As we traveled through desert and steppe, and even through high mountain passes, we visited some of the dogs our crew has placed with herders over the last two years or so. Though our placed dogs live in the Gobi region, Hustai national park, and Terelj park, during this trip we only visited a couple in the Gobi and Hustai.
Thanks to the hospitality of the host families, our clients and the MBDP crew were invited inside of the families’ gers to drink tea and discuss the efficiency and state of the each of their dogs. Sometimes we’d find the dog at home [if we were there in the evening and the herds were close] but other times the dog was still out in the field with the livestock so we weren’t able to examine it directly.
We were thrilled with the responses the herders had to their dogs, as generally each herder reported a large decrease in livestock losses due to predators after they had received the puppy. All the dogs we have placed are still quite young, and because usually livestock guardian dogs only mature into fully developed guardians by four years at the earliest, it is already a great sign that they are working so well at only a couple years or months old.
There have been instances reported during our interviews of the herders, where the dog has returned home early, in the late afternoon and thus left the herds unprotected for a couple hours. It is during this time that herders have been experiencing losses due to wolves. We believe the dogs have been returning to their gers for water and food. This can be avoided if the dogs are fed and watered out on the steppe with the sheep and goats instead of close to home, as the dogs won’t need to come home early.
In days gone by, a pup would be expected to learn these behaviors from an older “mentor” dog, still fit enough to run with the herd. Because many families no longer have dogs, the training process for the pups takes longer. In time, the pups that we settle with herder families will themselves become mentors.