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Shelter or Breeder? (read the details)

 
Craig Dobbson
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For the expressed purpose of having a good livestock guard dog, what are the pros and cons of the ongoing debate: SHELTER vs BREEDER?

I need assurance that the dog will learn and perform reliably for a good long while. Money is and is not a concern if that makes any sense. I feel like the ideal situation would be to get a puppy from a proven, working line of herding dogs. The best candidate would be learning skills from it's parents from DAY 1. I also suspect that this would be the most expensive option and the hardest one to find locally.
On the flip side there are tons of shelters and the choices are numerous. However I can't afford to keep a dog that doesn't work out well. I know a lot of shelter dogs come with "idiosyncrasies" to put it politely and I just won't house a headcase of a dog.
So what say you? I'm not for or against one system or another. I just need/want a dog that get's the job done without issues. So... opinions welcome and appreciated.
 
R Scott
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I have had good luck with pound PUPPIES (like, BORN AT THE SHELTER). I wouldn't take a grown shelter dog as a LGD--just too much to UN-learn. I wouldn't hire a city kid as a ranch hand, either, without expecting similar issues.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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We own 3, 130 - 160lb dogs that do not earn their keep (all rescues). To avoid the problem of another non-functional mouth to feed we are looking for a guard jenny or molly. They cost less to purchase, less to maintain; and, the eat the same as the herd; they also provide quality composting...unlike the never ending bags of dog crap. Our poultry free ranges with the herd so they are fairly protected. We plan to add a pair of geese to help with poultry protection. Unless you are running large herds, I question if a guard dog is the best solution. (BTW We love our dogs; we just realize they are luxury pets for our household; not, farm helpers.)
 
Craig Dobbson
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Mainly I'm looking into an animal that can protect a chicken coop, ducks and pigs with piglets. The biggest contender is a coyote and that would be a rare instance. Foxes and raccoons are quite common though. The dog will be outside in weather from -20 to 100 degrees F. Of course there will be protection from wind and rain/snow but I'm hoping to have a hardy reliable dog.

I'm also hoping to have the lowest feed bill possible so I want to have the smallest dog that does the job. Maybe even a tag-team of midsized dogs would be better.

Keep the thoughts rolling in.
thanks
 
Julia Winter
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I've learned that for most puppies there is a developmental stage reached at about 12 weeks whereby things that they live with/become accustomed to prior to 12 weeks are "in" the pack and things encountered for the first time after 12 weeks of age may never be. This particularly applies to fabulous prey items like chickens, fluffy squawking awkwardly running chew toys that they are. . .

If you can get a puppy 8-10 weeks of age of an appropriate mix (proper coat for the climate, reasonable size) then you have some time to show her (my best chicken guard was a female dog) who is part of the family and is not to be chomped. I would stay away from huskies, despite their appropriate coat for the climate. You'll have your best luck with a shepherd mix or collie mix, I'd guess.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Julia Winter wrote:I've learned that for most puppies there is a developmental stage reached at about 12 weeks whereby things that they live with/become accustomed to prior to 12 weeks are "in" the pack and things encountered for the first time after 12 weeks of age may never be. This particularly applies to fabulous prey items like chickens, fluffy squawking awkwardly running chew toys that they are. . .

If you can get a puppy 8-10 weeks of age of an appropriate mix (proper coat for the climate, reasonable size) then you have some time to show her (my best chicken guard was a female dog) who is part of the family and is not to be chomped. I would stay away from huskies, despite their appropriate coat for the climate. You'll have your best luck with a shepherd mix or collie mix, I'd guess.


That's good advice. One of my biggest hang-ups about shelter dogs is that you can never really "know" where they've been or what they've been subjected to. A friend of mine works at a shelter and is adamant that the dogs there are just as good (if not better) than those I might get from a breeder. That could very well be the case but since I'm making an investment in a "working" animal, I would need a lot of extra assurance before coming home with one from there. This is especially the case with an older dog. I've always wanted to start with a puppy just so that I could establish myself and family as the rest of the pack. I suspect that including the chickens and ducks in the "pack" too is a good idea. Thanks for the tip.

You can teach an old dog new tricks but you might not be able to stop them from chewing a few chicks.

Collies are high on my list of potentials.
Thanks
 
R Scott
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:
You can teach an old dog new tricks but you might not be able to stop them from chewing a few chicks.


Or piglets... squeek toys that they are.
 
Heather Staas
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Location: Western MA, zone 5b
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Personally I want a dog from stock I KNOW can work. Working parents, and born into the environment. Pups are learning and processing long before they leave the litter. Shelter dogs can be fantastic, but when it comes to a working dog I'm going to have to depend on, I want a pup from proven stock. Not all individuals from a working breed will have a working temperament. Hedge your bets and get a pup from working parents.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Thank you Heather for your input. You expressed just the way I feel about the situation. For a pet/companion I could totally see a shelter as a place to go. I would even go so far as to say it's the moral thing for me to do. But for a working animal, I think you're right. For the reasons you've outlined, I feel like my best course of action would be to find a permie with a breeding pair of working dogs that's expecting puppies. That shouldn't be so tough. LOL

So... anyone expecting puppies?


 
Barry Fitzgerald
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Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada
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In my opinion the most important factor is your ability to train a dog, if you have that ability then it does not matter where you get the dog. No working dog will work for you if you do not work with the dog first. I hope you are not expecting to get a puppy from a breeder that already knows what you expect it to do.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Barry Fitzgerald wrote:I hope you are not expecting to get a puppy from a breeder that already knows what you expect it to do.


Wouldn't that be awesome!? I wish. I've had my share of animals including dogs and I've been pretty good at getting good results from them. I've even trained the free range chickens to stay off the porch. That's a real accomplishment around here. LOL

But seriously
I'm relying on good working dogs with a good parental qualities to teach their pups all they can in the early weeks about what life is about for them in a work setting. For a working dog this would include knowing who is part of the pack and who isn't. Knowing what animals are it's food and which are MY food. Understanding the boundaries and monitoring them. Knowing it's place in a pack and understanding it's role as part of a homestead is key. These are qualities and lessons that are instilled in a young animal from the second it is born. I expect the parents of the puppy I choose to be the best examples of the dog I want my puppy to become so that when it comes time to separate them, the pup has a sense of who and what it is and that it has purpose and value as a part of our pack.
From there I'll take on the task of refining those qualities that best suit my needs. That's my job in the relationship. I take over where the parents leave off. And with a good head start I think I can have a really fine working dog and a fine companion too.

There are things that you can half-ass in homesteading but skimping on the security and animal control isn't an area I'm comfortable leaving to amateurs. Not that there aren't great examples of shelter/rescue dogs doing great things... the stats just seem to favor a good upbringing. Just like people I guess.

Thanks for weighing in.
 
John Polk
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If you have gotten a puppy from a working pair, chances are that the bitch has already taught her pups that chickens are part of their world. They know and respect the chicken's role in the system.

However, if you get a puppy from the pound, he'll most likely think of a chicken as something he can play 'rough-house' with - a new toy - that is a pups role in life until he is taught otherwise. Sure he can be trained over time, but how many hens do you have to spare?

 
Lyvia Dequincey
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Try an english shepherd. The english shepherds are not AKC registered, but they have working lines.

The problem with breeders is that so many are AKC breeders, which promotes dogs of a certain look, not behavior. The AKC model of pretty breed standards, with no performance testing, is a darn crazy way to pick a dog.
AKC Show dogs need to welcome strangers like judges, which is not protective.

I was looking at a newfoundland komondor hybrid, a newfkom. While this is not the best dog for everybody, there is a lot of AKC backlash against it that mostly comes from people who have not met the dogs. I feel like breeding to reduce drooling and shedding and allergens is a wonderful thing.

Right now I have one dog that would go through fire for food, one who would do it to chase a ball, and one who do it to be with me; these characteristics were inborn. The second will never be safe with chickens. Spend some time with puppies, and teach yourself to see the difference. Chances are you won't know your breeder very well, so you have to rely on your own evaluation of the puppies.
 
Renate Howard
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Around here they recommend you get your working dog at 6 weeks old so it will bond with you. We got our heeler at 6 weeks and tho he was from a farm with chickens, pigs, etc. he really didn't venture out far from the "nest" at that age.

I think a pound puppy, if young enough, of the appropriate breed would be ok. I'd look at a shepherd, corgi, poodle, or maybe some of the other known farm dogs, but be aware that shelters lie about the dogs to make them seem to be the popular breeds. Or their staff are just really bad at guessing, LOL! So don't take their word for it!

Pro's from shelter - you're saving a dog
- it's probably been seen by a vet so it probably won't have ear mites, worms, etc.
- it may have already had shots (could be good or bad, some are unnecessary if they weren't in a pound, some make them more prone to arthritis, etc.)
- you may get a good discount on spay/neutering
Con's - you know nothing really about the parents temperament, breed, health, or behavior
- they may have kennel cough, parvo, or other diseases that run through dog pounds, costing more $$ to have them treated.
- you'll be prohibited from breeding your dog, even if it turns out to be a GREAT dog and you'd really want another one from that line

I think not enough people talk about corgis on forums lately. They are awesome farm dogs! They tend more to bark at stuff than attack unless it's small but sometimes that's all you need to scare things off. Our little cocker spaniel could keep foxes at bay, and anything smaller. There are a lot of good breeds that, if they're loyal to you and reasonably trained, could guard chickens and piglets. (actually the parents do a pretty good job of guarding piglets unless they get out of the pens where the parents can't get to them to save them).

 
Jay Grace
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My hog shelter was basically in the same shed as the chicken roost. They shared the same entrance way.
Not many predators would even attempt to enter and crawl over a shed full of sleeping hogs just to grab a chick.

That eliminates one of the most likely to times to lose a chick. BUT hogs are opportunists and if a chick is lazy or careless when a hog walks past. He might just take a bite if he feels like it.
 
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