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Great Pyrenees -For what it's worth

 
Olga Booker
Posts: 72
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Here in the Pyrenees, they are called "Chiens de montagne des Pyrenees" or Pyrenean mountain dogs, but most commonly, they are called Patous. They are mostly used to keep sheep. The best Patou will be born and raised in the barn with the sheep so that he will develop a strong bond with the flock and accept it as part of his pack. He will seldom be used as a pet, although they are gentle giants and are for the most part very good with children and very loyal. Like any breed, there is always the exception. Their job is to look after the sheep in the high pastures during the summer and it is not unusual to have 2 or 3 Patous roaming the mountains defending their flock against wolves and bears. So yes it is in their nature to roam. They are fierce guardians, and in the olden days when wolves and bears were more numerous they use to wear iron collars with long spikes to protect their necks and defend themselves. If you go for a walk in our mountains you might stumble upon 1 or 2 of them, they live up there for the season and can stay several days without being fed, they will fend for themselves. They will seldom attack unless they see you as a real threat; as a rule they will prefer to warn you by barking ferociously and you'd be wise to do a detour -that is why on a farm they will bark a lot. They will bark at anything that they hear, see or smell too close to their "pack" - it's their job. In the winter, they come back down to live in the barn and are usually quite happy to stick around, having done enough roaming for the rest of the year. This is the way they will behave if you understand their nature and it helps if the dog you get comes from of long line of good guardians. Here, the Pyrenees mountains are not huge, (you could probably fit the whole of France in one of your US states!), so it is not uncommon to know the lineage of your dog and they are usually recommended by word of mouth. There is some cross breeding but it is mostly accidental, the French farmer will prefer a pure breed.

They are increasingly used for guarding chickens. It might work or it might not. It depends on the dog and the training. The Patou will never create a bond with chickens like he will with sheep, but he will fiercely defend his territory and anything that is in it. When he is young, he will in all likelihood kill some of your chickens, mostly by accident. He will chase them in play and in his exuberance, will inevitably squash one or two, he might even knock you off your feet!. Ours thought it was great fun to catch a hen by the tail and fling it in the air! The hens have learnt very quickly to get out of his way when he comes bounding like a bear, and our Patou very quickly learnt to leave the hens alone. They will defend the hens from four legged predators and from birds of prey, but they'll have to live with them at all times. If you want your Patou to be efficient and happy, you will need a fairly large piece of land and if you have roads or neighbours nearby, you'll need to have some kind of chicken fencing.

So, there you are, for all it's worth!

 
Travis Johnson
Posts: 336
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That was a good read and informational. I have never had any other Guardian Methods work so at some point I am going to have to revert to LGD instead, but predator's where I live are not that big enough of a threat yet to justify a LGD. But it was good to know their background as eventually I will need to get one. Until then I just get by with really good fencing.
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 72
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Thanks Travis, glad you enjoyed it.

We are a bit too low for bears, they tend to prefer higher pastures but we get foxes and wild cats. For us, however, the problem was birds of prey. One year, we lost 18 of our best laying hens to them, so we decided to do something about it. So far our "Patou" has done a very good job - we've lost none to predators. An added bonus is that I no longer need to lock the girls up at night!
 
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