An insight into the bringing up of young dogs out in Patagonia.
I subscribe to Treehugger. It is an online service that features Sustainability for All.
A few days ago it had an article that I just had to share with you all. It is how puppy dogs will grown up to protect pumas.
Here it is:
Puppies in Patagonia Will Grow Up To Protect Pumas
Published January 25th, 2021
Their main job is to guard livestock, but wildlife benefits too.
A new litter of livestock dogs was just delivered by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Argentina. Currently cuddly and very cute, the puppies will be specially trained to protect goats and sheep from predators. Not only will this help save the livestock, but these dogs will help limit conflicts between herders and the pumas and other native carnivores living around them in the Patagonian Desert.
The puppies are a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd — large, working breeds trained to guard livestock. In the early weeks of the project, the puppies bond with the livestock to form protective relationships. WCS representatives work closely with herders to provide care and training for the puppies and the livestock during what’s known as this key “imprinting” period.
“During the first eight weeks of life, puppies will create a very strong bond, first with their mother and then with their social group. During the first 40 days, puppies remain with their mother, but livestock is kept in the same pen or corral with the dogs so they can smell them, see them, and progressively make physical contact with livestock,” Martín Funes, project manager of WCS Argentina, tells Treehugger.
“Progressively, during three months the bond between puppies and livestock will get stronger, and dogs will start to show a protective behavior. After this period they will recognize a certain species (we work with sheep and goats) as their social group, and that will remain for the rest of its life.”
For many years, WCS Argentina has been working with area herders to come up with new ways to stop conflicts with area predators. In the past, herders have resorted to shooting, poisoning, or trapping wildlife that have threatened their flocks.
WCS Argentina places the puppies with herders based on their location, the amount of conflict they’re having with carnivores, and their willingness to participate in the program, which includes proper care of the dogs through adulthood.
The dogs become a very powerful tool, says Funes.
“Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) stay with livestock 24/7, which is impossible for the other methods [of predator control]. They behave as part of the flock, and they will protect it against any threat,” he says.
“They tend to be very protective but they don’t have the hunting instinct of wolves or some other dog breeds (i.e., greyhounds or lebrels). However we should always consider a basic principle for reducing livestock losses by carnivores: The more methods you use, the safer your livestock will be. Combining different strategies is always an efficient approach to reduce attacks by carnivores.”
In the Patagonian Desert, also known as the Patagonia Steppe, livestock face threats from several wild cats including pumas, Geoffroy’s cat, pampas cat, and the threatened Andean cats. Other predators include Patagonian foxes and Andean condors.
“Even though we have been hunting, trapping, and killing carnivores, it has never been effective in reducing our losses,” said Flavio Castillo, a herder participating in the program, in a statement. “It is our hope that [the dogs] will be a very useful tool to stop predation. With the dogs, we can co-exist with carnivores and protect our production. Wildlife belongs here and we have to protect and co-exist with it.”
In addition to saving the lives of the flocks and their predators, the presence of the guardian dogs also can have a positive impact on habitat restoration.
“As attacks from carnivores diminish, producers tend to stop trapping, hunting and poisoning of wild animals, which is an outstanding benefit for the entire ecosystem,” says Funes.
“A secondary benefit, as producers perceive a reduction in annual livestock losses, is that herders might adjust livestock stocking rates density and improve soil and vegetation conditions and its performance, reducing overgrazing and desertification, a major and widespread environmental problem in arid Patagonia for the last two centuries.”
This is a powerful story of the many ways that dogs may be used to help humans.
Dogs are by far the longest domesticated animal that has bonded to humans and I’m trying to receive permission to republish a wonderful article that John Zande sent me to read. It is about the Neanderthals and homo sapiens and the relationship with dogs.