These are more photos that I took last Saturday while Alayne was picking apples next to one of the goat paddocks. She had been handing out a few apples to the goats, who inevitably would drop a couple of them. Aaron, our Maremma livestock guardian dog, picked one up and the game was on. (Click on photos for larger images.) In the photo above, he's got the apple in his mouth and Maggie the puppy is trying to figure out how to snatch it from him.
No luck, but she keeps trying:
Joshua, Maggie's brother, sees the game going on and leaves Gina behind to join in the fun:
So now the big lug has two puppies after him:
But after a few minutes of this, the apple fell out of favor and the trio retreated to the shade of the trailer:
One of our blog readers asked whether the dogs have ever encountered any predators and saved the goats. Good question. We first realized we really needed livestock guardian dogs when we lost a kid goat one day back in 2011, as the small herd was grazing around the pond right below the house. A predator -- most likely a coyote -- grabbed him right next to the electric fence and dragged him off into the woods. We never saw it or heard anything, but the kid was missing when we went to bring the herd in at the end of the day. We couldn't find him anywhere (and kids don't wander off from their moms and the rest of the herd). We eventually discovered his skull the following year.
Livestock guardian dog experts say there's only one true way to tell whether your dogs are successfully guarding or not: Have you lost any livestock? If not, they're doing their job. If you have losses, the dogs are not being effective, for whatever reason. We haven't lost any goats since getting the dogs. Their very presence is usually enough to deter predators and keep them moving on to easier opportunities.
During our first summer here, in 2010, we had coyotes and "coy-dogs" -- feral coyote/dog crosses -- snatch our chickens in broad daylight and in full view of us, right around the barnyard. They'd just sneak in from the edge of the woods, dart out to grab a chicken, and run back to the woods. They were so brazen that one day Alayne was so close she chased a coyote as it ran off with a chicken in its mouth. Once Gina arrived in the fall of 2011, we haven't lost a single chicken ... even though the dogs aren't specifically out guarding them.