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Our Dogs Killed our Goats - Looking for Support  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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We have two boxers. Individually they are angels with people and livestock. Togegher they are a nightmare and cannot be trusted. All the local farmers  say the same and only keep one of their  dogs in with other animals. They let the others roam the lanes  to bite walkers and cause traffic accidents but thats another story.
 
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Location: St Albans, ME
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Hey there,

I am so, so sorry about your dogs. I realize it's been a while since you posted this but it's floated back up. I felt the need to contribute due to seeing some myths about dogs in here that I wanted to correct.

I've been using the Koehler Method of Dog Training since 2010 to help reform problem dogs. So that's why I feel my opinion is worth something.

If a reader doesn't want to read my whole post, as least read this: animal aggression is NOT the same as human aggression. prey aggression is NOT the same as dog aggression. While any dog may have one or a combination or all of these types of behavior, they are NOT a slippery slope that inevitably leads to another! Your dog knows the difference between a possum and a human baby. A dog may attack livestock, dogs, and humans, or they may only have an issue with other dogs, or only an issue with people. It completely depends on the individual dog and their motivations. Particularly with prey chasing and killing, this is a natural, normal dog behavior! We (rightly) tend not to assume that a dog that enjoys chasing squirrels is next going to attack your toddler. That's not how it works. If you have a high drive dog that has not been taught that children are not to be interacted with as prey, that's another story. But your dog that normally has great manners with children and then kills a chicken is not going to suddenly decide they'd like to try human flesh.

As you've already gathered I'm sure, it all depends on the dog. Some people here have gotten a whole lot of mileage out of working with their dogs to change how they view livestock. Personally I wouldn't ever leave a non-livestock guardian alone with livestock, ever - unless they'd been raised with the livestock since puppyhood and had zero red flags at a mature age. I would count "alone" as being outside together without a human present, since goats and dogs are great at overcoming the challenges of most fencing. If you're not there to remind them what they ought not to do, I wouldn't rely on them to make the right choice. Instinct is a powerful motivator - THE most powerful motivator.

Here is an article called "The Misbehavior of Organisms". It's long, but recommended reading for anyone interested in training any animal. The point enclosed is that despite teaching various species of animals to reliably perform a behavior for reward, eventually each species would cease to do the trained behavior in favor of doing an instinctual behavior that got them no tangible reward. (a pig did "rooting" behavior, a raccoon did "washing" behavior, and a chicken pecked incessantly at a small moving object) It illustrates how instinctual behavior is more rewarding to the animal than anything we could ever reward them with. http://www.niu.edu/user/tj0dgw1/pdf/learning/breland.pdf

Which is not to say that animals can't be taught to abandon those behaviors, but that it is never going to be something that is totally fixed with a positive reinforcement only approach. As I said before, there is nothing we as humans can give them that is more satisfying that killing a chicken or chasing prey or what have you. There has to be a negative consequence for the bad behavior, in addition to teaching the animal an alternate option to chasing/killing (like - being on a "stay" until they learn self control)

I would definitely recommend working with a professional trainer on this, it's not a simple fix.

I would say two huge factors in your scenario is that you were away, and that the goats were babies.

I trained a dog that was menacing people in their foster person's home. I never had a single problem with him and other people, because from day one he was made to understand that I was the leader and in charge of who got to do what. I rehomed him with someone that didn't fully understand the importance of that - she just saw him cuddling with strangers at the park and didn't listen to the rest, I suppose - and did not continue using his training, and he bit someone in her home. He got rehomed with someone with experience with assertive dogs like him, and she never had a single problem with him. It seems like your dogs had a rapport with you that they did not have with their farm sitter. I completely agree with a previous poster's recommendation of boarding them when you're away. Alternatively a very tall chain link enclosure that is sunk into the ground to prevent digging could be used as an place for them to romp with the pet sitter, any kind of k9 alcatraz that lets them get outside time without any access to approaching the goat fencing.

I came home one day to find all eight of our sheep and goats outside their pen with one missing. Turned out the neighbor dog had scared them so bad they trampled down the electric netting and chased one of the sheep deep into the woods (we found her alive and well, thank god). With less aggressive dogs, our horned doe had no qualms about showing them why they ought to leave the goats alone.

And, dogs that have issues with livestock are the most reasonable to rehome. Folks that live in the city likely won't ever have to deal with the fact that their dog is a baby goat killer. As long as you're completely honest about all of the dogs history, you're in the clear. I was able to rehab a confirmed cat assassin (this dog would HUNT cats - silently stalk until she was close enough to grab) after a lot of training. She got to the point where she could be in the same room as a cat and relaxed enough to greet people and get pets rather than fixating on the cat. She lived with me in a house with two cats without incident. BUT, that's because I watched her like a hawk and was training her every moment she was in sight of a cat. She was rehomed with a family without cats and they received training on how to handle her, and they understand the responsibility they have to keep up her training. So it's possible, but it depends on how much work you're willing to put into it.

Also have to put in a plug for pit bulls - they're all individuals. While they are certainly a more high drive dog that generally enjoys a good scrap, my friend's pit was raised on his farm with hogs and chickens. at 4 years old he occasionally enjoys scaring the chickens (he'll run at them until they scatter, and then he walks off, laughing to himself I assume) but has never hurt one. he did attack a pig once, but only that once. He clearly *wants* to go after the pigs but he knows he ought not to, and despite being unsupervised loose on the farm has never gone after even a piglet since his one incidence. Personally I wouldn't take the chance but his owner does and it's worked out for him.
 
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R Manly wrote:Hey there,

I am so, so sorry about your dogs. I realize it's been a while since you posted this but it's floated back up. I felt the need to contribute due to seeing some myths about dogs in here that I wanted to correct.

I've been using the Koehler Method of Dog Training since 2010 to help reform problem dogs. So that's why I feel my opinion is worth something.

If a reader doesn't want to read my whole post, as least read this: animal aggression is NOT the same as human aggression. prey aggression is NOT the same as dog aggression. While any dog may have one or a combination or all of these types of behavior, they are NOT a slippery slope that inevitably leads to another! Your dog knows the difference between a possum and a human baby. A dog may attack livestock, dogs, and humans, or they may only have an issue with other dogs, or only an issue with people. It completely depends on the individual dog and their motivations. Particularly with prey chasing and killing, this is a natural, normal dog behavior! We (rightly) tend not to assume that a dog that enjoys chasing squirrels is next going to attack your toddler. That's not how it works. If you have a high drive dog that has not been taught that children are not to be interacted with as prey, that's another story. But your dog that normally has great manners with children and then kills a chicken is not going to suddenly decide they'd like to try human flesh.

As you've already gathered I'm sure, it all depends on the dog. Some people here have gotten a whole lot of mileage out of working with their dogs to change how they view livestock. Personally I wouldn't ever leave a non-livestock guardian alone with livestock, ever - unless they'd been raised with the livestock since puppyhood and had zero red flags at a mature age. I would count "alone" as being outside together without a human present, since goats and dogs are great at overcoming the challenges of most fencing. If you're not there to remind them what they ought not to do, I wouldn't rely on them to make the right choice. Instinct is a powerful motivator - THE most powerful motivator.

Here is an article called "The Misbehavior of Organisms". It's long, but recommended reading for anyone interested in training any animal. The point enclosed is that despite teaching various species of animals to reliably perform a behavior for reward, eventually each species would cease to do the trained behavior in favor of doing an instinctual behavior that got them no tangible reward. (a pig did "rooting" behavior, a raccoon did "washing" behavior, and a chicken pecked incessantly at a small moving object) It illustrates how instinctual behavior is more rewarding to the animal than anything we could ever reward them with. http://www.niu.edu/user/tj0dgw1/pdf/learning/breland.pdf

Which is not to say that animals can't be taught to abandon those behaviors, but that it is never going to be something that is totally fixed with a positive reinforcement only approach. As I said before, there is nothing we as humans can give them that is more satisfying that killing a chicken or chasing prey or what have you. There has to be a negative consequence for the bad behavior, in addition to teaching the animal an alternate option to chasing/killing (like - being on a "stay" until they learn self control)

I would definitely recommend working with a professional trainer on this, it's not a simple fix.

I would say two huge factors in your scenario is that you were away, and that the goats were babies.

I trained a dog that was menacing people in their foster person's home. I never had a single problem with him and other people, because from day one he was made to understand that I was the leader and in charge of who got to do what. I rehomed him with someone that didn't fully understand the importance of that - she just saw him cuddling with strangers at the park and didn't listen to the rest, I suppose - and did not continue using his training, and he bit someone in her home. He got rehomed with someone with experience with assertive dogs like him, and she never had a single problem with him. It seems like your dogs had a rapport with you that they did not have with their farm sitter. I completely agree with a previous poster's recommendation of boarding them when you're away. Alternatively a very tall chain link enclosure that is sunk into the ground to prevent digging could be used as an place for them to romp with the pet sitter, any kind of k9 alcatraz that lets them get outside time without any access to approaching the goat fencing.

I came home one day to find all eight of our sheep and goats outside their pen with one missing. Turned out the neighbor dog had scared them so bad they trampled down the electric netting and chased one of the sheep deep into the woods (we found her alive and well, thank god). With less aggressive dogs, our horned doe had no qualms about showing them why they ought to leave the goats alone.

And, dogs that have issues with livestock are the most reasonable to rehome. Folks that live in the city likely won't ever have to deal with the fact that their dog is a baby goat killer. As long as you're completely honest about all of the dogs history, you're in the clear. I was able to rehab a confirmed cat assassin (this dog would HUNT cats - silently stalk until she was close enough to grab) after a lot of training. She got to the point where she could be in the same room as a cat and relaxed enough to greet people and get pets rather than fixating on the cat. She lived with me in a house with two cats without incident. BUT, that's because I watched her like a hawk and was training her every moment she was in sight of a cat. She was rehomed with a family without cats and they received training on how to handle her, and they understand the responsibility they have to keep up her training. So it's possible, but it depends on how much work you're willing to put into it.

Also have to put in a plug for pit bulls - they're all individuals. While they are certainly a more high drive dog that generally enjoys a good scrap, my friend's pit was raised on his farm with hogs and chickens. at 4 years old he occasionally enjoys scaring the chickens (he'll run at them until they scatter, and then he walks off, laughing to himself I assume) but has never hurt one. he did attack a pig once, but only that once. He clearly *wants* to go after the pigs but he knows he ought not to, and despite being unsupervised loose on the farm has never gone after even a piglet since his one incidence. Personally I wouldn't take the chance but his owner does and it's worked out for him.



Lovely post! And very true. I ALWAYS push positive reinforcement first, but with dogs showing ANY sign of unacceptable aggression its is NOT the only solution. The reward for compliance has to be greater then the rewarding aspect of the undesirable behavior and as you said, it is very difficult (sometimes seemingly impossible) to find something of higher value then instinct. I also agree that leadership is a huge aspect in a dogs "training". No amount of treats and pettings will take the place of good pack structure. That being said, I do not agree with a lot of the "dominance theory" that just seems more like to me a shortcut for actually learning/understanding dog psychology. Its easy to "rule" using fear based tactics.....and I personally think some trainers take this way too far (Millan). I see alot of great training tools being misused under the guise that you have to "show the dog who's boss". Watching his show I'm not sure how half of the 911 episides even aired seeing as the "fixed" dog shows more stress/learned helplessness behaviors then being relaxed and submissive as a well trained/comfortable dog should. Most people don't have the RELATIONSHIP with their dog in order to even think about applying a correction.....
That being said, I may not agree 100% everything in Koehler's playbook for PET training, he's pretty spot on (although outdated in some aspects) in working dogs. I highly reccomend you check out the website Leerburg.com if you have an interest in training. One of the trainers they promote is Michael Ellis, and I LOVE his methods. Worth a sniff around if your interested
 
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are you sure it was your dogs and not a wild animal and the dogs just happen to cross into the area.they may have went in after the predators.
 
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There’s a lot of info here!  I’m glad you’ve gotten a strong response, and with variety.

There’s a lot of truth in not allowing a dog to kill livestock in the first place.  It can be impossible to break some dogs, and very difficult for those that can change.  Dealing with a small variation of this right now- my partners dog is a former sheep killer.  He’s made huge strides with my pack goats.  Everyone goes on walks and hikes together and The dog in question packs his own load.  We started him on a leash but he’s now trustworthy off leash and unburdened.  I would not allow him in the goat pen though!  He may never get to that point.  The theory here is establishing with the dogs that the goats are part of the pack.  We walk and hike and live with them, they are not prey.  My two large whethers have bonked the dog a couple times and have no fear of him, in exchange the dog mostly ignores them.  However my doe is fearful and acts like prey around him, and he definitely wants to eat her sometimes.  Having livestock that do not act like food is important in a situation like this.
 My own dog raised these goats herself.  I could leave her in a barnyard of goats, bunnies,  name it and not bat an eyelid.  Part of that is her breed, part of it is her conditioning.

I will note that I have always strived to feed my dogs raw meat.  These dogs now eat raw meat.  I want to stress this.  RAW MEAT DOES NOT MAKE A DOG A KILLER.  My dog has been studiously taught and trained.  I can trust her with newborn bunnies but the second I kill a meat rabbit she knows it’s now food.  I can toss the whole thing still twitching to her for food, and tomorrow she will catch a loose rabbit for me without harming it so I can put it ban in the bunny pen.  But I’ve worked her her whole life at this sort of thing.  She’s a stellar hunter but an equally trustworthy farm dog.  Some dogs CAN make a correlation between the raw meat and killing, but it’s a shot in the dark.  Kibble fed dogs still kill rampantly.  There’s no proven link here.  Just keep that in mind.

If it were me I wouldn’t give up.  Tailor your livestock to your dogs (calm, large, quiet) and your fences to your dogs (tough, tight, and electrified).  Be diligent in discipline, and, if possible and if desired, safely introduce your livestock as family members to the dogs. There are a lot of ways of doing this.  Some dogs are truly hopeless.  But many are not.


Remember this is a valuable learning lesson.  You have power in this situation.  Many struggle with neighbor or feral dogs killing livestock.  These are your pooches, you have control on the situation.  They didn’t kill someone else’s goats, and someone else’s dogs didn’t kill your goats.  Find a fencing system that works, because even if you get your dogs cohabitable, predators lurk, and this is an opportunity to learn how to protect your critters from unseen threats!  Good luck!
 
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Jordan Czeczuga wrote:Thank you all for the responses.  This definitely a challenging time, and one that is extremely hard since it was our dogs that we love.  

Has anyone every found another home for their dogs.  I just don't want to put them down, and they are loving dogs.  They just do not do well with livestock.  



Please do NOT kill your dogs. I understand how you feel about the goats--we had the exact same situation when we first got our goats almost 20 years ago (fortunately our German shepherd only managed to maul rather than kill, and the poor goat recovered). My husband's initial response was pretty much exactly that of some others here (to kill her). I loved that dog dearly and could not bear to part with her. Besides that, I had the horrible memory of losing two beloved pet dogs as a child when my dad shot them for getting into a neighbor's hen house and killing a chicken. I never forgot about it and I never forgave him for it.

Dogs are predators. It is what they are because they would not have survived if they were not--all animals have to eat. Dogs that do not kill or hurt other animals are either bred to mitigate that natural inclination or they are trained not to attack other animals, (though even the best-trained dog's basic instinct will always be essentially predatory). Really, why do people always blame the dog when it behaves badly and take credit when it does something good? If you have a predator living with a prey species it is YOUR JOB to make sure they either get along or they are separated effectively so that it does not matter.

After the attack on the goats that I mentioned above, we made the decision not to blame the dog for something that was clearly our fault and to do a better job in the future of dealing with the situation we had created. Understanding that the dog was probably never going to be absolutely safe around goats, we built a better fence. We installed field fencing 5' tall around a 3-acre perimeter, then further strengthed it by attaching 6' tall, 1" chicken wire in front of that so the dog could not get her head in and nip at the goats when they sat next to the fence. We also dropped trees and added logs along the base to keep her from digging under the fence. (Our soil is too rocky to bury a fence, but logs and rocks against the base were a perfect solution to the digging possibility.) Anyway, we never had another goat/dog interaction. At first, she loved to run at the fence to scare the goats, but when they finally quit reacting to that (knowing full well she couldn't reach them) she finally got bored and stopped.

Our much beloved German shepherd died of old age 4 years ago and we just lost the last of our goats (at age 18!!!) last week, so we no longer have to worry about this particular situation. We've had many dogs in the years we've been here (we have 11 of them now) and we always have chickens and ducks, but with a couple of exceptions (very stupid chickens who, despite clipped wing feathers, managed somehow to fly over an 8' fence into the dog's area) we have not had a single instance of the dogs killing any of the other animals since we learned to make sturdy boundaries between them. (By the way, the dangerous chicken situation was rectified when we realized they were flying into a small tree and then going over. We cut the tree.)

My point is, this is YOUR problem. It is YOUR job to protect your flock AND your dogs. If something like this occurs, please don't blame the dogs. And please, please don't kill them. They aren't doing this to hurt you or to cause you economic woes (!!!) but because YOU didn't make an adequate fence to protect your goats from them. It isn't really your fault either--I'm truly sorry for what you've been through--because you didn't know that your fence was not adequate at the time (and still don't know exactly what happened to allow your dogs in where they shouldn't have been while you were absent). Don't beat yourself up over it, but do install a much better, stronger and higher fence before you get goats again. You should also take your dogs to obedience school as an additional precaution so that they are under voice control in case one of your goats gets out (they are so good at that!) Training and good fences will allow you, your goats and your dogs to live long and happily. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. The dogs don't have to die!
 
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I haven't read all the posts, but thought it worth echoing some important points
- animal aggression is NOT the same as human aggression
- dogs are animals and have drives/instincts, which includes prey drive
- the more dogs the worse it gets, when there's three it's a pack

Dogs are animals, they can be dangerous to livestock and people. It's important for owners to realize this and take responsibility, by not leaving the dog alone with livestock of children.
 
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R Manly wrote:

Which is not to say that animals can't be taught to abandon those behaviors, but that it is never going to be something that is totally fixed with a positive reinforcement only approach. As I said before, there is nothing we as humans can give them that is more satisfying that killing a chicken or chasing prey or what have you. There has to be a negative consequence for the bad behavior, in addition to teaching the animal an alternate option to chasing/killing (like - being on a "stay" until they learn self control)



I agree with much of your post, but we differ with regards to the idea that there has to be a negative consequence.  Neither positive nor negative consequence training will "last forever".  Training is an on-going process, even if it is largely informal "reminders" after the initial, more intensive, training.  If you train your dog with either method of training to the point they are completely reliable and then abandon their training altogether, or like your example, the dog goes to a new owner that doesn't continue with the dog's training, the dog will revert to instinctive behavior.  I personally don't believe that negative consequence training makes the dog more reliable than reward based training.  I don't believe it simply because I've trained dogs both ways with similar results.

I started training dogs in about 1985.  I used a kind of watered down Koehler method because I believe it to be unnecessarily cruel and stressful to the dog, and I don't feel it is necessary.  I didn't train professionally for long, only a couple years, but I continued to work with animals of my own, and those of acquaintances. I delved deeper into animal psychology and I no longer believe a dog needs to be hurt to be trained, any more than a child does.  I would urge people at the very least to explore other methods.

I appreciate your pitbull comments.  I have raised them for many, many years and your comments are spot on.
 
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I know this thread is old, but wanted to offer my condolences for your goats. I think it's always shocking to be hit with death of that caliber, no matter how long someone has been homesteading and/or farming.

I have a pug. This pug is so gentle and sweet and nice and ladylike - until she sees a chicken or a quail. Then she's all about the homicide. I was transferring quail one day and I didn't know the pug was behind me, I dropped a little quail, and as I was reaching to help her into the next cage, our Pug, quick as you like, reached out and snapped the quail's legs. It was awful. I had to put the quail down, obviously, and the Pug went into the laundry room where she could stare out the window at me with her woobie eyes, looking all repentant.

But she wasn't. Next it was a chicken that got out of our run, and as I picked her up to help her back inside, the Pug Of Death shot around my legs and clamped down on the chicken's head. That time I gave my Pug A Doo a swat on the rump, and saved the chicken.

Looks like you get to build some serious, wooden, high fences. With pasture fencing dug down into the ground in case the dogs dig. Or, what we did, is get a shock collar that allows the dogs a generous radius around our house and garage, but all farm animals are kept in the lower pasture, outside of the radius. But we have smaller dogs, so it's a different story. It was 3 days of good training and some periodic retraining on the collar, but they have the hang of it, and always turn back when the warning beep sounds. I think only one of our dogs got the lightest shock only twice, and that was in the first month of having the collar.

If you do build a fence, and the dogs do dig, you can always scoop up dog poop and put it in the holes or around the radius of the pen. They won't dig where their poop is. High maintenance and kinda silly, but just a thought.

I have a farmer friend who built a solid wood fence with 1 foot gaps between the horizontal boards, in which she put in metal field fencing, and then ran an electric cable around the top (not touching the wood). It was labor intensive, but her dogs have never gotten to her sheep.

Also, German Shepard's and Staffordshires are known to be a bit on the kill-y side, so mayhap curtail them and buy a livestock guardian dog puppy who will protect your goats and the perimeter of the property? You guys are obviously dog people, so we want to play to your strengths and keep you happy and the dogs happy. And the goats, you know, alive.

I do hope you are doing better.
 
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First I'm very sorry that this situation happened.  I can only imagine how traumatic it must have been.

My take is one of seniority.  Your dogs were family members before you acquired the baby goats.  As others (or at least one other) have said, it might be a good idea to migrate to larger livestock, something that could command more respect than defenseless baby goats.  Full grown pigs or cattle might be good alternatives.  (I have a mixed breed dog who is a voracious rodent hunter so I cannot have a pet hamster while he is with us.  My other dog is not good with cats so getting a cat is out during her lifetime.)  Pit bulls are bred to attack vulnerable prey animals and German shepherds can be aggressive, so I would suggest more robust farm livestock while these two are with you (hopefully for a long time to come).  

I would not put a lot of stock in training versus innate impulses in your dogs.  When I get a new puppy, I remove tempting items from puppy's environment.  If a pup likes to chew socks, the simple solution is to remove all socks until your pup has outgrown the desire to chew them... forever if the desire is permanently ingrained.   I would never trust your dogs to be safe around baby goats.  If you had gotten the goats first and the dogs second, then I'd suggest re-homing the dogs, but these two dogs are clearly an established part of your family.
 
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