Friday, January 3, 2014

working dog

Our dogs are kinda pets. Not like the dogs I had when I lived in apartments and houses with regular size yards. Those dogs hung out with us and sometimes chased squirrels. Our farm dogs are usually close to us, but at the same time working.

Jasmine, the dog I traded two chickens and a dozen eggs in a parking lot in Lancaster to get, is a great little farm dog. She is a very alert dog who patrols the whole farm while not chasing poultry or other livestock.

It was obvious the other night that something had gotten into the pen that holds our youngest laying hens. There was a hole in the wire and the remains of a dead bird. The pen was still full of little hens, so we knew losses were kept to a minimum by the dogs.

When we were close to Jasmine the smell of skunk was overwhelming. If you had asked me 10 years ago if a skunk would go after a chicken...and would break up a pen to do so...I'd have been to uncertain in my answer. Now I have no doubt that we have lost chickens to skunks and many others.

For a dog like Jasmine, she lives for the protection of her herd. Our 12+ acres are fenced so the dogs can move all over. She patrols all day and night. When the flocks start to make noise she hears it first and runs at jet speed to investigate. She chases anything that does not belong here and knows well the difference. We are certain she stopped a skunk from killing a pen full of hens a few nights ago. 

She has parts of the farm she will not travel. Jasmine will go up over the hill past the hoop house and then down near the bee hives but that is it. She does not go into the woods and always goes back up by the apple trees to wait. Meanwhile, Sandi is covering every inch of the woods, digging things out and doing what a Jack Russell does. And Chaz is near the front fence and checking out anything else going on. 

As we have more dogs we better understand different breeds and why they were developed. And why as farmers we need a mix of them. Different jobs require different dogs. 

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