Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You Get What You Pay For

As a lifelong advocate of pet rescue I have always scoffed at the idea of buying a dog from a breeder. But working livestock guardians are scarce at the local SPCA, and the risk of our goats being munched is inversely proportional to the now-dwindling daylight hours. So we're out more than $1000, but it seems that we got exactly what we paid for.

Titan (aka Ty) is a nice pup by my exacting standards. He is sensitive to correction, but not shattered by it. He barks at things he finds suspicious or unfair, but he doesn't join our neighbor's dog in her non-stop conversation with nothing. He's pretty happy to see me when I'm around, but he's also pretty happy to relax alone with the goats. What makes Ty VERY unhappy is being kept separate from his goats, which is a good sign. So far he has learned (1) to follow me on a lead; (2) the "sit" command; (3) that complaining gets him nowhere; (4) who the neighbors are and not to bark at them; and (5) a healthy respect for the horses.

He still needs to learn that (1) playing with the goats is unacceptable; (2) jumping on me is unacceptable (3) meals last for 10 minutes -- hoover it or lose it; (4) Tilley and/or Willow will not play with him; and (5) I am serious when I say "unacceptable".

What's most remarkable is the fierceness with which this 13-week-old pup meets perceived threats to his small flock. His voice and body language clearly communicate that it would be best for such threats to move along, though I suspect his bark is worse than his milk-toothed bite. Still, it's always a treat to watch a carefully bred dog fill its niche.


Anonymous said...

I'm in your camp with the shelter pets, but I also agree that sometimes you really need to pay to get an animal that has been bred to do a job well. It sounds like Ty is going to take his job very seriously.

What are your eventual plans for him? You've got your three goats, but do you plan on expanding? Will Ty be responsible for a larger herd? Sheep? Will he be a help to the horses, or will that be irrelevant? I'm curious.

dp said...

No plans to expand the livestock! Ideally we would like Ty to be watching out for the goats, the horses, and the property in general. Most sources say that Maremmas grow into this type of responsibility between 12 and 24 months. Until then he'll just be responsible for the three goats and the two horses when everyone is turned out together.

We don't have any predators that are a threat to the horses, but bears in close proximity do stress them out and I'm sure that Ty will help to keep them at bay.

Anonymous said...

It's good to have dogs around when there are bears. A trainer I took some lessons for was in the yard by her house, sitting on the ground working on her gentle horse's hooves, and her usually quiet Australian Shepherd went berserk, growling and barking. When she looked up, there was a black bear about 5 feet away that had been watching from behind some bushes. You can bet she scrambled! The horses had been a little more alert the past few days, but they weren't spooked at all and the bear just walked right up to them. It could have gone really badly.

dp said...

That's a good dog! Tilley (our aussie) is very alert to bears as well, but she is a pet and indoors much of the time. Titan spent a good three minutes barking his head off at some bushes across the street today, and I suspect he was telling a bear to get bent.