A good farm dog is priceless. They help out in ways you didn’t even know you needed help. They’re the friend that’s always there, and always has your back.
A bad farm dog is a nightmare, a catastrophe, and is almost certain to break your heart.
The biggest line between a good farm dog and a bad one is training. Even the best genetics go bad without instruction, and most good farm dogs had their moments of being bad.
For two years my dogs have been allowed to chase rabbits pretty indiscriminately. They’ve dug up nests and chased them out of yard. No matter how cute and fluffy rabbits are, no matter how tame and cuddly they are, rabbits still act like prey when dogs are around. They tense up, they freeze, they dart around in the most tempting manner imaginable. They are just ASKING to be chased and, preferably, eaten.
So we train. We ask the dogs to forego their instincts and not only refrain from chasing and devouring the rabbits, but to actually protect them from other dangers.
My dogs are at a disadvantage because while both come from very good farm dog heritages, and have good instincts, they have not lived on their farm for very long. So they have a lot to learn. They’ll get it, but until then, we train.
The training involves a lot of standing near the animal pens to let everyone get used to each other.
It also involves doing some obedience training near the new animals. It’s really hard to remember that you have to listen when there is a HOPPING BURRITO hanging out next to you.
Eventually, as the dogs become calmer and all the animals become accustomed to each other, the leashes will come off. The rabbits and pigs and the ducklings that are arriving soon will become part of the landscape, to be protected at night, checked on during the day, kept in line, but mostly not bothered. One day, hopefully, that will become the norm, and bad behavior will be only a half forgotten memory.
But for now we continue with training. We take two steps forward, and try to avoid one step back (but of course we don’t.)