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LGD livestock introduction and training

 
Alicia Milligan
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Welcome Jan! I have just recently brought 2 Anatolian Shepherd pups (11 months and 19 weeks) to our new farm and am so pleased at how wonderful dogs they are and how easy they are to teach. In my research I've had mixed reports on how much and what to train LGD dogs and am a little confused. I've had some LGD training websites say they should not be trained at all, that they are supposed to be on their own to protect not to sit and come. Then I've had others that have said you need to spend a lot of time training them, socializing them, and I was wondering what your thought were on training LGD's. Right now I'm " "training" or familiarizing my pups with the chickens by putting the chickens in an enclosed area inside the dogs fenced area. Sometimes they will pounce at the chicken fence when the chickens get a little close, but I think it's cause they want to play. When would be a good time (how old the pups should be) or a good cue/ way to introduce the chickens to the pups when they are ready? Also, do you have some tips on how to introduce sheep or larger livestock to the dogs? Would they need to be fenced off for a period of time as well?
I'm really excited to have the opportunity to ask you questions and see if you have training topics in your book too. There aren't any LGD trainers in our area, so it's been a little bit self research. Thanks again for joining the discussion.
Alicia
 
Jan Dohner
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Location: Michigan
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Hi Alicia,
I'm so happy you are looking into this and thinking about the issue of training. It is absolutely a myth or misconception that LGD pups don't need to be trained. I just posted a link to an article I wrote about these misconceptions and we really need get the word out about this. Most of these myths were rooted in the well intentioned but not fully knowledgeable advice given to the pioneering users of LGDs in the 1970s and 80s. Today we understand much better how these dogs worked in their native lands and, most importantly, how humans worked with them.

LGD pups were traditionally raised among their stock with the guidance of experienced dogs and shepherds. They were not left in a field alone with stock. Unsupervised pups and young dogs can get into a great deal of trouble and develop bad habits. If you don’t have an older, reliable mentor LGD, your pup should only be with stock in your presence. At other times he should be penned next to stock or perhaps with a couple of calm, mature animals who are experienced with LGDs. Even though your pup will soon be as large as many fully grown dogs, he is still a juvenile. LGD breeds mature slowly; many dogs won’t be reliable alone with stock until age two or so. At times he may seem ready but then he might regress into goofy adolescent behavior. This is the age many dogs get into trouble because their owners expect far too much from them.

LGDs were not traditionally used to guard poultry in their homelands; however, many owners have successful socialized their dogs to guard poultry. Others have found that their dog can’t do this reliably, even if they are good with sheep or goats. If you want to use your dog with poultry you will need to constantly supervise their interactions, praising good behavior and immediately stopping attempts to bite or mouth the birds. Never leave a pup alone with birds – especially young birds. Your dog may be good with birds at 4 months and then go slightly crazy with birds later when he becomes an adolescent. Some dogs are good with adult birds but have trouble with hatchlings or young birds. Most owners admit they lost a bird or two along the way. Keep reminding yourself, LGDs grow up slowly and many will not be reliable until age 2 or so.

I really don't think you need a trainer to accomplish this. Just go slow, supervise, observe, and prevent mistakes as much as possible. You are absolutely doing the right thing by penning your pups next to the birds. Periodically allow them to smell bird while you are holding it, praising good reactions and scolding any attempts to mouth or bite the bird. You are trying to communicate that these are your birds! As the pup becomes more reliable, allow him to accompany you in with the birds. A leash is helpful - some folks attach it to their belt so their hands are free. Do not allow any predatory or play behavior, Keep praising and using verbal and even mild physical corrections for bad behavior.

Birds are very fragile and their movements exit play. This takes a long time and I have to admit, most folks will admit that they can lose a bird or two along the way. This is not a tragedy but a sign that you need to keep working. Sometimes the dog injures or kills a bird just by licking it. Young dogs can do better with adult birds rather than hatchling and young birds. Some dogs just never become completely reliable guardians of poultry, Myself, I prefer to use my dogs to guard AROUND the birds not in with them. It works very well and I avoid the sometimes frustrating process of trying to teach them to guard something that doesn't come naturally for many dogs.

 
Alicia Milligan
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Thank you Jan for all the wonderful advice. I know the older pup was raised around goats, so I'm hoping that when I introduce sheep they will take to them nicely. I'll definitely keep in mind the enclosure between the two when first introducing them. I look forward to reading more in your book.
Thanks again,
Alicia
 
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