I receive a lot of questions about our animal husbandry practices, what we feed, how we supplement, whether we vaccinate and deworm, etc.  I am new to some aspects, so my methods still change once in a while, but folks who know me know how much I research things.  My general, long term rule is that animals and methods need to be as convenient, hardy, and inexpensive as possible, and as natural and organic as possible.  So, for those of you who have been asking, here is a brief rundown of how things are run right now, and where I get my supplies.  I will do a post for each type of animal, to help with my categorizing and later reference.

Athena, our 3/4 Great Pyrenees, 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd, livestock guardian dog: 

  • Athena is housed with the goat does and/or kids, in a large run, with a shared 3-sided shelter full of straw.  She and Shiloh, the donkey, are rotated into the pasture (they can’t be in together since Shiloh’s purpose is to chase off canines) to help protect the chickens.  It ensures she has plenty of mental stimulation and exercise.  I put Will, our house pet, in with her several times a week as well, which encourages additional play.  Play is very important for her age (almost 4 months).  Without the change in scenery, and Will to play with, she is more likely to chase and injure chickens and/or goat kids.
  • Diet consists of twice a day feedings (plus an occasional third “treat” mid-day) of some type of BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food).  It varies, but could include raw meat and/or uncooked bone from chickens, goats, rabbits, or beef.  A couple times a week, I add an egg, some Kefir milk, excess goat milk, vegetables, bread, leftovers from dinner, a bit of goat grain, some kelp meal, or whatever other dog-appropriate item I can think of. 
  • I deworm Athena with my herbal goat dewormer, using the same portion size I would give similiarly sized goats.  I currently use dewormer from Hoeggers, but I’d probably feel safer recommending Molly’s version for use in dogs.  I’ll likely be switching over to Molly’s since I can also use it with Shiloh then.  In addition, between herbal dewormings, I periodically add a bit diatomaceous earth to Athena’s feed which also keeps parasites under control. 
  • I regularly check for matted hair, ear infections, and trim long toe nails.  If I see an irritated ear canal, I clean it with peroxide and gauze pads, followed by a good massage with raw apple cider vinegar.  The ACV is great for treating almost any type of fungal skin infection.  Just rub it on the irritated area twice a day for about a week, and it should clear right up.  In addition, ensure your pup is getting good nutrition, which helps prevent infections to begin with.
  • For vaccines, we get the distemper combo (only because our vet doesn’t have the distemper by itself) and rabies.  Parvo may not be a bad idea for young pups in some areas, but it isn’t a huge problem here, so I prefer to not give it.  I give rabies, since it’s required by law, but I prefer the 3-year rabies, which is becoming more popular nationwide. 
  • We spay or neuter based on the animal and the situation.  Athena will likely be spayed later this year, because she is a cross-breed, with no special qualifications to make me comfortable passing on her genetics.  It will also prevent the downtime where she can’t be turned out to guard due to her whelping or being in heat and possibly attracting neighborhood dogs.  As a side note, obviously you need a vet to perform a spay for a female, but after a tremendous amount of research, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a burdizzo to neuter a male.  Assuming you are experienced with the instrument and both testes have dropped, dog studies have shown the pain is significantly less (literally momentary), the recovery significantly faster, it is much cheaper, and it is equally effective.

Athena, at 4 months, standing next to Will, who is roughly 80 lbs.  She’s gonna be big, and is obviously thriving on her natural diet!

Honestly, this is the first time I have raised a pup on this natural type of system.  I cannot say how things will go long-term.  I can say, however, that since we got her several months ago, I am very pleased with the results, and look forward to re-evaluating in a few years.