First published in the GPCA Bulletin
When I ask why they didn’t purchase from a reputable breeder, they frequently tell me that they contacted breeders who refused to sell to them, saying they didn’t raise “livestock guardian dogs”, but wanted their dogs to be loved as family pets. It seems that both alpaca and Pyr breeders could stand to rethink their situations.
To many Pyr breeders, the phrase “Livestock Guardian Dog” conjures a picture of a lonely, unkempt dog, with only the sheep for company, living out in all kinds of weather, never petted or loved. While this is only sometimes the case, I propose we begin thinking in terms of a dog that lives on a farm with room to run, people who love him, who shelter, groom and train him, and give him a satisfying job to do. We call this dog the “Family Farm Dog”.
On many family farms, the Pyr is free to come to the house, or to wiggle through the gate to get to the fields. The family’s chickens and rabbits, children and livestock are all safe from predators with this arrangement. Strangers are “announced” with a deep bark, but friends come and go unmolested. The Pyr is often found on the porch during the day, but can be heard patrolling the fields at night. He has a dog house, or warm place in the barn, to use in bad weather, but – being a Pyr – often prefers to play in the rain and mud and burrow in the snow.
Even a pup that is raised in the house can be introduced to the alpacas, on leash, and taught that he is not to chase. Sometimes, a specific cria (baby alpaca) and dog will decide that they can play “tag”. This should be discouraged by putting the dog back on a leash around the stock and not allowing unsupervised visits until both pup and cria outgrow the behavior.
During the time the pup is learning about alpacas, he can also get his basic obedience training. Walking quietly on a leash, learning “sit”, “wait” “down” and “come” are all necessary to the family dog – and to the family dog that lives on a farm as well. Generic commands such as “leave it” (stop whatever you are doing) and “off” (don’t jump on people/animals/the table) are also taught at this time. It doesn’t hurt the pup’s eventual guarding ability to be taken to obedience class and will in fact give owner and dog a better means of communication.
If you, the breeder, have a vet who will spay or neuter the pup before leaving you, so much the better – you don’t have to depend on the good intentions of the buyer. If you don’t have such a vet, be sure to have a contract that specifies such neutering by six months of age. It is a proven fact that spayed/neutered dogs are more likely to remain around the farm and you can be assured you won’t have “grandpups” that wind up in unsuitable circumstances.
What do you do about questions from your buyer you can’t answer: how to introduce the pup to the alpacas, what to do about pups that chase – anything that may come up with any dog raised around other animals? There’s a good on-line resource at http://www.lgd.org/library.htm This contains over a hundred articles and links about Pyrs and other livestock guardian breeds of dog and many questions can be answered there. Members of the GPCA or Affiliated Clubs can call on the resources of the GPCA’s Livestock Guardian Dog Committee.