I have three LGDs, all Great Pyr/Anatolian mixes, guarding mostly free range chickens on 15 acres. One 3-yr old female and two unrelated 9-month littermate males. They were all acquired at the same time and I have not trained them at all. We had multiple predators before our dogs came, including bobcats, coyotes and raccoons. Now all we worry about are raptors. Their presence alone is keeping predators at bay but I'm starting to worry about them bothering neighbors or getting into trouble. They like to roam and constantly test the fence around my property. They rarely stay the night and sometimes are gone throughout the day as well. Should I be training them to stay somehow or adding fence digging deterrents? We are fully perimeter fenced with 4' high 4x4 woven wire mesh. I know they roam naturally so what amount of land is a good size for their well being? Do I have too may dogs for this size property?
Lately my males have been coming back a little beat up with cuts and scratches on legs and muzzles. I initially figured they were fighting coyotes but I noticed them growling at each other during feeding and have seen them fight each other very briefly. We feed in a large communal feed tub - should they have separate bowls? It hasn't been a problem except for the last month or so. Also our female has been spayed and the more aggressive male is recently neutered. Is it common for brothers to fight and, if so, is it something to be concerned about, or is it more along the lines of play fighting that will help them against predators?
Your fencing needs some reinforcement. Adding a low and high scare wire will discourage digging and climbing. I have illustrations and descriptions of options in my book.
I have also using invisible fence as a backup to existing fence. You can string the invisible fence wire on the fence posts and only bury it at gates, etc. You need a robust system and the longer probes on the collar. You might need to shave a little bit of the hair where the probes lightly touch the neck.
Both of these things sound cruel to some folks but they are much better than a dead dog due to roaming. Dogs learn quickly with either system and stop testing it.
Most folks feed their LGDs from separate feeders or bowls, including me. We generally wouldn't expect inside dogs to eat from the same bowl either. Avoiding the issue of food aggression is easier than trying to stop it. I avoid giving high value treats as well - unless given equally and with space for the dogs to escape each other.
Neutering does help reduce conflicts and generally things sort themselves out but sometimes individual dogs do not get along with each other and need to be working in separate areas. Sometimes this is worse with litter mates which is why some folks avoid that situation. Tight or small living quarters can also add stress which leads to fighting. But on the whole these dogs can live and work in groups. I'd monitor it for a problem, of course, but these dogs do like to play hard with each other as well.
I'm going to address raptors and LGDs in another post.
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