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Livestock Guardians at Salad Fork Ranch

by Carol Oleksak

   I was recently asked to write a short article on how I use my Anatolian Shepherds to guard my livestock, and the training involved. I live on a 22.5 acre ranch in the middle of high desert, with my nearest neighbor being about 3 miles away. On this property I keep 3 horses, a small flock of pygmy goats, and about 200 chickens. I have also had about 30 sheep, until recently. Our main predators are coyotes, eagles, and rattlesnakes, with bears and mountain lions in the surrounding hills. In the seven years that I've been here, first with a Komondor, and in the last four years, with Anatolians, I have only lost a turkey to an eagle attack. The coyotes don't seem too inclined to take on the dogs, preferring instead to trot up and down outside my fence line, even though they could easily enter onto the property.
   When I first moved here, my property was surrounded only by a barbed wire fence. I kept the sheep and goats in stock-panel pens, and the chickens in fully enclosed chicken wire pens. The horses had half of the property, which was only divided by a hot wire. Onto this scene I brought "Banff", a three year old Komondor, which I obtained from a sheep farm in Oregon. Banff was great with all of the livestock, but he would disappear for 1 - 2 hours at a time, about twice a day. I learned that this was natural, as he'd make his rounds of the area; this is a behavior also found in Anatolians. I'd see him through the juniper trees, about 1 - 2 miles up on the ridge behind the house. As I feared that he would be hit by a car on the highway in front of our place (these dogs don't fear cars), I started tying him up on a cable (he would quickly chew through a rope) between the livestock pens, until I could get a better perimeter fence. The fence went up, and ever since, Banff has had the run of the place.
   Four years ago, I acquired my first Anatolians: a one year old female, double T's Sadie, from Toni Tooker, and a female pup, Masallah Pasit - known as "Rusty", from Ruth Webb. I took both through a basic obedience course to start their training. After this, Banff takes most of the credit for training them, although their natural instincts probably played the biggest part in turning these dogs into great guardians.
   I still keep the small stock in pens (small pens at night, with the goats/sheep let out in a larger area during the day). Sadie took naturally to guarding these critters, and easily jumps the stock panels to get in and check the goats. As a frisky puppy, Rusty would sometimes rather chase the goats and sheep. Banff and Sadie were real good at jumping on her and reprimanding Rusty when she did this. I didn't allow Rusty to be unattended with the stock until she was about 1 years old, but, because she didn't jump the fences like Sadie, she was used very effectively to patrol around the outside of the pens, and in the general house/barn area.

[Picture of: Salad Fork Blondie]
Salad Fork Blondie (Maranda's Baskin X Double T's Sadie) at 19 months.

   When Sadie first arrived, she liked to run with the horses, which are ex-racing Quarter horses. Although she wasn't chasing, I was still concerned that someone would get hurt. One day a horse turned when she wasn't expecting it, and Sadie was run over. She was quite sore for about a week, but luckily, was not seriously injured. Since then, she has taught 19 puppies to stay away from the horses.
   Anatolians are naturally snake proof, a trait my Komondor doesn't show. I have observed this in both formal, obedience "snake-proofing" classes, as well as in real situations in the field. They appear to become wary of snakes at about 10-12 months of age, and will bark very aggressively when one is present. I have been alerted by the dogs many times of snakes around my stock, house, and barn area.
   The Anatolians are also reasonably successful in guarding against birds of prey. Eagles are a problem, as they strike from a higher altitude, and the dogs sometimes don't see them. My Anatolians go after all large birds that are low to the ground.

[Picture of: Salad Fork Soset]
Salad Fork Soset - "Casey" (Turk Pala Simsek of Sivas T.T. X Masallah Pasit) at 10 months.

   In summary, except for formal obedience training (which I recommend for all dogs), most of my Anatolians have learned to guard my stock and house/barn area through natural instinct, guided by older, experienced, working dogs. My older dogs have since schooled 19 pups on the fine points of guarding. When folks buy pups from me, I recommend that, if an older, experienced dog is not available, they plan to spend a lot of time with the pup the first year. Allow the pup to follow you around as you do your chores, and take him in your livestock pens as much as possible; but watch him and reprimand when necessary. At other times, let him have as much exposure to your stock as possible, so he will share a bond with them. Give him access to areas around the outside of your stock pens, and/or kennel him next to your stock. At what age you can leave him with your stock unattended depends on your dog and ranch situation.

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