Gobi and Tiger, two mixed-breed dogs, live and work at Whittier Fruit Farm. Gobi had been living at the Rochester dog pound, and Tiger had been abandoned or had strayed, and was living at a private shelter. Now they are guarding young apple trees from deer and rabbits, patrolling 12 acres of trees. For two young dogs, it’s great work.
We decided to bring in orchard guard dogs after rabbits chewed the bark on many of the newly planted trees in the winter of 2002 - 2003. Deer are also a perennial problem, eating twigs, buds and new shoots. Both species are capable of killing fruit trees through heavy browsing. Fencing, shooting, and spraying repellants on the trees all have been of limited effectiveness.
So far, the dogs aren’t 100 percent effective, either, but they have really lessened the pressure on the young trees. Both rabbit and deer damage are much lower now. We occasionally see tracks of deer in the snow and soil, but it’s usually a single animal where before a whole herd of deer would spend days in the orchard.
Gobi is a large white dog with husky or shepherd in his mix. Tiger is smaller, a cattle-dog mix, with orange and black brindle markings. They are confined to the orchard by an underground electric fence, but are free to roam anywhere within the fence, searching for and chasing “varmints.”
Both mutts are friendly, energetic, and fun-loving, but during farm tours for children, we always tie them up, just because some kids like dogs and some don’t. We are always happy to tie up the dogs for any other customers as well. Just ask at the store before you go out into the orchard. We don’t want you to feel uncomfortable while you’re picking, and the dogs really don’t mind.