There is much to understand when it comes to the Livestock Guardian Dog (a.k.a., the LGD), and several issues to take into consideration—not the least of which is how to select the right breeder/puppy/dog. An LGD isn't casually created by virtue of putting two dogs of the breed together, and not all puppies are right for farm work. Further, not all puppies advertised as LGD in the local paper (or online) were bred properly with an attention to temperament, attitude and drive.
The truth is that the LGD who does the best work, will come from a long and tested line, bred by people who are experienced with these dogs and the work expected of them.
If you have an interest in a dog to guard your livestock, club pages such as ours are a very good place to start to help you make informed decisions.
HOGPC itself is lucky to have our very own resident 30+ year expert on breeding, rearing, selecting, training and maintaining LGDs. (see below).
Before you leave, please scroll to the bottom of this page, to read a fun (TRUE) short story about 3 Pyrenees farm dogs.
The needs of a Livestock Guardian Dog are the same as those of well-cared for livestock: good fencing, shelter from the elements, fresh water at all times, adequate feed and good veterinary care. In the 1970's, it was believed that petting a Livestock Guardian Dog spoiled it for work; today, we know that a dog that receives regular human interaction within its own territory is a happy, well-adjusted guardian.
There is much more than meets the eye to raising and training an LGD. If you are interested, just click the link and contact us.
Your likeliest candidate will be the puppy who is self-confident, not sensitive to noise, independent, and the one who explores more readily. If petted, this puppy will wander off sooner than the others. A pup with the correct attitude has the best chance of living a full, happy life on the farm where visits by neighbors, workers and children are the way of life. You do not want the puppy with high prey drive who is happy to chase balls, cats, or litter-mates because he won't do well in a situation in which animals are to be protected instead of chased.
A 9-12 week old puppy should have a pen—approximately 4 x 4 ft—set up in the barn. A pre-selected companion (either a lamb or a kid) weighing about the same as the pup should be in the pen."Bummers"—lambs or kids that have to be bottle-fed several times a day—make the best companions because their schedule for feeding coincides with that of the puppy's. Frequent visits allow the caregiver to supervise the interaction of the two animals, and to prevent injuries. The companion will also act as a substitute for the pup's littermates and will help teach proper inter-species interaction.
At about 6 months of age, the pup will begin to bark at strange sounds. Because the dog's barking habits are established between 6-9 months, so monitoring the pup's barking is most important at this time.
Caregivers must check on every incidence of barking and praise or scold as appropriate. "Time out" periods in its pen in the barn can be used as correction for inappropriate barking which continues.
With consistent work and training from the caregiver, the pup will develop into a trustworthy dog when it barks.
If the pup is still chasing livestock at six months, extra attention needs to be paid to stopping this behavior immediately. If a puppy chases at nine months of age, it may have too high a prey drive to be trusted with stock.
If the pup hasn't been neutered yet, six to nine months of age is the optimal time to do so, before it has to focus full-time on livestock.
A neutered LGD is the most reliable.
A fully reliable Livestock Guardian Dog must be neutered. GPCA Livestock Guardian Dogs breeders report excellent results with early spay/neuter (6-8 wk) .
Not to mention:
1) An intact male will leave the stock to follow the scent of a bitch in heat (even if it's a coyote).
2) An intact female will have to be withdrawn from the flock for three weeks, twice yearly, to prevent accidental breedings.
3) Finally, working livestock dogs are not another "cash crop".
There are too many poorly-bred dogs already without our contributing to their numbers.
It is not uncommon to hear that people shopping for a Great Pyrenees for a Livestock Guardian have run into difficulty persuading a reputable, GPCA-affiliated member to sell them a dog for such a purpose.
There are many reasons for this, but most simply come down to a fear of the unknown. "Where will my pup live? Will it get enough to eat? Will it be loved? What will happen if it can't, or won't work? Can it be happy with only sheep/goats/llamas for company?"
Within the GPCA community exist some of the best, most caring Great Pyrenees breeders in the world. Some of these members have been able to create a presence in the livestock guardian market, but the majority of members who breed don't know how to enter this market and still ensure the health and safety of their pups.
HOGPC may be able to help. Use the contact form below and your questions or comments will be directed to the appropriate resource.
Pyrenees guarding ponies
Bay Village, Ohio, United States