Training the Hard to Train Dog

by Janet Garman

We often get questions about our dog, Chief. He is a beautiful dog, large boned, broad head, strong and dark yellow. He is a registered Labrador and is doing well at the age of  10. At the farm, Chief is indispensable help in keeping the unwanted, harmful critters away from the flocks and herds. In fact, most of our farm animal losses  have been when we have been gone for a few days and Chief has not been on patrol. We spend a lot of time on  the farm with Chief and he has become a wonderful farm dog. But it wasn’t a smooth beginning to life with Chief.

 First a disclaimer. I am not a dog trainer,  I am a dog lover. We have had many dogs and most were a bit difficult to train. I have now learned that I was probably the one that was not trained. Once we took Chief into our home, we had to get some help. He was already a large dog, and now he was becoming a problem dominant aggressive dog. We searched for help that did not include having him put to sleep. We had a feeling that with the right technique we could be successful. Here are some of the tips and training ideas we had to learn.


I think the single most important thing that we learned from the training course we took was that this is a dog. Do not put the dog on the same level as a human. Our dog almost was put to sleep because he was dominant aggressive to everyone including my husband. Cute little yellow lab puppy turns into Cujo when he didn’t want to do what we asked him to do. I strongly suggest you never let this happen.


Even with a happy go lucky golden retriever personality, firmness is key. Firmly make them obey commands the first time. I don’t mean to imply cruelty at all. But with large dogs especially, it just isn’t cute anymore when they start to do whatever they want and you have to tip toe around them. 

Some of the steps we learned to take included, making the dog get up if we were going to enter the room that he was lying in. He had to learn who was in charge.
Also, he was not allowed on furniture. Allowing the dog to be at the same level as the human gives him the idea that he can be in charge. Chief was such a strong alpha male that he was always trying to be in charge. 

Believe me, it was a pain, to always have to wait for the dog to get up  and leave the room so I could walk in. And we had to convince the whole family that this was necessary. But in the end it paid off. 

Feeding time was a problem too. We had to make sure no one walked by him. He needed to learn that he could trust us to not take the food away. He had to sit and wait but then he was left alone to enjoy his food. No tricks and no training with the method of taking the food away or any of that.

At the farm, Chief was allowed to run and exercise but if other dogs dropped by he would still exhibit dominant aggressive behavior. He still does not have play time with other dogs. He only has one other dog that he can play with and she puts him right in his place! I don’t know if it is just his breed or what but I thought he would hunt the ducks and chicks for dinner but he never hurt one. Ever. He does help me round the chickens up when they escape their run and go into the woods. He’s very  
smart and I tell him to bring the chickens back and he goes and runs them out of the woods. He is a little goofy with the ducks and barks at the chicks and ducklings. I guess he is telling them how to behave.

For his safety, we do not let him in the cow pastures or with the horses when we had them. He was kicked at a few times by the horses when younger but nothing serious. He can go near the pigs but the electric fence there, is low to the ground and he already shocked himself. Other than the fact that he does listen to my husband at the farm, I am not sure why he is so good with the animals. I was surprised. Maybe its just because we always have him with us when there with the animals. I can even let the goats out to graze around him and he doesn’t bother them at all.

A few disclaimers. Chief was a risky dog. I do not advocate keeping potentially dangerous dogs but somehow we both felt we could retrain him. And most importantly, we had no children. A few of our children still lived at home but they were adult sized people. I would never have attempted this with small children in the house. We all had to be on board with the program. It was a good outcome but it took a few years. We have lightened up on it now that he is an older dog. He loves us all and we can be more lenient at this stage. Chief is now 10. He is terrified of thunderstorms, gunfire, and fireworks. He tries to climb on my lap in those situations. He weighs 130 pounds.

We do not allow him near children unless on a short leash because of his history. I am not endorsing our methods here, merely sharing our story. Each dog and family situation should be evaluated carefully. In this case we were successful. And I am happy that we went the extra mile for this dog.


 This post was featured on The Backyard Farming Connection Hop

Farm Animal First Aid Kit

What I Keep In My First Aid Kit

Recently, I presented an evening seminar on Chicken Keeping for Beginners at? the feed store.? The attendance was great and the evening went well. I was impressed with the questions that the attendees had and everyone learned from each other as much as from my presentation.? It was one of those community events that make you proud and happy to be part of the neighborhood.
One part of my presentation focused on the items I keep handy at our farm, for emergencies with the animals.? I listed the items and explained some of the things that may have been unfamiliar to the group.
I began to think about posting this information here, as a reference.

The list looks like this:

Saline Solution– for cleaning and irrigating a wound so you can assess the situation

Vertricyn or Banixx sprays-? These products are antibacterial wound sprays.? I have had much success using them in the past, so I like to keep them around

Hydrogen Peroxide

Gauze Pads or roll of gauze


Iodine/Betadine solution

Syringe– for giving oral meds or even yogurt.?

Corn Starch or Wonder Dust- whether you accidentally nick the sheep when shearing or clip a toe too short, this will stop the bleeding quickly.? Usually these wounds are superficial but to keep flies off and let a scab form, pack some corn starch on the area.?

Neosporin– a MUST HAVE!

Cotton swabs/ Q-tips

Blue Kote-? is an antiseptic aerosol or pump spray that colors the wound dark blue.? Birds will peck at an open wound that shows red.? This camouflages the wound, giving the animal time to heal without becoming a target of more aggressive animals or chickens

Paper Towels


Electrolytes Powder– good to have on hand just in case.? Sometimes it’s all that is needed to perk up an ailing animal

Nutra drench products? Rich in vitamins and energy, nutra drench makes a specific product for most types of livestock.? I like to have it on hand, as a “it can’t hurt” type of product.

Vet wrap- I love this cohesive bandage for wrapping leg or foot wounds.? It sticks to itself, making it easier to wrap a wound.? For the ducks, I often use electric tape to hold the vet wrap in place longer, since ducks are so prone to stay wet and messy

Electric tape – see above

Old towels

Sharp Scissors

Flash Light

Another good tip, have some of your animal’s favorite treat on hand.? As long as the animal is not in respiratory distress or shock, it will help you catch a wounded or scared animal if you have a favorite treat in your hand.

Most of these items are readily available from your local
drug store.? Having these things in your feed room or supply area,? can save you much stress when an emergency occurs.? It can save you a vet call, if you are prepared and have accumulated a bit of knowledge about what to do with superficial wounds and ailments common to our livestock and pets. Grab a sturdy box or plastic tote and assemble your own first aid kit for your homestead.? You will be glad you did if an emergency happens.?

Shared on
Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest

shared on Monday Menagerie

Turkeys and Ducks. The rest of the story

?(during the holiday season, I was asked to update the story of Gus and Greta.? It seems my good friend Judy, was so enchanted? by the story that she used it for a sermon at her church.? I do not attend her church so I did not have the pleasure of hearing the sermon but I did think it was pretty cool that my little blog was the inspiration.? So here you go Judy and all other followers of Gus and Greta.? The rest of the story.)
? Here’s the beginning of the story, if you missed it.

Ducks live with abandon.

Happily Ever After… Not so fast.? Just when you think you’ve set up a wonderful idyllic habitat for your animals to live in and Bam!? Something goes wrong.? In this case, after only two weeks of cohabiting, my husband found two ducks in not so great shape.? One had a wound on her wing but otherwise no major damage.? The other ducky was found soaking wet, covered in mud and unable to move.? Our first thought, after drying them off and taking inventory of symptoms and wounds, was that they got in a fight with each other.? At the time neither one had? been laying eggs yet, so we thought they were boy ducks.? We dried off the wet duck, set up a crate with a? heat lamp and lots of dry straw and made (him) comfortable.? (S)he drank some water and we thought He (she) had just lost the fight.? As the day? went on (she) recovered? a bit and we closed them up at night with high hopes for a full recovery.??

Poor beat up ducky.? She couldn’t even hold her head up.

Early the next morning, I let everyone, including the injured duck, out in the yard while I cleaned up and filled feed bowls.? I turned around and noticed that the turkey hen was quietly attacking the injured duck.? What a bully!? I grabbed up the victim and proceeded to separate the turkeys and the ducks.? While cleaning up the crate, I found an egg!? Apparently, I did not guess the sex of the Pekins correctly.? Out of the three Pekins we were raising, all three are hens.?? At least with the Rouens the males and females look different.??

Look at how Greta looks at Gus with devotion!

Anyway, back to the story of the living arrangements and what to do now.? I mentioned this to a few poultry raising friends and found out that turkey hens can be quite aggressive.? Space is not as much of a problem as time for us.? We had just added on the duck pen and duck house, and then added another pen to give them more room.? It looked fantastic.? How would we find time to build a suitable turkey area right away.

?I was disappointed that our beautiful plan had to be altered. The whole incident stepped on my vision of the animals peacefully living together in harmony.? And the strange thing is, I think the turkeys missed interacting with the ducks.? Animals react on instinct and whatever it was that made Greta attack the ducks we will never know.? The thing is though, these animals are mine to care for and protect.? We had to come up with a plan.? After a few days of trying different arrangements, we even considered re evaluating the decision not to cook the turkeys.? But then inspiration struck.

The duck house had two pens and two doors.? What if we put a fence down the middle of the house.? The turkeys can use one door and one pen.? The ducks can use the other door and other pen.? Eureka!? We even made the inside fence removable for easy cleaning.??

So far, it is working out beautifully.? The turkeys can still see the ducks who they are attached to in some weird way.? Peace reigns again.? Who knows for how long.? One thing I have learned from raising children and animals is this.? Just when you think you have it all under control…..

Our initial disappointment at the squabbling led to an even better arrangement.? Life is crazy, uncertain and ever changing.? Enjoy the peaceful moments and be flexible because challenges will come.?? and in the words of the famous Paul Harvey – that my friends is the rest of the story.

The End!

Turkeys and Ducks, living together, happily ever after


Last weekend we decided to move the Turkeys to a new address on the farm,  The backstory leading up to this decision to move them, starts with a decision to raise a few turkeys for our family freezer or table. We ended up with only two, who then developed into a beautiful Hen and Tom. We didn’t intend to get attached. They were kept in a different pen than the ducks and chickens who are kept for eggs. We tried not to notice how friendly and calm they were. We really tried to think of how delicious they would be on our table. We even told our family that this would lead to our Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece.

But, as time drew close and decision time drew near, we couldn’t do it. Gus and Greta Turkey had crossed that line and become part of the family. I placed my order for a free range turkey for Thanksgiving.

So, now the dilemma was what to do with Gus and Greta. You see, they had outgrown their pen which would have been the perfect size had they lived our their initial life expectancy and become dinner. A lot of options were discussed. Fortunately we have plenty of space. Unfortunately we do not have a lot of time. Building a new building at this time was not going to happen. But, the Ducks had recently taken up residence in the new Duck Home. It is spacious,  low to the ground, and includes a covered pen. Plenty of room for two gentle turkeys to join the Ducks. And the Turkeys packed up their feed bowl and water fount and moved across the street (ok not really a street, just a path between the coops) and moved in with the Ducks. The Turkeys moved in and the Ducks ran into the house and refused to come out. I guess we are thankful that there was no aggression. Although, I didn’t expect any. Both groups are extremely gentle. But now we had Ducks in the Duck house crowded into a corner and Turkeys standing in their new pen looking confused and lost. No Welcome Wagon, no here’s a cake we baked, welcome to the neighborhood. Nothing.


And to add to the drama, the Turkeys decided they like the end of the pen with the swimming pool. So the Ducks just stayed inside, occasionally looking out longingly at their pool. But not willing to get to know these large newcomers.

By day three, I tried to intervene. I could get the Ducks to leave the house with appropriate treats used as a bribe but as soon as either turkey would so much as look at them, the Ducks would run back inside.

 By day four, the Ducks were getting used to the Turkeys. I even saw them eating out of the same food bowl! For one split second anyway until the duck realized what was happening and ran back in the house.
Ducks and Turkeys settle down differently at night too. The Turkeys like to roost, but not until they have strutted around inside the house a while, inadvertently shepherding the ducks from one corner to the next.

I know we are on the way to complete acceptance. And, at least there was no blood or aggression to deal with. The ducks have resumed laying eggs and peace is returning to their lives. This weekend we are adding another pen to the setup so they can go out either door into a run area. Maybe the Ducks will reclaim the pool and go for a swim!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families. Whatever ends up on your festive table, I hope the most important thing is the love shared and the blessing of being with those you love. If you have an extra chair, consider inviting in a  friend or neighbor who may be alone for the holiday. If your experience is anything like ours, you will be happy you did!

This post was shared on Farm Girl Friday Blogfest

More Coop Building Tips

Chicken coop, made of wood with nesting boxes built in.? Made to house 4 to 5 hens.

?Whether you build it yourself,? buy a commercial chicken coop or use and existing structure, the main concerns are safety from anything that would make the chickens sick and PREDATORS.? I don’t know of any place that is free from predators and all predators will love a good chicken dinner.? That cute raccoon that lives in your tree, will now be a predator.? The fox and neighborhood dogs will spread the word that there’s a new game in town.? Opossums, skunks, feral cats, and hawks are all a lethal danger to your flock.? Despite our best efforts we have had loss due to all of these predators at one time or another.? While many people choose to let their chickens free range on their property, we chose to keep our chickens inside a fenced in area during the day and locking them in a coop at night.? We use two types of latches on the door because raccoons can open latches.? The windows are covered with wire mesh.? The coop is built up off the ground to prevent any animals from digging into the coop that way.? We also put down a thin coating of cement on the coop floor when we built it to make it more secure.? It also keeps the floor from rotting from any wetness in the coop.? These are just some things we have used to keep our chickens safe. All that being said, I must also tell you that we have had our share of loss.? Racoons can be very pesky.? It also seems that anytime our dog is not around for a day or so, the foxes spread the word and feel free to come in for a snack. I can’t emphasize enough what a help a good farm dog can be in keeping wildlife away. ?
?Please feel free to add any tips that have worked for you in the comment section.?