Why your Labrador isn’t going to be a good livestock guardian

A recent discussion popped up on Facebook this morning in which a member of a homesteading group bragged about what a good livestock guardian and hunting dog his Labrador was. This post got posted in a livestock guardian breed group, which resulted in much, much eye-rolling.

It is certainly true that there are dogs that make excellent livestock guardian dogs that aren’t of the typical breeds. Mark Derr has written extensively about the mongrel dogs of the Navajo that guard their sheep, but within those dogs, there is quite a bit of variance about which ones are good at the task and which ones would rather go roaming and hunting.

The breeds that have undergone selection for this work are much more likely to be successful. All these breeds have been selected for high defense drive and low prey drive. Little lambs can go jumping around these dogs, and their instinct to hunt and kill prey will not be stimulated.

Most dogs bred in the West are bred for the opposite behaviors.  The most popular breeds are usually from the gun dog and herding groups, and those breeds tend to have been selected for relatively high prey drive. Those dogs are much more likely to engage in predatory behavior towards them.

Further, breeds like Labradors are bred to have low defense drive. Labradors are very rarely good guard dogs. They have been bred to fit in the British shooting scene where they would regularly be exposed to other dogs and strangers, and these dogs have had much of their territorial and status-based aggression bred out of them. If the coyote shows up to a farm guarded by a Labrador, chances are very high that the Labrador will try to play with the coyote. It might bark at the coyote and intimidate the predator as well, but there aren’t many Labradors that are going to fight a coyote that comes menacing the flock.

The poster with the LGD Labrador claimed that Labradors were great herding dogs. When pressed on this point, he posted a photo of some yellow dogs moving a herd of beef cattle. These dogs weren’t Labradors. They were blackmouth curs, a breed that can superficially look like a Labrador, but it is a hunting and herding breed that is quite common parts of the South and Texas.  You could in theory train a Labrador to herd sheep, but I doubt you could ever train one to herd cattle. And the herding behavior would be far substandard to a breed actually bred for it.

The poster claimed that Labradors were “bred down from Newfoundlands,” and Newfoundlands are livestock guardians. The problem with this statement is that it is totally false. As I’ve noted many times on the blog, the big Newfoundland dog was actually bred up from the St. John’s water dog. Every genetic study on breed evolution, clearly puts this breed with the retrievers. This dog was mostly created for the British and American pet market, but it is a very large type of retriever.

And contrary to what I have written on this blog, it is now clear that retrievers and Newfoundlands are not an offshoot of the livestock guardian breeds.  A limited genetic study that also found Middle Eastern origins for all dogs had this finding, but a more complete genetic study found that retrievers and the Newfoundlad are actually a divergent form of gundog.

dog breed wheel newfoundland

I have not written much about this study, but it does change some of my retriever history posts. It turns out that Irish water spaniels are also retrievers and are very closely related to the curly-coated retrievers. It has been suggested that curly-coated retrievers are actually older than the St. John’s water dog imports, but conventional breed history holds that they are crosses between St. John’s water dogs and some form of water spaniel. It may actually be that something like a curly-coated retriever is the ancestor of the St. John’s water dog, and this dog would have been called a “water spaniel.”  I have not worked this one out yet. The dogs we call Newfoundland dogs, though, are much more closely related to the Labrador, flat-coated, and golden retrievers than to the curly-coated retriever and the Irish water spaniel. Thus, the Labrador and the Newfoundland dog are cousins, but the Labrador is not “bred down from the Newfoundland.”

The other clue that Newfoundland dogs and their kin aren’t good LGDs is that in Newfoundland, the sheep industry was actually severely retarded by the dogs. Fishermen let their dogs roam the countryside, and any time someone set out a flock of sheep, the water dogs, which I would call St. John’s water dogs, would descend upon the flocks and savage them.

So the natural history of the Labrador totally conflicts with its likely ability to be a good livestock guardian. The British bred these dogs to be extremely social, and their prey drive has been selected for.  They also have this entire history in which their ancestors went out hunting for their own food, which means they do have the capacity to become sheep hunting dogs.

The poster didn’t appreciate when these facts were pointed out. The response was that the other people were racist for saying that Labrador isn’t likely to be a good LGD, especially a Labrador that has been used for hunting.

This is problematic because dog breeds are not equivalent to human races. Human races are just naturally occurring variations that have evolved in our species as we have spread across the globe. Most of these differences are superficial, and none are such that it would justify any racial discrimination in law or policy.

Dog breeds, however, have been selectively bred for characteristics. The eugenics movement, the Nazis, and the slaveholders who selectively bred slaves are the only people who have engaged in the selective breeding of people. And all these periods in history have lasted only a very short time before they were deemed to be gross violations of human rights.

For some reason, people have a hard time accepting these facts about dogs, but the very same people often have no problem with an analogy with livestock.

If I want high milk yields, I will not buy Angus cattle. If I want marbled beef, I won’t buy Holsteins. If I want ducks to lay lots of eggs, I wouldn’t get Pekins, which will lay about 75 eggs a year. I would get Welsh harlequins, which might lay 280 a year. But they don’t get very big, and their meat yields are very low.

Angus cattle and Holsteins are the same species. Welsh harlequins and Pekins are too. But they have been selected for different traits.

Dogs have undergone similar selection. A Labrador retriever has its own history. So does a Central Asian shepherd.

Accepting that these dogs have different traits does not make one a racist. It merely means that one respects the truth of selective breeding.

And that’s why a Labrador isn’t really a good LGD.

Natural History

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Dressing for My Days With Style and Sustainability

Thank you prAna for sponsoring this post.

It’s interesting how as I’ve gotten older and my life has changed, one thing has, at its core, remained the same – my style. Since high school, I’ve been drawn to casual, minimal designs (usually with hints of boho) that incorporate natural fibers as much as possible. Like most of us, I’ve certainly had my extreme phases where I attempted (and usually failed) to dress outside of my fashion comfort zone, especially in those “I’m finding myself” years. And details of my style have, as with everyone else, evolved with the times. But in the end, that same core style has remained the foundation of my wardrobe.

That said, even while remaining true to my style, there is one thing about getting dressed that has changed since I’ve become a mother and have had to learn how to squeeze an abundance of different types of activities into each day – and that’s how I dress for my days. While I continue to choose apparel that is what I consider to be my style (and what I consider to be stylish!), I am also careful to focus on pieces that will work for whatever my day (or night) may bring. I also attempt to make environmentally and socially conscious choices in terms of what I wear.

As those of you who read here regularly know, my days vary considerably from one to the next. I’m a full time work from home mama to kids who are under four, my husband works on the road for a band and is gone close to half the year, my little ones are involved in school/ballet/soccer/gymnastics,  I have my own activities (from yoga classes to errands to nights out with girlfriends), and we travel often. Each day is different, but always full. And that means I need apparel that can work for all of this (and again, allow me to still feel stylish) without the need for me to put a lot of time or thought into getting dressed.

The outfit I’m wearing in the photos you see is one of my current go-tos and a perfect example of my daily “uniform.” Both the jeans and the sweater are from one of my long-time favorite companies, prAna, and they’re both perfect examples of what I consider to be my ideal way to dress. The Kara Jean is made from an organic stretch blend denim, which means it moves with me, no matter what my body is doing – whether it’s a quick 5 minute yoga stretch session on my deck in between work projects, or pulling a 1.5 year old toddler boy down from high places he shouldn’t be (which happens a lot in this house). They’re incredibly comfortable, but also fit perfectly, are made well, and they’re chic – meaning I can put them on in the morning, get through everything I have going on that day, and then wear them out to meet my friends for a glass of wine. And the same can be said for the Loveland Wrap (also made from organic cotton). I can put it on in the morning over a loose tee as a cozy sweater, wear it comfortably all day, and then pair it with a fitted top and some jewelry for a date night with my husband, or throw it on at the airport before hopping on a plane. An outfit like this is the definition of my perfect personal style – simple, free-spirited, in style without being too trendy (there’s nothing fun – or responsible – about having to get rid of a piece of clothing after one season), well made, versatile, and sustainable.

Speaking of sustainability, there is something else that is becoming increasingly important to me when it comes to dressing for my days – and that’s consciousness in clothing. It’s actually been important to me for a long time, but thinking about my children and seeing the devastating things that are happening to a planet they’re inheriting has reminded me just how significant it is. Not everything in my closet is conscious – but over time, more and more of it is becoming so. Some of you know that I owned and designed for an eco-friendly clothing company for many years. Because of this, I have a great deal of knowledge about the fast fashion industry and how wasteful it can be. I also know how the production of conventional fabrics and materials harms the environment. And I’ve learned how choosing inexpensive, poorly made garments that end up in landfills after a season, rather than high quality clothing pieces that last for years, is not only a bad choice for our wallets over time, it can also be detrimental to the planet and to the workers who often make them in horrific conditions. And this is yet another reason I love prAna. They create beautiful, consciously manufactured clothing designs that are crafted from sustainable fabrics (organic cotton, hemp, and recycled poly) and that are fair trade certified (watch this awesome video to learn more about this) – and they consistently give back through both local communities and international charities. They genuinely give more than they take. And this is a value that I want to be able to include in the everyday parts of my life – like through what I choose to wear each day – so I can be confident that I’m not only being true to myself, but also doing my small part to make a positive difference in the state of the world while setting a good example for my kids.

This is how I dress for my days. (And my nights!) I remain true to my style, I choose clothing that is pretty but practical and versatile for my busy, unpredictable life, and I try to make responsible shopping decisions by choosing pieces that are made in a way that will help – not hurt – the earth and its inhabitants. And if you’re like me and appreciate these qualities when it comes to getting dressed, you’ll love prAna’s line of clothing and accessories. (Pssst… Here’s a killer coupon code to save 15% off prAna’s website, good today through October 17th: F17CGMW Woohoo!)

What about you guys? How do you dress for the everyday? What’s most important to you when choosing pieces for your closet?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Escaped tick causes panic at press conference

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Sep 4, Our pawesome dog food guide!

Did you know that most stores currently carry brands of dog food that have been linked to recalls, class action lawsuits, and serious health consequences?
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Robot dog sniffs for stinky feet

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Moving Inspiration: It’s Finally Happening

1. Fiddle and Spoon  |  2. Found on Pinterest (anyone know original source?)  |  3. My Domaine  | 
 4. Mafi  |  5. Vogue Living  |  6. My Domaine  |  7.  Human Being Journal  |   

Remember that moving inspiration series I started, like, two years ago? Yep, that one. We’d just gotten approved for our loan, I was pregnant with Emmett, and we were on the hunt for our very first single family home after living in a townhouse for many years. I decided to start a series here where I shared interiors I’d discovered online, room by room, as a way to get inspired and pumped to decorate our soon-to-be new home. We had some trouble finding homes we liked (translate: didn’t need massive amounts of work) in our budget in the (admittedly expensive) area where we live, but we kept the series going as we continued to search. And then, life happened. In a two year period, there were so many serious illnesses (including our own son) and deaths in our immediate family, on top of the regular craziness of having another baby and Robbie’s tour schedule with the band and my work schedule and just regular life stuff, that buying a new home just got pushed back, again and again. Until now. It’s a long story, but we have less than a month to find a home and seal the deal. And I’m pretty nervous about it, because as of right now, there isn’t much available. But I want to stay positive about it (I’m gonna manifest the perfect house, damn it; or at least one that we don’t completely hate) – so here I am, back at this series.

Today I’m not focusing on a specific room. I’m just sharing some interiors I find particularly beautiful. They’re spaces that make me feel inspired to create something we love out of whatever we’re given. Each of them has something that reminds me that even if it’s not ideal, wherever we end up will be ours (with a yard for my kids, please universe), and that’s good enough. Hopefully the next post in this series will be a really happy one where I’m telling you guys how we found a home we really like. In the meantime, we’ll take any good vibes you have to send our way.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Microchips for humans—how soon? Or is it already here?

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Hero Dogs of 9/11 Documentary

Here’s the trailer. You can catch the whole movie on YouTube. Worth the 1.5 hours it takes to see the whole thing. #NeverForget Until next time, Good day, and good dog!

Doggies.com Dog Blog

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A Self-Care Care Package, The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever, + A Giveaway

How To Put Together A Self Care Package
How To Put Together A Self Care Package

Thank you Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this post. Create a care package for a loved one today and don’t forget to include some baked goods made with Bob’s Red Mill products!

Those of you who have been reading here for a long time have probably heard me mention my little sister Morgan now and then. Morgan lives in Indianapolis, about 3.5 hours from us here in Chicagoland. I don’t get to see her that often, but she has been here for me in more ways than I can explain. She dropped everything to come act as my unofficial doula with my first baby, and stayed with me for 30 hours of labor and complications, and for days after. (That baby’s middle name happens to be Morgan, because of her.) She did the same with my second babe too. When our son Emmett was diagnosed with a serious, dangerous form of epilepsy last year, she was one of our rocks, and went above and beyond to make sure we knew we weren’t alone. She doesn’t have human kids of her own (although she does have a dog name Laika though, to whom she is as caring a mother as anyone I’ve ever known), but she has truly been a second mom to my children, even from a different state. Morgan is also a high school psychology and sociology teacher who pours herself into her students, and also volunteers as a leader of a peer mentorship program for students at her school. She is constantly caring for others – so I decided that it’s time for her to be cared for as well. While brainstorming ideas for how I could thank her for everything she has done in a way that would allow her to feel pampered, I starting thinking about how my parents would send me care packages of goodies while I was in college, and how much I appreciated them. So, together with my little ones, I put together a package of self care goodies, handmade art work, and delicious Bob’s Red Mill homemade chocolate chip cookies (because really, what edible gift shows love and care more than chocolate chip cookies?) to send to her. And today I’m showing you how I did it, in case you want to do the same for someone you’d like to show gratitude!

The first step of a great self care package is to bake some cookies, which are the star of the show, because duh, homemade chocolate chip cookies! Truly though, I genuinely believe nothing says comfort like good old fashioned cookies, especially when they contain pure, natural ingredients. And did you know psychologists have found that baking for others makes the baker feel as good as the recipients? True story. This is my family chocolate chip cookie recipe (it’s basically just a combination of favorite classic cookies recipes from over the years), and I just know that you (and/or your care package recipient!) will love it as much as we do. (Makes about 4 dozen cookies.)

How To Put Together A Self Care Package


1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 large organic eggs
1-1/4 tsp organic vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2-1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All Purpose White Flour*
2  cups organic semi-sweet chocolate chips

(*We always use Bob’s Red Mill flours in our recipes, because they’re milled from premium quality ingredients, which gives that extra touch of quality to baked goods. If you prefer, you can also use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Almond Meal/Flour or Gluten Free Flour in place of white flour in this recipe. We use all three regularly! And pssst, if you click here you can get some fantastic coupons for their products.)

Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a medium to large mixing bowl until creamy. Then beat in the eggs one at a time until completely combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the wet mixture and combine well. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto ungreased baking sheets, about two inches apart from one another. Bake for 10-12 minutes (we like ours well done, so I usually leave them in for 12) or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

One the cookies were well cooled (and we sampled our fair share), it was time to put together the care package. First we got a big basket where we could put together a pretty arrangement of goodies. Then it was time to add all of Morgan’s “treasures” (as Essley called them).

Essley loves creating art, and Emmett just starting to get into coloring, so the two of them chose pictures from their favorite coloring book and colored them just for their Auntie Morgan. We rolled each piece of art up and tied with a pretty piece of baker’s twin to make them feel a little more special.

How To Put Together A Self Care Package
How To Put Together A Self Care Package
How To Put Together A Self Care Package

Over the previous week, we’d gathered all sorts of goodies we knew Morgan would love that would also allow her to pamper and care for herself. One of her greatest pleasures is relaxing with a cup of tea, so we grabbed a couple of high quality, natural teas. She also loves playing around with different skincare products, and we got her a bunch of different face mask samples so could have a mini spa day at home. We also included a yummy scented hand poured candle and a loofah for her to use at bath time (she loves taking baths). Another of Morgan’s favorite “me time” activities is to do her nails, so we put in a couple of nail polishes, a nail buffer, and a cool all-in-one pedicure tool. Essley thought it would be fun to get her a “book to write in,” so we found a beautiful little blank notebook/journal and pencils. We also included some other small goodies, like lip balm, a pretty quartz crystal, and a thank you card from my handmade card shop on Etsy. Last but certainly not least was the prize of the care package – the chocolate chip cookies that we baked with love.

We arranged everything together in the basket, along with the card that explained why we put it together and how grateful I am for everything Morgan has done for me. Then we packed it up and shipped it off. At the time of me writing this, it’s on the way to her. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.

How To Put Together A Self Care Package
How To Put Together A Self Care Package
How To Put Together A Self Care Package

It felt really great to put together this care package for someone who means so much to me. And just like I appreciate my sister and everything she’s done, I appreciate my readers and the support you show as well. So, along with our friends at Bob’s Red Mill, we’re going to give a care package to one of you! One lucky winner will receive a care package of Bob’s Red Mill products that includes organic all purpose flour (3 lb), almond flour, gluten free 1-1 flour (3 lb), baking powder, baking soda, active dry yeast, cane sugar, brown sugar, and a cool Bob’s Red Mill Flour sack towel.

Enter right here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway will run through September 20, 2017, and winner will be randomly selected and notified by CLEVER by Thursday, September 21. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and over. Only one entry per household, please. Good luck!

Have you ever put together a care package for a loved one? What type of things have you added? I had so much fun putting this together and would love to make it a regular thing!

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Asthma Treatments for Dogs

Pet asthma is a medical condition that’s easy to diagnose in dogs and there are several different asthma treatments for dogs that can control the symptoms of this disease.

Asthma in dogs is defined as the sudden narrowing of a dog’s airways that causes breathing difficulties. Asthma can be triggered when a pet inhales something it’s allergic to. When this happens, …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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