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Breeds of dogs that won't hurt livestock &/or how to train them

 
gardener
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Sandy Cromwell wrote:
The myth that LGDs bond exclusively to their livestock started here, in America. Where they have been bred and used for hundreds of years they start out in the villages, as the pregnant mother isn't able to keep up with the roaming herds of stock and shepherds. They are given their first training at home - basic house manners, gentleness around the children, family and close livestock like chickens. Once they reach an age where they are able to keep up with the herds and shepherds, they begin training with the familial pack that goes with the shepherds. Yes, they bond with their livestock, but they bond primarily with their humans if raised properly.



Two years since I last posted in this thread.  Our Great Pyr is huge now, still eating a pint of cheap crunchies a day.  I completely agree with the quoted sentiment.  Our guy is a pet and a huge baby.  Gentlest dog I have ever owned; he's just careful and loving and extremely conscious of his bulk and strength (unless you deliberately rile him up for active indoor play, which he will totally do if encouraged.  Then, God help ya.)

We still don't have livestock because of our other dogs, who are incorrigibly resistant to learning new tricks and spent too much time fending for themselves to be trustworthy around stock.  But the big white nightmare (as I fondly call him) won't touch a live animal or wild food, even if one of our other dogs digs up a live gopher and abandons it in front of him.  He mostly ignores the neighbor dogs (who come running down our driveway looking for excitement) unless one of us is outside, in which case he shows them the way to go home with persuasive dispatch.   He is "the dog that watches" and he always picks a place to sleep outside where he can see in all directions.  His preference is to spend all night outside and sleep indoors in the air conditioning all day.  Don't ever let anybody tell you that a Great Pyr can't be a pet.  He thinks he's a lap-dog!  (He's a terrible lap-dog; he takes it literally and wants to be on your actual lap.  It's like being pressed under stones in an Edwardian prison; that dog is 140lbs if he's an ounce.)

These days when I hear people talk about owning LGDs who aren't safe around strangers or to load up and take to the vet, I feel sympathy for the animal.  I know there's a lot of individual personality variation, but it's like "Did you ever take the time to teach that thing to love people? Why on earth not, they're totally willing if you give them a chance!"
 
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You are exactly right, Dan! They make terrible lap dogs.. ha ha ha!! My two girls are about the size of your big baby, and if I got into a position they could get in my lap they would. Currently, they do a great job of taking over a queen size bed, meaning I wake up stiff because I couldn't move all night.

One amazing thing about LGDs raised properly (with discipline, care and love) is that even those that have never seen livestock can learn to guard it and bond with it. When they bond with their shepherd first, they protect the things they see as important to their shepherd. So if you decide to get livestock after they've already grown, do some proper introductions of dog to livestock, use a leash the first few weeks, maybe even tether them near the livestock pen for short periods during the day. The idea is for them to get to know these new creatures in THEIR space, learn how important they are to you, and discover what "normal" is for that livestock (the rooster isn't attacking that hen; yes, goat do that weird thing; pigs smell funny and look weird; etc.)

If there is a failure (dog chases/kills/otherwise harasses said livestock) consider it a trainer mistake. LGDs have been know to watch the shepherd chase lose animals back to their pens and perceive that they should do the same if one gets out again. It's OUR JOB to teach them to Wait, Watch and Alert....Once alerted, it is also OUR JOB to RESPOND. If you have livestock birthing in the spring, have the dog on a leash/tethered nearby to observe and learn. Sometimes they forget they are the protector, and the mom is the one that should care for the littles.

Always set them up for success, troubleshoot what you did wrong for the failures, and remember that they think almost as well (or better) as small children - and even if they do fail (kill their chickens for instance) they can learn that was wrong and become excellent guardians despite the failure.

Honestly, I think my dogs are smarter than my ex!
 
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One idea is to get one of the livestock herd dogs. These dogs are bred to be comfortable around livestock and are unlikely to bother your chickens. The Great Pyrenees, the Akbash, and Kuvasz are a few of the breeds available. You could also try to find an Anatolian Shepherd or Komondor.
 
pollinator
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Location: Saskatchewan
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As for training dogs to not attack livestock. What I have done now with two dogs who chased down and killed everything that looked like it was running away from it is tied the dog close to the animals pen during the day for a week or two.

We have a Rottweiler now who used to chase the ducks and geese so bad I stopped free ranging them but a week and a half of being tied up next to the he has no care in the world about them.
 
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In answer to the OP, yes there are differences, that help you predict, the less likely to become an issue dogs.

A solution could be a livestock guardian breed, they need stock and acreage. There are around 8 breeds, and each are different. And then within each litter even, there are differences.
Maremma's bond with their humans and stock. BOTH.  But they have their favourite "friends'.  Fave cow fave sheep, fave human etc
My maremmas: Social butterflies, love attention and a work break to come visit visitors in house block. They thrive on routine. Dont like changes.

Reality check:
It takes two years to train a pup with hours of supervised and guided practice, to not be a plonker around X breed of animal. How much time do you have?
They are nocturnal animals.  So during the day, i have white bean bags in my paddocks. Not a great pet surely? But if a crow so much as dares to land in te paddock, they come alive pretty darn quick. Then turn into a whie bean bag again.
The vetinary expenses are set by the weight of the animal. So, BIG dog, big expenses.

Our herder will round anything and any kids up if loose. And does so by nipping at kids. This is what working herders do. So maybe not a kelpie, border collie, blue/red heeler, GSD, rottie.

Farm dogs are made not bred. Here are some typical successful farm dog breeds: collies, all shepherd breeds but only because they are intelligent, cattle dogs, kelpies, rotties, That i like. Plenty more also.
All need training as you know, and following you whilst you do the chores, from 8 weeks of age, is a great way to learn. Together.  Praising the good behaviour, setting them up to win, not fail.

IM a bit biased on LGD's, but do love a good kelpie too


 
pollinator
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Location: Western MA, zone 6b
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I consider my German Shepherds the best compromise between herder and guarder.   They don't "live" with the animals but they do defend and protect them, mark their territory, and are assertive and large enough to keep out most pesky animals and roaming dogs.   They'll also gather, move, collect ducks, sheep, etc.  with a bit of training.   Heck one of my tried to the best of her ability to herd any of the rabbits that got out of the colony or grow out pens.   They are dogs that WILL kill small animals and chase off strange cats,  while knowing completely which animals are "their" animals and where those animals are supposed to be.   My weanling lamb groups will run and get behind my dog when something startles them,  yet they'll go straight to their barn pen when she tells them to as well.   Strong dogs with protective instincts, work ethic, trainability, and bond to their people and property.  But they NEED raising and training,  you can't toss them outdoors and hope for the best.
 
Heather Staas
pollinator
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I love my German Shepherds as farm dogs.   They were originally livestock sheep controlling dogs, and farm life should be doable for them.   Mine are raw fed and they will kill and eat wild animals that they can catch, but this does NOT make them hunt and hurt our own animals.  It's a nice balance or predatory behavior, biddability,  and territorial behavior.  They know which are "ours" and where they should be.  They'll put the ducks and sheep back in their pens where they belong.  They'll warn off intruders,  stray cats, predators and mark their territory, then come in and cuddle up with our house cats to sleep.   When something strange happens on the farm (like new piglets) the lambs will gather behind my dog and peek out behind her, letting her go first.   They also obey when she brings them in from grazing with no shenanigans.   That said, I introduce all new animals slowly so everyone gets acclimated while supervised.  I never leave them unattended alone and I monitor how things are going with new animals so no one gets startled or freaks out, that never ends well.    
 
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