Outdoors Column: The Trained Guard Dog

The soil in the garden was dry and a thick crust of black dirt formed the surface. This is not good for producing large amounts of fresh vegetables. Another problem I had was my green beans were disappearing. Something was eating them off at the ground, starting at the end of a row and working their way up. I was sure rabbits were the culprits. For days, I worked with Jag, the guardian of the farm. Every time I saw a rabbit I would yell, “Jag, get it!” With heaping praise upon him when he chased a rabbit, he soon learned, this might be part of his job.


Jag has now taken up permanent residence in a chair on the porch. From there, he can see over a wide area of the lawn and the garden. If a rabbit is spotted, he jumps down from his chair and chases it away. If someone is outside to tell him what a fine dog he is, all the better. If not, he smugly returns to his chair, satisfied in a job well done. He does not bother with chasing squirrels or deer that come into the yard as he has been well trained to keep the rabbits away.


One evening last week, I took the tiller through the garden, removing an occasional weed but more importantly, breaking up the hard soil. By the time I got done, the rich black soil was loose and light. Things would now be able to resume growing.


On Saturday morning, I walked down to the garden just to see how much good my tilling had done. I was quite annoyed to see several more feet of the row of green beans had been eaten off flush with the ground. On closer inspection, in the soft soil, I found deer tracks. A deer had walked beside a row of beans and eaten up the row until she got full. I looked closely and found no rabbit tracks in the area. I had been falsely accusing the rabbits and even went so far as to train the dog to constantly harass them. I needed to start training all over.


That evening as my wife and I sat on the porch talking, five deer came over the hill and started into the yard. Jag watched them with little interest from his perch on the chair. It is one thing to chase rabbits where there is a possibility one might be caught. There has been a couple of times where he has even been successful. The added incentive of a warm meal plus being praised for his efforts, made rabbit training fairly easy. Deer are a whole different ball game. He has chased deer a few times before and has been easily outrun. He can see no point in chasing something he knows is impossible to catch. I jumped up, yelled “get them, Jag”, and ran toward the deer. Jag jumped down and followed me to the edge of the porch. Looking around and not seeing any rabbits, he went back to his chair. The deer ran part way up the hill and turned to see how far I was going to chase them. Re-training the dog was not going to be easy. The Hy Vee Grocery Store has a good price on fresh green beans. I think buying green beans will be a whole lot easier than re-training our guard dog.