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How “MY” Rules Have Changed: Life with (farm) dogs

Updated: Mar 29

I have had dogs pretty much all my life. I don’t exactly remember when that started but it has been a long time and I have had many, many wonderful companions over the years. No, this isn’t a history of them. However, due to various factors, I had firm beliefs about what dogs were allowed to do and where they were allowed to be.

I think all our past homes had either a doghouse or doghouses or a ‘back’ closed in structure where they could stay. When we lived outside of a town called Cannington, I actually installed a dog door into the attached garage. We had two German Shepards at the time so not only did not only did the door give them access to shelter, water, etc., it allowed them to patrol the whole fenced-in yard around the house. The houses on either side (which were on well-treed 3-5 acre lots) both had burglary/trespassing issues but we didn’t! However, where I’m going with this is that they only had access to the house when we let them and they were only allowed into the back hall and the kitchen area – that’s it. We did end up with a toy poodle for Beverly (that’s a whole other story) that was obviously a lot smaller but it had to abide by the same rules.  A funny story I have to share – this poodle was 6 lbs. soaking wet – one day we had a couple we knew drop in and they arrived roughly 5 minutes before we got there. They opened the front gate to approach the house’s front door. This little poodle was “on-guard” and they laughed at his ‘fierce’ demeanor. He left and disappeared around the side of the house. Moments later he re-appeared with a Shepherd on either side! Our friends got back out through the gate very quickly!

When we decided to move to our last farm before this one in Neebing, we had the opportunity to build our house – which we did. It had a kind of center hall plan that connected the front door to the back door. We decided that we would allow the dogs into this area only which allowed them to see us in all of the ground floor rooms but without access to any other part of the main floor; the upstairs was also ‘off-limits’ to them. We still had the two Shepperd’s plus the poodle in the beginning. Later we acquired another Shepperd (puppy) and decided we should get another puppy of a different breed to help guard the Alpacas and sheep. We chose the Kuvasz breed.

When we get a puppy as a livestock guardian dog (LGD), we always have them ‘live’ we us to make sure that while they are guard dogs, they are well socialized to us and ‘know the rules’. Almost from the beginning, we were introduced to a peculiar trait with Kuvasz: they won’t use a back door. It’s front door or nothing! It was true with the next Kuvasz we got and is true for the two we have now. Given the center hall connected front and back doors, we were able to accommodate. As a slight side-note here, we put down ceramic tile to minimize damage to the floor from their nails; it worked really well until the Kuvasz’ got older and now had trouble getting to their feet on the ‘slippery’ tile surface. So, not so good in the long run.

To return to my story, I’ll remind you that I’ve talked here about some of the dogs we have had and that they were always limited to a specific area. I’m now going to introduce into this story the dog that changed everything – Dillon. He was different from the start. At first, we put it down to the fact that he isn’t a German Shepperd (which we were quite familiar with) – he is a Shiloh Shepperd. The two things most apparent about him when you first see him is that he has longer hair than a German Shepperd and is much bigger. Perhaps the fact that he was ‘raised’ by both a German Shepperd and a Kuvasz has contributed to his behavior – I don’t know. He learned the rules at the last farm but as he left “puppyhood’, he started to ‘test’ the rules. He didn’t try to sneak into the family room – he would casually stroll in for pets and then lie down by the chair I was in or, if the fireplace had a fire burning, he would move towards it.

At first, I would always correct him and make him return to the hallway. He didn’t give up no matter how many times I re-directed him. Suddenly his big head would be right there on the arm of the chair for pets. He would come in, lie down against my feet/legs just looking for pets. So, gradually the ‘rules’ got relaxed at least for the family room. Beverly had bought a Border Collie for me to help with the sheep named Chester. He and Dillon were basically puppies together so as Dillon ‘pushed the envelope’ Chester was right behind him!

When we moved here to start Borderlands Farm, they were with us on every trip. It was interesting to us that right from the beginning they embraced this place. When we arrived after a 16-hour trip, unloaded what absolutely had to be unloaded and finished unloading the next day, the ‘rules’ were pretty fluid and Dillon took full advantage.  And, as we did our renovations (with the living room being my workshop), it became futile trying to enforce any rules and Dillon again took full advantage with Chester right behind him. None of the German Sheperds made it here to Neebing. One Kuvasz did but lasted less than a year before he passed from old age. (Referring back to my comments on Kuvasz front door insistence, even though Ringo was quite old at this point and found the front concrete porch steps very,very difficult, he refused to come in the back door which had only one step up. Absolutely refused!)

Here we are, settled in Neebing. Dylan, now 11 and Chester, now 10, have the run of the ground floor and basement. They aren’t technically allowed upstairs to the bedroom, but if Dillon feels it’s necessary, he will appear at the bedroom door and let me know he thinks there is a problem. So, as I sit in our living room with Beverly, there are two dogs, each with their own blankets and toys (another story), lying on either side of me and I wonder for the millionth time how I am going to handle not seeing Dillon and Chester there.

Dylan and Chester are almost always right with Dad, no matter what he is working on. You can tell where Dad is on the farm because the dogs will be lying down by the entrance to that building.

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