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How To Introduce Pigs to a Young LGD and Make One Very Big Mistake


This is seven-month-old Nyssa doing very well with the pigs.

So, what keeps going through my mind is that I keep living long enough to make more mistakes. Honestly, I spend more time worrying and regretting the mistakes than I do the "wins," but such is life. Many of you know that I am an LGD trainer with a ton of experience with these dogs, but lest you think that means I don't make mistakes I have decided to share this epic fail with you.


I am a meticulously careful trainer, having learned that it is far easier to take the time to do things right than it is to try to fix things later. Unfortunately, the latter circumstance is true today.


The backstory


The pigs in the photo are new to me, having arrived at the ranch less than 48 hours ago. Pigs are new to me. I have almost no understanding of the natural behavior of pigs, other than the bare basics. Yukon, the dog I am writing the post about, is almost nine months old and has been with me for ten weeks. My journey with him has been pure joy. I am so proud of him, but on this day I let him down. Yukon is going through a rough patch right now, and I have known this for a month or so. I have been very careful to set him up for success in our training endeavors. But today I made a mistake.


Our beginning


The morning after the pigs arrived all the Maremmas barked and seemed stressed. Yukon spent the day with a sibling pair of two-year-old dogs that he doesn't know well. They spent the day united in their throwing of four-letter words at the new pigs up the lane. When I brought Yukon back to his partner for the evening, I decided to let him get better acquainted with the pigs, so, on a long line and wearing a harness I brought him into the pasture with the pigs. The guy was bored!


The next morning seemed like a good time for the next step. Our plan, in moving the pigs, was to use apples from my orchard as a lure for the pigs to cross the yard from their pen to the pasture Yukon and Nyssa live in. So far, so good. I had both dogs harnessed and had Yukon meet the pigs in the neutral barnyard. Again, no problem. We closed the gate, I walked with the dogs a bit, and all was calm so I took the harnesses off. I did have the presence of mind to keep the harnesses close.



My epic fail


It's cute, right? My husband rolled apples on the group while the pigs and Yukon grabbed them. But then. One of the pigs wanted Yukon's apple, OK, but it happened again. At some point, VERY quickly, Yukon decided that these pigs were after things he cared about - in HIS field. Nope. Yukon chased the pig, the pig ran into the barn with me in hot pursuit wondering what in the world I had been thinking. I grabbed Yukon as he sped past me, harnessed him, and dragged him out of the field.


In every livestock introduction I have ever done I carefully set up an environment of calm, slow movement. In this pig introduction, I overestimated the level of experience of my dogs, and I absolutely underestimated the ability of pigs to get what they want.


Later


Having removed Yukon, I stayed in the field with Nyssa and the pigs for about an hour, wandering and investigating and supporting her. Nyssa did great, but leaving her alone to figure these strange creatures out was clearly a bad idea, so I didn't. I decided to house the pigs in a small, very secure, pen that was bordered by several of the Maremmas so that they could watch the pigs and figure them out. The two five-month-old pups were curious; tails wagging, following the pig along the fence. There they encounter Yukon, loaded for bear. Yukon clearly feels the pigs are a threat to be dispatched. As I watched this, I realized that I was also training pigs and that no good was going to come of teaching the new pigs to be aggressive with the white dogs, so I moved them back to their own field.



How can I fix this?


I am honestly not sure. In all my years with these dogs, I don't remember a time when I made such a huge mistake as I did with Yukon on this day. Yukon will be with me for five more days. I will start by putting Yukon on a long-line and harness and going to where the pigs live, rather than bringing them onto his ground, and see where that leads us. Because Yukon is young, this is a big lesson for him, but it is also true that we have many, many hours of excellence between us and with livestock. He is at a tough stage in life, and handling this level of stimulus may be more than he is capable of right now. I won't burn my bridges with him by trying to get pigs figured out in five days.


Wrapping up


None of us has a crystal ball, mistakes happen. Safety first, so having a long-line and harness close by did save the day. It did save the pig. A short memory of a spin-out is much better than a long one; this whole altercation lasted less than a minute. Going forward, I step back a bit with Yukon. I simplify my requests of him, making sure that he has easy success with every circumstance I put him in. I make sure that I stay well within what he can realistically give me, in terms of his interactions with livestock - any livestock. I trust this dog, and I trust my training investment in him. I made a mistake, not a huge one as no one got hurt, but it was a beginner mistake that I should have known better than to do. Grrr. But this is life. It is messy! Fix it, and move on.

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