Posted on 3 Comments

Keeping up with the Karakachans – Episode II

Boris and Petra became fast friends. I wish I could say the same for the goats. You see, our goats had never lived with dogs before. Suddenly, I’ve thrown these little furry creatures into their territory. Right away I realized that was a mistake. 

A dominant doe rammed Boris as hard as she could, warning the fluffy furball he was not welcome. Boris shook it off, but his feelings were definitely hurt. He was confused as to why his “family” didn’t accept him. Luckily, Uncle Huppy was there to help and loved having new playmates at the barn. 

I quickly realized, I needed to keep the puppies away from the older does for their own safety. Luckily, the younger goats were much kinder to their new guardians, allowing them to be around the very animals they were learning to protect. With livestock guardian dogs it’s best for them to grow up around the animals they will eventually guard. In our case, it was goats and chickens… more on the chickens later. 

The puppies were so easy at this age. They were gentle and respectful of all the other species. Livestock guardian dogs are meant to have no prey drive, while also being very territorial. Of course, at their young ages, the pups were far from protectors. In order to keep them safe from the nearby predators, mainly coyotes, we kept them locked up in the barn. They were only allowed out while I was present. 

The dynamic duo grew like weeds. My little “lions” were gaining in size and in confidence. They each started to develop unique personalities. This is when the fun really began. The puppies were bigger and needed more freedom. I’ve never kept dogs outside, so, the unsupervised part terrified me. Would they get out of the fence? Would someone steal them? Would they get hurt? I adored them and I was full of worry. 

Well, nothing prepared me for what was to come… mud dogs!

They were huge puppies who got to live outside. It was party time for this duo. They didn’t care about the goats or chickens, instead they just wanted to roll in mud all day long. As a dog groomer, this made me want to pull my hair out! But then I reminded myself, these giant puppies are dogs and this was fun to them! It was the last time Boris ever showed his white coat. 

I made sure we had excellent perimeter fencing and even lined it with an invisible fence for extra security, in order to teach the pups to respect the fence. When I couldn’t find Boris, I would just look for clay areas where he was camouflaged. They were always having a blast, but when would they start to guard? 

Around 5 months of age is when things changed. They finally cared about the animals more than mud! They cared so much, they “played” with a chicken until it died. I remember being SO upset with them and shocked. How could my livestock guardians hurt what they are protecting? It must have been a fluke. Nope, it happened two more times. Feeling defeated and sad again, I locked the chickens up for their safety. 

I even complained to other farmers and their breeders about my “killer” puppies. They all reminded me Boris and Petra were still puppies and that it’s hard to resist a squawking toy running away from you. I knew I had to be patient and keep them a safe distance from the chickens, for now. When they weren’t playing with Uncle Huppy, they needed to be “working”…. or so I thought. I put them with the goats more often. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t.

Episode III coming soon! More about Karakachans, here.

Posted on Leave a comment

Spring Break at the Tucker Farm

DSC_0701I always know when Spring arrives in Georgia. This farm girl gets a sunburn and first case of Poison Ivy. Although I grew up in the North, I love the warmth of the South. The daffodils begin to bloom in late winter and the days quickly get longer. As the weather warms, we eagerly put ferns on our porch and enjoy an evening cocktail on the deck. We bought this little farm three years ago with the goal of having more animals, especially goats. More importantly, we acquired this land and lifestyle for our children.

DSC_0420I always hoped they would grow up on a family farm and experience what I dreamed of as a little girl. Don’t get me wrong, I had a dreamy childhood, but like most kids I always wished for more. That said, Spring on the farm is magical. It’s full of baby animals and playing in the dirt. When we are outside, our girls enjoy simple things like playing with the hose and running through the long grass. This is why ‘Spring Break’ for us means taking a break from fostering. As much as we love fostering, we need to focus on farm life during Spring.

DSC_1096On a daily basis, we receive at least one request to help an animal in need. We cannot deny, it’s difficult for us to take breaks as rescue will always be an important part of our lives. However, for now, we must be strong and stop to smell the blooming roses. While we are on a Spring Break from fostering, we will not be absent from rescue. We will continue to fundraise for our favorite rescues and share pictures of our pack. Our Tucker Farm family hopes you continue to follow our journey and rest assured, we will soon foster again!

Posted on 1 Comment

LGD Life – 4 months

The puppies are 4 months now and entering that awkward teenage stage that large breed dogs go through. They are on the go most of the day and take a few naps to recharge their batteries.

untitled-33

I have experience with so many dog temperaments – both fosters and family dogs. I’ve had dogs that were dog aggressive, food aggressive, feral, etc. But I was near those dogs most of the day and was able to give them constant direction. It’s different with the LGD pups. Although I am giving them as much training and supervision as I can, it is impossible to be with them all the time. In fact, I want them to bond closer with the livestock than with me. The biggest difference is watching them grow and mature in their own pack.  And as hard as it is for me, I know I must remain hands-off for the most part.

The puppies are still working out who is the team leader, but I already know it will be the female, Petra, of course. Ranger is only with them while I am around but they clearly respect him at this point. While they may bicker over a bone or a dead animal they find, they wouldn’t dare challenge Ranger. I’m so lucky that Ranger is very appropriate with them in his corrections. Though he’s young, he is a good teacher… except when he chases his best friend, Chuckie the cat.

untitled-35One of the main reasons we got the working team was to help protect the chickens, because we lost almost our entire flock our first year here (along with other animals). But now I find myself making sure the chickens are safe from the puppies! HA! You see, they are still puppies, and big ones! Although their instincts and breeding definitely shows when it comes to goats, it’s harder for them not to think of the chickens as toys from time to time. They are perfect 99% of the time. During that other 1% I will see them bounding joyfully after a chicken. So we’ve been working on this and I can already see an improvement. Eventually I know we will be able to trust them completely with the chickens.

untitled-36

Often people get LGDs and think they can just put them out with the animals and it will just work. That has not been the case for us considering they are so young. Teenage dogs are in-fact teenagers, so we must be patient and continue to work with them. Most afternoons, now that it’s warming up, I see the puppies lounging with the goats. It makes me feel good to know that the goats now feel safe around them. Petra in particular adores the goats – she will even eat hay with them!

IMG_4634

We hear the coyotes on a daily basis here, but since the puppies arrived we haven’t lost anymore animals! They are still not out alone full-time, so we are really impressed! Although these dogs are a work in progress, we know in the long run they will be worth it! IMG_4613

Posted on Leave a comment

LGD Life – The Adventures of Boris and . . .

Petra! Sorry for those of you routing for Natasha. I just can’t yell that across several pastures.

untitled-9

It’s been a week since Petra arrived and I feel terrible I haven’t introduced her formally. I wanted to give her some time to adjust, and to be a dog. Yes, “be a dog,” a notion that is somewhat foreign to me.

I’ve spent my entire life loving dogs, often going beyond that by dressing them up, the babying, cooking their meals, etc. And I will still do that! But these dogs (Livestock Guardian Dogs) are different. They don’t want all of that, and of course they don’t need it. So as much as I want to scoop these adorable puppies up and love on them constantly, I don’t. I let them do what they love – work.

They’re still in the bonding phase where they are getting to know all of our animals, and vice versa. They are fantastic with the goats and donkeys, but can’t be fully trusted not to chase a bantam chicken yet.

Petra was ready to work from the minute she got here, feeling more comfortable around the goats than me. Don’t get me wrong, they love us too, but are even happier romping with the goats all day. They don’t come bounding at me when I call them, and that’s okay. I want them to prefer staying with the animals.

untitled-15

This has certainly been a unique experience for me, considering I never imagined myself raising working dogs outside. I learn something new every day and know these dogs are happiest while working. I will not interrupt that. I’m so thankful they are in our lives and will soon be protecting our animals. We hope you will follow along… the adventures of Boris & Petra have just begun!

untitled-9