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Training LGD puppies


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#1 lrayburn

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 02:42 PM

I was interested in getting some feedback from those of you who use LGDs in your livestock operations. I teach basic puppy and adult dog obedience classes and was approached by someone who has purchased a Great Pyrenees puppy. The pup will be used to guard their ducks and has a pen in the duck yard but they also want to teach her basic obedience. My classes are all based on positive reinforcement and building a respectful relationship between the handler and the dog. We do use treats and toys and do a lot of exercises to get the dogs to focus on their people but not obsessive "look-at-me" behavior.

How much obedience training do most of you give your LGD puppies? What sort of motivations/rewards do you use? Will this class distract the puppy from her guarddog duties? Do any of you have suggestions or recommendations to help prevent the training from distracting the puppy from her guardian dog duties?

I'd appreciate any input you all have to offer.
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#2 Lenajo

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 03:13 PM

Other than occassional handling and maybe learning to at least be tied up, they need to leave the LGD pup alone. This isn't a pet, it's a working guardian. Splitting it's interests between people and stock are not in the best interest of getting it established as bonded flock dog.

Perhaps someone else will have some suggestions in the poultry regard, but I can't help but think a puppy pen full of ducks flapping is a invitation to a lot of chasing/pulling/playing/killing on the pup's part. I just don't know how he'd resist - short of a double fence arrangement and/or some pointed reminders by an ever present human. Our young dogs tried playing with lambs just a bit, quite normal, but the larger ewes quickly knocked some sense into the dogs. Pack/flock mentality has little to do with positive training - the pups learned quick and hard from their elders to play right, or else.

#3 painted_ponies

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 04:53 PM

I don't have any experience at all, so won't be much help, sorry. :D

But I've been wondering along similar lines. If the LGD pup is not taught some basic obedience, how will the owner cope with things like taking him/her to the vet for shots, or doing routine home vet care, or even clipping toenails? These guys grow into big honkin' dogs, after all. :rolleyes:

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#4 bcnewe2

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 05:16 PM

I've taught my LGD's to not jump on people, at least come check what I want if I call, they can be led on a lead but they don't like it, and to not chase the lambs. I'm able to groom them cause they happen to love it. I managed to get both to the vet for neutering but really don't plan on having to take them anywhere else. We'll vacinate them here on the farm from now on. If they get sick I might have to sedate them to get them back to the vets cause they are so not used to going anywhere. Teaching them basic manners wasn't hard, they live to please me and are dissapointed when I scold them so learned very quickly. These are dogs from different parents one is a pyr the other is a pyr/ackbash mix. Being that different I sorta assumed the traits I see in my dogs are simular to other LGD. I could be wrong.

I think they could manage to live around ducks but that young pup stage where you have to teach them not to chase lambs might be a bit rough on the ducks.

I wouldn't encourage any interactions other than what I mentioned above, maybe a few more that I'll stumble across in the future, just to keep them thinking the sheep or ducks are their family not us.

I love my white boys and would enjoy training one more if they weren't going to be guardians but imagine that they might be a wee bit stubborn.

Good luck
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#5 Laura L

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 12:40 AM

I think that Kristen has about summed it up for what I've done with mine too. They aren't too crazy about riding in the car, so other than when they went to the vet for neutering, the vet just comes here.

I'd like to add that mine live around chickens and other than 1 time of being told to leave the young, wing flapping chickens alone, there's not been any problem with them.

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#6 Lenajo

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Posted 08 August 2007 - 12:13 PM

We give our own shots, and they don't need anything besides puppy shots and then Rabies as by law. The vet comes to the farm for rabies injections. The only trip they'll ever take in a vehicle is to be neutered and I know quite a few people have had that done on the farm too.

They like to be groomed, and if I want to cut a toenail (not usually necessary) I just pick up a paw and do it. Grooming is mostly combing out masses of shedding hair, or maybe cutting out a matt. They don't get baths because they'll just be back in the sheep poop or the next gross thing they can find to roll. In the summer I might put some flea preventative on, or some fly ointment on their ears.

In most regards, a working LGD is just a big sheep. Food, water, shelter, some basic rules and healthcare, and let him do his job.

If you don't play with them, they won't get in a habit of jumping up. A sharp No is usually adequete - they learn your tone pretty quick. If necessary for dangerous habits - like digging under the fence to the road - an electronic collar can be invaluable.

#7 Bill Fosher

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 06:55 AM

I like my guard dogs to know their names and be interested in coming to me when I call them -- or at least not interested in running away. I used to have one dog that would never come to me unless I got down on my knees and pretended to be looking very intently at something on the ground -- then she'd come over to see what I had. They have to be able to be on leash, even if it's not the high point of their day.

All of my dogs except one have enjoyed grooming. Well, none of them like their tails done, but the rest of their enormous bulk is okay.

#8 kelpiegirl

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 06:57 AM

Does anyone have Anatolians? I have always thought that their type of coat would be a nice thing- if in the south...
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#9 Lenajo

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 08:51 AM

Anatolians are too wide ranging for most farms. They also have a rep for more aggression towards humans than some of the other breeds.

#10 painted_ponies

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 08:53 AM

Anatolians are too wide ranging for most farms. They also have a rep for more aggression towards humans than some of the other breeds.


What breeds are good at sticking close to the sheep?

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#11 Lenajo

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 09:10 AM

What breeds are good at sticking close to the sheep?


We are really happy with the Maremma. A breed I am interested in using as well is the Polish Tatra.

#12 painted_ponies

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 09:37 AM

We are really happy with the Maremma. A breed I am interested in using as well is the Polish Tatra.


Oh, good. :D I was very impressed with Becca's Maremma, when I visited her farm for the BC picnic. I'd love to have one of those one day. :rolleyes: I just looked up Polish Tatra's - isn't it weird how so many LGDs from different parts of the world are big white fluffies? Almost like convergent evolution or something. :D

Straying a bit OT, but do you need to have more than one LGD for a small flock (say between 6 - 10 head)? Does a single LGD with sheep get lonely for canine companionship?

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#13 juliepoudrier

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 10:12 AM

Sally,
I think the number of LGDs you might need depends more on the size of your pastures and their terrain, as well as extent of predator pressure, rather than number of animals to be protected. For example, if you have a lot pf predator pressure, then, say, one coyote could distract your LGD while another goes in for the kill on your sheep. If you have dense woods, really hilly terrain, or very large pastures, again you might need more than one LGD no matter how few sheep you have. But then I'm no expert on the subject....

BTW, the LGDs bond to the stock so it's not necessary to have extras for companionship, only for increased protection.

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#14 painted_ponies

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 10:27 AM

Thanks, Julie. I was mostly worried about the LGD needing companionship. I haven't a clue about predator pressure here, really. I know we have a bobcat, cause I've seen her, and I'm told we have coyotes but since I can't tell their tracks from dog tracks (and everyone's dog roams loose) I don't know how numerous they are. Although I guess the loose roaming dogs are liable to be a problem all on their own. :rolleyes: Pastures are relatively small and flat but surrounded by dense woods.

Have your Pyrs arrived yet? :D

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#15 Valhalla

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 01:58 PM

We have Maremma's and are VERY happy with them. There are a lot of coyotes here and before David got the LGD's, he might lose up to 5 lambs a day. Since getting them, he's lost none to predators. Our dogs even kill groundhogs and racoons!

The only thing we like to be able to do with ours is catch them. They will come close to the gate when we call them, but not right to us. They have no obedience. The bitch is more socialized as she had pups last year and was in the barn for those months, so she had close contact with us on a daily basis. We can not catch the male and it is not a good thing! I have to give him canned food to put his heartworm prevention in and I can barely touch him to apply the Frontline, and that is while he has his head buried in the bowl of food, but that's it. We should have spent more time with the male and we won't make that mistake again!

I know some people that have been too friendly with their LGD's and the dogs no longer guard the sheep. They'd rather be with the humans.
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#16 Lenajo

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 02:57 PM

Too many LGDs for the situation can also increase wandering and innattention issues. When we orginally got 2, it was a littermate yearling pair. Together they would do some broadening of their terrain (there are 1800 acres of woods and fields behind us), or one would go and the other stay, during the boring parts of the day Alone, they stay with their flocks and do their job.

If I ran 2 dogs with a group it would be under heavy predator challange - like against coyotes during lambing here - or it would be a pair very different in age to avoid the teenage gang gallivanting.

#17 Bill Fosher

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 04:59 AM

I have had Great Pyrennes, Maremmas, and crosses of the two, and in my estimation there's more variation in working style from dog to dog than breed to breed, for these two breeds anyway. I had two brothers that were 3/4 GP and 1/4 M. One patrolled the fence and would leave the fence in pursuit of coyotes (which ultimately led to his death on a highway eight miles from his flock this spring) The other stays pretty much with his sheep and will herd them away from a threat and stand between the sheep and whatever it is. I've worked with Maremmas that work both way, and GPs that work both ways, and some that do a little of both.

#18 bcnewe2

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:34 AM

I've found mine are like Bills. One will stay with the flock and the other will go off in an offensive chase at the threat.
I like having 2 because the chasing lamb game was not a big issue cause they had each other to play with.

They do roam a bit but we live so far out it doens't matter. All the neighbors know them and don't leave things like shoes out on their porch because they white boys will bring them home as presents for me! But the neighbors like them because their predator problems have gone way down too.

I love my smooth coated ack cross because of the hair and he seems way more intent on his sheep. He's never far away from them, where the pyr will be off napping in the heat of the day unless the ack calls him. t=The pyr is not been a problem with his coat casue I groom him so often. Getting all the undercoat off him has him pretty cool for the 100 degree temps we've been having. They spend time in the pond in the morning then sleeping with the sheep in the heat of the day.

I haven't lost a sheep since getting the 2. I'm sure if I had 1 it'd be a whole lot harder on the 1 with the abundant coyotes around here. I wish they'd hunt down the armidillos but I guess they don't like armidillos either!

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#19 Lenajo

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 02:31 PM

I won't tolerate any roaming. They would either be on someone else's land trespassing, or in danger from the road or hunters. Seperated, or with heavy challange to keep them busy, the dogs stay nicely with their flocks. The day of the tolerated neighborhood roaming dog is over.

Chasing hasn't been an issue. The ewes these dogs were raised with will pound an LGD near a lamb into the ground. If that hadn't worked, the power of the electric collar would have stopped it. The dogs play with whatever varmint they've caught, sticks, their food bowls (well, not anymore, those are now chained down where we can locate them), and sometimes they just streak accross the pasture chasing air for pure fun.

The female is a more predatory dog - she catches and eats squirrels, possums, bull frogs, snakes. The male does some, but he is not as cunningly quick as her. Both dogs despise birds and buzzards, hawks...not permitted to land. The male is starting to kill armadillos now - fine with me!

So far it appears the most consistant of breeds I've checked into is the Maremma. The pry...lots of varation. Crossbreds, it depends on the individual parantege more. Only a few of the crossbreds are deliberate crosses, and I hear those purpose bred dogs are very good.

#20 wsp

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 07:08 AM

One of mine is 1/2anatolian and 1/2 maremma medium coated, the other is 3/4 pyr and 1/4 anatolian shorter coated. Both are becoming very good lgd's. Both are young, and when left together they did start broadening their territory, I put up some electric wire and made sure my fence was good so they didn't have any places to go under, and high enough they couldn't easily hop over. Separating them made a big difference too. One would follow the coyotes, the other would stay closer to the sheep. Only a few times did I notice my younger lgd giving the sheep any trouble, it didn't take much scolding to change that. the other lgd was always good with the sheep and lambs. I like to be able to easily catch my lgd and have him used to some handling for vet visits, nail trimming and any necessary medicating. I have alot of people coming and going here so it is necessary they also be non-aggressive towards two legged visitors. One of them had a terrible eye infection just recently and needed to be treated twice a day, plus pills. It would have been very difficult to take care of her had she been hard to handle.
Mine just recently were introduced to chickens they chased some, but stopped when I told them, so far they both seem to be leaving the chickens alone now.
Wendy Peters
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