I am a California native now living with my husband of 30 years on our secluded 360-acre ranch. I have lived a ranch life since I was a child, and most of my life has been spent managing large populations of a variety of livestock and less common creatures; ostriches, emus, and parrots, to name a few.
I raised Miniature Donkeys for almost 30 years and still have a few. I have shipped donkeys all across the United States and sent 20 overseas. At one time my herd consisted of 120 donkeys but now is down to just 19; our last foals are due in August 2022. Maremmas came into my life initially to protect my donkey herd but have since captivated all my attention.
I have been training animals since I was a young child. I’ve been told the story of me putting a horse halter on the body of my companion dog and hitching him to a wagon, poor boy! I remember the dog but not this adventure. I have shown horses and donkeys and have taught many to pull carts. My current riding equine is Mathilda, my Belgium draft mule. Mitch and I enjoy wilderness pack trips when time allows; he goes more often than I do but now that I am no longer breeding dogs, I hope that will change.
LGD Training Experience
I have owned, or done training with, more than 250 Maremmas. I will never consider myself an expert at understanding livestock guardian dogs and the complex nature of how they do their job but learning from this many dogs has been very helpful! I learn from my Maremmas every day. As I write this there are twenty-seven Maremmas employed at Benson Ranch/Benson Maremmas. What a privilege that is.
I began my formal training education through participation in the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Foundations Course in 2018. This is a science-based course designed for the typical companion dog owner. In 2021, I published an LGD training manual that I wrote to accompany this wonderful course as it can be applied to livestock guardian dogs. You’ll find a link to both the training manual and the KPA course below.
In 2021, I became a certified professional dog trainer through the completion of the rigorous Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professionals course. I have stepped down as a breeder of Maremmas and now devote myself full-time to training livestock guardian dogs of all breeds, teaching through the use of Zoom sessions or in person, and writing blog posts and books. Stay tuned for the second LGD training book! I have been working on it for five years. Now that I have retired from breeding Maremmas I expect to find the time to finish this worthy project.
I am an avid student of animal behavioral science. Honing my own education has made me hungry for more so I am usually participating in formal coursework of some sort! Below, I have listed some of the courses I have completed thus far. These resources are available to everyone so please join me! The dogs in your life will thank you – mine sure have.