Weasels and Maximus

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Remember the weasel from the other day we saw out the bush? 

Yesterday morning as I was finishing my last sips of coffee, I heard my Great Pyrenees barking. They only bark when there is a problem, so I got up to look because I assumed someone was here. 

Nope, no car in the driveway. The dogs were both pointing right at the house, from the goat yard gate which is only about 45 yards from the front door, and barking like crazy. They have been known to bark at the house when there is a problem with one of my animals, to alert me. Once Flavious barked for hours in the evening at the house when he was younger, I ignored him because it was before I knew to trust him. Flavious unlike Max does sometimes bark for no apparent reason (meaning he might know the reason but I can't figure it out.) Anyway, finally I got up because I heard the water pump come on and it was 2 in the morning, so that shouldn't happen. 

I had left the water running to a hose outside the barn and Flavious was barking at me to let me know. 

I've never second guessed my dogs since then. 

Back to yesterday morning, I went to the front door and opened it to ask the boys what was happening. As soon as I opened the door I immediately saw a rabbit lying on the ground beside the porch, it's back legs twitching, I thought it was having a seizure. Then I noticed something white on it's neck - and my eyes realized what they were seeing, that weasel had the rabbit by the neck and was killing it right at our front door. 

I screamed for Kevin to come and fire off shots - the weasel is great to see in the forest but not at my front door... if he gets in my barnyard or barn, he will kill everything he wants to, ducks, rabbits, anything he can get his teeth into and he's small enough my dogs might not see him in time - although I trust Max, he's caught weasels before, along with anything else that's tried to get at my small animals, feral cats, raccoon's, skunks, he can't be everywhere all the time.

Weasels are not afraid of people, guns or really anything and he was hungry. Once in Alaska while Kevin was out hunting many moons ago, a weasel came out and attacked his shoe and wouldn't even let go, they are tiny but very bold - and can be very destructive... they have been known to get into chicken coops (they can get through the tiniest of holes) and kill all the birds inside.

Kevin did manage to run him off eventually. I keep my small animals locked up, but my barn is not Fort Knox - I have to just keep faith if one gets in there, Max will kill it or run it out. Flavious is not as watchful, he sees large threats and follows Max's lead, but Max will bark if anything even flies over the barnyard, he's so watchful and so in tune with his surroundings. I don't know what I would do without that dog. I've never had such a loyal partner. I love all my dogs, and I've had amazing dogs in the past, but Max is not just a dog, or pet, or even friend, he's like part of me, an extension of me, my fellow shepherd. 

When I got Max, he was our first guardian dog. He did not come from a farm, which is a big no no if you read about bringing livestock guardians into your farm family. He had never been around any farm animals, he came from a house in the country. I wasn't sure if he was purebred, but he was mostly Pyrenees. 

We had Llamas and had a donkey at one time but they do not protect small animals like ducks and chickens and they can only do so much really. No livestock guardian tops a good dog in my opinion. I will never keep any kind of livestock without a guard dog ever again. But that's not to say all livestock guardians are created equal. 

I did not put Max with the sheep right away as I should have, instead I kept him at the house for the first couple of weeks where our rabbits lived. I had just had surgery and wanted him close by. He played with Norman the Chihuahua during the day, spent the rest of the time with the rabbits and was an adorable ball of fur. 

I trained Max as a puppy to stay, to sit, to walk on lead. I moved him to the barn after 2 weeks here. He was 3 months old when he came to live here. He hated it at first, because he wanted to be with me, but he adjusted quickly. However for the first two years of his life we had problems. Some were major problems. 

He chased sheep, especially my blind ram. When he caught the sheep or a goat (we only had two when he first got here), he'd bite their tails. and pull on them thinking it was a game. On more than occasion he made them bloody. I freaked out, I assumed I could not keep this dog and that he had an instinct to kill in him. I read everything I could and everyone dog trainers, livestock guardian trainers, farmers, told me I had to re-home him. My heart was broken in half... I loved this dog. Livestock guardian dogs are not supposed to chase, herd, or interact with their stock that way. 

I did everything I could think of in training and nothing worked. When he would grab them, I couldn't get to him fast enough to make a difference for him to learn. I couldn't trust him. 

Until one day I caught him in the act grabbing at Lambie's tail, and I did something totally different that I had read about. 

I ran over to him, pushed him over and sat on top of him. I just sat there. I wouldn't let him get up.   He didn't fight. It was establishing dominance just like other canines would do with him. 

Ever since that dog has been submissive to me, listened to everything I've told him, and grown into the amazing guard dog he is today. That's all it took. One time. He is loyal, gentle, good with all of the animals now from the chickens and rabbits up to the cow. Anything under his watch is safe.

And he does still herd, whenever he sees something as a threat he immediately herds all the animals into one area by the barn, where they will all stay, while he runs off the threat or assesses it further. 

You can leave the gate open and put a steak outside it and Max would not go out unless he heard the word "OK." 

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It's hard to believe he'll be five years old at the end of this month. Flavious is a good dog, but he's very lazy, he's not as watchful and he'd rather be sleeping. That's not to say he's a bad guard dog, he watches and has proven himself a good guard many times. But he's also still young. Max really grew into himself at 3 years old, which is what Flavious is right now. He is definitely learning from Max, which is what we had hoped and one reason I had wanted another Pyrenees, I wanted my second dog to learn from Max so he could carry on some of Max's traits when he becomes the head guard, and hopefully someday when it's his time, he can pass those traits down to the next generation.

It's been very cold, last night it dipped to -14 F, and this morning although it's warmed up it's still at 0 F. Everyone got a ton of extra bedding, and extra hay to keep them warm. I rarely have animal problems in winter, they are always in the spring and summer when the bugs are out and it's wet and muddy or very hot. But I worry. I wish I could bring them all inside by the wood stove and keep them all nice and cozy with me. But since I can't, I make sure they are as comfortable as I can possibly make them. This cold will pass soon. 

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Izzie hopes that true because she's not a fan of it.

In the meantime, we'll all reserve our energy and just stay warm.

Right now, The big bucks are bedded down by the house, the ducks are curled up in their straw nest. Everyone else is eating.

As of about an hour ago- the weasel threat is no more. I spotted him through our bedroom window carrying a baby rabbit he had killed in his mouth. He walked right up beside the house where I take the little dogs outside for their business and went under our truck.

The rabbits keep a nest in the front of our house in an old groundhog hole. We never know when they have a litter there until the kits come out of the hole when they are old enough. I was surprised to see there were babies right now, but this bunny was a couple of weeks old. It was too late for the baby rabbit, but Kevin shot the weasel right at the house, just up from our truck.

Now we can sleep easy again, I was even worried taking the puppy outside because that thing could pop out of the snow and grab his neck so fast, while he might not be able to kill him right away, he'd hurt him badly, and I'm not one for taking chances like that. We respect the predators in the forest but do not accept them living under our porch killing any small animals around here they want. We tolerate the coyotes, bears, foxes, wolves, weasels, as long as they respect us. Our animals are not fair game.

This afternoon my crock pot is cooking away full of beef, chickpeas, potatoes and tomatoes, and I'm doing the very best thing I can think to do on a cold January afternoon... drinking mint tea and working on my seed orders. 

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With my helpers of course... 

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It's fun to be warm and think about spring planting and chores, while you are relaxing while you still can. As soon as the sap starts to run, there will be little time for anything but work. The sap runs, seeds get planted, goat kids are born, goats are milked, and then the garden goes in... 

Comments

I'm guessing that was a wild rabbit that it had. Would hate for it to have gotten to one of your pets.

Sounds like he won't be bothering you any more.

Sometimes that is necessary. A threat cannot be underestimated or it will cause havoc.
The thought of predators getting my animals is so scary. We got our guard dog (sheepdog/great pyr mix) from a goat farm and she has done really well. We keep her inside the big run with the chickens and she always barks if there is a threat. Sometimes she runs after the guineas and I do worry about that. I'll have to try the sitting on her technique!
Primitive Stars said…
Really enjoyed reading this post, interesting, so many things I did not know....I feel bad for the bunny and baby bunny, didn`t know weasels were that bad at killing smaller animals......What a wonderful guard dog he turned out to be,so happy you kept him, they both are so beautiful as well as the little furry faces.......Enjoy the seed catalog, Francine.
I don't understand how you do it with the bitter cold! Also surprised that the rabbit had babies at this time of year. Poor Izzie!! Has to hurt on those bare udders of hers.
Michele said…
So funny about you sitting on Max! I'm shipping my angry dachshund to you.
jaz@octoberfarm said…
what a great post! i love to hear your stories. glad the weasel is no more! that is scary! stay warm!!! we are going to be 50 next wednesday...boo!!!
Mary Ann said…
Once when Wal Mart still had a large pet department, I watched a ferret get loose... (from behind a glass viewing window) and get into every cage and kill every bird and small furry creature in there. The attendent was afraid to go in the room, there was blood everywhere. A group of us stood there fascinated, unable to help. It was very... creepy, and I can't believe I watched it. I've been afraid of them ever since.
Wow. That's why I don't think I could live in the country and have animals. I would totally be shooting anything that tried to harm my animals. Heck, I'm concerned about the big raptors that are around here at times. A bald eagle could pick up one of my pugs easily although I don't think they would. If I could have a place in the country where I could keep out snakes, coyotes, wild cats (they poop in my yard and the dogs eat it) and anything that could hurt or be hurt by my pugs, I could do it. My intent is to move further south so I'll also have to deal with alligators! That, I will figure out how to handle. Big fence, something, I will keep them out of my yard.

Anyway, glad the weasel is no longer a problem.

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