Thinking about raising livestock guardian dogs on your farm, but not sure where to start? I’m sharing some of our favorite items to make raising livestock guardian dogs as easy as possible.
Raising livestock guardian dogs
Soon after moving to the farm, we noticed a significant amount of coyote behavior in the pastures. We weren’t surprised – coyotes are extremely brazen in our area and are known to casually walk through neighborhoods completely unfazed by humans. Our farm was also vacant for 15+ years, so the wildlife activity was extremely high. Finding a coyote here and there is inevitable, but finding one lurking in the back pasture multiple mornings per week in clear sight of the chicken coop while staring at me? No thanks. Finding hundreds of coyotes tracks right outside our fencing every time it snowed? I’ll take a pass.
I wanted to feel safe and confident with our kids running around on the farm, but the amount of coyotes made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Not to mention, our almost 100 animals clearly needed some extra protection from predators! After spending months attempting to convince my husband, we finally decided to start raising livestock guardian dogs on our homestead. Since adding our two Great Pyrenees to the farm, our coyote problem has virtually been eliminated. I haven’t seen a coyote in months, and I’ve seen perhaps a total of two since bringing our pups home. I’m not naive to the fact that coyotes still roam the farm at night, and sometimes I can still hear them yipping. But now when I hear our LGD’s barking at 2AM, I know it’s because they can either see or sense that something is out of place on the farm, and that gives me a whole lot of comfort.
LGD’s are working dogs
When raising livestock guardian dogs, it’s important to remember that they take their jobs very seriously. Their primarily responsibility is to protect their pack. This not only includes livestock, but also includes their humans. I highly discourage approaching a livestock guardian dog for the first time without the owner present. Remember – their job is to protect, so they may perceive you as a threat. The way our pups watch their humans while we do chores and the kids run around makes my heart so happy. They are simultaneously the most gentle, yet ferocious, dogs around.
Okay, did I convince you to start raising livestock guardian dogs on your farm yet?! If yes, then check out some of our favorite items to make the process go smoothly below.
Raising livestock guardian dogs: Grooming & Health Maintenance
- Shedding Brush: Great Pyrenees grow a thick coat for winter, which means they shed A LOT come spring time. Their coat easily becomes matted, so it’s important to brush them regularly. Skip the fancy brushes in favor of this Wahl option. (slightly different than ours, but Amazon option here.)
- Grain Free Food: When raising livestock guardian dogs, it’s important to feed a high quality, grain free food. (If raw food is in your budget, then even better.) We’ve been using the WholeHearted grain free food with good results.
- Heartworm: As always, dogs need a monthly Heartworm preventative. Be sure to take your new pups to the vet as soon as possible after bringing them home to your farm, and don’t forget to get a fecal test done. Both Otis and Leroy tested positive for intestinal parasites immediately after we picked them up, which could have caused long-term health consequences if they weren’t treated properly. Thankfully, our pups tested negative for parasites during their follow up test. Not only does Heartguard protect against Heartworm, but it is also used a preventative (and treatment) for various intestinal parasites as well. Your vet will prescribe this medication.
- Flea/Tick: Our LGD’s live outside 100% of the time, which means that it’s extra important for them to have monthly flea/tick prevention.
Raising livestock guardian dogs: Training
- GPS tracker: Great Pyrenees are known roamers and love exploring their boundary lines. Although we have electric fencing, I worried that our pups would escape the fencing (it happened immediately after we brought them home), so we started putting a GPS tracker on them at night. A few cons – the tracker is not overly-secure on the collar and has fallen off (and consequently, became a chew toy for our curious puppies.) Sometimes the GPS tracker also loses signal and shows that your pup left the boundaries, when in actuality they didn’t. It’s not perfect, but also calmed my nerves the first few weeks.)
- Shock collar: when using a shock collar for training purposes, please be responsible. We have not needed to use our shock collars in month.
And that’s it! Raising livestock guardian dogs is such a wonderful experience. Watching your pups come into their own and become the primarily protectors of their pack is so rewarding!