BandM1This is Moses. He has come to our farm today to see if he might fancy living here as a livestock guardian dog (LGD). Here’s his story.

I have friends who breed and show Kuvasz. Like any breeder, they pour over pedigrees and records, do health tests, make careful breeding choices, train and compete to prove the worth of their dogs, and have a long-term strategy of where they want their breeding program to go. Sometimes these plans work out, and the latest generation of great show dogs comes to pass. But, breeding is a guessing game, and sometimes progeny doesn’t live up to your expectations, or doesn’t end up fitting in with your breeding goals.

Moses was one of those instances. They liked him well enough to show him and finish his conformation championship, as well as earn his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Rally Novice (RN) titles. Judges loved him. He had all of his health tests done and passed, and grew up to be a big, pretty boy of four and a half years old. All ready to be used at stud.

And then it became clear he didn’t cut the mustard. His breeders just didn’t think he was quite nice enough, and he sometimes fought with other intact males in the household. So, they neutered him. Which is a tough decision for a breeder who has put several years of effort, hope and investment into a dog slated to be the next generation of greats. But, if you are a good and wise breeder, you must always be honest with yourself about these things, and know when a dog isn’t as good as you had wished.

So, what to do with a 100+ pound, middle-aged, neutered male Kuvasz? It’s not like you can just keep them all, they eat a lot! Moses is reportedly fairly lazy, not hugely “into” hanging out with his people family, and mostly just likes to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, typical of a guardian breed. And not necessarily suited for being someone’s house pet. So, the conclusion was that being placed into a guardian situation might be the best fit for him, since his show and breeding career are over. And so they thought of us!

I had been thinking I’d like to try adding a second dog for several reasons. I think Bronte would like a dog companion. I think it may improve public perception if people think they are “together” so that people don’t worry so much about Bronte being lonely (haha, if it doesn’t make people think I’m doubly cruel now for having two outdoor dogs!). I also think two dogs together is safer than one, if they ever did have to face a big threat, like a group of coyotes, or a cougar. And, having two would give me greater flexibility in separating the sheep into different areas in the future. So, after some thought, and wheedling to Kirk (who was originally not keen on having another mouth to feed), I said yes, we’d like to give him a try.BandM2

Moses was given to us for free, which is awesome. And, the agreement is that if he doesn’t work out, he goes back to his breeder- a guarantee any good breeder always makes. So, we’ll see how it goes!

This kind of thing requires careful management to give it the best possible chance of success. This is a big transition for a “pet” dog to make. Though, like many show dogs, Moses has seen his fair share of kennels and crates, too, especially since he couldn’t always get along in a group. So, in the long run, being free to mess around in a ten acre pasture 24/7 is probably a preferable life. But it’s change, and dogs sometimes have a hard time with change. I know that people who transition dogs into LGD role that were previously in the house, even for a short time, often find the dog just keeps trying to escape the field and get back on the porch! Dogs have a strong hard-wired sense of “home” being wherever they grew up, and are very recalcitrant about being reprogrammed to a new definition of home!

There is also risk that the two dogs together could learn to run the livestock, and cause a lot of damage. Moses hasn’t demonstrated much prey drive before, but since Bronte likes to run silly with the sheep given the chance, he could learn bad things from her that he didn’t know about before! So, his access to the sheep will need to be limited, and the introduction carefully controlled as well, to help him learn to do the right things.

Moses was actually pretty nervous in coming here. He was jumping out of his skin at every visual startle-point! He panted and drooled and ate grass out of anxiousness. It’s funny how for such large dogs, they are often not very self-confident in foreign situations. And maybe it’s  just as well that they are not truly informed on how strong they are, or  that they could easily overpower us if they chose! 🙂 I put him together with Bronte in the alleyway, away from the sheep, to avoid any  conflict over them and give them some time to get acquainted. Bronte was very sensitive to his anxiety, and very politely sniffed him, but gave him his space. But at one point, I saw her lay down, look sideways at him and wag her tail, as if she was privately feeling pleased that he was here, and anticipating that later he’d be fun to play with. She is a very sensitive and “soft” dog, so I anticipate she will do everything in her power to make friends with him.

It’s funny to see the two of them together. Moses’ breeder kindly groomed him before he came, even though she knew it was all for naught, and that he’ll soon be muddy! He looks so glamorous next to Bronte, who is shedding and has been rolling around in the dirt. When Bronte first approached Moses and me today, I absent-mindedly tugged at what looked like  grass blade stuck on her chin, only to realize she had two tiny porcupine quills barely lodged there! So! She must have had her first scrape with a prickly critter last night, maybe through the fence, and thus luckily ended up mostly unscathed! I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to deal with a head full of quills at the same time as trying to introduce a new dog!

I was also amused to see how much taller Bronte is than Moses. Kuvaszok seem very tall to me at shows, but I didn’t realize just how leggy and lanky Bronte is until she stands next to a show dog. Maremmas are not shown in this country, so they have none of the influence of show breeding in their appearance. BandM3

For now, Moses thinks he wants to get back in the car and leave. Understandably he’s confused, and is waiting by the gate, barking, thinking surely there must be some mistake. So, hopefully this phase will pass (quickly!), his LGD laziness will overtake him, and he’ll just lay down and accept his new situation. Life is full of big transitions for everybody, human and dog alike. It’s going to be a little stressful for Moses, but hopefully we can make the transition go as smooth as possible, he’ll settle in, and find new purpose in life.