Educate me on LGD

Discussion of the training, use, and management of guard dogs, guard llamas, guard donkeys, guard goldfish, etc.

Educate me on LGD

Postby BigAsh Farms » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:39 pm

Hi, We have sheep, and would like to get a guard dog to help protect them, as part of our flock will be wintering on my dads farm with a bigger barn, but more in a "wild" area along a river and woods, versus my farm in the middle of a field. Also leased some new pasture ground, that is along the river as well. We havent used a guard dog before, how do they behave around other farm dogs? How about people? Can you control/command them? Or is it all in training? what is the best breed, we were thinking great pyranese? Do you have to feed them every day, or do you set up a self feeder? Lots of questions here, but thanks for any help.
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Janet McNally » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:18 am

That is a lot of territory to cover.

behavior around people: is highly variable. Some are very friendly with people, some are standoffish (and therefore not a liability with people) and others are very intimidating. This varies somewhat with breed, but is also a very individual matter. Nearly all are very friendly with family members, and seem to recognize children as something to protect. Buy pups from parents that have the kind of attitude you are looking for.

other dogs: most LGDs come to recognize the yard dogs and the herding dogs as a part of the farm. Some will harrass the familiar dogs in a friendly way just to keep them out of the sheep. It is fairly rare that there is a problem, and that is usually in the less common breeds (i.e. kuvasz for instance) where there is a larger propensity for dog aggression.

breeds: that is a huge topic and everyone has their favorite. It is best to learn about the breeds (look back through the archives here) and find out what the strengths and weaknesses are of each breed and then decide which one best suits your farm. If you have a favorite (such as the Pyr) then seek out breeders who produce dogs that work in circumstances similar to yours. My opinion is that you are best off purchasing pups from working parents where you can observe working style and make sure it suits you. Some of the decisions you need to make is do you need a close working dog that stays tight to the sheep, or do you want more of a patrol dog? is it important that the dog likes people? what type of predators (i.e. do you have any large predators like wolves, bears, or cougar?).

LGDs work primarily on their own. 99% of what they do is instinct enhanced by how you brought the dog up. The latter is imo quite important as there is much you can do to help assure your dog grows up to stay with the flock, and to be trustworthy. The best way to look at it is the sheep will train the dog how to behave, your job is to make sure the dog is provided the right training environment. Beyond that it is nice to have a dog that comes when called, can lead on a leash, and jump into the back of a truck should you need to move it.

I prefer to feed my dogs daily but others make use of self feeders. Feeding daily means you see the dog and the sheep every day and can check for any problems. Self feeders tend to draw rodents and birds, can lead to obesity in some dogs, or a tendency to hang out by the food rather than move with the flock. But understandably there are circumstances where feeders are convenient.

You did not ask but here is my favorite puppy rearing protocol. New 8 week old pup is placed in a pen made of 4 150 ft rolls of electrified poultry netting (because the squares are small enough pup can't escape) with 3 to 5 just weaned lambs. Pup will remain here for 2-3 months. At about 5 or 6 months old pup graduates to the dry ewe group (or ewes with lambs at side) and remains there, hopefully moving at least a half dozen times with the flock before it reaches 12 months of age. During this time I prefer electrified netting because it helps teach pup to respect fencing. By a year of age, pup should have good habits and no longer requires fencing to contain it with the flock.

Juvenile dogs can present some behavioral issues such as playful chasing, chewing, or plucking wool. this most often happens between 8 and 18 months of age during which time there are a number of tools we can use to stop the behavior. First would be to move pup to a tougher group of sheep such as adult ewes or rams, second would be to use a dangle stick, and third would be to kennel or tie pup for a few months to cool its jets. All of these tools are to buy time while pup grows out of this rambunctious stage.

As a rule pups that are 5 mo to 18 mo of age must be supervised if placed with ewes with newborn lambs. A portion of the dogs will do just fine and can remain with the lambing ewes while others need more time to mature.

consider whether you might need 2 dogs (or more). Some places have a large number of coyotes or larger predators and require more than one dog.

Janet
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby CDKfarm » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:12 am

Janet,
I have been looking into getting a dog as well so thank you for your advise. You said that they are normally very accepting of yard dogs. I have never had a coyote problem so far. I have been noticing that ewes are being ran by neighbor dogs though. I have seen our cows hit these dogs and send them flying before but when the cows are seperate from the sheep the sheep start getting ran. I want a dog that will keep this neighbor dog on its side of the fence and not let it in my pastures. Will a LGD be capable of doing this for me?

As I said about the cows being so standoffish with dogs will the LGD be able to be run with sheep and cows together?

One of our neighbors has sheep in a field that backs up to ours. It is only a seven strand HT fence to seperate. I do not want the dog in with his sheep. Would the dog make his rounds through there though. We have about 100 acres. Could he be trained to come down to the barn once a day to be fed or would I need to carry feed up to him every day.

In the winter I lock my ewes in the barn when they run out of grass from about february through when the lambs are weaned in May. Do I just keep the dog in the pen in the barn with the sheep?

Sorry for so many questions I just want to make sure this is something that would work for me before I would buy one and end up with a headache.
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Janet McNally » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:50 am

LGDs usually distinguish between your yard dogs, and intruding neighbor dogs. The situation that might be confounding is if you have a neighbor or relative who brings a dog along when they visit, and your dog learns to accept them, and then one day that dog enters the flock. again MOST dogs will change their attitude toward the dog the minute it is a threat, but not always if they have become very familiar with it. So I would not tolerate neighbors visiting with their dog for this reason. I have a pretty strict policy about no visiting dogs on my farm, but this is primarily to protect the paint on car doors as my dogs try to get the intruder in the car.

Your cows will change their attitude toward the LGD, but give it some time. They first have to observe the dog and realize it is an asset to them.

you might have a problem where your LGD might extend their services to the neighbor's flock if it is close in proximity to yours. If this is a problem, an electronic training collar will help you define the boundary.

I would prefer to feed the dog in the location where it is working. This helps keep good working habits. Feeding by the barn has the disadvantage in that it encourages the dog to leave the flock and hang out around the barn. That is a hard habbit to break so don't get it started.

In the winter let the dog have the run of the farm. A good LGD will hang out in the barn yard nearest to its stock. Better yet is to allow it to go in and out of the barn if possible.

Janet
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby BigAsh Farms » Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:12 am

Thanks for the replies, I am in SW Minnesota, Coyotes are the biggest threat, although there doesnt seem to be as many around anymore now that people hunt them. I will look into it some more, another question, would it be worth getting a donkey or something to help while the dog is maturing?
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Janet McNally » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:47 am

yes a donkey or llama will afford some protection while your dog is maturing. Be aware, however, that the dog and the alternative guardian may or may not get along.
Janet McNally
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Darroll Grant » Tue Nov 01, 2011 8:52 am

Some years back a local shepherd in a high coyote pressure area ran LGDs, donkeys and llamas with each bunch of sheep. They all worked together and appeared to rely on each other.
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby BigAsh Farms » Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:15 pm

I found some great pyr puppies for sale, was wondering what would work best, male or female? We currently have a female hunting dog. which we breed AKC, so we wouldnt want her being bred by a male, could we have a male neutered and still have the same effectiveness?
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby stockdogranch » Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:58 pm

Mary and Janet can discuss this better than I, but I would warn to make sure the pups you are looking at are out of WORKING parents, and that the pups are raised in a working environment. Just because they are an LGD "breed" does not necessarily mean they will work the way you want them to (or at all). Also, as Janet has pointed out, research the various breeds and make sure that the breed/pup you are looking at will fit your situation. Not all LGDs work the same way. So I would advise to really do your homework and research things thoroughly before grabbing a pup just because it might be nearby and is an LGD breed. I researched before I got my LGDs and it has made all the difference. I have talked to a number of people who got theirs through rescue or whatever, rather than going to a reputable working breeder, and they did not have good results,
A
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby BigAsh Farms » Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:56 pm

I am getting them from another farm which has both parents actively working dogs. The puppies have been raised on the farm around the sheep. Now back to my question of gender. What would be best for me, and does neutering affect them at all? Make them more passive? Or not?
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Janet McNally » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:22 am

Both Jeff Greene and Ray and Lorna Coppinger compared neutered to intact dogs in their studies and found no difference in effectiveness and I would agree that for the most part, neutered dogs are just as protective as intact dogs. That said, a number of years ago it was suggested to me that intact dogs might be more effective for our wolf situation, and indeed I have found that to be the case. Wild canids do regard a mated pair of their own species to be more dangerous than a single animal and I would suppose they respect the territory of what appears to them to be a mated pair of LGDs better. I also have observed that intact male LGDs are somewhat more territorial. That said, they are also very distracted when there is a female in heat so you have not just one dog out of commission, but two.

I would start out with either sex, and for your first dogs you may find it easier to manage neutered male or females. Intact males and females do require a higher level of management, and intact males can be a higher liability and are best left for those requiring that extra edge who are prepared to manage them.

I do find that opposite sexes tend to pair up, while same sex dogs tend to cover a larger area as they prefer to guard different groups. This is true for neutered and intact dogs.

Janet
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby lovetree » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:20 pm

If we choose to neuter or spay a LGD we wait until the dog is preferably 14 months old, in this manner the LGD will benefit from the hormones for proper muscle, skeletal and confidence development. The down side to this is that if it is a female she has a 50/50 chance of coming into heat before being spayed and if she does come into heat she will need to be kenneled during that time, but even then I still believe that waiting to spay will produce a much more long term sound LGD.
Mary Falk / LoveTree Farmstead
home of the dual purpose Trade Lake Sheep and the nationally celebrated Trade Lake Cedar Cheese
NW Wisconsin
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Re: Educate me on LGD

Postby Janet McNally » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:22 pm

totally want to second what Mary said about waiting. These dogs mature slower and they need the benefit of normal hormones for good bone development.

Janet
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