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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

Make That Two Puppies (written 1/19/22)

Okay, so I said Barley the Scotch collie wouldn't come home for another year. The timing just isn't right. This year belongs to me and my current dogs, and all the things I hope we'll achieve together.

But we haven't talked about the guardian dog situation.

One year ago, I decided that Drifter, my resident Pyrenees who serves as the full-time goat protector, was really not doing a very good job. (Here is a link to that blog post.) Letting a possum stroll straight into the barn and chow down on the goats' grain isn't exactly okay for a dog employed specifically to keep pests and predators away. I decided that Drifter needed some serious help. Like, help in the form of another, much more proactive, much more reliable guardian dog.

So, since that little debacle, I have slowly but steadily been researching livestock guardian breeds, talking to different people, and determining what the best choice would be for my small farm.

As much as I like them, the great Pyrenees was quickly ruled out. Some (like my first one, Glacier), are amazing protectors, and others are just not. Nice dogs, but sometimes a little too nice, like Drifter and that pesky possum.

Anatolian shepherds are too edgy and aggressive for my little patch of property. So are Tibetan mastiffs, which technically aren't classed as livestock guardians anyway.

I briefly considered Kuvasz and Spanish Mastiffs, but they weren't quite right.

Then, for a few months, I thought a Maremma Sheepdog might be the way to go. I was beginning to pinpoint breeders and get a little more focused, and then I started having doubts.

Plus, that was about the time that I stumbled across a breed called the Armenian Gampr.

As the name suggests, the Gampr was developed alongside the sheep-herding culture in the region now called Armenia. Although still not widely known here in the U.S., they are steadily gaining in popularity as farmers and ranchers realize what capable working dogs they are.

What drew me to this unique breed was its history. Unlike some other livestock-based cultures, the herders of Armenia traveled with their flocks. Rather than leaving the livestock in one area under the supervision of several dogs while the humans went back home, the Armenian herders made livestock a family thing. For about six months of the year, they moved slowly along with their stock, setting up camp each night, then traveling on as the herds grazed the next day.

This meant that the dogs were not only proficient protectors of the livestock, but were also close enough to the families involved that they became sweet and gentle with people, too. If the need arose, they could be extremely capable in dealing with and dispatching large predators like wolves and bears. But they could also lie on the floor in the tent with the kids and be perfectly calm and dependable.

And so they continue to be today. This is what my farm needs - a dog that can vigorously defend the home territory, even to the point of killing predators if necessary, while still easily accepting the comings and goings of various people and my own house pets.

Gamprs are also content in a smaller pasture area, as opposed to some of the other livestock guardian breeds who need a much bigger acreage to patrol.

So, there's a breeder down in Arkansas. And they have a litter of puppies, born early this past December. And one of the three females has my name on her.

Yes, I'm actually getting a new puppy this year! She'll come home in mid February, and I have lots to do before she gets here. As always when it comes to getting a new dog, the butterflies in my tummy are starting to spread their wings. A new baby, a new routine, so stressful! But I think this dog will be a very good addition. I'm excited to work with and understand a new breed. And I'm pretty sure that, with her and Drifter both on duty, no more possums will be strolling into the barn any time soon. Just to make sure, and to give this girl as much of an advantage as I can, her name will be Valor. I hope she lives up to it!

One of these Armenian Gamprs will become a guardian for Goldengreene - Reyna's farm!

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