I have adopted many animals over the years and come to realize that sometimes you do get great things for free, other times you get hurt. How do you pick the right animals for you and your family? Do you get an animal just to suit one purpose or do you get a mutt that will hopefully fit the bill? How do you choose the right one?
For dogs, first talk to someone who has the breed of dog you are most interested in and find out about inherent defects and temperament problems. If you have kids or grandkids make sure the dogs are safe to have around them. Unless you get your dog trained, try not to get a very dominant breed, they will sometimes fight the alpha for the position and it can really damage both you and the dog. Remember the police departments stay away from females for patrol dog work for a reason–they do have a tendency to be flighty when in season. Decide early if you are going to alter or not, as when the grid goes down, you may lose the option.
A good dog, there are many, but not enough people that know how to pick the one that suits. I have seen many animals go to the shelter because they got too big, didn’t house break well, were hard to train, stubborn or was brought in and treated like a child, then along came a child and the dog got jealous. Many a hunting dog has been turned out due to being gun shy or lost due to poor training. Down here, some people have no clue where their coon hound is for days or weeks.
Remember that a pet is a pet and a working dog needs to be a working dog. No coddling, no sneaking treats. The family or group needs to be on board totally. It doesn’t take long to undo any training. Most states do have laws that might hinder your keeping your dog outside at all times, only suggestion is to build a really nice dog house that is insulated or move to a less oppressive state.
I have also learned that there is no replacing good training for any dog. Considering the link from S. Africa that was mentioned on the blog, it would be a good idea to train your dog not to take food from anyone but you. Not barking to reveal location, staying down until attacking, and hold and release are important now and later. If you want your guard dog to not get you sued now, you need to do bite work with an experienced trainer. You need them perimeter trained so they will not leave your property for anything unless you ask it. Protect your investment.
If you do not live full time at your retreat, make your animals bug out bags and make at least one trial run before the big day. Stock your retreat with dog food (watch the expiration dates, when dog food goes bad your dog will get sick and have the runs for days). You must also consider extra water for the animals, write down how much each animal drinks per day and that will give an idea of what to prepare. If you have three weeks of water for you, you need it for them too. If your dog stresses out, make sure you have a caloric supplement on hand. If they get car sick, give them motion sickness pills (made for humans, works on animals, too). Buy a muzzle, if the dog gets hurt you’ll be thankful you have one.
Your dog’s essentials: at least two leashes, crate, muzzle, nail clippers, food for the move, water for the move, collapsible bowls for food and water, first aid kit and medicines. Put index cards in your dog’s bug out bag, so that if it’s something less than TEOTWAWKI you can write down info on your dog and yourself, so if you get sent someplace other than your retreat, you will be able to get your dog back. This was a nightmare after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and now we have serious problems with feral animals and the population in general, because owners failed to identify their dogs or themselves. We won’t even mention the ones left with little or no food and water because no one in Louisiana or Mississippi believed that it could happen (even though it had happened before, in 1918).
Now for horses, if you think you’re going to need one in the future, the time to learn about them is now. The day in the life of a horse owner: 6 am and time to feed (2 sections of hay if no grass is available and grain if you need it), water and turn out (unless you have just pasture, in that case you need to check your horse over well to make sure he didn’t run himself through in the night), muck stalls. Been 8 weeks the horse needs a trim (unless you have a farrier close by, this means you do it), depending on where you live he may need new shoes. So you pick out all 4 hooves and get out the frog trimmer and the [hoof] rasp (a big file) and don’t trim too far or you’ll be walking for the next four or more weeks. Brushing your horse may seem like fun for him (it is) but it also gives you time to look him over for injuries or disease. If he has no cover he can get rain rot (fungus) and cause you to have to bathe him. Smell the hoof as you clean, if it smells funky it is hoof rot (thrush) and needs to be tended to (bleach mixture or Thrush X).
If you have never broken a horse to ride, don’t start when you’re 40, buy a well broken horse so you can learn more and not get killed in the process. Riding a green horse is more about the work you do on the ground, before you ever get on the horse. Breaking to ride isn’t just getting on and praying. It’s about trust and having the horse know you aren’t going to hurt him. Unless you’re huge you can’t bully a horse and not get hurt. One simple rule for horses is – once you have control of the head the body follows. John Lyons does a wonderful training seminar and it is available on DVDs, if you’re bent on going start to finish do it that way.
Make sure your horse ground ties (stops when the reins are dropped and stays), work him over plastic, use him to haul deer out of the woods and work him so that you can fire a gun near him. Do that by starting with a cap gun in the same pen as the horse after he sees it. Then work your way up. Do it until he acts as if it’s nothing with the cap gun, then move to a .22.
The horse should reside full time at your retreat or at a full care facility near it. The horse will probably weigh in at 1,000 pounds plus and not something you want to stress yourself or him over trying to move a huge distance when there is a problem. There are going to be a lot of people trying to get out or get in and to wait last minute with a large animal, is just asking for trouble.
A horse bug out bag is a tough one, hay for the ride and water, first aid kit with an extra halter and a few leads. Wrap his legs before you leave, so he won’t damage them in the trailer. Bring a good hunk of cloth because if it gets bad, cover the horses’ eyes and he will calm down. Make sure your retreat is stocked with hay and grain, medicines you may need and buckets. – TD