Livestock Guardian Dog Training Vest Hack - A Good Dog Trainer (and Goat Farmer) is Always Prepared!
My middle son, Michael, was a Boy Scout, rising all the way to the rank of Eagle Scout. The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared!" As a breeder and trainer of Maremma Sheepdogs as well as a breeder of dairy goats this is a motto that I try to live by. There are always items I will need any time I am working with my animals and the minutes it takes to find a thermometer to check the temperature on a sickly looking goat, a leash to move a goat or dog from one place to another or a knife to open a feed bag can quickly add up. I also need a place to store my barn and Cricket keys, iPhone, Airpods and reading glasses. (I can't even see my phone without them!) My pockets are full and I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet!
As a positive reinforcement trainer I am always looking for opportunities to train my dogs and reinforce them for desired behaviors, even if it's just rewarding them for greeting me as I come into their pasture. (If you think LGD's can't be taught good recall you need to try clicker training!) And I have learned from past experience that it definitely pays to be prepared if your dog ever accidentally slips out the gate! We live on a busy road so running to find a leash and treats to catch my dog could mean the difference between life and death, so I don't leave that to chance. I never walk into a pasture without treats in my pockets and if I walk out there without a leash it was an accident and I usually end up needing to go get one. I had slip leashes made with my logo specifically for leading goats and dogs from one spot to another, inside my pastures. (I use a Blue 9 Balance harness, which we sell in our Online Store, if I take my dogs outside the fence, unless the dog is very trustworthy with a slip lead.)
Over the years I have tried various methods for carrying all of this paraphernalia. I don't always have pockets on my clothes and even if I do there usually aren't enough for all the gear, much less for treats. I have used different kinds of treat pouches but they usually have little to no pockets. I have used and worn out many fanny packs and until recently they were the best option I could find. But I don't like the way they look and they were so heavy with all the stuff I had to carry that they would irritate me, sometimes giving me a backache. In the winter I sometimes wore an insulated vest with inner and outer pockets. That worked pretty well, but it was too hot during the summer. I kept brainstorming, trying to come up with a solution. Somewhere I came across the idea of a "Dog Trainer's vest". That sounded perfect. So I looked for one on Amazon, and I found one, all right. For $100! Ouch!
Now if you are a dog trainer or owner of companion dogs maybe the $100 vest would be a good investment. But I breed Livestock Guardian Dogs and dairy goats they are both HARD on things like clothes and jackets. Pretty much every jacket I own eventually gets ripped sleeves and pockets from puppy teeth and baby goat hooves. My lightweight insulated vests usually only lasted one season so I could just imagine how long that $100 dog trainer vest would last. No thank you! So I searched for tactical vests, instead, thinking that might be what I need. What came up was fishing vests and they were perfect for my needs! They usually run between $20-$30, come in multiple sizes and colors and have more pockets than you can count. And you can get them made of a mesh material, which makes them cooler in summer and lightweight under a jacket in winter.
I bought the Flygo brand vest in black mesh. I bought it in November and have used it every day since and it's still in great shape. I wear it under my jacket but I anticipate it will work just as well in summer. It holds everything I need and the weight of all the items is more evenly distributed, so no more backache! The only thing that would make it more perfect would be if it came in purple, but I'll keep looking and buy a new one if I find it. It's always good to have a spare! If you are looking to be prepared for anything your animals dish out then I highly recommend you get yourself one of these oh-so-fashionable vests!
What Do I Have in my Pocketses, Precious?
The plan is to always have the items I need in the exact same pocket every time I wear the vest, so I can quickly find what I need. Sometimes I get in a hurry and forget, and then I have to search for what I need through all those pockets. So stick to the plan! Here's what I usually have in my pockets. (Sorry, there's no One Ring, Precious.)
Training Treats we Use
Don't Forget the Goats!
One additional item that I plan to add to my "Be Prepared" arsenal is goat treats. A long time ago, before I started Clicker Training my dogs, I used to always carry goat treats with me. (I use alfalfa pellets, large hay pellets and horse treats.) My goats knew this and it made catching even the shy ones pretty easy. Like the dogs they were always looking for a treat. When I started clicker training my dogs I replaced the goat treats with dog treats. Eventually the goats gave up and stopped checking my pockets for treats. But after attending the Across Species Clicker Training course at the Karen Pryor National Training Center in Washington in August 2022, I decided I wanted to clicker train my goats. This was something I had wanted to do for a while but didn't know how. While I was attending the week long course I worked with a goat training partner every day, and watched demonstrations, as well. Now I know how to clicker train my goats, I just need to make it a habit. And the best way to do this is to be prepared, like I am for the dogs. So I will be choosing a pocket to fill with goat treats, and we will see where this leads!
The First Two Vital Elements
There are three key components that are required in order to produce an outstanding Livestock Guardian Dog. The first two - genetics and early training and socialization (or Nature and Nurture) - are the responsibility of the breeder. If you've bought a puppy from us (or are considering doing so) you can rest assured that the first two are covered. We have selected our breeding stock from outstanding working dogs with the genetics that produce great LGD's. And our puppies are given the best start possible as future Livestock Guardian Dogs as well as members of their future families. We have a very careful and intentional puppy training and socialization program, which includes intensive early socialization with livestock as well as positive reinforcement training and socialization with humans (including children) and exposure to a wide variety of sights, sounds and experiences. What happens in the first 12-16 weeks of a puppy's life is vital to their success and a breeder can make or break a puppy as a LGD. Therefore we do our best to give our puppies an outstanding start and are always looking for ways to improve our program. If you haven't yet decided to buy a puppy from us you can learn more about our Puppy Training and Socialization Program by clicking the link below:
The Third Vital Element
But the breeder is only part of the equation when it comes to successfully raising and training a LGD puppy. The third and equally important part is a dedicated owner with a well thought out plan of continuing the job the breeder started. There are tools, resources and information out there that will make that job much easier for the new puppy owner. Below are the top three resources I recommend for all of my new puppy owners:
And Now For Something Really Special
We are thrilled to announce that we now have one more new and exciting bonus element available to our puppy customers that will truly make the difference for them and their puppies and help their pups reach their full potential. This is something that no other Maremma Sheepdog breeder offers and is free with every puppy. Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will share this wonderful new resource!
Life with Maremmas is always exciting, especially when they are young and energetic Maremmas. Parma at almost two years old is petite, faster than a gazelle and full of energy. And did I say petite? Earlier today my son, Noah, and farm hand, Ethan, were trimming goat hooves. We went into Pax's and Parma's pasture to do their goats. I thought I would make things easier by putting the dogs in the corridor between their pasture and the Puppy Parlor pasture. There's a gate across the road, which I had closed and latched. But not tightly enough to keep tiny little Parma in! Busy catching a goat, I looked over just in time to see Parma squeezing through the gate, with Pax close on her heels! I'm not sure if Pax would have fit through the gate but I wasn't taking any chances. I got him back into the pasture, handed Madeline (the goat) to Noah and went off to try to catch Miss Parma, with Ethan's help.
Oh boy did she have fun! Round and round the haystack she went, stopping for mere moments to check out everything she saw. Barking ferociously at the other dogs in the adjacent pasture to hers, sending the Call Ducks flying every time she ran through. (Literally flying. They're one of the few domestic duck breeds that can fly.) She wasn't chasing the ducks. She was bowling with them! Every time Ethan or I got near her she zoomed right past or headed the other way.
Teaching recall to a Maremma is important and I work on it regularly with my dogs, but coming has to be more rewarding to the dog than not coming. Recall is pretty easy in their pasture. They're always happy to come see me because they know they will be rewarded. Always. Usually with treats and at a minimum with my attention, which some of them love more than the treats. They can count on it. But out free in the open is another matter. There are lots of more interesting things than me out there. And despite the fact that I had dried chicken (which I try to always have in my pocket) in my hand and was waving it at her and calling her name, the merry chase Parma was leading us on was more rewarding than the chicken. Or more likely she was so focused on seeing everything outside the pasture gate she didn't notice the chicken.
We should have just let her run and get it out of her system, but there's something about a loose dog that scares me, so chase her we did. For probably 15 minutes. Finally she paused long enough to notice the chicken and came over to get it. I gave her a piece and immediately placed one of the slip leads I keep in my pocket over her head. I had 100 of these printed with my logo for myself and my customers because I use them so much when I need to catch or move dogs or goats. They are a valuable safety tool and I already had it ready for her as soon as she bolted. Once I had her secure I gave her lots more chicken, petting and praise and told her what a good girl she was. Then we walked back to join Pax and the goats.
But wait? Good girl? For running away? For ignoring me? For scaring the ducks and fighting through the fence with the other dogs? Surely she didn't deserve chicken for all that? No, but she ultimately did what I wanted her to do. She came to me. And you NEVER, EVER punish a dog for coming when called. Instead you reward them, be it with treats, verbal praise, affection, playtime or whatever. I know people who will yell and yell for their dog to come and then scold or even punish them when they finally do come. And then wonder why the dog gets harder and harder to get them to come when called. The dog can't make the connection between your calling them, their delay and your punishment. They don't understand why you're scolding them. But they can and will learn that coming results in consequences they don't like if you punish instead of rewarding them. So always, always reward your dog when you finally get them to come. And I suggest you always have treats and a slip lead handy!
I had 100 of these slip leads made at JH Tackett, my local marketing store. (I have had a lot of great stuff for my business made there.) I used to get them from my vet but I use them so much for both my Maremmas and my goats that I finally decided to get my own printed, so I can give them to my goat customers. I train my puppies using aBlue 9 Balance Harness (which we sell in our store) and long lines, but eventually I also train my dogs to be led with a slip lead, so I can use it for quick moves from place to place and for emergencies. I always keep at least one in my pocket. Usually more make their way there, as well as in my Cricket Mini Golf Cart.
Cindy Benson of Benson Maremmas Training introduced me to dried chicken and it's the most ingenious training and emergency tool ever. It's just dehydrated chicken. That's it. The dogs absolutely adore it and it's dry and not at all messy to work with. I use regular treats for basic training but use either real meat or cheese or the dried chicken as a high value treat for when I really need to motivate the dogs. And I always keep a few pieces in my pocket for emergency dog catching sessions! It's expensive but a little goes a long way and it just might save your dog's life if you have a little escape artist like I do!
Debunking the "Shepherd Way" Myth of Training Livestock Guardian Dogs - Science Versus Social Media Gurus
The other day I posted a cute photo of one of my 8 week old Maremma puppies (these puppies but not this photo) with my goats. It was just a chance photo I caught and it was cute, so I did a quick IG/FB post, captioning it "Where an 8 Week Old LGD Puppy Belongs". I took it a step further and shared it on a few LGD groups. As I was doing so I was already deciding that this needed to be a blog post because the topic was too in-depth for just a social media post. So I started working on the blog post but went ahead and put the "readers' digest condensed version" on social media. Here is the post:
As expected I got immediate push-back on Facebook. Most people agreed with me but a couple didn't. Here are some of the comments I received. Instead of getting into a Facebook war I decided to address the concerns here:
Comment: "The way you phrased it, every LGD puppy belongs in with the livestock, even if they just got picked up by their next owner at eight weeks."
Reply: I hear over and over that it's "unsafe" for an 8 week old puppy to be alone in a barn. And of course I agree 100% with this. Where an 8 week old puppy belongs is in the breeder's barn or pastures with its parents, litter-mates and/or other mentor dogs, and with livestock, not with an inexperienced new owner, especially if this is a single puppy, being placed without either a partner or a mentor dog. The answer to this issue is simple. Don't buy puppies from breeders who send their pups home at 8 weeks old. Don't enable this lazy and irresponsible style of dog breeding and puppy rearing.
I plan to write an entire post about this topic but the answer is that in most cases 8 weeks is too young for LGD puppies to go to new homes. Most LGD puppies are bought by first time owners who have no clue how to either properly socialize a puppy to livestock or how to keep the puppy safe and supported while doing so. Having the puppy stay in training with the breeder a few more weeks can make a huge difference both in the success of the puppy as a LGD and in its safety when it is brought home.
These 8 week old puppies are still babies. Their place is here, on my farm, with their litter mates and learning from their parents and other mentor dogs as well as my experienced puppy trainer livestock for at least a month or two more.
As the pups grow we utilize other dogs besides their dams as puppy mentors. We are very careful to only choose dogs that are patient and gentle with the puppies and do not encourage or allow our dogs to "correct" the puppies. Puppies who are treated harshly by adult dogs can become aggressive or fearful and neither makes a safe and trustworthy LGD.
The Real "Backyard Breeders"
Of course if the breeder isn't properly socializing the puppies to livestock in the first place then you're better off bringing home that puppy ASAP, if you are determined to buy from that kind of breeder. (I don't recommend it.) Cindy Benson wrote an excellent blog post about that titled "The Age of Placement for Pups Depends on Who is Doing the Training". That's a must read post!
There's a lot of criticism for "Backyard Breeders" out there. Usually this refers to breeders who are raising unhealthy, uncared for puppies from poor quality breeding stock, but often times the term is used as a weapon by breeders to judge other breeders. In my opinion the real "backyard breeders" are the people raising Livestock Guardian Dog puppies in their backyard (or in their home) instead of with livestock. If the breeder is raising their puppies in their home, backyard or on the patio then it's best to get that puppy home and with your stock ASAP.
But the REAL answer is not to buy from these "Backyard Breeders" in the first place, because even by 8 weeks old you have lost at least 3-4 weeks of vital socialization time with livestock and to be perfectly honest your puppy will never be the same as a puppy who was "raised in a barn". Puppies have critical developmental periods and where your pup spends even the first 8 weeks makes a huge difference in how they turn out. Breeders who raised their LGD puppies like companion dogs either don't understand puppy development or don't care about the impact it has on the future of the dog and the stock it's intended to guard. Ignorance or apathy, it doesn't much matter. Do yourself a favor and just say no to Backyard LGD Breeders.
Comment: "...if they are going to new homes, once they get there they need to spend time in the house to bond with their shepherd, learn how to behave in a house, how to ride in a car, walk on leash, and a whole lot of other things that will make them much better rounded LGD in the long run.
Reply: I totally agree that LGD puppies need to be exposed to experiences and skills that will make them well-rounded dogs (leash walking, exposure to lots of sights, sounds and people), and these experiences should be started by the breeder during their critical learning period, in the first 12-16 weeks. The more things the puppy is exposed to during this time the more well-rounded and resilient they will be. Again, waiting until the puppy goes to their new home is not going to be as effective as having the breeder do it, because by that point the Critical Socialization Period is ending.
Just simply housing the puppies in a stall in the barn (or on a patio or in a house or yard) with no mental stimulation is not good enough. The puppy will be mentally and emotionally stunted and may suffer from all kinds of problems as adults, including aggression and fear, both of which are unsuitable in a LGD. If you instead buy a puppy from a breeder who uses a comprehensive puppy socialization plan like Puppy Culture, in addition to an intensive livestock socialization plan, your puppy will be well-prepared for its future as a LGD and as a well-rounded, stable dog and part of your family.
Debunking "The Shepherd Way" Myth
Spend any time on LGD groups on Facebook and you'll likely encounter the "Shepherd Way of LGD Training" method. This ridiculous theory is heavily promoted on social media by self-described "experts" with no actual training or experience with LGD's. (What professional dog training or behavior courses have they taken? What scientific documents or books have they read? What is their experience with dogs in general and LGD's in particular? Are they a breeder or trainer of LGD's? If they are a breeder how long have they bred LGD's and how many puppies have they successfully placed in working homes?)
These "experts" make the claim that shepherds spent hours a day intensively interacting with and training their LGD's and overseeing their interactions with the flocks. So Livestock Guardian Dogs are independent natured because they historically spent so much time alone with the stock but they also spent every waking minute with the "shepherd"?! That is what we call and oxymoron.
Maybe these people are confusing herding dogs with LGD's but if there's evidence for this "Shepherd Way Theory" I haven't found it. And that idea is refuted in this National Geographic video on Maremmas, where the "shepherd" clearly states that the dogs, for the most part, take the sheep out all day long, by themselves, and then watch them all night, by themselves. The shepherds mainly see them in the morning before the animals go out to pasture and when the dogs bring the sheep back in for the night. No snuggling on the couch in front of the TV for these dogs. The point of LGD's is that they can and do work largely independently. (This video, by the way, was made by the uncle of the breeder of Pegaso, our imported Italian dog.)
Even if ancient Shepherds did spend hours a day interacting with and supervising their dogs those shepherds and dogs lived out on the open range with the sheep. They didn't live in warm, cozy houses with cable TV and internet. You can't take an old world, ancient way of managing LGD's and just plunk it down in our modern world and expect the results to be the same. Sitting on the couch watching TV with your LGD puppy for hours a day and then taking them out to do the farm chores for 30 minutes to and hour, or even a couple of hours, is not going to be enough to train that puppy how to be a Livestock Guardian Dog. You are training it to be a companion dog. Which is fine if you want a companion dog, but not if you need a LGD.
Yes there are adaptations and compromises that have to be made in order to keep a puppy safe while also ensuring the proper early socialization with stock, but if someone wants to be the "shepherd" to their LGD puppy the answer is NOT turning the puppy into a couch potato with token "livestock exposure" for an hour or so out of a 24 hour day. The answer is for a safe place to be made for the puppy in the barn or pasture so the puppy can be properly immersed with the livestock and for the "shepherd" to get outside and spend more time with the puppy, in their natural LGD setting. And for the puppy to have a working LGD partner or mentor, (or both) too.
The Best Place to Get Advice is From Real Experts
If you want to hear from an actual expert on Livestock Guardian Dogs you should read some of the books on the subject by Raymond Coppinger, professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College, and his associates. In 1976, Ray and his wife Lorna founded the Livestock Guarding Dog Project at Hampshire College, where he conducted a long-term study of LGD's involving Maremma Sheepdogs as well as other breeds. For ten years the Coppingers compiled data from over 1,400 dogs in research that is still the single largest, long term study of LGDs in the world. They actually started a Maremma Sheepdog registry that predates the MSCA and many Maremmas in the United States are descended from dogs that were imported for the project.
Here's a quote from the Hampshire College website on Coppingers' work: "This long-term investigation into the behavior of a new kind of dog for farmers and ranchers in the United States has resulted in greater understanding of early developmental behavior of dogs, and how early experience (or lack of it) can affect adult behavior."
I don't know about you but I would rather get my LGD advice from real scientists and experts on the subject than from people on social media with no actual credentials, training, education or experience in the field.
"However, if you don't raise that set of genes in the proper environment, you won't get a good working dog either. Our experimental work has shown that there is a specific environment in which a livestock dog needs to be raised. If you don't raise the dog in that setting, you ruin its future as a livestock guardian dog. Not only do you ruin it for the moment, but there is no going back and correcting the mistake.
~"How Dogs Work" Raymond Coppinger & Mark Feinstein
Nature Versus Nurture
Comment: "Dogs with good breeding will learn from you modeling the desired behavior, because that’s how they’ve been raised for centuries"
Reply: Another non-science comment. First of all, dogs don't mimic the behavior of humans, or of other species. To a degree they mimic other dogs but even that is minimal. If it weren't then all I would need to do would be to pair one of my excellent adult LGD's with my puppies and juvenile dogs and the training would be done for me. I wish!
And no matter how much I pet my goats and tell the dogs "nice goat" it doesn't stop the chasing. Dogs don't do what they do to please us or because they love us. They do what their instincts, developmental stages and environments dictate. In order to stop the chasing the environment needs to be matched to their developmental stage (appropriate stock and conditions) and conducive to getting the behavior I want. And they need to be rewarded for the behavior that's desired to encourage more of it.
As far as the assertion that dogs with good breeding will naturally figure things out by curling up on the couch and watching TV, that is pure hogwash, not at all "how they've been raised for centuries" and not scientific at all. Again, in the words of an actual expert:
One of the greatest difficulties we have with dog breeders is that they believe their dogs' behavior is entirely hardwired and therefore inevitable - all you have to do is buy a livestock guardian dog and it will guard your sheep from predators. We ethologists, who otherwise agree that genetic hardwiring is a crucial dimension of behavior, find ourselves frustratingly saying, over and over, that farmers also have to pay attention to the developmental context: if you don't raise the dog in the proper environment, you ruin it's adult working performance. It's the nature-nurture conundrum all over again."
~"How Dogs Work" Raymond Coppinger & Mark Feinstein
And I for one prefer science over urban legends. What about you?
To learn more about Raymond Coppinger, his writings and his work with LGD's and this important topic, please read the blog post below by Cindy Benson. (Another actual expert on LGD's in general and Maremmas in particular.)
**Disclosure - I am one of the Admins on a Maremma Sheepdog training and discussions Facebook group called Maremma Sheepdog Open Forum so maybe it seems a bit ironic that I am warning people to not get their training advice on Facebook. However our group is science based and run by people with real training and experience with the breed. The admins all have businesses as Maremma breeders and/or trainers and have invested in professional training and education on the breed and on dog training and behavior. We have our own websites and blogs where we do most of our writing about the breed, with social media used as a way to educate and encourage those who love the breed, but not as our main or only platform. We do not allow the promoting of unscientific claims or urban legends on our group or anything that harms or endangers dogs. Our mission is to make the world a better and safer place for Maremmas, their owners and the livestock they guard through true education and encouragement. Our group is the only place on Facebook I recommend for training advice.
**I posted this on Facebook and as usual, got some pushback from people. There were a few comments as well as a long private conversation I had with someone today about the post so I wanted to clarify something that came up. When I refer to “The Shepherd Way” it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with how real shepherds in Italy managed their dogs or still do. What I am referring to is Americans who cherry pick aspects of what I have been told Italian shepherds did/do without doing the whole thing.
For instance, I was told that Italian shepherds basically have house/barns, where the dogs can come and go freely between the part where the animals live and wher the humans live. I do not know if that's true but if it is that is nothing like what I see advocated on social media because most Americans don't have that kind of set-up. Do YOU have a barn attached to your house?
What’s more I don't think most Americans live anything like the ancient or even modern Italian shepherds did/do. Again, I don't know, but I would guess shepherds did and do spend hours a day outdoors with their dogs and stock. Most Americans spend the majority of their hours indoors, in front of some kind of screen, with very small amounts of time outdoors, even if they have a farm or homestead. And most people with farms have an off farm job. So where is this house puppy while the “shepherd” is at work?
My point is not that the real “shepherd way”, whatever that really is, doesn't work. I have great respect for these real shepherds. I just don't believe that's what is being promoted by most people who advocate this on social media. From my conversations and observations on these groups I only see people telling other people to “bring the puppy inside and be the shepherd” without clarifying or teaching them how to really do that. And that is what I have a problem with. I love real shepherds. Fake ones not so much.
And I also do not have a problem if people want to allow their LGD’s in the house. I still believe they should spend the majority of their time outside with the stock, but I doubt a visit to the house now and then will ruin a well started dog. (An improperly started one is another matter entirely.) I have clients who allow their pups in the house and I support their right to manage their pups as they see fit. My dogs might visit my house if I had a different set up. But my house is 300’ from my barn, with an unfenced area between them. I couldn’t have my dogs come in my house without putting them on a leash and walking them over, and if I did the animals would be unprotected. But if you want to bring your Maremma in your house more power to you!
Did you know that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends ONLY reward based training and is 100% against aversive training methods? Why? Because veterinarians are SCIENTISTS and SCIENCE supports positive training. It’s not only about what works or what’s “fast and easy”, it’s about what’s scientifically and ethically in the best interest of the dog. Here are just a couple of quotes from the AVSAB position paper on dog training:
“Evidence supports the use of reward based methods for all canine training. AVSAB promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwant-ed and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification."
From The AVSAB FAQ's
“What techniques should be avoided in training?
An appropriate trainer should avoid any use of training tools that involve pain (choke chains, prong collars, or electronic shock collars), intimidation (squirt bottles, shaker noise cans, compressed air cans, shouting, staring, or forceful manipulation such as “alpha rolls” or “dominance downs”), physical correction techniques
(leash jerking, physical force), or flooding (“exposure”). The learner must always feel safe and have the ability to “opt out” of training sessions. All efforts should be made to communicate effectively and respectfully with the learner.
Why should aversive training techniques be avoided?
The consequences and fallout from aversive training methods have been proven and are well documented. These include increased anxiety and fear-related aggression, avoidance, and learned helplessness. Animals may be less motivated to engage in training and less likely to interact with human members of the household.”
We agree with the experts at AVSAB. At Prancing Pony Farm we are Positive Reinforcement Trainers and only use reward based training with our Maremma Sheepdog adults and puppies. We are so committed to seeing our puppies treated humanely that we put it in our puppy contract that all our puppy owners sign. The use of aversive training methods such as shock collars, choke chains, dangle sticks and other punishment based training methods is prohibited.
To read the complete document from the AVSAB see the link below:
We had a lot off great demos on Thursday but I'm having trouble uploading them to Weekly. Below is the goat recall demo. I'll try to add the others later.
The goats and alpacas enjoy their enrichment and browse time. This gives me lots of great ideas of things to build for my goats!
Some of the students had an apple catapulting contest. Apples are shot into the pastures to attract the elk. I watched. This map depicts all the places students have come from to visit The Ranch. More places will be added after this course is over.
Wednesday morning started out rainy, which made learning the lecture difficult but was a great break for me, coming from the drought ridden California Central Valley. We did end up moving indoors to finish the morning session, but things dried up in time for the first animal lesson.
After the morning lecture we went out for another goat session. We had a visitor for the pre-lesson briefing. ☺️ Corgi was as cooperative as usual. He's a smart boy!
In the afternoon we had our first donkey training session. The black donkey is Sillouette, my training partner. She was a good girl.
We had dinner at the ranch that evening, where Ken Ramirez shared stories of all the amazing adventures he's had training all kinds of animals all over the world. He once even trained thousands of butterflies to do a synchronized flying routine!
Tuesday morning the goats were ready and waiting for their training session!
We also had an alpaca training demo by Ken Ramirez, on Tuesday. This was a great lesson in how to work with shy and skittish animals, as well as how to train multiple animals at once.
Tuesday afternoon Ken Ramirez gave us a donkey training demo.
Monday, August 8th, 2022, was my first day at the Training For Professionals: Across Species course at the Karen Pryor National Training Center (The Ranch) in Washington state. I attended this course with my good friend, Cindy Benso, of Benson Maremmas, who was taking the course for the second or third time. The weather was nice enough that most of the lectures and videos could be held outdoors on the deck, with the beautiful view of the pastures and barn with Mount Rainier (sometimes) visible in the distance. This was a great environment to learn in with breaks in the morning and afternoon for live animal demos and hands on animal training practice. Lunch, snacks and drinks were also served every day, with dinner three of the five nights, as well. Considering everything that is included in this course and the sheer breadth and depth of the learning it was well worth the $1200 price tag for the 5 day course. And the entire course and trip is a tax deductible business expense!
On the way out to the barn for our first animal sessions we were greeted by the Alpacas and Llama. While they don't like to be touched they are very curious and came up quite close to get a look at the new students!
Our first live animal demo was a Goat Training Demo given by Ken Ramirez, starring Kelpie.
Monday afternoon we had our first try at Goat Training. I was assigned Corgi, a Nigerian Dwarf wether who is very smart and was usually waiting for me on his training pedestal when I arrived. Corgi already knows a lot of skills but I quickly discovered that I needed to keep moving at a fast pace and keep things interesting so he wouldn't decide to wander off!
The first day ended around 6 or 6:30 PM. It was a long day but we covered a lot of ground and learned a lot. By the time we got back to the hotel we were ready to crash!
Hi I'm Kim. I have been an avid animal lover all my life but goats and dogs are my favorites so I built a business around them, breeding registered Mini Nubian & Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats and MSCA registered Maremma Sheepdogs. I love sharing my passion and knowledge of these amazing creatures with others.