To Buy or Not to Buy - A Livestock Guardian Dog

Beekissed

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I am sad for you and Ben. I know you love him, but you also face reality head on. You tried to find him a safe home, but some people just insist on being stupid. If you tried again, it could turn out even worse. My heart goes out to you.
Thank you, Bay. I've never had to do anything like this before, with any dog I've ever raised, so this is pretty hard. I feel like I've failed on this one and it hurt to even let him leave the land, let alone to have this happen and get him back under these circumstances. He's got so many good qualities and it's hard to put down a perfectly healthy animal that has potential, especially when we've put so much of our heart into him.
 

Baymule

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Training a LGD to chickens.

My first LGD was a free throw away chicken killer. Paris. She is now 12 years old and is still a killer, just not chickens. LOL Her former owners left her alone all day on 3 acres with LOTS of free range game chickens. In case you don't know, chickens are the ultimate squeaky toy. They run, flap their wings and make noise. And when they stop flapping, just chase down another one! WHEEE!!!!

The only bad thing about chicken squeaky toys is that it tends to make people mad. I don't know what those people did to Paris, but by the time I got her at a year old, she was a mess, she blamed all her troubles on chickens and absolutely hated them. She would look around to make sure no one was watching, then rush the coop, snarling viciously. So did i pretend that everything is rosy in La-La-Land and let the chickens free range? Absolutely not! They stayed in their coop.

Paris was and still is a screwy dog. She was timid, scared, and cowed down. It took time to earn her trust. She began to assert herself and "own" the yard. At that time we lived in town and she had the back yard. She chased away motorcycles she heard on the street, people were not allowed to walk down the street without her seeing them and barking. She barked the alarm at danger, be it a garbage truck on the next block, a cat or falling acorn. Because the yard was HERS, everything in it was also hers, including the coop and the chickens in it.

It took 2 years to turn Paris from a chicken killer to a chicken guard. I would put her in the coop and she would desperately search for a way out. Scared. Then she discovered chicken feed. I let her in the coop to eat the feed and I sat in the doorway, blocking any chicken escape, praising and petting her. She beamed at the praise. When a young pullet eyed that luxurious fur and snagged a beak full, Paris instantly whirled, snapping and growling. I scolded, Paris, heartbroken, hit the dirt, rolled over on her back, pleading for my praises. The pullet stalked the big hairy monster and yanked another wad of fur with her beak. Paris did not react. I lavished praise on her, she leaped to her feet and got lots of hugs. It was finally time. We let the chickens out right before dark and sat in the back yard to watch. Paris did nothing. She never offered to chase or play with a chicken. She was their fierce protector. Why? Because I allowed her time to consider the chickens to be hers and "own" them.

Ok, on to a new pup and chickens. New pups go on a leash, they are not allowed to run amok and get in trouble. When off leash, they are supervised. When a pup alerts on a chicken, they get an immediate no. If they persist, I get louder, more threatening, until they pay attention to me and submit. Submission can be as simple as a soft posture or they come to me. I then praise them. I may turn my head and laugh, they can be so darn cute and funny. When our newest pup, Sheba, was chasing a chicken one day, I loudly said NO! Sheba ignored me and chased the chicken around the coop. I waited, 1 gallon plastic water container in hand. As the chicken and Sheba ran by, I lobbed the container at Sheba, hitting her in the butt while yelling NO NO NO. She yelped and chicken chasing suddenly didn't look like as much fun. I advanced, shaking my finger, scolding loudly and she was very contrite. There have been only a few instances since then where she alerted and I calmly said no. She broke her gaze away and looked at me.

I use some intensive training while they are young. If loose chickens are tempting, then lock them up. Better to have unhappy chickens in the coop than have them teaching a puppy to chase them. Let the chickens out late in the evening for short periods for training the puppy. Keep the puppy on a leash and walk him around. If he stares or gets too interested, correct him until he submits by looking away. The chickens will go back to the coop to roost as it gets dark, keeping the chicken lesson short. I put the puppy in the coop and fuss if they get interested in the chickens. I praise when they look away.

We have a Great Dane and Black Labrador cross named Carson. He loves to run and play. We also have free range guineas. Carson has devised a game with the guineas. The male protects his 2 hens and 4 half grown keets. He will run at the dogs to chase them away from his family. Carson instigates the male, running up to the group, then letting the male chase him away. Carson circles back, the male chases him away, Carson comes back, the male chases him away and Carson comes back, tormenting the poor birdie brain half to death. We don't scold Carson for this, we laugh until our sides hurt. Carson would not hurt the guineas for any reason, but enticing the male to chase him away is just too much fun.

We had one dog that was a poultry killer. He came to us as a young dog, great dog in every way, beautiful blue merle Catahoula. He went into a killing frenzy, digging at the coop, focused on the chickens. I realized that this was going to continue, it was in every cell of his body to hunt and kill birds, it was in his nature. I could beat him for it, know it was futile, or find him a home with no chickens. A young couple got him and he made them a perfect dog.

I tried ducks. Didn't work. Trip is our male Great Pyrenees, great with the lambs, sheep, ewes, ram and awesome with the chickens. So I got Muscovy ducks. I kept them penned for awhile, then let them out. Trip not only killed them, he ate them. I caught him with a half eaten duck and another dead one. he snarled and lunged at me. Oh no you didn't! I picked up a tree branch laying on the ground about 4 feet long and beat him with it until he retreated from the dead ducks. I yelled a lot too. I chased him with that stick. Ok, turn me in, I beat the dog with a stick for killing the ducks and dang near taking my leg off protecting his kill. I gave the remaining ducks away. Trip is back to being my awesome LGD. He just thinks ducks are on the menu.

So that's what has worked for me. Every dog is different, what works for me may not work for you.
 

chickens really

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I replied to a post about LGD on BYC this morning. :hide
Of course I got a negative response from a user that considers random breeds as LGD. Unfortunately just because certain breeds protect your property doesn't give them the classification of LGD at all. :idunno
I tried to explain but I'm not sure if the person understands or wants to argue? Anyways I came back here with you people that are awesome..:woot
 

Beekissed

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I replied to a post about LGD on BYC this morning. :hide
Of course I got a negative response from a user that considers random breeds as LGD. Unfortunately just because certain breeds protect your property doesn't give them the classification of LGD at all. :idunno
I tried to explain but I'm not sure if the person understands or wants to argue? Anyways I came back here with you people that are awesome..:woot
Mostly what I've encountered on BYC regarding LGDs is that people think that a farm mutt can't guard chickens as effectively as a LGD breed can, so they keep recommending people with chickens to get a LGD if their chickens are getting killed by 4 ft preds. Well, not everyone should own a LGD, not every situation dealing with livestock requires one and often in small, backyard settings a simple farm mutt is enough firepower. MOST of the time, in fact. Since the forum is called BYC, most of the people involved are those with a small backyard flock and not in need of a rocket launcher when a simple .22 will suffice.

I've had this very same discussion with the passionate LGD people who claim farm mutts can't truly guard livestock. They can guard chickens and any livestock that are enclosed in a 1-3 acre fence just fine. And, yes, they can even do so against coyotes if it's the right sort of dog. Insisting that anyone with any sort of livestock can't keep them safe unless they have a LGD is one reason so many of these breeds are winding up in rescues. My best chicken dogs were free dogs, Labs and Lab mix dogs.
 

chickens really

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Mostly what I've encountered on BYC regarding LGDs is that people think that a farm mutt can't guard chickens as effectively as a LGD breed can, so they keep recommending people with chickens to get a LGD if their chickens are getting killed by 4 ft preds. Well, not everyone should own a LGD, not every situation dealing with livestock requires one and often in small, backyard settings a simple farm mutt is enough firepower. MOST of the time, in fact. Since the forum is called BYC, most of the people involved are those with a small backyard flock and not in need of a rocket launcher when a simple .22 will suffice.

I've had this very same discussion with the passionate LGD people who claim farm mutts can't truly guard livestock. They can guard chickens and any livestock that are enclosed in a 1-3 acre fence just fine. And, yes, they can even do so against coyotes if it's the right sort of dog. Insisting that anyone with any sort of livestock can't keep them safe unless they have a LGD is one reason so many of these breeds are winding up in rescues. My best chicken dogs were free dogs, Labs and Lab mix dogs.
Yes. I have Finn my Maremma that definitely is LGD and takes to my Horses and goats and he stays with them and won't leave them if he feels they are threatened. Bindi my Aussie/Golden Retriver I don't consider her an LGD but a wonderful guard dog that patrols my property with a vengeance towards intruders. Bindi chases off coyotes, stray dogs and kills muskrat and wild rabbits. Finn won't kill a muskrat because it's not his way to be a killer. He sounds the alarms and Bindi is off like lightning as he waits over his animals. Unfortunately people don't know the difference. A Blue Heeler won't guard the herd but definitely herd them and possibly chase off a few coyotes. Not committed to the herd though.
Many little ankle bitters can be great watch dogs because they protect their territory and people. Definitely can't classify as a true watch dog breed. 😳😂
 
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Baymule

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I replied to a post about LGD on BYC this morning. :hide
Of course I got a negative response from a user that considers random breeds as LGD. Unfortunately just because certain breeds protect your property doesn't give them the classification of LGD at all. :idunno
I tried to explain but I'm not sure if the person understands or wants to argue? Anyways I came back here with you people that are awesome..:woot
You can't fix stupid.
 

Beekissed

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I posted some training tips to a FB page for Anatolians after folks kept asking me what I did to train a pup on chickens. I'll paste a bit of that here, but a lot of the preface to chicken training I'll leave out...mostly about the importance of establishing leadership of the dog through proper leash training and teaching some basic commands. I've been using this training on dogs of various breeds since 2008 with good success...until now, with the current pup, who has had it twice now and still wants to sporadically take a notion to lope at a chicken. Not full on chase behavior, but definitely a start in that direction if not corrected. She takes the correction well, responds appropriately, but later I'll see her do a little loping run at a chicken again, requiring another correction. She's not a bit stupid, just very willful.

Chicken training(after proper leash training and training on recall)~

Select as calm chicken as you can get and truss its legs with a soft rope like a sisal baling twine or something similar. Do not catch the chicken in front of the pup...they are great mimics and anything you do to the chickens in front of them, they may repeat later. Never chase your chickens in front of your LGDs...they will think this great fun and try to help you. Never a good thing.

Sit the pup next to you and put the chicken on your lap. The bird may cry out or flap...if this gets the pup's attention, a soft jab in the neck and the correction word needs to happen(I use Atttttt!!!!!). The ultimate goal is that the pup remains calm no matter what the chicken does. That means no tension in the body, ears down, nose not quivering, nothing. Just a calm dog sitting next to a calm owner with an excited chicken. Pet the pup for calm behavior, sweety voice applications aplenty. Pet the chicken and say, "MY CHICKEN" in a firm, low voice. The pup may went to sniff the chicken...I let them for a second but if the sniffing starts to yield tension in the pup's body, I give the correction and jab. He may sniff casually and then no more.

When he is calm, you are calm, the chicken is calm it's time for the next phase. Put the chicken on the ground out in front of you both...it will likely flap, squawk and try to move away....correct any overt attention from the pup at this behavior. The correct response to your correction is for the pup to look away from the chicken or duck its head while doing the same. Let the pup walk
around the chicken and watch how he behaves when the bird gets excited....any perking of the ears, prolonged staring or tension in the body gets a verbal correction, which should make the pup break concentration on the bird and get his mind off it. If not, go back to square one on chicken training. I've never had to do that yet, but I'd recommend it if this happens...it's means something you've done wasn't absorbed by the pup.

As often as you can remember, when you correct the pup for any excited behavior towards the chicken, follow it with MY CHICKEN. Some people use "NOT YOURS" or "LEAVE IT". Any of those works. It's a more specific command than the AT sound and indicates this thing, in particular, is not to be touched. It's yours and not his. No matter what it does or sound it makes, it's never to be touched.

Then, when the pup is at his most calm, just walk away from the bird and the pup and leave them alone together....move away but watch the pup. Give the command if he tries to approach the chicken. Does he good response of moving away from it? That's good. Move out of the pup's sight but watch out a window, around a corner, etc. and any move towards the chicken, even a casual stroll past it, yell loudly, "MY CHICKEN!!!!". This gives the pup the idea that, even when you are not around, the chicken is off limits. The desired response to that is a ducking of the head and moving away from the bird.

Next phase..and I usually do this right after the last one....have the pup lie on its side and relax, petting him until he calms but make it understood that he is to continue lying on his side. Any tension in the legs in this submissive pose indicates he is not calm. If he struggles and tries to get up, give correction word and hold him there, when he relaxes you can pet and praise him for being calm~slow, long strokes are best. Then lay the chicken across his neck. He may lay calmly or he may try to get up....don't let him, even if the bird is making a fuss. Show him that you want him to lie calmly with the bird on his neck. This may seem silly but it also shows him that the bird can touch him, even while he's in a submissive position, and he is not to react. His eyes may roll towards the bird and he may look terrified of it all, but in all things remain calm, expect him to be calm and the bird usually is calm as well. You know you've done well if the pup lies calmly while the chicken rests on his neck for a number of seconds.

Now, let your bird go and watch the pup as it runs away...the pup should not show any increased interest in the behavior or the chicken. Then let the pup remain free in the free range flock as you chore around, keep an eye on him as you do so....pups learn when they run to you that the chickens scatter. This is fun. Later they like to run through a crowd of chickens just to see them run...when they do that, give a verbal correction immediately. Every single time. If you see the pup doing what I call the slow herding move...a casual walking around a group or a single chicken, making it move away while the pup continues to follow~give a verbal correction. They are not allowed to herd them, no matter how slowly... they aren't allowed to lunge at, yip at, run at, or otherwise react to the chickens.

This monitoring portion all sounds time consuming but it's not. It's sort of like how you train your children...it's all done as you do other things. The pup will follow you around as you do chores and that's a good time to notice their behaviors towards the chickens, ducks, etc.

Now, you'll never know if you can trust him unless you trust him. So, his time unsupervised with the free range flock gets longer and longer each day....listen to your birds. If it sounds like they are being chased, pay attention. It could just be chickens fighting one another but check it out...this lets the pup know you are on guard. This also lets him know he should be on guard and be checking out the increased excitement of the chickens...not in a way that will get him excited, but in a calm way. Just checking. All clear? Fine. As you were.

Most of my dogs are rock steady on chickens at 2 mo. of age and onward, never harming a bird all their lives unto ripe old age and death. Various breeds, so this is not breed specific. All it really takes is a dog that respects you, respects the things that are yours and the training should help this to happen. The leash training establishes your leadership. The chicken training establishes that these are yours.

Don't trust anyone selling you a pup or dog who says they've "been exposed" to poultry, sheep, goats, etc. or even those who say they've been working with said livestock. Do your own training when they get to your land, as the dog may not see your livestock the same as those they've been guarding. Monitor and note increased excitement around your stock...if you see it, you need to do some training. I lost my best duck in trusting those phrases. I then had to train the dog on my birds~and the lambs, for that matter~ and he's never harmed a single one since. He is now on guard full time with the sheep at 1 yr of age, no older dog to assist.

Also, don't believe the myth that is stated like gospel that these LGDs can't be trusted around livestock on their own until after the magical age of 2 yrs. It's ridiculous and not a bit true. Imagine it, if you will...the dog wakes up on its 2nd birthday, looks at the calendar and realizes it is now time to be trustworthy around stock. I've yet to have a pup I've trained harm any stock and I start when they hit my land, no matter the age~usually at 2 mo. of age. I also expect them to work at guarding said stock when their training is complete.

I hope this helps! Any questions for clarification are welcomed.
 

Baymule

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Do not catch the chicken in front of the pup...they are great mimics and anything you do to the chickens in front of them, they may repeat later. Never chase your chickens in front of your LGDs...they will think this great fun and try to help you. Never a good thing.
This is so true! I raised some Pekin ducks for the freezer when we still lived in town and Paris ruled the back yard. I let the ducks out in the yard to graze and play in the bathtub. They never wanted to go back in their coop for the night, so i had to round them up, telling them GO HOME. Paris saw me do this ONE time and there after she helped me round up the ducks to their pen. I could tell the ducks GO HOME and she would start rounding them up. To this day i can tell her GO HOME and she goes to her back yard. LOL LOL
 

chickens really

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My little Lucy is trained to wrangle chickens. She is fantastic. All the chickens were put in and she never missed one. She now loves to herd the kid goats in and very persistent too.
I trained her with a volleyball and to use her feet and not her mouth. She boxes with her front legs. 👍
 
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