It is another time of the year when theft of goats, sheep, cattle and chickens rises due to high demand under the Christmas festivities.
Most farmers suffer losses when thieves strike, sprinting away with all the year’s toil when one would have raked in good profits. That dog on your farm should, therefore, come in handy this season by keeping thieves at bay.
Seeds of Gold visited Redhill Kennel, a dog farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, to find out how farmers can train their dogs, not only to guard their farms but also watch over animals when they are grazing.
Daniel Kariru, one of the dog trainers on the farm, said the German Shepherd breed is the best to train to herd animals and guard houses. The dogs can also be trained to catch moles or rats keeping the farm safe.
“For the purpose of training dogs to guard and herd livestock including sheep, the German Shepherd breed is the best,” he says. According to him, German Shepherds bond faster with new people and are always ready to impress the owner.
To make the animal do the job, training should start at three months by socialising it with the animal and making it obedient.
“In our case, we trained our dog named Tabby to protect chickens and sheep but she got more attached to the sheep, which graze in the open.”
To make the animal friendly, he says, treat it in a caring manner, feed it well and walk it around the areas you want it to learn its duties, including near animals.
“Every command you give a dog under training has a purpose. Some of the commands used in training include: away, sit, come and fetch. A well-trained dog will easily understand when told away – that it is either in a prohibited area or approaching there.”
HERDING AND GUARDING LIVESTOCK
Although many livestock owners have herding dogs, he says the animals are not well-trained to protect cattle or sheep.
“Well-trained dogs will herd the livestock during the day and guard them at night. Theft cases of livestock are rampant as we approach Christmas when demand for meat is high, but if you have a good dog, one should not be worried.”
Solomon Salvasa, another trainer who has handled dogs for over 20 years, says one of the most important training a farm dog should have is to avoid eating food not served from where they are fed.
He says it is important to have larger breeds like German shepherds, which can have mixed roles during herding and guarding of livestock.
He cautions that dogs that chase after cattle or sheep, look at them as if they want to attack them or bark at them should be kept away from the animal because those are signs that the canines are up to no good.
It is important for a farmer to give their dogs Parvo virus vaccine, which guards against parvo disease, and Canine distemper that protects the animal from the respiratory ailment, he offers.
“There are pests like fleas and ticks that dogs can share with cattle and sheep. The same pests can cause diseases such as fever, babeosis and Ehrlichiosis.
To protect the dog against diseases and make it comfortable, its kennel should be spacious, with a warm sleeping area and a well cemented run for the dog to access sunlight.
There should also be a proper drainage system, offers Salvasa, adding that dog owners have East African Kennel Club where members go for training.