As someone who used to work extensively with wolves, I have something of a background with, and fondness for, livestock guarding dogs. These dogs are a primary, generally quite effective, defense for ranchers against local predators, including wolves. They live and roam with the flock, providing 24 hour protection, at little cost. The process works via carefully raising dog puppies with the flock, so that the pups become socialized to the sheep — the pups become kind of “honorary sheep” and fiercely defend their adopted “conspecifics”. This can be protection for both predator and prey. In Africa, dogs are employed to defend livestock against cheetahs — protecting the stock from the cheetahs, and the cheetahs from the wrath of the livestock owners.
Today I found myself looking at an article which suggests the dogs might be a little too fierce. The dogs “snarl”, and “on some occasions, chase” tourists around the Molas Pass area in the San Juan National Forest. I am curious as to how close the tourists are getting — in the wild back country of Colorado, which I recall being a very wide-open place — to the flocks for the dogs to become alarmed. The dogs generally do not roam far from their flocks and do not usually become aggressive unless they, or the sheep they protect, are directly and closely approached.
In any case, “snarling” and “chasing” things that get too close to the sheep are kind of required behaviors for livestock guarding dogs. They aren’t trained to be aggressive, but they are not specifically bonded to humans, either. They are designed to deter the approach of unfamiliar mammals (and that includes humans) to their adopted flock. Wasn’t that kind of the point?
However, this is just a briefly trending argument between two groups of people (ranchers and tourists) who want to use the same piece of land for two different activities, and it isn’t a particularly new thing (people have been arguing about land use for years and years). What is most interesting to me is the photo accompanying the article I first saw (which was not the original, source article). The original, source article has photos of Akbash guard dogs doing what they do 99% of the time — standing in a field, quietly surrounded by sheep. The article I first saw used a “file photograph” of two dogs fighting to illustrate the exact same story. Also, contrast the two titles: the original title, “Problem dogs in backcountry?“, and the title of the story with the fighting dog photo, “Fierce sheepdogs alarming tourists in SW Colorado“.
Same article, two entirely different slants — brought about simply by changing the title and the accompanying photo. Another good reason to always check the source of an article, no matter where it’s published. (For full disclosure, the photo I used for this post came from this site.)
Posted in animal behavior, farming, idiocy, news
Tagged 2012, akbash, breed ban, Colorado, dog behavior, livestock guarding dogs, livestock owners, Molas Pass, san juan national forest, Silverton, tourists
The bulk of my animal career has been spent working with the socialized, hand-raised wolves of Wolf Park, a wildlife facility in Battle Ground, Indiana. While working there I met a variety of people who had issues, of one kind or another, with wolf hybrids (also known as wolfdogs, or wolf x dog hybrids). The problems these people (and their animals) faced inspired me, and a coworker of mine, to write a book, so that people who suddenly find themselves confronted with something labeled a “wolf hybrid” would have somewhere to turn.
The book is now available for purchase. It can be purchased through Wolf Park, if you’d like to support a nonprofit animal facility. It can be purchased through the publisher, Dogwise Publishing, if you’d like to support an excellent publishing house with an emphasis on dogs, training, and canine behavior in general. It can also be purchased through Amazon if you would like to take a look inside the book before purchasing it.
It was our goal, in writing this book, to make the world a little better for critters that got inadvertently mixed up in the “wolf hybrid” controversy — whether they be wolves, dogs, wolf hybrids, or the people who meet them. If you are a shelter worker, a rescuer, a veterinarian, an animal control officer — or just someone who loves dogs and the things that dogs do — please consider picking up a copy. The more people know about these wonderful animals, the better.
Posted in animal behavior, books, news
Tagged behavior, book, dogs, Dogwise, training, wolf hybrids, wolf park, wolfdogs, wolves
A little while ago I posted about the Monkeysphere, and how there is a maximum number (Dunbar’s number) of social relationships that social animals (including humans) can simultaneously maintain. If a person (or animal) is outside your monkeysphere, you do not view him/her/it as a social companion, and may find it difficult to generate empathy for him/her/it.
Here’s an example of that happening now. Bavaria (like other countries) sends, probably, hundreds of thousands of cows to the slaughterhouse annually, but here’s a group frantically trying to save one loose, wandering cow.
It’s not that I disagree with the idea — and, from a fundraising point of view, it makes a lot of sense. Having a name and a face on your campaign will definitely help raise money. “We’re trying to save Yvonne!” will get more people interested in your cause than “We’re trying to save 100,000 anonymous cows!” It’s just a fascinating example of the Monkeysphere in action. Yvonne entered these people’s monkeysphere, and suddenly they can see her as a social companion, and suddenly it becomes worth purchasing not only her, but a former “stall mate” of hers, as well as mobilizing search and rescue units on all-terrain vehicles, to rescue her.
The other cows in Yvonne’s herd? Too many faces — won’t fit in the monkeysphere. Off they go.
(Not saying anything bad or good here. We all do our best with what we have. The rescue certainly cannot take in 100,000 cows every year, and Yvonne will definitely help them with their mission, benefiting the other cows indirectly by being their “ambassador”. There’s no right or wrong here. Just…pausing to look at the world as it goes by.)
(On a similar note, this article “introducing you to the truck driver you just flipped off” is trying to get you to add truck drivers, in general, to your monkeysphere in order to get you to empathize with them and reduce incidents of road rage. Did it work?)
Posted in animal behavior, meat processing, news
Tagged 2011, Bavaria, cow, Gut Aiderbichl, monkeysphere, musings, news, rescue, Yvonne