Inevitably, no matter what we try to do, there is always some kind of risk no matter what we do with our dogs. Fido might go out in the suburban backyard, and a cougar would scale the fence to gobble him up. A wolf might pick off the good old reliable Roy the Cattle Dog scouting ahead on a hike out in the bush; or a curious street-savvy coyote might be bold enough to take a petite leashed Maltese going for a neighbourhood stroll in the presence of her owner. These are hidden dangers we might face as soon we leave the sanctity of our front steps.

In Finland, Norway and Sweden, since wolves are endangered and are a protected species, there is an increase in frequency of attacks upon hunting dogs. In Canada, this is not unheard of and it is an accepted part of life– and we control it by hazing predators, or by shooting the ones taking livestock. However the Scandinavians came up with something rather unusual. It’s called “wolf-jerking.”

Mirka from Gekkoo No Kennel in Finland was kind of enough to share these pictures of something she read about in a magazine a few years ago with us on a forum:

Norwegian Grey Elkhound in a teal spiked cut-vest tearing into a moose.

A vest based on the ancient concept of spiked wolf collars.

A medium-sized black-and-white dog with in a dark green nylon jacket with orange horizontal stripes. The jacket has a wrap around the dog's neck.

This vest employs electric juice.

In Finland, these are called “susiliivi,” and in Sweden, they are called “vargvast.” Both means “wolf vest”. The electric vest, lines with wires, is actually quite heavy for the dog to wear, weighing about a kilo [about 2 pounds] for a medium-size dog. The other vest is made with four rows of 40mm spikes mounted on four layers of ballistic nylon fabric and Kevlar.

A Karakachan livestock guardian dog with an iron collar and what appears to be nails welded on.

Wolf protection collar in Bulgaria.

So how do they work? Well, the spiked model is fairly obvious. It is nothing revolutionary. The idea of using iron and steel to deter predators has been going back for eons and it is still used today in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Far East. In fact, it is not uncommon to see cabins in North America lined with thick long iron nails, often around window-stills, to deter bears and mountain lions from snooping around. So the spiked vest is an old concept applied to what hawgdawg enthusiasts call a “cut vest“.

A close-up view of a small grey tab on an orange vest where the voltage are stored.

The brain behind the vest.

The idea behind the electronic vest is if a wolf attacks a dog, it would receive a powerful jolt. This is not unlike the idea of using shock collars as a non-lethal depredation method pioneered by the Defenders of Wildlife.[1] Now, the vest is far from perfect, as one anecdote reveals a scenario where the dog was shocking itself repeatedly.

What is amusing is one prototype protects the neck; while the other protects the belly. Nevertheless, in a country where poaching a wolf lands one in serious hot water, these are rather interesting solutions.[2]

However, it is futile to refrain from captioning this:

A Norwegian Grey Elkhound in a teal cut-vest. Two lines of spikes are visible on on side.

Move over Neapolitan Mastiff, Viking Dog is now Gladiator Dog.

And to be honest, when I see the electric vest, Barney’s “Suit Up!” catch-phrase, from “How I Met Your Mother”, echoes in my head.


Footnotes

  1. In North America, wolves are protected in a few states, and the population density is too low for ranchers to protect their livestock through depredation. A study shows wolves regularly comes back to a bait station every 5 days. Using a shock collar fitted on 5 individuals, the incidence rate was reduced to every 47 days and the shocked wolves moved away 0.7 kilometres away from the shock zone. The interpretation of the study is the shock collars could be used to establish buffer zone during calving seasons.[source]
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  2. Wolves went extinct in the 1970s in Sweden, and was recolonized from Finland. However there is a growing concern there is an under-reporting of poaching, despite the fact a four-years penal sentence serves as a deterrence, as there are only 250 out of a projected 1,000 individuals in 2011. Consequently, because of the high illegal hunting pressure, the Swedish wolves are highly inbred suffering from skeletal and reproductive disorders.[source]
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References

Hawley, J., Gehring, T., Schultz, R., Rossler, S., & Wydeven A. “Assessment of Shock Collars as Nonlethal Management for Wolves in Wisconsin.” Journal of Wildlife Management 73 (4), (2009): 518-525. Accessed August 14, 2011. doi:10.2193/2007-066.
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[HTML] [PDF] Lieberg, Olof, Guillaume Chapron, Petter Wabakken, Hans Christian Pedersen, N. Thompson Hobbs and Håkan Sand. “Shoot, shovel and shut up: cryptic poaching slows restoration of a large carnivore in Europe.” Proc R Soc B  (2011): 1-6. Accessed August 17, 2011. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1275.
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Images

Tunturisuden Susipalstalle. “Ruotsalainen susiliivi”. Last accessed August 15, 2011. http://www.tunturisusi.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1850 [Images: Unknown]

Sheep! “Karakachan Livestock Guardian Dogs”. Last accessed August 15, 2011. http://www.sheepmagazine.com/issues/31/31-2/karakachan_livestock_guardian_dogs.html [Image: The Bulgarian Biodiversity Preservation Society]

PYSTYKORVA.INFO. “Susiliivit pystykorvalle”. Last accessed August 15, 2011. http://www.pystykorva.info/viewtopic.php?p=12187 [Images: Vilperi]

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