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Training LGDs to protect multiple species?

 
Patrick Winters
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If you're establishing a small permaculture setup of only a couple acres, but plan on having multiple species in different areas (turkeys in food forest understory, chickens in rotating paddocks, a few ducks by pond, pig off to the corner), is there a good way to get the maximum use out of a single Great Pyrenees or other livestock guardian dog? I'd think that due the the treetops the turkeys would generally be in the biggest danger of predators making it in, but if bringing the pig or chickens out to the woodlot for pannage, or if you'd just like them to be checked on by the dog, is there a good way to train them from the time they are puppies to establish a rotation? Is there a good "operational range" for the dogs within which other livestock species would still fall within their notice?
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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You really need 2 LGDs as coyotes can draw a single dog away but rarely 2.

I think they figure out their own way to guard but you need to show them the boundaries. Take them on boundary walks every day and they will figure it out.

I went with Maremmas at first because their "range" is 1 mile. Pyrs have a range of 15 miles which is why they are so hard to contain. One of my pyrs is a rescue who is food insecure so he doesn't wander. The other is a pyr/kuvatz who I'm just now, after 2 years, am giving her freedom to roam because she recently kept escaping from whatever paddock she was in but didn't roam.

I have cats, chickens, turkeys, sheep, cows, pigs. The dogs seem to know the domesticated animals from predators. The pyr/kuvatz had a problem with the turkeys because they kept bugging her and I thought her response was fairly restrained (she stood up, looking like 137 lb polar bear and came down straddling but not injuring the turkeys).
 
Cj Sloane
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Here's a picture of the pyr/kuvatz getting an introduction to the new pigs. Eventually the pigs will be let into the big paddock.
3 little pigs & Mandy></a>
 
Marc Flora
Posts: 9
Location: Helena, Montana
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I don't know if my experience will help - but take it for what it's worth. I've had LGDs for about sixteen years. For the last five years I've had two acres fenced in the middle if a 160 acre ridge-top parcel that is part of a much larger nature preserve on the east side of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Within the 2 acres I have an edible food forest - or the start of one - planted. I also keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese within the two acre zone. For a year or so I housed sheep in the two acres. We also keep goats (obviously outside the food forest). Within the two acres all the poultry is free range all the time. The dogs also patrol freely in this space. Several garden beds within the two acres have exclosure fences around them to keep out the poultry. Put another way, the two acre enclosure contains permaculture zones 1, 2 and 3.

As of now we have not lost a bird or sheep or goat to a predator. These dogs have run off a grizzly sow and cub, big black bear, wolves, and numerous coyotes and fox. In this last year three neighbors have lost livestock to mountain lion attack. One neighbor was stalked by a juvenile lion. A 175lb lion (one lb shy of the state record) who left his tracks in the snow within a hundred yards of our sheep was shot a mile away after killing several llamas. He had made a circle in the snow around our place but the dogs kept him off. The worst threats have come from a psycho neighbor's sled dogs - that's because they can come at my goats or sheep several at a time - but they've all been run off.

I'm aware that some pyrs will not show an interest in hawks - but that is not the case with my dogs. Any large birds including ravens (ravens can be hell on chicks or ducklings) is not tolerated. This happened because of stale bread. Really. My wife traded eggs for bags of older bread at a local bakery. We would scatter out the bread for the poultry. Well our old pyr (a rescued dog) likes old bread. She doesn't mind sharing with her birds but the damn ravens can't have her bread. So, the dogs trained themselves to to run off any raven or raptor that comes around. It's quite the game- guarding the bread from the ravens. However, the ravens are part of the reason we have so few raptors around here. The ravens have a nest close by and will not tolerate raptors in the area. If you feed your dog outside it will learn to protect its food dish from jays, crows, etc. which should also get them used to raptor control.

Hen turkeys with poults - at least the ones I've had- don't like the dogs getting too close and will leap at the dog's face to keep them back. This is also true for geese. Actually, because the geese act as a family, with the male pitching in to protect the goslings, the dogs give them a wide space. Of course, the pyrs may be curious but they aren't there to go after the birds at all. Recently I had a banty hen hatch out three large eggs. I put her in a small fenced bed that had a rose bush, some herbs and a lot of volunteer orach. Well, the younger pyr got herself into the pen. Not to hurt the chicks though. When I heard the hen fussing I looked and the dog had a chick against the fence licking it. She loves the little ones.

The first year we kept turkeys they wintered in a shed. But since then they have roosted in trees all year. Some breeds are a lot better at it than others. I think it is not a great idea - I'd rather they roosted in a building in the cold weather - but they insist. In the wild it does keep them out of the reach of most predators.

If you have your ducks around a pond the mothers will take the little ones into the water at the first sign of trouble. This deters the ravens, hawks etc.

The geese (American Buff)are great guardians as well and often alert the dogs to trouble.

When I have to have young birds without a mother bird then, of course, I need to be more protective. I'll put them in covered pens and keep them where I can see them from the house - but really the dogs do the work.

The dogs had never been around sheep before I brought five Churro home. I housed the sheep in a pen next to the dog house. In a very short time the dogs were completely used to the sheep and could be let in with them.

Although coyotes will try to draw off the LGDs, mine have always run off the threat and then returned. Of course when they are confined in the two acre pen this is not a problem at all. But, even on those occasions when they have been with the goats and me in the backcountry (I used to run a string of pack goats) I've never had to go looking for a dog, lost one to a predator or lost a critter because the dog was busy chasing a decoy.

In the winter we have deer arrive that hang out with the goats and clean up after them. They learned to do what the goats do when predators are around. Even though the goats are outside the 2 acre zone the dogs have access to, they press up against the fence nearest to the dogs and wait for the threat to pass. So, if a pack of coyotes - or something bigger - howl nearby, there are the goats and deer up close to the fence near the dogs. Kinda cool.

Hope this is of some value to you.
 
Patrick Winters
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This is all fantastic information, thanks a ton!

As a sidebar, have you thought about training the turkeys to nest in the shed during the winter while staying out in the warm months? Can they figure out a seasonal sheltering schedule if trained?
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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My LGDs go berzerk when large birds come around (no training needed). I watch Mandy shove a lamb into the shed when a large bird of prey circled overhead. The dogs also go nuts when the herons fly into the pond...

We have ravens here for the first time and the dogs don't like them. I don't like them either but maybe I'll look for a thread about how to drive them off.

Our turkeys do roost in trees all winter but within their paddock.
 
drew grim
Posts: 49
Location: pleasant garden, nc (zone 7A)
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this is a really late post on this thread. i hope someone is still watching it.
we have a pyr that is about 3 months now. we have two quarter acre areas fenced in for goats, chickens, and turkeys. the whole property isnt fenced in though. we just cant afford that much fencing at this time. my main questions i keep wrestling with is can i let my pyr roam free? right now he spends the night with the goats or turkeys. i want him to be able to get around the property but i dont want him to wander off.
 
Cj Sloane
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Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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General rule of thumb is that if you let a pyr run free he will dis-a-pyr!

My last pyr could run free but he was food insecure & didn't stray too far from his food source (the deck).
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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We have a pack of livestock guardian herding dogs. Strong predator pressures so one or two would not do. They protect and herd:
Sheep - none at the moment
Pigs ~400
Chickens ~300
Ducks
Geese
People

They especially adore young animals and are very protective of them but they work with all sizes right up to the big breeder boars who are well over 1,000 lbs.
 
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