Demystifying the alphabet soup….
Permanent heRding Guarding huNting
A dog who is registered PRGN has shown ample proficiency in each of the working areas. He is an all-round farmdog who has learned to differentiate between pack and prey. He is concerned with his pack and is indifferent to or even suspicious of outsiders. Dogs may also be registered as PRG or PRN. These dogs are proficient in fewer categories.
Which dogs are better? We don’t like to say that one dog is better or worse than another. In fact whether a dog is a “good dog” has more to do with the individual dog’s natural talents being matched with a farm who can use those particular talents. For example, a cattle rancher in the high plains is going to have different needs than a small homesteader with a menagerie of animals. AWFA is about getting the right dog to the right farmer. This website has been constructed with that goal in mind. The individual dog pages have been designed to help us sort out which traits are where and aid buyers and breeders in finding what they are looking for.
What does it take to earn a letter?
Herding is simply defined as the ability to move stock. When the AWFA board evaluates a dog, they look at the accomplishment of an end result. They pay less attention to *how* that task gets done. So, herding can be the kind in a round pen with six sheep and the dog learning “away to me” or “come by”. It can also be the kind where the dog picks up a slice of hay and gets an individual to follow. Many of these dogs are thinkers and will find a way to get the task accomplished.
Guardian nature is comprised of two parts. The first is livestock guardian ability. How does the dog feel about the livestock? Does he see the stock as his family? Is he trustworthy with them and do them no harm if he is left unattended with them? Will he nurture them and seek to keep them calm and safe? An extreme guardian nature dog may even wish to stay in the barn with the stock rather than go inside with the people.
The other part of the guardian designation is territorial guarding, or watchdog qualities. Does this dog stay home or does he travel? Does he accept other dogs onto his property willingly? Does this dog keep strays away? How does this dog greet strangers and visitors?
The hunting designation is really divided into three parts. Tracking is the dogs ability to work with a person to track things. This could be seen in a dog who assists in tracking mortally wounded deer or a dog who aids in finding missing lambs. The second part of the hunting category is treeing. Will this dog tree squirrels and stand barking? Could you coon hunt with this dog? And finally, does this dog hunt pests and eliminate them?
These categories are not separate traits of the dog, they rather are indications of the overall motivation of the dog. For example, a dog may be an excellent mouser and kill anything that squeaks (prey drive), but can the same dog try to nurse newborn kittens (pack drive/guardian nature)? Yes, a dog that takes instruction well and seeks to enforce the rules and routine set forth by his master can do both. Can a dog will little prey drive herd? Yes. The style is often different, but he can get the job done AND be trusted with the stock when unsupervised. Dogs are intricate beings with intermingling thoughts and desires. We seek to find the right combinations to go on the right farms.