a ton of training with these dogs. They all know the basics of sit-stay-drop it-don't pee in the house, but they've never been trained to work together. However, being pack animals, they seem to work together instinctively, particularly when there's a strong pack leader. They do get expensive to feed at times, but I'm sure I'd pay more for a security company, if I could even get such a thing way out here...

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