Things We've Learned Along the Way

Here are some of the things we've learned along the way, raising and sharing life with Dexter and Lumen...

  1. It really must be a 6 foot fence!  This was one of those facts we read over and over and didn't really believe, so we spent the time and money and installed five foot no climb fencing around one acre of our property.  Before they were even a year old, Dexter and Lumen could hop right over it to get out to the rest of the property.  They still can, but they only do so now when there is an honest threat, such as a coyote or bobcat prowling around.

  2. These are basically turnkey animals requiring minimal training.  When we brought Dexter to the farm at 10 weeks of age, as soon as he was introduced to the goats, turkeys, chickens and ducks, he knew they were his responsibility to guard and he began to do so.  We didn't have to tell him what to do.  What we did was walk the perimeter of our property (both the fenced acre and the unfenced 15 acres) several times over the course of the first week.  He learned right away where his property was and what was his to guard.  With Lumen, she also seemed to know what to do right out of the gate and Dexter helped to "show" her and correct her as needed.  Dexter was also very protective of Lumen as she grew and would reprimand her if she tried to go with him to patrol the property.  This stopped once he felt she was mature enough to do her part, and now they share patrolling activities where he will go one way and she goes the other and then they meet up.  

  3. Introductions to their wards is CRITICAL!!!  I cannot stress this enough.  If you want to avoid heartache and frustration please read this carefully!  Dexter had no issues with the animals that we already owned when he arrived, but when he was about a year old we decided we wanted to add more ducks and another turkey hen to the flock.  The first batch of ducks we brought we just let out with everyone else at the pond and when Dexter saw these new animals he immediately attacked and almost killed them before we could call him off.  After that experience, we brought any new animals into the yard and kept them in a large dog crate for the first two days.  Dexter was able to see them, hear them and smell them and then when we released them he was fine.  No issues.  It is imperative to let the dog meet any new members in a controlled manner!  Let them understand that you are adding these new individuals and making him/her responsible for their safety.  Since then we have had zero issues with introductions to new animals because we always give him a few days in a controlled manner to see and meet the new wards.

  4. Introductions to other dogs... Here is where we made another critical error.  When we brought Dexter to our farm we already had Lion, an 8 year old intact Rhodesian Ridgeback male and Jezebel, a 6 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback female.  Because Dexter was the new kid on the block there weren't any issues with introducing him to the two Ridgebacks.  Jezebel was delighted and thrilled to have a new puppy to play with and Lion was fairly indifferent to the whole thing.  Because that had been our experience, when we brought Lumen home we didn't think about the introductions. (Shame on us).  The minute Dexter saw her in his yard he attacked and ripped a pretty nice chunk off her flank.  It was extremely terrifying and traumatic to us and once we pulled him off of her and separated them we then had to pay the price for our blunder.  Lumen had to live in an x-large dog crate in the living room so she was safe while Dexter got used to her.  It took nine days before he calmed down enough and we felt safe letting her out.  After that they were great together and he has been wonderful in showing her the ropes of life on the farm.  He did correct her as a puppy when she did something he thought was wrong, but he has never harmed her again.  And, in truth, they are really close now and almost inseparable.

  5. Training: I spent close to twenty years reading up on this breed and one of the things I read over and over was that you don't want to train this dog.  The logic being that one of its greatest assets is that it thinks for itself and training requires them to look to and rely on you to tell them what to do.  Dexter and Lumen understand three simple commands - "Mine" which we use to let them know what we want them to guard, such as when introducing them to new livestock; "Come" and "No".  That's it.  These are not dogs that you are going to take to the dog park or out for walks on the street.  These are not pets.  These are working dogs with a purpose.  That being said, I have heard of some people training them with the basics (Sit, Stay, Heel, etc) and when I discussed it with them they did say that their dogs were not as diligent in guarding livestock and were just as happy to stay and guard the human who commanded them.  Obviously this is a personal choice.  But, I will say that if you want a dog that is going to do as you command, this might not be the right dog for you.  It is an amazing thing to watch these animals do what they have been bred thousands of years to do.  Why mess with that?  Also, I want to note that you, as the owner, must establish yourself as the alpha.  You should be prepared that sometime in the first two years the dog may challenge you for that position.  If you give ground or back down you will never gain it back.  Dexter challenged Mike when he was about 16 months old.  Because Mike did not back down and did not hit or yell, but managed the situation in a calm and assertive manner, Dexter has never challenged him again.  Lumen has never challenged either of us, but I think that may be because Dexter wouldn't allow it.

  6. New People:   Dexter and Lumen will assess new situations, people, animals, etc. and make up their own minds about what is a threat, what is a ward, and what is a tolerated guest.  Trust your dog's instincts.  Any time we have company, if it is a friend or family member who visits frequently, Dexter and Lumen welcome them with exuberance and excitement.  But, if a new person comes, over they are standoffish and will be extremely watchful and alert until they determine whether that individual is welcome or not.  We have started meeting people at our front gate and hugging them to let Dexter and Lumen know they are welcome and allowed to be on the property.  This has gone a long way in relaxing the dogs when meeting new people, although package delivery people and pizza delivery drivers might find it a bit strange! 

  7. They have a mind of their own. These dogs definitely think and process in a way that is so different from any other dogs we have had.  Once you show them what it is you want from them they perform their duties with extreme diligence.  I say extreme and will provide you with an example.  There are several packs of coyotes around our property.  When the coyotes start serenading and yipping Dexter and Lumen MUST go and patrol.  There is no stopping them.  It doesn't matter if you are sound asleep or busy, you must allow them to do their job.  Same goes if it is an undetermined threat.  We had a barn owl come to visit and nest in a tree on the property and the first night it hooted Dexter and Lumen were wild to get out and patrol.  It was a sound they had never heard and they needed to get out and patrol and determine if it was a threat.  Of course, this was at 3:00 am on a work night and I was less than pleased, but, it is their job.  It is what I bought them for and what I ask them to do.  I cannot punish them or be angry with them for serving their purpose.

  8. Barking: Several books that I read on this breed said that they were frequent barkers.  I find this to be both a true and false statement.  When they are working, guarding and patrolling they are almost eerily quiet.  When they are in pursuit of predators, running them off the property, they are also silent.  We live on 16 acres; 15 are unfenced and the dogs roam fairly freely when one of us humans are with them (generally for about two hours a day) and then one fenced acre where the barn and livestock are that flows into our yard and house., which the dogs are free to roam on 24 hours a day.  We are on a relatively busy two lane highway and across the road is a walking trail that sees quite a bit of foot traffic.  Whenever the dogs see someone on the trail, or walking along the road, they bark.  Whenever someone pulls into the driveway, they bark.  Whenever something new appears (neighbor planted trees), they bark.  They will bark until they assess the situation and determine the threat level.  Or, if we come out and see what they are barking at and tell them"It's okay" they will stop.

  9. Needs of the Dog, Etc.: These dogs are NOT pets.  They will not do well in an apartment environment or even in a fenced backyard in a suburb.  These dogs need land and space to roam and animals to guard.  They are definitely not for the first time dog owner.  These dogs are strong willed, intelligent, diligent and loyal.  They require an alpha owner who can guide them in a calm manner.  They require exercise on a daily basis.  By this I mean, they need to run and roam, not be stuck on a leash.  The only time Dexter and Lumen have been leashed is when we take them to the vet or when we need extra control over them for introductions.  They need a nutrient dense diet to keep up with the physical demands of their job.  They do not have high grooming needs.  Neither one has ever been bathed, as they like to clean themselves off in the pond if needed and are truly too large to fit in our bathtub!  They enjoy being brushed, especially twice  a year when they shed out their coat.  Minimal toenail clipping has been required since they tend to keep the nails short just through their activities.  Minimal vet care.  So far they have only gone in for annual check-ups and vaccines.  These dogs have all four dewclaws intact, meaning they have all 20 toes.

  10. Wolf Killers: I have seen lots of references to the Anatolian Shepherd being a wolf killer.  While I myself have never actually witnessed an encounter between the two, I have seen videos and read articles of the confrontations.  What I have gathered from reading and watching our own dogs is this: These dogs are fearless.  They will face off with anything, man, animal or beast to save what they are guarding.  Because they are large, intimidating animals, just their mere presence deters a lot of predation from occurring.  Their preference seems to be to intimidate and run off those predators that are foolish enough to encroach on their property.  However, if intimidation doesn't do the trick, they are willing and capable of fighting and killing pretty much anything that presents itself to them.  They will pursue predators to just beyond our property boundaries and then come back.  We have also noticed that if the predators do not come onto our land, meaning they sit at the neighbor's and yip, then Dexter and Lumen will just walk the property line, making sure that the threat stays on the other side.  When in pursuit of predators, actively running them off the land, Dexter and Lumen will go about 20 yards over the property line to ensure that the threat is gone and then will return home.

© 2019 by Kootenai Kangals. 

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    Maple Valley, Washington