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Woofing at Livestock


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Is it unusual for a sheepdog to do some woofing at livestock that they are seeing for the first time? I don't mean reactivity (or what I would consider reactivity) and I don't mean steady barking. I mean just some woofing and curiosity/interest at goats in a pen.

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No, I don't think it's at all unusual for a dog to first-time react by barking at livestock in a pen. They don't know what to do and the animals ARE in a pen, so ... they bark at it. Probably trying to illicit some sort of response from those strange critters. I think any dog might do that, sheepdog or otherwise. ;)

 

~ Gloria

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Our Dan has his "wooof, wooof" that he does when he sees something that he is not sure of, like deer in the lawn at night. It's his "I don't know what that is" woof. Some dogs will do the same the first time they see something and they are interested but worried.

 

I wouldn't be concerned unless this continued.

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Our Dan has his "wooof, wooof" that he does when he sees something that he is not sure of, like deer in the lawn at night. It's his "I don't know what that is" woof. Some dogs will do the same the first time they see something and they are interested but worried.

 

This is definitely an "I don't know what that is" woof, nothing like a GET OUT OF MY YARD YOU STRANGE BEAST bark at deer under my window at 3:00 AM.

 

This:

 

I wouldn't be concerned unless this continued.

 

is what I was hoping to hear. Thank you.

 

 

ETA: You were right, Gloria and Sue. It isn't a problem. Thanks again.

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Update on the woofing...

 

I am pleased to report that, after Hannah's initial WTH?? with the goats, she is now taking them in stride--no harassing or intense focusing. The second day she did a play bark and started to chase, but a "knock it off" was enough to stop that. The next morning (very early) she did a crouch/stalk thing but a "leave it" worked for that as well.

 

At this point she mostly ignores the goats, although she still thinks they look and smell rather interesting. However, she will hold a down while I go over to the pen, and when I walk back to her she is looking at me, not them.

 

As for the goats reaction to Hannah, they are a little skittish when she gets too close if they are at the fence line (though that is diminishing). I give her a "here" to call her away if she gets too close to them so they won't scurry up the steps into their house, and she moves toward me and away from them. She seems to understand that they are off limits, but that doesn't appear to be building any tension. I have allowed her to sniff around outside of the pen when the goats are not close to the fence line. They are getting used to Hannah as well, and have actually started showing some curiosity. My main concern was that her presence would stress them, but they seem to be taking her in stride as well.

 

Any suggestions or corrections are welcome. I have zero experience with dogs around livestock. I think it's going well though.

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With "zero experience", the best advice would. be to find a good trainer.

 

Okay, well, if you know of a good trainer for tending a petting zoo, that might work for me. Just kidding. They are actually my neighbor's pets.

 

ETA: I just moved to a rural area. I share the property with the goat owner. It is working out fine, but I will want Nigerian Dwarfs at some point, and I want Hannah to NOT harass them.

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My only thought is that if you *ever* want her to work *any* sort of livestock, I'm not sure this is the approach I would take. If you know that you never plan to ever have her work any kind of livestock ever ever never ever, then I'd say you're doing fine. Should you think there is any chance you might ever want her to work anything... goats, sheep, cattle, ducks... I would be very careful about how I handle this.

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My boys, who work stock pretty much every day, learned that harassing stock on the other side of a fence is not allowed. A quick glance, or a hopeful gaze I'm okay with, but continued fence running, barking, etc results in getting put up. All bets are off with pigs & my young dog, but with the pigs, it's a two-way game. The pigs initiate the running (which they do, too!) if the dog isn't doing it. Young dog is also smart enough to stay away from the fence when a sow has piglets.

 

It took some removal/distraction/ correction for my young dog to get that he doesn't work stock unless I ask. My older dog just gets it, but he's perfect :) They can learn the difference between working time & down time.

 

I absolutely can not leave one dog loose while I work the other one. I end up working brace. They're fine, if a bit whiny, if tied.

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Just to clarify (because Ben makes some great points) my concern here would be a situation where the dog has had 5 years of "don't look at those goats"... and *then* you try to take her to work. They *do* learn the difference between running the fence / harrassing and working - but my concern would be what the dog who is NOT being trained - or about to be - will associate should you try to train it to work later down the road.

 

Mostly this is just a caution to tread lightly and consider your big picture goals. I'm NOT saying "don't teach your dog not to run the fence". I'm simply saying that were I in this situation I'd be careful how I did it. :)

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My boys were born on a farm with alpine goats - one of which had a real attitude. There was something about the way the eyes were set and the goat's challenging stare that sent them to the moon. They were barking much more hysterically than you describe from the time they were about 3 months old to maybe 8 months old - less than a year anyway. They would also go nuts at the sight of the sheep.

 

I basically used the click to calm method, without the clicking. Whenever we visited, I found their comfort zone and worked inward from there. If they barked, we turned back and started over.

 

When we got our own sheep, they also reacted. We spent a lot of time walking through the alley way past the pens until they stopped barking and lunging at the pens. It takes time to dial down the excitement, especially if it comes from their working instincts kicking in.

 

The unfortunate byproduct of this is I believe that I trained a great deal of Robin's take charge attitude out of him. He works willingly and has quite a lot of push - he keeps the girls moving but if he is challenged, I hate to admit it - his first thought is to back off. He got knocked around pretty good by my Shetland lamb this summer when he should have showed his teeth and gotten stern with her. Instead he took 3 quick butts to the head and the look on his face was, "What the heck?" We are now learning it is okay to snap and on rare occasions, nip and Little Miss Dickins is learning that he isn't the pushover she thought he was.

 

So my lesson was, for every action (bit of training), there is some kind of reaction - it is worth thinking out exactly what you want the dog to be capable of.

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"The unfortunate byproduct of this is I believe that I trained a great deal of Robin's take charge attitude out of him."

 

Do you have any thoughts as to what you might have done differently? I am having the same issue with Tucker barking and lunging at our goats when they are in their stalls. I also started him on sheep, and he will also really dive in and bite (not just a little nip) when he gets frustrated or worried. He is 10 and a half months old. Right now I'm thinking of taking a break from sheep (I don't have my own sheep). And we've been working on being calm around the goats, using similar methods that you used. I really want to calm him down, but I think I might really need a take charge attitude with goats later.

 

Thanks.

Leslie

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