Owning, Breeding, and Training Great Pyrenees

Here we will share what has been shaped, so far, of our ownership and training philosophy, and details of what we have learned about starting puppies, and continuing to raise and train Great Pyrenees for livestock use, family pet ownership, and a few other topics.

The series of videos on this page show some of us with Rosemary just after birthing her 2012 kids, a buck, General, and a doe, Stevia.  We are attending the birth with a mature LGD and two immature LGD’s, supervising to make sure respect is in place.  Haven’s weaned puppy, Jade, is 3 mos old in the video, and Nala is 18 months old.  Haven has a very thin coat, as the female Pyrs lose most of their hair after weaning a litter.  It grows back in quickly.

• Young Pyr Meets Mama Goat — April 2009?”Haven” (5 months) got a healthy dose of “Mama goat” today. Our first kid of the season was born yesterday, April 15th, to “Pepper” our most mature doe. Pepper is neither a bully, nor a pushover…great for training puppies. When we let “Salty” and “Pepper” out of the stall together, for the first time, we also let Haven come in to greet them and meet the new baby. Pepper kept a 5 foot radius clear around her new baby by challenging and/or butting any creature* that ventured in. Haven was, of course, very curious about the new baby and tried to bound up to him for a good sniff; Whabam! was the response she got from Mama. She tried 4 or 5 more times and got the same response before deciding it more comfortable to simply observe the new baby from outside the 5-foot radius. Haven has been spending a lot of time in the poultry yard, but her behavior had reverted some and she was starting to chase some chickens. Today we let Haven stay in a smaller enclosure with Salty and Pepper. Haven kept her distance and seemed content to watch and learn. ? I am glad to have this new baby and experience for Haven. She will slowly be allowed to get closer to Salty, as his dam becomes assured that Haven will not harm him. I expect to see Haven and Salty cuddled up together soon. Haven reminds me of how her aunt Nala was, the way she seems to “enjoy” the livestock and feels comfortable being with them. ?When I noticed Haven having worse behavior in the poultry yard, I went back to reading more about training LGDs for poultry work. I came across an excellent article that I had once read but of which I had lost track: www.anatoliandog.org/poultry.htm ?After reading it, I realized that I was expecting too much of Haven and need to slow down her training. I need to remember that she was the most rambunctious and outgoing of her litter. She will probably require more time to “settle down” to reliable LGD work, especially with poultry. ?** Smokey, our largest Pyr at the time, was also interested in the baby, which he outweighs by at least 100 pounds. None of the dogs had gotten a sniff yet because Pepper and Salty were in a separate stall when he was born. I thought it was interesting that Pepper let us hold Salty up to Smokey and allow him to sniff. Smokey gave him the vacuum-cleaner-style “once over” without objection from Pepper. It seemed to me that Smokey was making thorough note of the new creature on his roster and Pepper was allowing it without protest, perhaps because she already knows and trusts him?

About Our Dogs

All of our breeding dogs are AKC registered, mature, attentive livestock dogs, AND pets, but mostly LGDs.  They are with their stock full-time, except when birthing pups, with newborns, or for a special reason such as an injury.  We interact with them, and our other animals, at least twice each day, during routine farm chores.   We have young children and feel completely confident that even our youngest, 4, can be safe around these large dogs at any time.  Even though the Pyrs are very large, they can be easily taught to respect even little people by not jumping or being overly excited.  In fact, Pyrs are known as “gentle giants” because of their sweet nature with people.  They are gentle, loving, obedient, and sweet, but dedicated to their job of fearlessly protecting the animals on our farm, which is quite remarkable.   We originally got the Great Pyrenees because what we needed was protection for our livestock.  We have peace of mind, especially at night, knowing that they will “handle” any threats to our animals.  What we didn’t really understand, however, was that we would also receive the unexpected bonus of the opportunity have a special and endearing working relationship with these smart and talented canines.  We are continually learning how to tap into their vast and multi-faceted potential for obedience, companion, service, and, eventually we hope, cart and therapy work.

What Great Pyrenees need… like any animal, is proper care and consideration; the opportunity to mature into their given role.   We are students of what this means.  We read about Pyrs regularly, speak to other owners and our vets, and learn through trial with success or failure.  Some people want a Great Pyrenees as a family pet and others as a livestock dog.   Still others, like our family, want their Great Pyrenees to faithfully guard their livestock while still being able to interact obediently with people off all ages (and calmly go to the vet when needed, etc).   We continue to learn about the best ways to raise a Great Pyrenees puppy so that they will be able to meet the goals their family has for them, whether they are livestock or pet related, or both.

Great Pyrenees are dogs, first of all.  Yes, they have instinctive guardian skills, and love to work as livestock guardians (and people guardians!).  However, whether livestock guard or pet, it is poor stewardship to not make sure an animal receives proper care, treatment, and training.  There are different opinions about what this means.

Having said all that, we are NOT constantly fussing over our dogs;  not at all.  We also continue to learn about good animal husbandry and training.   We do have our farm set up to optimize proper training of dogs and puppies and we spend the necessary time to make sure new owners have a puppy that has been started well.  Our animals have clean water, a clean, well-maintained environment, good quality food, appropriate attention each day,  grooming as needed (baths, brushing, nails, clipping, ears cleaned, etc), medical care, regular de-worming, necessary vaccines, and (at least) basic obedience training!

We want to help new owners in any way we can:  Providing training tips, care information, welcoming you to come see our Pyrs and our farm, and on-going support via phone and email once you take your puppy home. The breeder that got us started has always been available to help and it has made a difference.  We are committed to breeding correct, healthy puppies who are given what they need from day one.  This is one reason we limit the number of litters we have each year.

 

We breed Great Pyrenees for many reasons.  First, we think Great Pyrenees are a beautiful, amazing dog breed!    We enjoy so much the opportunity to own, work with, raise, and train these talented dogs.  Second, we enjoy helping the mama dogs raise their puppies!   It is not an “easy” thing to have a litter born and raised, cared for and sold, especially not in a high-quality way.  However, in this season of our lives, it is especially fun and meaningful for us, as a family, to do this work together.  Third, it is highly educational for all of us, and it pairs well with our other farming endeavors.  Lastly, it is helpful to earn some money to “feed” back into our farm endeavors and help with the cost of owning and operating the farm.  At the point that the breeding program is no longer enjoyable and satisfying for our family, we will likely stop raising new dogs and simply enjoy the benefits of owning Pyrs, but not breeding them.

Training Methods Vary

Of course, we are often asked about what is involved in training a Great Pyrenees for livestock work, and/or for general pet “duties”.  As the main dog person on our farm, I (Amy Jo) feel responsible to acquire/develop as much training know-how and ability as possible, as quickly as possible.  However, this is not an overnight endeavor.  As with anything worthwhile, however, the time and effort invested are paying big dividends.

I feel confident in advising new owners who are purchasing their Great Pyrenees as a puppy for a family dog.  Many Pyrs LOVE being a person or family companion and “jump right in” to family life.  They are easy to housebreak, and respond well to consistent obedience work.  They are loyal, protective, relaxed, and good natured.  They do not tend to be hyper.  The hardest thing to adjust to is the large tail that seems determined to knock things off of the counter, table, or whatever!

I also feel confident in advising livestock owners who have farms set up in similar fashion to ours, because this has been our personal experience!  Whatever your desires for your Great Pyrenees, however, they are able to adapt, as long as they are given patience and consistency.

Our puppies are well bred, healthy, and started very well.  The puppies are exposed to livestock starting at (the latest) about 5 weeks, and we can help new owners with specific requests, like exposing them to poultry.  However, early exposure is nothing compared to the value of continuing to observe your growing puppy and provide appropriate opportunities for them to develop into the guardian or pet you wish to have.

We also have some great websites to recommend, where owners can read much regarding their goals for their Pyr, no matter what the scope.  Again, we are committed to helping new owners get the information they need.

Our breeding dogs all come from healthy, working stock which are all available to meet and observe on our farm.   I will go into more detail about what we have incorporated into our puppy program that makes purchasing a Legacy Farm Great Pyrenees a wise choice for anyone wanting to own and employ one (or more) of these amazing dogs.

Firm Boundaries

One of the most important aspects of training a Great Pyrenees is establishing a clear relationship (who is the master) and firm, consistent boundaries.  The more quickly and effectively this can be accomplished, the better the result for all involved.  I have read about this in various places, and discussed it w/many folks, but learning to put it into practice here has been a wonderful experience.  It is not a concept that I learned before having GP, but it actually has applications in many aspects of life, making it a valuable lesson all around.

 In learning how to interact w/our dogs, it has helped a great deal to observe the way our dogs interact with each other.  The main things I have observed is that the dogs are quick, fair, firm, and NOT typically emotional in every day interactions w/each other.  (intact dogs can be a trickier subject.)

Because we are breeding, it seems we always have young dogs around, so we have been getting plenty of practice in this area.

I take every interaction as an opportunity for training.  Other family members do the same.  Every time we feed, move dogs and/or livestock, go into an enclosure, or pet the dogs…whatever, we are careful about treating them consistently.  We ask them to sit when they approach us, “wait” for their food or treats, or before going through a gate.  We never ask the dogs to jump up on us, or condone jumping up on gates or fences.  We do not allow them to ignore us w/out correction, and we always praise, praise, praise correct behavior with petting and verbal priase, and sometimes treats.

It has proven true here what I have read about the way dogs interact w/each other.  As I have tried to mimic what I see my dogs do w/each other to relate and maintain order, it has become easier and much less emotional to establish and maintain boundaries.  I believe it has also paved the way for very good “relationships” with our dogs, and even with our puppies in the short time they are here.

Having intact dogs is an added challenge, too.  I realize now that by neutering or spaying a Great Pyrenees LGD, you are eliminating a level of challenge that I cannot imagine keeping except that we really desire to continue our breeding program.  I highly encourage spaying and neutering, not just because of the potential for unwanted pregnancies.

The goal is to have your Pyr respect you, and in order to do this they must think you are smart, understanding, loving, and consistent.  Showing them love AND boundaries leads to much satisfaction!