The Guardian Way – April 2022

Springtime is here, and we are anxiously awaiting April showers to grow May flowers at the AgriLife Center.  Lambing and kidding season is upon us.  Seasoned LGDs love this time of year.  They seem to be quite curious and interested in newborns.  Maybe they are developing a connection with the animals that will require a lot of attention to keep predators away.  Or maybe they are just anxiously awaiting the opportunity to clean up the afterbirth and placenta.  Likely both.  Unfortunately, younger dogs can be a bit too curious and playful with newborns.  It is advised to keep a close eye on them if they haven’t been around newborns before.

 AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program Update

Our first LGD question and answer session was held on Facebook last month.  Several producers post questions prior to the event and during the live video, as well.  We have decided to make it a regular event on Facebook.  Place your questions in the comment section of the advertising post for the event and we will do our best to answer them during a Facebook Live video.  Questions with the most likes/loves will be answered during the live session.  Our next event will be held on April 7, at 3pm.  Registration is not needed for the live event.  Check out our Facebook page or the AgriLife Center – San Angelo website for more information.

Our Spring 2022 LGD Field Day is scheduled for May 13 from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. in Crockett County.  The event will be held at the Crockett County 4-H Barn at 1301 Avenue AA, Ozona, Texas.  Contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Crockett County at 325-392-2721 to register for the event.  Presentation topics will include health care, nutrition, and GPS trackers.  There will be a producer panel and tours of ranching operations utilizing LGDs to protect small ruminants.  Check out our Facebook page for more updates on the field day.

With Covid-19 restrictions lifted, our in-person workshops and field days will replace some of our webinars.  Our next webinar in the LGD series will be held on November 17, 2022, at 3pm.  Dr. Catherine Lord will be discussing bonding & socialization development in puppies and dogs.  She is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Karlsson Lab at The University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School.  Dr. Lord was a student of Dr. Raymond Coppinger who performed countless hours of research in the 1970’s through the early 2000’s on LGDs and canine development.  I am very excited to have her present for us and I hope you can join us live.  Check our Facebook page for more information or the AgriLife Center – San Angelo website to register for the free event on Zoom.

LGDs & The Bonding Project Update

Round Four Pups

The eight pups were released from the 60’ X 60’ pens after four weeks into the one-acre bonding pens.  The livestock in the bonding pens have

Feeding station with an RFID dog door attached. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2021)

been rotated twice.  All the pups are being bonded as pairs due to space.  Everyone is doing well with socialization, leash, and tether training.  They seem to have separation anxiety when I am leash and tether training them.  For instance, the pup that is tethered usually cries most of the time, while I am walking the other pup.  They are not crying as much as the tether time increases and they get more familiar with the process.  It will be interesting to see how they do once they are released into the large pasture at six months of age.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) doors placed on their feeding stations this month.  We will be conducting a feeding trial with the pups starting in May.  The feeding trial will compare two different Purina products to determine how much feed they consume and if they have any performance differences.  In addition, this should teach the dogs to use the RFID door at an early age.  Our hope is to use these doors on all our feeders to stop varmints from eating the dog’s food.

Round Three Dogs

Doc and Thelma in the kennel at the Center in San Angelo. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2022)

We removed Doc and Thelma from the ranch in Menard as they had begun to roam frequently to a neighbor’s ranch.  In addition, they were taking other dogs with them to the neighbors ranch.  We placed both dogs in a kennel for a week.  Next, we returned Doc the next week to the ranch and his roaming stopped for exactly a week.  He then roamed several miles away.  We decided to bring him back to the Center to be kenneled again.

Doc and Thelma will stay in a kennel at the Center until late March.  At that point we will have an invisible fence system installed for one of the pastures.  We will be testing the system with them to see if we can change their roaming behavior.  If the invisible fence works to change their behavior, we will consider this tool for Johnny, Sara, and Sally.  As of now, they don’t roam off property.  However, they roam from pasture to pasture, which includes crossing a public road.

The invisible fence system we are having installed uses a collar that has a GPS tracker and an electronic mechanism that creates an audible

Pasture 9 South at the AgriLife Center. This pasture will have an invisible fence system. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth 2022)

and electronic stimulus to the dog when it approaches the boundary.  The company claims that the unit will permanently retrain the dog to stay within fence boundaries.  The dogs will be placed in a approximately 220 acre pasture.  There will be other livestock and LGDs in the pastures around them which will provide a temptation for these two dogs to go visit.  We will keep you posted on their progress in the coming months.

In closing

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