Livestock Guard Dog

Below are some articles and links to articles that address the Great Pyrenees as a Livestock Guardian Dog. We hope that you find these articles informative as well as interesting.

Rescue and the Working Pyrenees by Catherine de la Cruz
The Young LGD And Lambing Time by Catherine de la Cruz
All Working Dog Owners are Not Created Equal by Catherine de la Cruz
So You Are Interested In Adopting a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD)… By Victoria Marshman and Tricia Johnson


Whelping the Litter, What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Catherine de la Cruz (Posted on White Fire Great Pyrenees,
Socializing your puppy by Catherine de la Cruz
What turns a Pup into A Livestock Guardian Dog? by Catherine de la Cruz
Another View of Livestock Guardian Dog History by Catherine de la Cruz (Originally printed in the AKC Gazette, April 1995)
Working Dogs: What Is Their Job? by Catherine de la Cruz
Housebreaking: The Second Time Around by Catherine de la Cruz Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California
The Dis-a-Pyr by Catherine de la Cruz

The perfect livestock guardian home. They love them because they can keep an eye on the field and nap.

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Rescue and the Working Pyrenees

by Catherine de la Cruz First printed in Rocky Mtn Livestock Journal, all rights reserved

RESCUE: As used by pure-breed clubs, this term applies to the placement of a dog by a third party in a new home. A “Rescued” dog is generally unwanted by its original owner, who is unable to sell it, and either gives it to a Rescue organization or sends it to a pound or shelter where – if it is lucky – it is accepted for foster care by a Rescue organization. Rescued dogs range in age from puppies to seniors. The process of placing a “rescued” dog is also called “re-homing”.

Who can resist a puppy of any breed? A Great Pyrenees puppy resembles a living Teddy Bear but in a very few months, the cuddly puppy will grow into a digging, barking, shedding, drooling DOG – and a big dog, at that. For the family pet, that often means being relegated to the back yard, never to be allowed inside again. For the ranch dog, it often means that the transition from pampered pet to one expected to work for a living is made at the worst possible time.

A Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) should be allowed to remain with its mother and litter until eight or nine weeks of age, so it learns the rudiments of canine social behavior. Between nine and twelve weeks, it should begin its bonding with the species it will live with – humans, sheep or goats or other livestock. If the pup is brought into the house and made a pet for the first few weeks in its new home, bonding to livestock may not take place. When finally placed with the livestock, it will be less likely to accept them as its pack and will continue to attempt to get back to the house.

Great Pyrenees, like all LGDs, have little prey-drive. That means they are unlikely to want to chase a ball, and on the farm are not likely to chase livestock once they are out of the puppy stage. However, a pup that is initially raised in a home may well be expected to “fetch” and play “catch”. Children encourage chase behavior in running games, and the pup learns behavior that will be unacceptable as a working dog. As the pup grows larger, and more powerful, his chasing and nipping endangers the livestock; his desire to return to the house makes him unreliable as a guardian. Finally, around the age of one year, the un-bonded pup becomes more of a liability than as asset and the decision is made to get rid of him.

Placing the failed Livestock Guardian Dog:
The average failed LGD has few social skills; he is unlikely to be housebroken, obedience trained or even leash broken. If not already neutered, his adolescent hormones create additional behavior problems related to aggression and dominance. Many shelters routinely euthanize all such dogs rather than risk the liability of placing them. The opportunities for placement of such a dog are few and its future is bleak.

In a Rescue foster home, the failed LGD may have the opportunity to learn new behaviors. If the foster home is experienced in rehabilitating dogs with poor social skills, the dog may learn to walk quietly on a leash, to obey simple commands and even to become housebroken. His bark pattern – established between six and nine months of age – may prove to be still another barrier if placement in an urban setting is being considered. Great Pyrenees have been called “Industrial-strength barkers” with some justification. A dog that has learned to bark at every change in his environment may have to be debarked to live comfortably in town.

A dominant, independent dog may not be able to make the transition to family pet; without either social or livestock skills, the only alternative may be euthanasia. A more submissive, social dog may make the transition easily and adapt quickly to the new environment. The care and patience of the transition foster home may provide the edge both types of dogs need to make the transition from farm to family.

Re-placing the successful dog:
What about the successful LGD whose livestock are sold out from under him? This is a reliable and protective dog with strong livestock skills that needs help only in making the transition to another owner and flock, not to a new lifestyle. If the dog is a dominant, independent range dog, he should be placed in a similar situation. If the dog can’t be sold along with his sheep, contact the APHIS-ADC office in Denver (address below) for referrals to ranchers who need this kind of dog. The mature dog accustomed to protecting livestock in fenced pastures is also in great demand and the local Breed Rescue will most likely have referrals to homes waiting for this special dog. Since the range dog and the fenced-pasture dog need different skills and temperaments, it is generally not a good idea to substitute one working condition for the other.

If the range dog is to be introduced to a new flock, it should be at a time the flock is penned near the home ranch, at lambing or at shearing time. The dog should be placed in fenced pens with the sheep or goats. Once sheep or goats and dog are accustomed to each other’s presence, they can be turned out on the range as usual. The dog needs to have his care and feeding routine established immediately so he and the shepherd establish a working relationship.

The fenced-pasture dog should be introduced to his new pasture on a leash and encouraged to walk the boundaries, scent marking as he goes. Once he has established the territory as “his”, introduce the sheep or goats through a narrow runway or door so he can check out each animal that enters. Supervise his interaction with the livestock for a few days until you, he and the livestock are comfortable with each other. Be particularly aware that he will “push” his boundaries, often trying to protect more territory than you actually want him to. Correct each instance of fence jumping by putting him back where you want him. A hot wire may be needed for a while to remind him to stay put.

The Family Dog Comes to the Farm:
Rescue organizations are frequently asked by desperate stock growers for a dog to prevent further predation, being told “Any dog will do.” Unfortunately, not any dog will do the job. The family pet cannot become a range dog. However, given the right combination of dog and farm conditions, a family pet might make the transition to family-farm dog.

The first variable is the dog itself. A mature dog, over the age of two, has the best chance of making the change. The dog should already be accustomed to living out of doors and should exhibit interest, but neither fear nor aggression, when confronted with new situations. A dog that is comfortable around people, but does not constantly solicit attention may be willing to adapt its social response to include other species. Above all, it should be a dog that has not exhibited tendencies to be either an “escape artist” or a cat chaser in its previous home.

The second variable is the farm family. Someone must be available to spend an hour or more each day for the first two months closely supervising the dog’s behavior. The children must understand that the dog is not a playmate, but a working member of the farm and is to be left to its job. The family should be made aware that livestock may be injured while the dog is learning its job.

The final variable is the farm itself. Is the fencing sufficient to contain the dog? Are creeks and canyons fenced in such a way that the dog can’t crawl under the fence? Are there boulders, logs or other high places the dog can use to get over the fence? Most Pyrs kept as family pets don’t consider four-foot field fencing worthy of respect. It will probably take a “hot wire” both top and bottom to change the dog’s mind. Is the livestock kept close enough to the house that a human can keep an eye on dog-livestock interaction? If the livestock in question are other than sheep or goats, be aware that a natural interaction may not be possible.

Finally, a pen of cyclone or no-climb wire should be prepared in a field near the livestock and visible from the house. The dog will spend her first few days here, becoming accustomed to the sights and smells of the livestock and will return there for the first few weeks when she can’t be supervised, and later as a “time-out” pen for punishment for unacceptable behavior.

On the new dog’s first day, give her water, a small amount of dry feed, and leave her alone in the pen near the livestock. Observe her reaction. After initially barking at the stock, she should settle down and just watch them. On the second day, put the dog on a leash and walk the fencelines with her. Allow her to sniff and wander, praising her when she urinates or “marks” the fenceline. If she wants to investigate the livestock, let her do so only if the stock don’t run. If they do, don’t allow her to follow them, as it will encourage chasing.

After the boundary walk, allow her to drink from the stock waterer if she wants to, then return her to the pen. Repeat this walk two or more times a day for the first week. When she has shown no inclination to chase the stock for a couple days, replace her leash with a 30-ft nylon longe line (available from horse-supply stores) and gradually allow her to wander the length of the line. If she still shows no inclination to chase, allow her to drag the line as she investigates her territory. Allow her an hour or more with the stock, under constant supervision, then water her and put her in her pen. Repeat this again later in the day and again the following day. If no chase behavior occurs, allow her longer periods with the stock, without the line, but still under supervision. Continue to pen her at night or when you are not there to supervise her for at least the first two weeks.

If the livestock in question are ratites, then the dog should be walked around the outside of the pens and not exposed directly to the birds. Dairy cattle are often surprisingly at home with LGDs, but beef cattle and exotics may be too aggressive for the dog’s safety. Llamas develop individual preferences and the dog should be walked among them only on a leash until all of the herd accepts her. Male llamas occasionally develop such an antipathy toward a dog that they can’t be trusted around one. Don’t expect immediate success, and don’t be surprised if the first dog doesn’t work out. The change from unwanted family pet to working farm partner is a difficult one that few dogs can make. The ideal Livestock Guardian Dog is one bred for the purpose and raised from a young age with its livestock. The ideal family companion is one of gentle disposition who has lived with a family since leaving its litter. However, when circumstances require that a Great Pyrenees change its living conditions, they often surprise us with their adaptability.
· USDA-APHIS-ADC Western Regional Office 12345 W. Alameda, Ste 313, Lakewood, CO 80228
· GPCA LGD Chair Catherine de la Cruz

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By Catherine de la Cruz

Livestock Guardian pups are most often purchased during lambing season so there are young lambs for the pup to grow up with. So the first time she is left alone with lambing ewes is around the age of a year – a time when her own development is still incomplete. The following story is common.

The sheep grower comes out to the pasture and finds a ewe who has recently lambed. Her nose and ears are torn and bleeding, and the rancher’s first thought is “dog attack!” The livestock guardian dog is found, often with blood on her fur and an uninjured lamb nearby. The rancher’s first thought is usually that the dog has “smelled blood and gone crazy.” Many potentially good livestock guardian dogs have their careers cut short at this point. However, had the sheep grower witnessed the “attack,” this is the most likely scenario.

A ewe – usually a yearling at her first lambing – gives birth to a lamb. Confused, she wanders away to give birth to its twin. The livestock guardian dog finds the apparently abandoned lamb, licks it clean and begins to treat it like a puppy. (This is true whether the livestock guardian dog is a male or a female.) Something about “motherhood” gets through the dim processes of the ewe’s brain and she decides to take care of the second lamb. Shortly afterwards, she vaguely remembers she has another one around somewhere and goes to look for it.

At this point, the young dog, not sure of its responsibilities, decides to “protect” its lamb against the pushy ewe who seems to think it belongs to her. In the unequal struggle, the ewe butts the dog and the dog retaliates with her teeth. The ewe is injured, and the sheep grower now has several problems on her hands – new lambs, an injured ewe and a confused dog.

It is of little comfort to learn that many young livestock guardian dogs go through this stage; it is probably more reassuring to learn that almost all of them outgrow it and it never recurs. The most immediate problem is how to deal with the dog’s behavior.

Lock the dog up alone until ewe and lamb are cared for and penned together. Then plan to watch the ewes closely for the next birth, hoping to correct the dog’s behavior before more damage occurs. When you see a ewe about to give birth, put the dog on a leash and allow her to watch from a distance comfortable for the ewe. (Some experienced ewes actually seek out the dog’s protection when they lamb; others want the dog as far away as possible.) Before the lamb is on its feet, lead the dog around the ewe, keeping the ewe between the dog and the lamb. The dog needs to learn here not to separate the ewe and lamb. If the ewe charges, let her hit the dog, if she can do so without hitting you as well. Correct the dog sharply if she attempts to retaliate.

Repeat this supervision as often as possible during the lambing season; learning when not to interfere, and when to care for a lamb that has actually been abandoned, takes experience. See to it that the dog has the chance to learn this during her first lambing season. Encourage her to spend time with the “bummers” – lambs that are being bottle fed – as this will satisfy some of her curiosity about the newborns. Teach her, by physical restraint, not to get between a ewe and her lamb. If a ewe butts her, forestall retaliation with a sharp “No!”

Once she is through her adolescent period, your livestock guardian dog will be a calm and reliable guardian, even for lambing ewes. The “episode of the bloody ear” will be turned into a positive learning experience for both of you. One day, when your livestock guardian dog is older, experienced and sedate, content to sleep in the sun, you will see the old torn-eared ewe and remember when you were all younger and still had a lot to learn. And you will be grateful you had a chance to learn it together – you and your reliable old dog.

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All Working Dog Owners are Not Created Equal

by Catherine de la Cruz

Two recent conversations with Pyr breeders have made me think more seriously about the widening chasm between “show” and “working” breeders. An intelligent, respected breeder of show stock told me, ” I don’t sell working dogs because I don’t know what is involved in their care and training; I’m afraid to make a mistake that might cost the dog its life. ” Shortly afterwards, a breeder of Livestock Guardian Dogs phoned to ask me how she could upgrade her stock. “I’ve bought a new male, with some champions in his pedigree, but my neighbor told me he won’t produce working pups. My bitches are small but produce sound pups; how am I ever going to get good working dogs that really look like the Standard says, if I can’t buy dogs that both look good and can work?”

Both breeders have a point to make and, while they could probably profit by sitting and talking to each other, their cultural differences might get in the way of real dialog. Just as there are levels of awareness among show breeders – knowledge of genetic problems, ability to evaluate pups, to name just two – so there are different levels of awareness among livestock breeders. The problem is – knowledge in one field of livestock doesn’t equate with knowledge about dogs. The type of producer a livestock breeder is will greatly affect his outlook toward the dogs.

The commercial operator is a livestock producer who raises animals – usually for meat – as a full-time occupation. If he has sheep, they number in the hundreds, and are usually cross bred – a black-face (meat) ram is bred to white-face (wool) ewes to produce fast-growing lambs for the butcher trade. The ram is probably registered; the ewes are probably not. If he has goats, they may be raised for milk (dairy goats), or for meat (Spanish goats) or for their wool (Angora goats). The dairy and Angora goats may be purebred and may or may not be registered; those who raise goats for their meat are similar to sheep and cattle raisers, cross-breeding as necessary to produce the best market carcass.

The purebred operator may or may not raise livestock as his sole occupation. Because they are the business of raising breeding stock for sale to other breeders or to the commercial operators for upgrading or crossbreeding, they understand registration and showing. However, since there is little penalty for falsifying a registration, crossbreeding for size or other desired quality has become quietly accepted, if not openly approved. Their cattle and goats may have registered names; their sheep are usually identified by ear tag number. There may be more than one accepted registry for a particular breed of livestock; if enough people breed a particular cross of breeds, they can start a registry for it and ask for classes at Livestock shows. Since “Championships” are awarded at each show to the best male and best female of each breed, the term “Champion” has a very different meaning than in the AKC world.

The hobby breeder does not depend on the livestock as a sole means of support. Many will tell you they “work in town to support the farm.” They are likely to have a variety of species around the farm; they may or may not have purebred stock and may or may not exhibit them. Their animals all have names. These folks can be further divided into those for whom the farm is a multi-generational way of life and those that left the city to go “back to the land”. The former are more likely to be resistant to new ways of doing things; the latter often expect to make up in enthusiasm what they lack in experience.

The investment breeder is in a class by himself. He generally has high-priced exotics: ratites – birds such as ostrich or emu – or the current livestock fad such as alpacas, cashmere goats or Shetland Sheep. He paid so much for his breeding stock that he doesn’t feel he can afford to cull; he depends on other breeders like himself, or on newcomers to the industry, to purchase his young stock. He sees his agricultural activities as a tax advantage rather than a way of life, his livestock as depreciable commodities.

Each of these growers has different expectations of a Livestock Guardian Dog. The commercial livestock breeder needs a “tool”. He will expect the dog to live full-time with the livestock, to have minimal contact with people; it will probably receive its routine vet care on the same schedule as the livestock. If it isn’t neutered when he gets it, it will probably be allowed to breed with whatever other dog is around – regardless of breed Probable pure-breds may be kept for ranch use or given away with a truckload of sheep; unwanted pups are killed.

The purebred livestock breeder will also expect the dog to live full-time with the livestock. Veterinary care is more likely to be given as needed. This dog is unlikely to be allowed to cross- breed, but since every animal on the ranch is expected to be either breeding stock or meat, it is very difficult to persuade this producer to neuter the Livestock Guardian Dog. Their bitches will either be bred to their own male, or to one owned by a neighbor or fellow livestock exhibitor. The pups will be sold as pets or working dogs to other livestock producers. This class of livestock producer has many contacts within their industry, and if properly educated and guided by an experienced Pyr breeder, can become an asset to the breed, producing sound working dogs that can enhance the show-dog breeders’ as well as the working-dog breeders’ lines.

The hobby livestock breeder may see the dogs as a second income, or may be educated enough to understand the need for careful evaluation of breeding stock. The former is unlikely to x-ray or to give more than minimal vet care; the latter can be taught to understand the need for both. The educated hobby breeder is most likely to obtain his working stock from a show breeder and often is willing to give that breeder feedback on the dog’s abilities.

The investment breeder, in my opinion, should not have a dog. He should be encouraged to spend the money for proper fencing and management techniques to protect his investment. He rarely has either the time or the temperament to give a young dog the attention it needs to grow into a healthy, useful guardian. Since it is not possible for a pup to form a bond with either birds or alpacas, dogs from these situations are now turning up in rescue with greater frequency.

When dealing with livestock breeders in search of a Guardian Dog, dog breeders must be aware of the attitudes and expectations of the people they are dealing with. This is a case where cross-cultural awareness may mean the difference between success and failure for the dog, the owner and the breeder.

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So You Are Interested In Adopting a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD)…

By Victoria Marshman and Tricia Johnson 

A Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) can be the answer to your flock predation problems. If you have never had a LGD before, please take the time to educate yourself about how LGDs work, and what you have to do to ensure that your new LGD will be successful. It is labor intensive for the owner at the start, but very worthwhile in the long run. Think it through before you decide to adopt: if you are not able or willing to invest the time it will take to get your new dog acclimated and doing his job proficiently, then please consider other options.

All Great Pyrenees adopted from Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue have been fully vetted. They are current on vaccinations, including rabies and the distemper combination vaccination, are on heartworm prevention and flea and tick control, and have been spayed or neutered. The adoption fee is $400.00; you are responsible for transportation. We will likely send someone to visit your property; not only to see if it is a suitable home for a LGD, but to offer suggestions on what might be done to ensure your LGD is successful.

Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue has expectations of any adopter – all geared, of course, to the well-being of the dog. We expect that you will provide adequate shelter, food, and veterinary care for your dog. We expect you to devise a retirement plan for your LGD that does not involve simply returning the dog to us when he or she becomes too old to do the work. We expect that you will notify us if it becomes necessary for you to re-home your dog. The dog must either be returned to AGPR or may go to a pre-approved home, and you are responsible for transportation.

AGPR has friends – many of them persons who have adopted LGDs from us – who can help you if working with LGDs is new to you. These people can share advice on practical designs of adequate shelter; what food to feed, how much, and when (including seasonal adjustments); grooming tips (yes, you will need to groom your LGD – and that doesn’t mean a shave-down in the spring); and training assistance. If you need help or information, let us know, and we will put these people in contact with you. Please be aware that just as you invest in your livestock, you are investing in your LGD. If you do not have the resources to provide proper care for your dog, including flea and tick protection and heartworm prevention, then please consider other options. You must protect your LGD if you want him or her to be able to protect your livestock.

Great Pyrenees make excellent LGDs and family farm dogs, and are very happy to be outside with their livestock. They can be wonderful additions to any farm and every family. Thank you for considering adopting your LGD from Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue.

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