A while back I briefly touched on our livestock guardian dogs (LGD). I'm bringing it up again because, yet again, we've had an issue that relates to strangers and our dogs.
LGD's of many breeds have been used for centuries to protect livestock from predators. Each of these breeds commonly display different levels or protection and personality. All LGD's are independent thinkers. They do not need you to make the decisions for them. But they do need you to teach them what appropriate behavior is.
When we set out to find the right LGD for us, we did a lot of research. We talked to a lot of different breeders of different breeds. We met a lot of dogs. We watched a lot of different dogs interact with their livestock. We took notes on how the dogs reacted to us as strangers, with no introduction from their owners and how those same dogs reacted AFTER we were introduced to the dog as not a threat. With the exception of one dog, once introduced, we could move freely with the dogs and their livestock. While the Pyrenees breed would have been the easiest and cheapest breed for us to get - they just weren't right for us. At two separate farms that bred Pyrenees, I (as a total stranger) was able to enter the field with the livestock with absolutely no threat from the dog. To us, this was unacceptable. I never want "just anyone" to be able to walk on my property and be able to socialize with my livestock. I've read of incidents of farmers getting their livestock stolen even when a Pyrenees was in the field with them.
At our previous farm, we were much more isolated than we are now. If there was a human threat on our property - any law enforcement assistance was at minimum 20 minutes away (and that's if they were sitting in their office). A lot can happen in that time frame. We also both worked outside the home too at that time. There were many hours that neither one of us was at home. We needed dogs that would protect our livestock AND keep anyone from entering the property.
That's when we decided on the Anatolian Shepherd. Anatolians are large, rugged, and impressive dogs. They have great endurance and agility. You can read a lot about the breed here. But the long and short of it is that Anatolians are loyal, fiercely possessive, and protective of their family, livestock, and territory. In general, they are aloof and suspicious of anything and anyone that enters his domain. They do not want to be boldly approached by strangers and rather dislike them if they do.
Back to our previous farm: we did not have many visitors when we lived there. It was rare that anyone ever just "stopped by". We were really out there - no one was ever just driving by and decided to stop. If people did come by, they were usually friends, family, or neighbors that the dogs knew and welcomed onto the property. When strangers did come to the house - it was normally somebody selling something and they weren't welcomed by us to begin with. The first 3 years of our dogs' lives - we never told them that a stranger was ok and to stop barking at them. Of course - this creates a problem for us now as the dogs believe that strangers are not welcome and will not stop barking until the stranger is no longer in sight. Once our dogs meet you several times, and know that you are not a threat, they will remember you always. We've had friends who haven't been with the dogs in over a year be able to walk right up to them and greet them like they just saw them yesterday. They have incredible memories.
When we moved to this farm, the first issue we had that involved the dogs was just days after we moved it. The dogs were out in their fenced in yard and we were at the back of the yard cleaning out a building. I looked up and saw someone pull in the driveway. I began walking towards the house and the dogs had yet to see the visitor. The visitor came to the gate and by then the dogs had seen him. True to fashion of any dog - they ran towards the gate, barking. Unbelievably, this person proceeded to open the gate and start to walk through it. I screamed at him to get out and to shut the gate and at the precise moment that he started to close it, the dogs both slammed into the gate closing it the rest of the way. My first thought is why on earth ANYONE would open a closed gate on someone else's farm and also why would anyone be so stupid to open a gate when there is 300+ pounds of dog charging at you. I know I wouldn't!! When we reached this man, he told us that our dogs had absolutely no right to act that way and that they should allow anybody on the property. So I know you're wondering why this man came to visit that day? He wanted to lease our entire farm that we just closed on the week before. We could have the house and front yard and he wanted to lease the rest (all pastures and all buildings). Yeah buddy - we just bought this farm so that we could rent it out. Needless to say - he was not so politely sent on his way.
Anatolians are very independent thinkers. They're bred this way. That way - they can do their job and watch over the livestock and protect them. They can determine what is a threat to the property and what isn't. Somehow our dogs can tell the difference between a bird of prey (that could harm the chickens) and a scavenger bird that is no threat. One gets a big reaction from the dogs and the other gets a simple glance.
Most of the time, our dogs come when we call them. If they don't come when called - it's normally because what they perceive as a threat will cause greater harm than not coming when called. Other commands - oh they know how to sit, lay down, and stay - but they only follow commands when it suits them. It suits them to sit on command waiting for dinner. It doesn't suit them to sit because I said so. Tricks? Out of the question. Toss ball? Absolutely not. Protect your kids? With every ounce of their being they will.
Don't ever think about getting an Anatolian if you want a dog that will do what you say, when you say, and do it with pride. Anatolians simply do what they want to do. If they do things that you don't want them to - then they do not see you as Alpha. Some Anatolians are so hard-headed that it seems that alpha never gets through to them. Take Zeus (our male) for example. I can not, no matter what I do, get him to stop eating eggs. It doesn't matter how many times I tell him no. It doesn't matter how hard I make it for him to get to the nest boxes. It doesn't matter when I used a shock collar on him over it. They are smart enough - and independent enough thinkers - that he literally watches me. He pays attention to see where I go. Then when he thinks I'm not watching, he goes and stands in front of the chicken house looking around. Within a few minutes, he's in the chicken house and comes back out with an egg. He knows he's not supposed to - I watch him from the house and then yell out him through the window the minute he sets foot in the chicken house. One time, he didn't know I'd come back into the backyard and when I came around the corner of the chicken house, I saw him outside eating an egg. He didn't see me. I very quietly went into the chicken house and hid and waited for him to come back in. When he did, I think he almost had a heart attack. It was days before I saw him go near it again.
I wanted to bring up the dogs because we do have a lot of visitors to the farm. People don't expect dogs to react like they do. I've been leaving the dogs out in the backyard when visitors come so that the dogs will get used to people coming and going. So that they will realize that not every stranger is a threat. It's been a very long process. They still bark a lot, but there's tail wagging while they are barking. The tend to settle down after a few minutes.
When you do visit our farm for a tour, rest assured, the dogs will be put up so you can move freely with us.
We absolutely love our hard headed, independent, devoted dogs and wouldn't change them for the world.
Rising Phoenix Farm
14093 Madison Pike
Morning View, KY 41063