Livestock Guardian Dogs

Not an ugly duckling! For anyone who has been following us at all this year, you’ll know that we have had a HORRIBLE predator year. There was the bear who ripped the door off of the chicken coop and had a mighty chicken dinner. We probably lost 50 turkeys, at least, including the hen who was raising two ducklings as well. We had raccoons and weasels and snapping turtles, who turned our many Saxony ducklings into one. ONE! We had a coyote pack attack where we lost six piglets. I could go on and on and on.

So, obviously, we need help. Livestock Guardian Dogs are clearly the answer, since I can’t manage to actually keep llamas alive. Sheep kept with either the horses or the cow are safe from predators. However they are almost as vulnerable to getting inadvertently stomped on by the cows or horses. We’ve had far too many broken legs this year, and Disa put Elly into the wrong shed the other day and Elly stepped on a lamb and killed her. We are not doing well with lambs this year, damn it.

Maggie's first snow I contacted the Great Pyrenees Rescue earlier, and they sent us Maggie. I cannot tell you what a fit she is for this farm. They told me that she was stranger and food aggressive, but okay with birds, goats, sheep, other dogs. All of that is true. She is also cuddly, smart, and very adaptable. We just love her to pieces. Though she was here for a three week trial, after about a week, we sent in the paperwork and the check. She’s our dog, thanks.

She does NOT like it when anyone shows up here, so I am very careful to have her behind a fence whenever I’m expecting someone, which is not very often. But because I don’t have lots of contiguous fences, she can only patrol one paddock, but we let her out whenever we feed the pigs, and she happily follows along. We hope to get it where she can protect the pigs soon, since is that where we’ve had coyotes lately. But even just having her around and living outside all the time, barking her fool head off at every noise seems to be doing the trick.

Beau I want to get her a buddy out there, but finding the second isn’t going so well. Everyone tells me I need a male, but all the rescue males just sound like more than I can handle. They seem to all be fence breakers, and really? An aggressive dog who I can’t keep behind a fence is more than I can deal with. I’ve had a few here on a trial basis and always just said No. I’m sorry. I think I want more girls. I like girls. They don’t wander. (Bjarki, I’m looking at you.) I like territorial girls, thanks. I’m hoping to find a couple of girl puppies who Maggie can teach about being guard dogs. I think she’ll be good at that, actually. I was thinking I’d get an intact boy and girl and breed them, but then I remembered how many need homes and how much of a pain in the ass it is to have two breeds of one species of breeding critters. (I had Shetland and Icelandic sheep when we first started, and gave away the Shetland sheep as soon as I could find homes for them. Never again!)

Morning cuddle time Anyway, we love her. Bjarki and Disa love her. She was afraid of Frank when she got here. Now? Not so much. He’s been giving her all of her meals and lots of treats and now he’s her new best friend. She loves me, too, but everyone loves me, that’s easy. It’s hard to believe she’s only been here for six weeks, because it’s just been fantastic. There’ve been no predator attacks since she’s shown up, and dealing with her has become part of our daily routine. Bjarki in particular is just in heaven having her to play with all day.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    My only caution against getting another female is that you may have to deal with fights until they work out who the “top bitch” is (even if they are both spayed), and even then, they may periodically have to re-establish that position. That is probably why people are suggesting a male. Male-female canine relationships seem to be less prone to this constant jostling for position – they work it out once and then it’s fairly stable. You haven’t had any problems with Maggie and Disa though, which is a good sign, although another big white dog might be a different thing altogether in Maggie’s mind. Just something to be aware of.

  2. Lisa
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, that’s exactly what they said. I wondered if that would still be the case if I put puppies out with her, though. Or even just one. I don’t know how many dogs I actually need. I was hoping that if a puppy grew up with Maggie as the top dog, maybe that wouldn’t be a problem?

    I don’t know. These males scare me a bit. Just the thought of an aggressive dog who wanders gives me the heebie jeebies. Bjarki boy brings his ball when he goes to the village, so I at least don’t worry about him eating anyone!

  3. Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Dogs are our solution too. They also do herding, mark the territory boundaries, make human visitors aware that they are watched (prevents theft) and are wonderful companions. Without them we would have major livestock predator problems. With the dogs, the predators are prey.

    Merry Christmas, Sunny Solstice and Happy New Years!

    Cheers,

    -Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    Pastured Pigs, Sheep, Dogs & Children
    in the mountains of Vermont

  4. Posted December 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    males don’t have to be aggressive or escape artists. my male, and the males i’ve fostered, are protective just like a female would be, and none of them have been escape artists. and they don’t wander any more than a female if they’ve been neutered. just keep watching the rescues, the right one will come along. meanwhile at least maggie has back-up with the other dogs around.

  5. Posted December 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Even if a female puppy grew up with Maggie, eventually she might decide to see if she could take Maggie down a peg. It might take a year or so until she decided to try it. Bitches are, well, bitches. 😉 I think that the males are not all of a piece, and eventually the right one will come along. I would not want to try to break up a bitch fight between two huge dogs, or end up helplessly watching while one mangles the other. Have you checked out the lgd listserve? I was on that for a while and there is a ton of great info and people with oodles of experience that could give you better guidance.

  6. nita
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    in my lgd reading, pyrs seem to have a rep as boundary pacers–hence the fence breaking. take a dog hardwired to patrol the perimeter, let him know there’s more legitimate perimeter, and add a fence? that dog will see its job as breaking the fence in order to keep watch on the full turf.

    shaggy (retired goat dog, half kom/half pyr) happily barks along the fenceline, but stays in it. a toddler could defeat my fence. he stays inside it despite clearly considering the street and the next-door neighbors home to be part of his pasture. when they have houseguests, i almost always end up taking him next door and bellowing, “these are your new goats!” at him, so he doesn’t spend so much energy garumphing and growling at the window.

    um… consider another breed. or a mix.

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