Dog Food Delivery Systems
Perhaps one of the most common issues that people with LGDs have questions about is feeding their dog. We’ve talked about your feed choices earlier so here we’ll address the question of delivering the food to your dogs rather than your goats. Some LGDs will protect their food from all comers while others are real wimps and stand back while even young goats gorge on delicious high dollar food.
For those worried about the goats, our advice is, don’t be. If the goats clean up the dog food, the only real victims will be you and your budget because dog food sure ain’t hay and you’ll keep replacing it until your dog actually gets to eat. If the dog protects its food, it may sound like your dog is going to kill something but, if you’ll watch without panic, you’ll see that there is a lot of threat noise and posturing but no grabbing or biting. (At least there had better not be or you have some heavy re-training in your future!)
Especially if you have multiple LGDs, the most efficient answer we’ve found to feeding working LGDs is to use self-feeders. This will keep you from being locked into a specific time to feed the dogs. It also means there is always free choice food available to the dogs so they're never stacked up at the gate waiting to be fed just as the goats decide to go back out to forage. We have never had to hold food back from any of our working dogs because they were eating too much and they seem to stay quite healthy choosing when and how much to eat without our interference. In addition, alpha and dominance issues in regards to food can be resolved according to the dogs’ schedule, not yours. It seems to be somewhat less violent that way.
Self-feeders are easy to locate. Usually everyone from the local feed store to the local pet store will have some variation of the self-feeder for dogs. We find that the size that holds about 50 pounds works well for us, but if you have a single dog, you might want to try one a bit smaller. You’ll need one with a capacity that will hold enough to feed your dog for as long as possible without molding in the feeder. The quantity your dog eats daily, the humidity, and the insect activity in your area are the major issues affecting the amount of food you can effectively store in the feeder and still provide quality food for your dog. If you can find someone who manufactures or assembles the actual feeders, you may save a good deal of money buying seconds. These feeders can be classed as seconds for a marred finish on the metal or other similar inconsequential irregularities. We bought ours several years ago for about half the price we would have paid in a retail store. If you have chickens, you’ll need to raise the feeder by placing a milk crate or similar item under it to prevent the chickens from getting the leverage they need to open the door and eat if they manage to find the feeder.
Simply using a self-feeder is not, unfortunately the complete answer. If your goats like dog food, a little thing like a gravity activated swinging door won’t stop them. They’ll have it figured out as fast as your dogs do (if not a little faster, the dogs aren’t as greedy about their feed as the goats are.) You’ll have to allow your dogs access to the feeder while denying access to the goats. Although it sounds difficult to imagine such a thing, the method is quite simple: surround the feeder with a sturdy fence, cut hole in the fence too high and too small for a goat to jump through but placed just right for your dog and, presto!, you have a goat proof dog feeder.
We have placed hog panel, cattle panel and utility panel (but a wooden fence or any barrier too high for goats would work) around the feeder and cut a hole in the panel about 14 inches off the ground with the hole being 9 inches to 1 foot square. The dogs can get through the hole to get to the feeder and the goats can’t. Make sure any sharp edges or points are smoothed off to protect the dogs when they go through because it is a tight fit. Variations of this method include making a hole for the dogs to crawl under or teaching them to jump in over the top. We don’t use these variations because we feel it teaches and encourages the dogs to use skills helpful in circumventing our fencing.
To teach the dogs to use the feeders, put them in the ‘pen’ show them the food, and lock them in. They can almost always figure out how to get out. You do need to check though; we’ve had some rescue dogs that would have stayed in there forever if they weren’t released. You may have to do this two or three times before they catch on.
On occasion, you'll find that a goat or two will figure out how to get in to a specific feeder. In that case, you'll have four choices:
- Reconfigure the feeder fence with a different height from ground and a smaller hole.
- Sell the goat or otherwise physically remove it from the pen where the feeder is located.
- Feed the dogs individually.
- Resign yourself to feed that goat dog food.
We have never found a way to un-train the goat from getting into the feeder without either making changes in the way it's built or making it just as unusable for dogs as it becomes for goats. (i.e. electric fence to keep animals away is just too inclusive!) The goat will learn easily that it is a "bad thing" to be in the feeder but that just means they run when they see you coming.
With a little patience because the really determined goats will provide excellent quality control data, you’ll have a goat proof dog food delivery system that will provide your LGDs with quality food on a continuing basis.