Livestock Guardian Dogs Indeed

One Serious Dog

The Great Pyrenees dogs are one year old and look huge.  Yet they’re still growing and won’t truly be finished until almost two years of age.  Locally you hear all kinds of heroic stories of farmer’s Great Pyrs protecting their livestock, guarding lost lambs and keeping them dry,  and most often how they’ll kill coyotes whenever they get the chance.

The hardest thing about raising them to do these things is to unlearn everything you’ve known about raising dogs up to this point.  Great Pyrenees mountain dogs require different techniques than your average house dog and the best place to get this knowledge is from the farmers who raise them.  Their advice is simple and consistent no matter who you ask.   First and foremost, take daily walks with your young Pyrs around the entire perimeter of your property. No, not with a leash!  These are working dogs and will follow behind you, even as puppies.  But it’s crucial they know where the property boundaries are and you will show them every day, rain, snow, sun, hot or cold.  The more acreage the better, they’ll easily patrol 200 acres or more.  Next, don’t play with them.  No ball chasing, fetch with a stick or any other nonsense. Their job is to bond with your livestock, not you.  When you enter the pasture give them a quick rub and a  “good boy”…just enough love to let them know you’re boss and continue on with your work.  Finally, as puppies they will screw up and chase a goat, tease the horse, and try to catch a chicken to play with it.  Never hit them, but don’t be afraid to be firm and let them know they’ve done wrong.  They’re smart and are always reading your emotions so you generally won’t have to tell them twice.

Yet as the saying goes,  “Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated”.  I’d start to overthink training them and would resort to looking up more advice online, adding another eight steps to the simple three that neighboring farmers already gave me.

Then one day at about the seven month mark, like a switch, instinct kicked in and and the dogs suddenly took their job seriously.  When you enter the pasture they come to the gate to quickly greet you, then head right back to their flock.  They constantly scan the woods and valley below for anything that looks out of the ordinary and if something is seen, they’ll be there in seconds to drive it away or kill it.  The slightest cry from a goat will instantly wake them from a dead sleep and they’ll be on their feet snarling and snapping to make sure nothing is hurting their friends.   Raising them is simple after all.  Just give them the right conditions for which they’ve been bred, let them be themselves, and they will shine for you.

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