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!
How to Raise and Train Outstanding Livestock Guardian Dogs - How we Integrate Our Maremma Puppies into Our Dairy Goat Herd
Our Maremma Sheepdog puppies are born in our Puppy Parlor, where they have a safe, climate controlled environment in which to grow. The Puppy Parlor sits in one of our goat pastures, and is also used for milking the goats, treating any sick or injured goats and even occasionally for kidding if the weather outside is bad. Because of this our puppies are surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the goats (and other livestock) from birth. But once the puppies reach about three weeks old their eyes and ears are fully open, they are steady on their feet and are climbing out of their whelping box. This is when the Socialization Phase of puppy development starts, and when the real fun begins! The puppies are now able to navigate the dog doors (with a little help) and begin going outside and exploring the wide world of our farm. We have carefully designed our Puppy Parlor and its attached pasture so that the puppies make a safe, smooth transition from tiny little fur balls to Livestock Guardian Dogs. Watch the video below to see the beginning stage of this journey. We’ve added a voiceover to the video to further explain the process. Enjoy!
Starring in the video are dairy goats Honeybee (brown Mini Nubian), Aurora (white and brown Nigerian Dwarf) and Pearl (white Mini Nubian). The dog stars are Benson Ranch Marisa and her litter, sired by Unfinished Acres Sevro. The dogs in the background are Marcella and Gianna. There are other goats far in the background, as well.
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!
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.