Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dogs

12/2/2009 12:04:43 PM

Tags: livestock, dogs

Great Pyrenees pup

Livestock guardian dogs don’t just protect sheep and goats, they can also protect poultry. If you’re considering buying a dog to protect your flock, check out Great Pyrenees. Here’s what two owners of Great Pyrenees had to say about the dogs’ ability as livestock guardians.

Protects Anything in Her Territory

I have not shut my layer hens in the coop at night for years because our Great Pyrenees, Pearl, lives on our three acres with them. We have now added a Border Collie that keeps the squirrels up the trees and the snakes moving on. Pearl considers squirrels and snakes beneath her notice, and she taught the Border Collie not to chase hens.

Pearl was of normal adopting age, about 7 or 8 weeks, when we got her. She had been raised outdoors with parents that lived with goats and chickens — even though they didn't have any kind of training. It took us about a year to get the three acres fenced where she lives with the goats and chickens full time. During that year, as she grew from a puppy to an adult, she came and went with me from inside our house to the chicken yard, gardens and pastures. She doesn't care about the chickens, and wouldn't mind if they all went away, but just because they live in her space, they’re protected. Like my other dogs, she also barks and jumps into the air if a hawk or other large bird flies too low.

 Gwen Roland

Magnificent Animals

We have two Great Pyrenees, now two and three years old. They’re like big teddy bears. I didn't train them; it just comes natural for them to protect and love any animal that we feed. They even take care of our chickens and guineas. Fourteen baby guineas hatched in our pasture last summer, and we still have all 14 of them. We have never lost an animal to prey.

The dogs will bark during the night every hour. They are warning predators to stay away. They work all night walking around, then sleep most of the day. Although sometimes they play with each other. They’re actually afraid of our toy Fox Terriers. If they’re in the backyard together, the Great Pyrenees won't move. They just stand there and let the Fox Terriers jump all over them. And the cats curl up and sleep in the dogs’ coats. I also spin fiber from the dogs. It's like mohair; it’s so pretty.

But beware at night. Great Pyrenees were bred to stand and fight bears to protect the sheep and goats. When I hear the dogs barking at night, I fall right back to sleep. I just smile and know they’re doing their job.

One of the Great Pyrenees walks the outside perimeter of our five acres, watching for predators. The other one stays around the house, the chickens and the barn. So, it seems they work together. (I even think the guineas, with their alert calls, are working with them.)

Our 10 chickens are free 24/7. We've had them for four months and have not lost one. I would say if you get a Great Pyrenees as a pup, they will just know what to do. It's instinct. My Great Pyrenees were about five or six months old (or maybe a little older) before they started guarding — watching over anything I feed.

Our dogs are neutered males, and they love each other. People usually don't suggest keeping two male Great Pyrenees together. But our dogs have grown up together and seem to really love each other. The younger one does not challenge the older one.

— Luann Stovall

Do you have a livestock guardian dog? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.

Photo: iStockPhoto/Rich Phalin



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Post a comment below.

 

Rob
7/11/2013 3:56:33 AM

I will second that Great Pyrenees will protect poultry, and usually (as the author noted above) will protect anything in their territory.  It doesn't seem to matter if the dog likes them or not - a good LGD will protect them anyway!

Our 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd, 1/2 Pyr mix even protects the cats (even the few that hiss and throw a fit at him).  We even started feeding him in the bed of our 4x4 truck - because he wouldn't stop a couple of pesky ducks from eating his food.  He'll stop another dog, he'll growl at the cats - but not at the birds!  Once he had a duck stand on his head trying to get to his kibble, and he did growl at that one and shake it off!

I would also like to confirm what others have been saying about rescue Livestock Guardian Dogs.   While you have to be careful and know what to look for, many of them are good for guarding stock.  The reason they end up in shelters, many times has more to do with the owners than it does the dog.  People want to make conventional pets out of a dog that wants to guard stock.  Some people get these pups thinking they are like most other dogs.  They are not.  If you're thinking of getting one you should definitely do your homework.

Maria Zyla made a very good post about Pyrs in the comments below.  People thinking of getting an LGD would do well to read it.

mariamihm mentioned (a couple of years ago) that her Pyr was a goat killer and a chicken chaser.  She doesn't mention if she trained the dog form a pup or how old it was when she got it.  

April Zumbaum come right out and says that the pup was not raised with birds at the breedrs farm (I appreciate her honesty). This was the beginning of the problem.  While it is often still possible to train older LGD pups to respect particular stock - it can be a lot more difficult.  A really big problem occurs when buyers get a pup from a breeder who does not take care of and train their dogs.  For instance, if there was a chicken killer at the breeder's farm (be it a LGD breed or not) and the pup saw that and tried to emulate that without being corrected (because no one was ever looking), that is hard to undo.

Our best Livestock Guardian ever, was given to us for free, because he chased cars that were coming and going from a rodeo grounds.  He watched the dog from the farm across the street do it hundreds of times a week.  The owners tried to correct him but were too busy with life to nip it in the bud.  Bear no longer chases cars, we never have coyotes near our property,  I watched him bolt after a cougar last month, and he has become the cornerstone of our Anatolian / Pyr breeding program.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.  I just love these dogs and want nothing more than to see the right owners end up with the right dogs!

You can see what we're up to at:

LivestockDogs.net


Mary Hall
2/8/2013 5:53:43 PM
I adopted an elderly Great Pyrenees that has been a wonderful experience....actually she adopted us. She is everything you would want in a guardian and companion with a multiple household of creatures. I don't know how many years she has left but she will treated like a family member and never be cold or hot or wet or alone again. When I first met her wondering the neighborhood she had her tongue out and whined for affection and a pet. She is losing her hair rapidly and stumbles and falls even when she wags her tail sometimes on our hardwood floors. Shes old shes ours we love her and feel very safe with her guarding over us with our 5 cats and mix pittie. My gentle giant. PLEASE ALWAYS REMEMBER TO ADOPT FORGOTTEN GREAT PYRENEES WITH THE RESCUES ONLINE. THERE ARE SO MANY THAT NEED HOMES WHEN PEOPLE FEEL THEY CAN'T CARE FOR THEM OR THEY HAVE BEEN USED UP AND TOSSED AWAY. ADOPT AND RESCUE AND FOSTER OUR GENTLE GREAT PYRENEES. THAT FEW PEOPLE REALLY KNOW ABOUT.

Laura Schoolcraft
9/19/2012 6:17:24 PM
I have owned a 'rescue' Pyr for 7 years. Without training he is a natural protector.He guards my goats and chickens and me. A gentle giant and constant companion,he rides around town with me and is welcome at all my friends homes. He loves his playdates and gets along with all animals and people,

Janna Redington
3/10/2012 3:50:05 AM
I have two Great Pyrs who guard my birds -ducks and geese. They truly love the geese and the geese love them. Recently I got a baby goose after my female had puppies. The puppies wanted to taste him but Mama bit their snouts and told them NO firmly again and again. My female is super protective of the birds I think because I put her in with them when she was 3 months of age. She even guards the baby gander from the mature goose -gently but firmly knowing it is her job to protect them both. They work together -the male seems to have developed his guarding later than the female -she is just a natural. He watches over our property -she watches over the livestock and they both work together if coyotes are close and howling. My male rarely barks but my female is always warning potential intruders to stay away. They have both stolen my heart more than I ever imagined an animal could do...I can't imagine life without them anymore.

Maria Zyla
2/28/2012 6:32:01 PM
So many posts and so many different experiences with the same breed! I would say, it is like with human race: We have "holy" people, criminal people & people in between – and we are all of the same humankind! Although, basic traits were breed into the LGD (livestock Guardian Dogs), it still all depends on an individual and on an environment that a specific dog finds himself in. People say; GP barks a lot. I say, GP barks very little & only bark when a threat is perceived. Some say; GP is molesting poultry or kid goats. I say; GP is ignoring poultry & gently nose touching with little goats. Others say; GP needs a lot of training and few would say; they need no training at all. I say; It is little bit of both. You never be able to train GP like any other house pets. They still do what they want. But, they only doing what’s their born-in nature is calling for and that is patrolling vast terrains, thus escaping sometimes, when the owner confines them in too small spaces. With GP, the whole successful training contains only few basics, such come when called and be socialized enough for handling purposes, e.g. trip to the vet. And lastly, the Guarding. That is in their blood and for that, they won’t need any training. However, they need to be associated with given species that you want them to guard, since their early puppyhood. Also, don’t expect to put a puppy into the pasture and miracolously have ready made guardian! Until one year of age, they are somewhat playful and not really 100% guardians yet. When they reach 1 year old, you will notice significant improvement – the dog is becoming what you wanted him to be. Please NOTE: These are my personal observations on my own Great Pyrenees. I must to be lucky to get the "holy" one :) or at least the one "in-between".

Willow Jovanovic
10/2/2011 7:05:21 AM
My parents just rescued a 2-year-old, female, Pyr from a shelter who is emaciated and very depressed. We took a look at her on Wednesday where she was leaning against the wall for support. We adopted her and the next morning they spayed her and gave her all her shots and chipped her. Between starving, being on her own, moving around a lot, being at the shelter and now being in a new environment with two small dogs she the house is rather topsy-turvy but we are hoping that she will be a great family pet and guard dog for the humans and the two small dogs that run the house (not really, we know better than that). For being so traumatized she is incredibly sweet around humans and other dogs and even though we are experienced with training dogs large and small we are enrolling in a Petco training session. Now we need a bigger doggie door (because the Shepherd-sized one we have won't be big enough when she fattens up!

linda heise
9/19/2011 11:37:33 PM
Don't neglect to watch over your watch dogs either! My cousins lost one of her beautiful Pyrenese sheep watch dogs, and one of their rams one night.

Kathy Rose
9/19/2011 8:35:50 PM
Max disliked raccons, rats and mice; on his watch he patroled the inside the fence and Marema Blue patroled the fence around the fence. Didn't worry about losing poultry or goats. The neighbor to the north side of the road disliked the dogs barking at night. The dog patrol bothed him; did't bother me. He had predator problems, lost sheepwithout a LGD. In the fall 2009 we moved and the 2 original dogs had died before moving. The replacement LGD is a black and tan spayed female Anatolian Shepard. Didn't find Pyr that fit the budget or was available.

A CARR
9/19/2011 4:15:32 PM
When we moved to our 10 acre north Texas property, we started with some poultry that came with the property and our 2 Black & Tan coonhounds. The coonhounds didn't do well with the poultry and we soon added a male Pyr puppy from a ranch breeding. Shortly after that we got into horses. Our male Pyr developed naturally into a full time guard dog. With access through a pet door to the indoors and the outdoors, he guarded us and the property. It is fun to watch him regularly walk the perimeter fence. Our chickens are free range and he had no issues with them. He did chase ALL big birds away - hawks and owl are a big problem. He killed a coyote in the horse pasture. He readily accepts human guests to our home, even if they are accompanied by their dogs. We even take him into town with us and he has a loyal following at the local cafe we visit. Dogs are OK on the patio. On the other hand, when unleashed dogs occassionally run at us, he stops them in their tracks with the most ferocious roar you ever want to hear. Bubba is now 12 and still going strong. Several years after we purchased him, we purchased a female Pyr and later bred her. She and her three female puppies now share our home along with Bubba. All of them are great with our chickens and horses, great guardiens and friendly gental giants with humans. If we go to town without taking one of them with us, people ask,"where is the Pyr?". They do bark at night. In the country where we live the only person they can bother is us. I know they are just doing their job, roll over and go back to sleep.

Marty
4/28/2011 3:39:55 PM
We are on our 3rd and 4th Great Pyrenees! Our first 2 were males and each lived to be 12 years old. We have an 8 year old female now and also a 5 year old female. The 5 year old is possibly a mix, but all white and has the double claws. Ours have all slept with their backs to the front door to guard against anything or anyone who enters. Our males stayed with our youngest child every night. Our 8 year old female, Ruby, is the sweetest, most gentle dog we've ever met. We love the breed, but not the hair or the barking. They do get along well with the cats, but don't seem to like the horse. The 5 year old chases it! I've thought about getting a few chickens, but doubt if I could rely on my dogs to guard them!

mariamihm
1/18/2011 4:49:10 PM
PLEASE HELP!! Today my great Pry killed our second baby goat. Polly my great pry is 1 year old female has 248 acreas to ran around and also enjoys chasing after my chickens. my husband and I are at the end of our line. I so love her polly but we can't have a guardian of livestock killing them!! please email me at: mariamihm5@aol.com

Polly Gray
3/3/2010 6:37:01 PM
I breed mini schnauzers. My male let's me know when the alpacas are not grazing or cushing. I just check to see if everything is okay. I let the mini schnauzer know I am ok with it and he goes on about his business. I am getting a great pyrenes male pup in two weeks for the pasture. Hopefully I will rest better. I won't have to shine the spot light across the perimeter of the field at night to satisfy my male mini schnauzer.

Wild Flora
3/3/2010 3:46:53 PM
My Pyr story is a little different from most because I did not get my Pyr to protect livestock, and I adopted a 4-year-old dog. Before adopting, I did a research on dog breeds, and learned that a Pyr had the qualities I was looking for in a companion dog: protective without being aggressive, with a laid-back temperament. I hadn't planned on getting a dog who would be almost as big as I am, but soon got over that upon seeing how beautiful Pyrs are. I was fortunate to find a Pyr up for adoption at the local humane society. Molly was nervous with me for the first few weeks but she soon was protecting both me and the cat. Yes, she would bark --but her deep, powerful bark was reassuring. I'm no dog whisperer, but over time Molly learned to "read" what I wanted her to do, and (well, as long as she didn't consider it stupid) she would do it. Molly was my rock. She got me through a divorce, selling my house, and a cross-country move. She and I drove 4,000 miles together, along with the cat, with nothing but good experiences the whole way. I'm happy to say that she was with me until she died of old age at 12, getting to live her last years on a farm. Through it all, I never felt anything but safe as long as she was around. She was the noblest animal I have ever known, and I still miss her though she died two years ago. I'm telling her story partly to honor her memory and partly in hope that readers will consider adopting an older dog who needs a home.

HTurner
3/3/2010 2:16:44 PM
I have had 2 Pyrs and several part Pyrs as pets; they are great in house pets also. You must find out if you plan on using a Pyr as guardian if it has the proper personality. Some are never going to be a good protector, too much play in them but they are gerat quirky pets though stubborn and independent. I believe from all I have read that the breed must be raised with whatever animal or bird they are to care for. I was researching chickens when I found a picture of a very large free range chicken yard with quanset huts for shelter and a very large Pyr as protector. It does work but it is not just instinct, there has to be good research into proper typing between pet and worker Pyr. They do well with cats in the pet mode but do love to chase a cat who likes to run but it can be a funny game that the cat and dog will develop. The main thing to remember about this breed is they have thought and worked on their on for proably 3000 years in high pastures so they will take instructions under advisement but not necessarily be obedient at least not right away. I will hate to live without a Pyr but if I can't live out where the barking isn't a problem I would have to think hard about having one. I have only one neighbor and they have a dog so the barking is never a concern.

DkSchmidt
3/3/2010 2:14:44 PM
We have 2 golden retrievers that are part of our family and since moving to the farm have admirably been our guard dogs. Our youngest tracks down squirrels and breaks them with a flick of his neck, yet when he found a hutch of baby rabbits brought them gently to us in her mouth with not a scratch on them. They leave our chickens alone and they guard them like their own pups. The only one we have lost was one night when one of our children forget to close up the hen house

Robin _1
3/3/2010 1:50:49 PM
I have an Anatolian Shepherd named Shae. She is a wonderful guard dog. I had not kept her out overnight in the pasture this Fall . I lost 2 lambs to coyotes, and you can bet she did get a new assignment to night duty. The next night I awoke to an animal being chased through the electric fence and out into the horse pasture. I ran outside and Shae was still in the sheep paddock, and that coyote had high tailed into the bush. I lost no more sheep this year, thanks to Shae. The poultry have learned to stay out of the area she is in...pretty smart! The cats too have managed to learn that lesson with no injuries. I suspect these dogs had to feed themselves in the original countries that they came from. Small game would be food in their eyes. She also kills skunks. I couldn't keep my sheep without her help.

Eleanor the Great
3/3/2010 1:46:30 PM
My dad and step-mom have Maremma sheep dogs, and they are great for guarding their house and property. One stays inside at night to guard the house, and the other stays in the yard to guard. They are very gentle when they know you, but they are soooo big that they may make you uncomfortable if you haven't been around big dogs before! Also, they are wary until they have accepted you, and it made even me (I've spent a lot of time around other peoples' dogs) a bit wary back. One of the two never really accepted me until I house-sat once. Buster let me on the property easily, but Casper didn't want to after my dad had left. He did grudgingly because Casper was kind of in charge and because I acted like I was supposed to be there. I spent the day there, Buster fawned and Casper glared. When dinner time came, Casper suddenly was interested in me as more than potential worry, and after that he decided I was really alright. Now he and I get along great! Buster has passed, and now they have a young female named Sophie. Sophie is also taking her time warming to me, and she's definitely a bit more rambunctious than Casper is or Buster was. She is younger than the other two were, though. I think that raising really does make a big difference with that. Casper and Buster had a history of real farm work in their younger days, and Sophie has come to them very young and green. She is showing promise of listening to Casper, though. Great dogs! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maremma_Sheepdog

BOB Broyles_1
3/3/2010 12:02:28 PM
We have Akbash Dogs as our livestock guardians. They are said to be close relatives of Pyrenees. They arrived in our lives as seven-week-old pups, and we kept them with a gaggle of goslings to introduce them to their charges. This worked well for a few weeks, until they discovered that goslings are fun to play with, but just don't play for very long. We then tried them with a hen and her newly hatched brood, which worked well for as long as the chicks stayed with mom, but when they arrived at that precocious age of 4 weeks, they began to disappear. At ten months, the female jumped the fence to run-down a coyote - too cool. They are now two weeks shy of their first birthday, and they are losing that puppy-like need to chase everything, and at least under my supervision, show no interest in the turkeys and other poultry while out walking around the farmstead. I am cautiously optimistic that they will soon cease with those puppy indiscretions and assume their duties diligently.

Anna Creech_2
3/3/2010 10:45:03 AM
Our Pyrenees is great with our goats, but I cannot trust him the birds. He stays on one side of the fence and they on the other. However, he doesn't seem to mind the goose. I am not sure what the difference is, but.... Mo is great with the goats and he likes the family attention when he is ready for it. My husband and I prefer it since Mo dosen't get out when the children are out playing. He will get out if we move one or more goats around, every night he goes around to the different pens or fields to touch noses with the goats and then goes back where he is suppose to be. I love him and we are planning to get another to help out with the coyotes.

Melinda Dixon_1
3/3/2010 8:43:12 AM
I really love my Great Pyrenees, Punkin. She protects my chickens because I told her they were mine. We had Some tame Rabbits and decided to turn them loose in the yard, we told our Punkin they were ours and to leave them alone, she did! She has killed possums and we are trying to teach her to leave our cats alone, she is getting better. She will chase a hawk all over the yard, its funny to watch her, cause she runs looking up at the hawk. She will not protect against racoons, I'm not sure why, our other mixed breed killed that one, Punkin retreated to another part of the yard. We came home around 2am once and all our chickens, geese and Punkin were out in the road. We new something was wrong and sure enough a racoon was in our hen house. The barking all night really bothers my husband, but I don't mind, I sometimes get up hit the car alarm, to help her out.

Melinda Dixon_2
3/3/2010 8:42:57 AM
I really love my Great Pyrenees, Punkin. She protects my chickens because I told her they were mine. We had Some tame Rabbits and decided to turn them loose in the yard, we told our Punkin they were ours and to leave them alone, she did! She has killed possums and we are trying to teach her to leave our cats alone, she is getting better. She will chase a hawk all over the yard, its funny to watch her, cause she runs looking up at the hawk. She will not protect against racoons, I'm not sure why, our other mixed breed killed that one, Punkin retreated to another part of the yard. We came home around 2am once and all our chickens, geese and Punkin were out in the road. We new something was wrong and sure enough a racoon was in our hen house. The barking all night really bothers my husband, but I don't mind, I sometimes get up hit the car alarm, to help her out.

Elizabeth_32
2/3/2010 9:21:19 PM
Our female Pyr.kills chickens too. But, she is the MOST FABULOUS guardian dog for our other livestock so now our chickens live in a completely enclosed area. Our Pyr does kill skunks and likes to dig up dead things, but again, she is the BEST BEST BEST with our mini cows. In fact, she sleeps with them. We live in an area known to have Mountain Lions but she is loud and alert.

Veronica_1
12/3/2009 12:06:05 PM
Like April, I caution new Pyr owners to be watchful when mixing birds with this breed. We're new Pyr owners who had read that the breed will guard whatever it recognizes as "friend". Since she's a puppy, we were careful to always be present when mixing the two. Unfortunately, we lost several turkeys in separate incidents after they flew into the Pyr's yard. I would not trust her unaccompanied around any of our birds.

April Zumbaum
12/3/2009 1:10:42 AM
While I'm happy for the authors' success with Pyrs despite not having had to train them, I'm troubled by the naive message that this article gives to others considering Pyrs (or any other breed, for that matter) as guardians for poultry. I recently had to get rid of a lovely Pyr who killed more birds that I had lost to predation prior to her arrival. She was not brought up with birds at her breeders farm, and although I did work with her, she simply never learned that the birds were part of the farm along with the goats. I managed to train my Chesapeake Bay Retriever to be bird-safe (she would even break up fights between my turkeys and a moody rooster) and keep raccoons away from the flock, but I just couldn't get the Pyr to catch on. And unfortunately, I've talked to and heard of many others who had the same problems with Pyrs and poultry. Please to not assume that any Pyr will be bird-safe without training. Puppies do need to be trained not to play with or chase poultry from day one, and should not be left unsupervised with them until they are out of the playful pup stage.







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