Lenna, our Livestock Guardian Dog, is 100% on recall, until recently.
I have heard of the "teenage stage" in LGD's, during which they regress in their training and even misbehave around the animals they protect, suddenly chasing a chicken out of the blue. Lenna is about that age, at 8 months old, so I began to believe she had begun rebelling, so to speak. When she is off tether she will roam around the perimeter of the yard and then find a nice stick to chew on and settle in nearby, where she can keep an eye on us and the animals. Usually.
Recently she has been going to the same twin pines off into the woods where I can just barely see her. She will stay there sniffing and sniffing. Figuring it to be a deer bed or some nice racoon poop, I call her off. "Lenna, here!" She doesn't even look up. I put on my angry face and attempt to march a direct line toward her through the thick, tangled underbrush, alternating between post-holing in the soft snow and tripping over branches where the snow has meted. When I am about 30 yards away she finally acknowledges my existence and trots over with her head down. I grab the leash she's dragging and march her back through the soft snow and tangled branches to where I had called her. "Lenna, I said here! ... good girl!"
*Play this scene on repeat. For two weeks.*
Last night, the family is going for a walk in the woods to roughly mark out where to lay the underground fence for Lenna. As we walk, we get to those twin pines. There, on the ground before us, is a colorful, scaly pile of half-frozen perch carcasses. We have not been fishing recently. It is still winter in Northern Michigan and we don't ice fish. A little detective work has us following a set of footprints in the snow that lead to a neighbor's back door. Turns out our neighbor's son has been filleting his daily catch and dumping the remains "back in the woods for the racoons to take care of." We politely explain that racoon is our 80 lb. dog who has not been hungry for her breakfast as of late.
All of a sudden Lenna's reluctant wait-til-she's-close recall becomes understandable. I wouldn't pass up a perch dinner, and apparently, neither would she.
Lenna was 6 months old and used to being out with the chickens by the time her first Christmas came around. She has never injured a chicken. She enjoyed her growing freedom around the farm and during chores could choose to do her own thing nearby or come with me. Usually, she chose to come with.
On Christmas morning I was doing chores and Lenna followed. I started with the buck pen - the furthest out in the woods. Lenna opted to stay outside the fence and sniff around rather than go in to greet her favorite buck, Zouk. As I was in the barn refreshing the hay and water I hear a rustling in the woods. I poke my head out of the barn and see a deer.
Lenna is about 50 feet away from me, on the opposite side of the fence. I watch her intently, unsure of what she will do. This is her first encounter with a deer. She stands and stares. The deer stares back. At the exact moment the deer begins to move our youngest layer announces to the world she's laid an egg. Her exuberant clucks sound like a siren. Lenna, without hesitation, sprints to the coop. Sits by it. And barks her big girl bark towards the deer, who takes off as fast as a bolt of lightning, leaving with a quick flash of her white tail.
Although a small act, it displayed a big step in her maturing process. Our Christmas gift from this young girl was showing us she will defend the birds that we have been teaching her to value. Merry Christmas Lenna.