Having a small posse of dogs on a farm can be a wonderful thing.
Dogs are insanely loving, unwaveringly loyal, occasionally obedient, and generally disgusting (ours relish dining on found chicken and cat poop as a discerning human might enjoy oysters on the half shell or a particularly fine beluga caviar).
Our contingent of canines happen to all be pit bull mixes.
Darwin is a pit-wirehair,
Charlie is a pit-hound,
and Mickey is a pit-human.
Or, at least he acts like it.
At bedtime, Mickey not only climbs onto the bed, he pulls back the covers and climbs underneath them. I only hope we aren’t in his way.
The terrier in all of them means that they were bred to hunt and kill small creatures without being directed.
They dig frantically, bark relentlessly, and are oblivious to anyone and anything around them in those moments.
This prey drive is surprisingly strong and proves challenging when you want the dogs to leave things alone.
And barn cats.
And cars driving toward them.
We have, with great success and not a lot of effort on our part, been able to train the dogs to leave the cats and chickens alone.
It’s really not that difficult a process.
Dogs respond incredibly well to consistency and treats. The key word in that sentence is “treats.” Dogs love ’em. Get a good training treat and you’re more than halfway down the road to success.
Now, to be fair, we can’t seem to train our dogs to stay on our property, fetch a ball, or even respond to their own names from a distance of ten feet, so we’re not honking our own horn TOO very loudly. But they don’t kill the chickens, they only chase the cats a little, and they don’t pee in the house. So, we’re all good.
They do, however, go ape-shit over rodents.
And this is absolutely fine by us.
You wouldn’t think so, but they are able to discern between being allowed to chase one type of creature and not another. They will actually spend a morning “ratting” around the chicken coop and won’t even glance at the chickens.
They are all determination and focus and they are ALL about the rats.
Awful though it may be, the sad truth on this little farm is that springtime is when we start to see evidence of the rats that have burrowed into and around the sheds over the winter. They have learned that the sheds are relatively warm, have water and food, and are protected from predators.
As the rats start to become braver with the warming weather, their burrow holes become more daring and prolific. Walking into the coop a week or so back, my foot sunk into what HAD been terra firma but was now a fairly thin covering over a rat tunnel.
And so, it was time to release the hounds!
Because Mickey is almost ten years old, he stayed inside and surely looked for rodents on the backs of his eyelids from under the covers.
Darwin and Charlie, on the other hand, spent at least an hour doing a better job of turning over the soil on the floor of the chicken coop than any power tiller could have done.
When the day’s ratting was done, they’d only managed to dispense with two.
They were some seriously happy dogs, though. And I’m sure they made the remaining rodents VERY nervous.