CAREER | CREDENTIALS | COMMUNITY
Member Bulletin: June 2023
Get inspired by your fellow IAABC members!
Cindy Benson, KPA CTP
In 2014, a mountain lion killed a donkey foal on Cindy Benson's 360-acre Oregon (US) ranch, and in response, the state trapper culled three mountain lions. Cindy was upset about the killing of indigenous predators who were simply living their lives. She brought home a young Maremma pup, named her Moxie, and set off toward her current identity as an advocate for all livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) and LIMA-adherent training. These days, Cindy and her husband share the ranch with over 100 animals that include various equines, sheep, goats – and twenty-eight Maremmas who safely deter predators.
Cindy Benson with Sarika and her goat family. The early days, in her own words: "I had never made a dog sleep outdoors prior to the arrival of that first LGD, so the concept of asking a dog to be in service to me, out in the rain and snow, was very uncomfortable. But as I lived with that six-month-old Maremma female, it became clear that she was living a life she loved, doing work she understood and was well-suited to. The challenge for me was that this beautiful dog “looked like a dog”, but was a very different creature from all the other dogs I had known. So I became her student."
Due to the scarcity of science-based educational resources specific to LGDs, Cindy creatively pieced together her behavioral science education from a variety of less specialized programs and used her own dogs as the empirical test of how the concepts apply to LGDs. She lists Ken Ramirez, Susan Friedman, Steve Martin, and her dogs among her many mentors. After her certification by the Karen Pryor Academy in 2020, Cindy joined the IAABC and enrolled in Eileen Anderson's writing course. She credits these pivotal career decisions with helping her reach more people about LGDs.
In 2021 she published her first book, an LGD training manual. So what makes LGDs so unique? These large dogs were bred to live outdoors with the animals they protect and to be active at night when predators pose the greatest threat. Breeding efforts selected for independence and little to no instinct to chase, among other attributes. Today these "minimally biddable" dogs are often misunderstood, and many dogs are euthanized over their inherent nature or over behaviors learned from misguided training. Cindy asserts, "These dogs need a voice – the voice of science, compassion, and respect."
Thus far, Cindy has lived with and/or trained over 300 Maremmas. Her stint as a dedicated Maremma breeder and advocate spanned several years, producing and safely placing Maremmas in diverse modern circumstances. "Not all the guardian breeds are appropriate in changing circumstances, around strangers, and in intimate settings - but some are. Maremmas are," she states unequivocally. Training opportunities, over Zoom and even at her ranch, extend her LGD expertise to others and help these working breeds have happy lives. Cindy's admirable approach to creating change is being highly visible while doing something very well. Her passion and purpose is protecting dogs, and she achieves this by promoting herself as a science-based trainer and a trusted resource. You can read more about Maremmas and LGD training at www.bensonmaremmas.com.
*** This Member Spotlight article was written by Donna Furlani, editor for IAABC ***
Cindy Benson with an eight-week-old pup.