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!
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!
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.