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When to get a dog for a new homestead?

 
Devin Lavign
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Hello I am just getting 40 acres and haven't even closed yet, but wanted to ask a question on when to get a dog(s) for livestock protection and possibly herding so I can plan and budget accordingly.

I understand typically LGD should be introduced before a herding dog. So got that part I think for planning. However when would be the right time to get the LGD. Since I will be slowly building from the ground up and have nothing in place yet. My budget will keep things slow generally. I will be adding livestock in staggered phases as I can afford to add more. Likely starting with chickens, then goats, then pigs, then maybe some rabbits, then ducks, then alpaca, eventually getting horses and a few cows. There is of course plenty of likelihood of some switching up the order a bit, and adding other animals in as well.

So the question is should I consider getting the dog before even livestock? I know the dog should bond with the livestock so sort of seems like the common sense answer would be "no livestock first". But I figured why guess with this amazing community to help out, better to ask. Also Should the dog be gotten right after the chickens? Or wait until I get the goats and pigs there too? I imagine some of the answer depends on if I get a puppy vs adult.

Like I said there isn't a big rush, not even sure I will be adding livestock this year, next year seems more likely time frame as still have lots to do to prepare the land to have livestock. Fencing, housing, etc.. The question is more just to get a decent idea of what the best time frame to be looking at dogs would be.

Thanks in advance for answers and suggestions.
 
alex Keenan
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Who is training the dog?
Are you buying a fully trained dog? Or are you getting a pup that has to be trained?
If you have to train the dog, what resources do you have around you for training a livestock or herding dog?
 
Eben Campbell
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Congratulations ! Exciting to get a homestead started. I have experience with LSG dogs, I moved to my present homestead 9 yrs ago...where there were 6 Anatolians in residence. The dogs were bred here, so there was a collection of favorites...etc. Now we have two dogs.

So I have some suggestions...

First of all, enjoy being there, take time to be with your property to get a feel for it and let the land suggest where things might be best situated.

Fencing an area for the dogs is important. LSG can be wide ranging, so keeping them contained is important. We use radio wire strung along perimeter fence to establish boundaries. The dogs wear a collar to warn that they are close to the edge. We also have large dog houses with large fenced areas including shade, to provide time off zones, with radio collar off, usually during the day. The dogs are sometimes adept at wriggling under or jumping over fences that look secure. We keep the dogs within a fenced area that surrounds our house area, orchard/garden area to protect those areas from deer, bear, raccoons and coming soon elk...eek! If I had a chance to start fresh, I would do a moat-like dog run arrangement to surround the areas/pastures needing protection.
We do keep a large zone 5 (20 acres or so) forest and field free of dogs, so the fauna can thrive unmolested by dogs.

I do not have experience with actual livestock and the dogs. From my understanding, puppies need to grow up with the livestock to get along peacefully.
Hopefully, Someone else may have better training suggestions. We do have chickens and horses, our dogs would eat the chickens if given a chance...
Our chicken house has a large outside area that is chicken wired, including the roof. We let the chickens out to roam during the day when the dogs are in other fenced areas and lock them in at night, when the dogs patrol the surrounding area.

IMHO, After moving in, I would start with chickens first, building a sturdy chicken enclosure to thwart predators. Then work on fencing, dogs , other critters etc.
So we find our dogs very useful and pleasant company. A pair of dogs is recommended, they work well as a team.

Adventure on
 
Devin Lavign
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Alex, your questions are mine and why I started this thread. I mentioned the puppy vs adult dog in my original post. So in essence you are asking the questions I am.

Very good point Brook about creating a dog fee zone to allow wildlife a stress free ability to still come on the property. I do still want wildlife to feel welcome on at least some of my property. Also good point on not jumping into getting a dog until fencing and boundaries are built. I sort of guessed this would be the case, but as I mentioned better to ask and confirm my thinking than to assume and find out later that there was a better way to do things.

I like the run idea surrounding an area to protect. I had actually thought of a similar arrangement for a solar farm I was going to work security for.

One of the things I have heard with LGD is to limit them to the land you wish them to protect as much as possible while still giving them enough space to feel able to move about. Not to take them out for long walks or trips riding in your truck etc... That they have a natural instinct to roam and range land at night doing patrols to protect their area and limiting their access and wandering helps keep them focused on protecting that area you set as their protection zone.

I have also heard that a lot of the behavior while based on instinct and natural tendencies is learned behavior, both from other dogs and from their humans who help train the proper guarding or herding behaviors. I have heard some good reports of having two or more dogs who work together as a team. That they can reinforce good behaviors and if ever there is a conflict with a large predator or a pack of predators, two dogs are extremely formidable and capable of defense in ways a single dog isn't.
 
Miranda Converse
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I would say wait to get an LGD until you know you have the time and energy to put into properly training it. I don't think it's as important when you get one compared to your livestock, as long as he is trained well. I suppose you'll need at least one kind of livestock to train him with.
We just got our first LGD, an Anatolian Sheppard puppy named Archer, and they need a lot of attention. They also can't be expected/trusted to guard your livestock until they are typically at least 1.5 years old. Ours is 14wks now and has been great around our chickens (what we got him for). Of course, being new to LGDs, we got lax and started letting him further and further out of our supervision and just a few days ago he got a hold of two of our chicks. In the process, my boyfriend (in a panic) tried to retrieve Archer's new chew toy and got bit (not like Archer but the panic and "MY kill" thing I think set him off). Anyway, I'm telling you this just to enforce the idea that an LGD is not like a house pet, they require a deeper level of training than just 'sit' and 'stay'. Might be easier to train them to protect larger livestock, but if you are ever going to free-range your chickens, they are the ones I would focus the training on.
 
Devin Lavign
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Thanks for the advice Miranda, I was away working on my property this weekend. Happily discovered most of the south boarder is fenced with barbed wire. That will save me a lot of effort fencing that side. And a big part of my western side looks to be fenced too. Yay. Those are the thickest hardest to reach areas, and to find they already have fencing is a big relief.

As for the LGD, I would definitely want to put in the time to train the dog(s) property. Even if I had a trainer helping me with the dog(s) I would want to be quite involved in the training and I'm conscious of it isn't just the dog being trained, but me too. The human needs to learn how to properly work with their dog(s).

So I am gathering that it is best to wait for some livestock before getting the dog, so the dog has something to protect and learn that is it's job on the homestead. Sounds good. I figured this was likely the case. But again figured smarter to ask than assume. Sometimes the order of things are better reverse of common sense thinking.

 
alex Keenan
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One dog or two?

Several small poultry flocks I know use Great Pyrenees. They are the best farm dogs for protecting from fox, coyote, raccoon, possum, etc in southwester Ohio.
From what I have seen two dogs are better than one. This is based on young dogs tending to get bored and looking for a playmate.
What I generally see happening is when the main dog gets to a certain age a pup or young dog is brought in.
The old dog knows the ropes and the young dog tends to want to copy the old dog. This tends to make training easier and keeps the young dog where it should be.

 
Devin Lavign
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I have been putting dog(s) while not set on getting more than one dog, I am sort of assuming I likely will. I have heard LGD tend to do better 2 or more as they tend to work as a team fairly well.
 
Dana Jones
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I take my Great Pyrenees to Tractor Supply. He loves it and it is a treat for him. Then when I need to take him to the vet, it isn't a hassle to get him in the truck. My female Pyr was older when I got her, she didn't get that kind of attention and freaks out in a vehicle. So I would say train your LGD to riding in a vehicle.

There is a very good LGD forum on www.backyardherds.com There are pages and pages of topics and posts. Lots of good info and friendly people who will be glad to answer any questions.
 
Devin Lavign
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Thanks for the info Dana, I will check backyardherds. Good suggestion about acclimation to rides so vet trips aren't so horrible.
 
John Polk
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...Good suggestion about acclimation to rides...

Yeah. Every dog that I've owned loved to go for car rides.
The problem was getting into the car without them. LOL
 
Devin Lavign
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I just spotted the recent episode on TSP is about homestead dogs, so figured I would post a link here for anyone else reading this thread who might want to give it a listen. I haven't listened to it yet, but am planning to when I have the time to.

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/training-dogs
 
Sue Miller
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I just posted this in response to someone else who had a similar question. I thought it might be useful to you too so here is is again with a couple modifications for your question:

I would urge you to move to your land, start getting to know it, begin with your chickens and do extensive research into livestock guardian dogs (LGD) before bringing one into your life. There are many things you will want to consider and learn in order to make your LGD experience a successful one for you and the dog.

Breed: There are many breeds of LGD from around the world, the Great Pyrenees is but one. There are many commonalities among the breeds, but each has its own characteristics. Some breeds use barking as the primary deterrent, others are more reserved. Some breeds have easy going personalities while others have a "hard", more reactive edge. Some of the breeds are quite aloof, others are more tuned into their humans. Some LGD breeds protect by staying close to livestock, others defend a larger territory and therefore tend to roam.

Training: Many people start with an LGD pup which will require 1-2 years (2 yrs for most breeds) of exposure, training and maturity before it will be ready to guard your livestock. Many hours of work and a positive approach to training is a must in order to build mutual trust and establish a partnership with these highly intelligent and sensitive dogs. The single most common cause of a failed relationship with an LGD is the mistaken belief that the new pup can start guarding from day one. The instincts are there but it is up to you to nurture and shape those instincts. This takes a lot of time on your part and a lot of maturity on the dogs part.  Puppies play. Chickens squawk and run. Chickens can die in this game. Just as one would never suggest that a 5 year old child could be a responsible babysitter, so should we never expect a puppy to be ready to be a trustworthy guardian. Guarding poultry is the most demanding job, requiring the highest level of maturity from the dog. Acquiring a mature, well raised LGD rather than a pup is an option but not without its own set of challenges.

Behavior: LGDs bark. Some of the breeds bark a LOT and often bark more at night (when predators are active) than during the day. This can disturb your sleep and your neighbor's sleep. Please also note that the mindset and working style of an LGD are very different from the breeds of pet dogs we are commonly used to. LGDs have been bred for centuries to think for themselves and work independently of humans. This has resulted in dogs that will partner with people but will not always conform to our usual definition of obedience. It doesn't always matter to them what you as mere humans want in a particular moment. They have a job to do, so if they feel it is more important to do a perimeter check right now rather than come when you call, that is what they will do. This is not a fault, it is a feature.

Predator load: It is important to consider exactly what you will be asking of the dog. In general, LGDs work best in pairs. One dog should not be expected to take on a pack of coyotes or larger predators. Not a fair fight.

Fencing: A secure perimeter fence is a must for keeping the dog on your property.

I hope this gives you a starting point for more research into livestock guardian dogs. It is a serious commitment to learning and partnering when you bring these incredible dogs into your life.
 
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