Starting the LGD Pup

by Catherine de la Cruz

First days in the new home.

When the 9-12 week old pup arrives at its new home, it should have a pen, approximately the size of an exercise pen (4 x 4 ft) already set up in the barn. A companion - either a lamb or a kid - just about the same weight as the pup should have already been selected and placed in the pen."Bummers" - lambs or kids that have to be bottle-fed several times a day - are the best companions because the schedule for their feeding coincides with that of the young pup. The frequent visits allow the caregiver to supervise the interaction of the two animals, being certain neither is injuring the other. The companion both substitutes for the pup's littermates, and teaches appropriate inter-species interaction.

If there are no lambs or kids of the pup's size, put the pup's pen where the livestock can see and smell the pup. A salt block placed next to the pup's pen may encourage the older stock to approach.

Shortly after the pup arrives, fit her with an adjustable buckle or quicksnap collar and a six foot leash. Spend whatever time is necessary in the first week to leash-break the pup. Do this in the training pen. Once she will walk happily on a leash, begin the pup's introduction to the rest of the ranch.

Training begins

Training of the pup - leash breaking, learning "sit", "wait" (at the gate),"come" - are all done in the area that the pup will eventually inhabit with the adult animals. This gives the older livestock and pup time to get used to each other.Once a day, take the pup, on leash, to an area where the livestock are and which she will later be expected to guard. Walk the perimeter of that area, allowing plenty of time for the pup to sniff and explore her surroundings.If she wants to approach a ewe or doe out of curiosity, allow her to do so on leash. Unless the livestock are particularly hand-gentle, they probably won't allow the approach; If they run, do not follow, as you don't want the pup to get the idea that it is OK to chase. If the livestock allow the approach, let the pup and sheep or goats sniff each other and get acquainted. Most likely, the pup will get butted. If this happens, reassure the pup and continue your walk. Do not let her bark or act aggressively toward the butting animal at this time.

As the pup gets older, it and its companion are moved to a small training area (a half-acre or less) with electric-fence wire at the top and bottom of the 4-ft high woven-wire fence. Farm electric fencing is designed to give sharp, short, intermittent shocks when touched; people and animals cannot be electrocuted by them; no burns are inflicted - a single contact with an electric fence is enough to teach all but the most hard-headed adult Pyr that fences are not to be climbed nor dug under. Once the pup has learned to respect the electric-wire on the fence and no longer checks to see if it's on, she's ready to be moved out with the older animals. This can occur anytime from four to eight months of age, depending on the dog, the livestock and the terrain.

Feeding the pup

Whether the pup is fed on a schedule (2-3 times a day) or fed free choice depends on the preference of the owner. In either case, the pup has to have a place where her food is protected from the livestock. While she is small, an opening at the bottom of the creep will allow her both access to her food and a safe place to escape the larger animals. As she gets larger, some ingenuity is needed to devise a barrier the dog can get through but the goats/sheep can't. Around four months of age, the pup should be switched from puppy food to an adult ration. Look for one that is 21% to 24% protein and 12% to 15% fat. Higher protein amounts often cause skin problems in LGDs and higher fat amounts lead to obesity. You should be able to feel the backbone, but have the ribs covered with a moderate layer of flesh. Feeding dry kibble is recommended to prevent contamination by flies and ants.

Learning to bark appropriately

At about six months, the pup will begin to bark at strange sounds. The period from six to nine months is the time during which the dog's barking habits are established.The caregiver must check on every incidence of barking and either praise the pup for barking appropriately, or scold - and shake if necessary - for inappropriate barking. If the caregiver is certain the pup is barking inappropriately, and it won't quit, then a "time out" period in its pen in the barn is in order. If close attention is paid to the pup's barking during this period, and consistent reactions are forthcoming from the caregiver, the pup will develop into a reliable dog that can trusted when it barks.

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