Information you will find below:
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Timber is currently the youngest member of our pack. She has proven herself to be a great dog and reliable around young stock (although until they are two they are not allowed to be present during births). She is approximately 66% Anatolian Shepherd, 31% Great Pyrenees and 3% Akbash Her offspring, when bred to our stud Bruno, will be approximately Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd and Akbash (or approximately 65.5% GP, 33%AS and 1.5% Akbash)
See more pictures HERE
20 or 30.
I'm kidding (or am I?) In actuality, it completely depends. Are you looking for a house dog/pet? Well then that is up to you and your space constraints, your time available and your budget! These aren't "magic" dogs. They may be one of the less "energetic dogs" (preferring to conserve energy until needed I'd say), but they do require space to play and exercise, a fence to play in (not a requirement but highly recommended), time to train them and food and vet bills as needed. If the sky is the limit for your space, time and budget go for as many as you want!
Now when talking LGD - there are a few parameters to go by to help owners/ranchers/farmers decide this. Below is ONLY A GUIDE. There are so many variables that I can't begin to cover them all for each person. I just want to give you an idea if one, two or more dogs will suit your needs the best.
How many Livestock Guardian Dogs do I need?
1) How heavy is your predator pressure?
A - Low - infrequent visual signs of predators, possibly hearing them as well but far off and in the distance.
B - Medium - intermittent visual signs of predators as listed above and frequently hearing them.
C - High - constant visual signs of predators including scat, tracks or actual sightings of predators in or around your fencing. Often hearing predators (coyote most often).
2) What types of predators do you have?
A - Physically small predators and lone hunters: hawks, mink, raccoon, opossum, eagles, neighborhood cats, owls
B - Physically medium sized predators who mainly hunt alone PLUS all of A: Neighbor dogs (but not packs), humans, bobcats
C - Physically large predators or pack animals PLUS all of A and B: Packs of dogs, coyotes, wolves, bear, cougar
3) How many acres do you have for the dogs to protect?
A - 2 or less
B - 3-10
C - 10 or more
4) What type of fencing and facilities do you have?
A - Fort Knox
B - low field fence type supported by electric fence back up
C - Minimal fencing that pretty much just keeps my animals contained
5) How do you manage your flock/herd?
A - My animals live on the same property as my home. The animals are locked in a very secure barn at night.
B - My animals are securely penned during lambing/kidding/calving/farrowing/etc season but otherwise are left on pasture. Pasture areas are less frequented by humans than being in my backyard.
C - My animals live on a property with little to no human presences (ie the boonies). My animals remain out on pasture at all times (birthing season included).
6) Have you had livestock losses or damage due to predators already?
A - Never
B - Maybe. It is possible as animals have gone missing with no sign.
C - Yes, that is why I need a dog.
7) What are the ages of the dogs you currently own or are planning on owning?
A - My dog(s) is between 1-4 years old. **
B- My dog is between 4 -6 years old. **
C- My dog is under a year or over 6 years old. **
8) How large is your herd/flock?
A - I have only a few animals (for example 6 goats or a dozen chickens, the word "few" is actually arbitrary so it is hard to give it a quantitative number)
B - I have more than a few animals (for example 2 dozen goats or 50 chickens or BOTH - again "few" is arbitrary)
C - I have many animals (for example I have 50 goats and 200 chickens)
If you answered A to all the questions, one dog just might work for you. I'd even go as far as to say, one dog that works as a mix of farm/family/pasture dog might satisfy your guardian needs very well.
If you answered a high number of answers denoted by B I would strongly urge you to own at least a pair especially if there were ANY C answers. (We are a mostly B farm here.)
If you answered C to ANY of the questions (with the exception of #6) you need more than one.
If you answered mostly C answers, you should definitely consider having more that even just a pair. The actual number will depend on the expanded information you have for C (for example question 3 answer C is 10+ acres, well 11 acres may be okay with two dogs, but 111 certainly may not be).
Again even with the above there are going to be variables. I mean even if you answered mostly C's but your fence IS literally Fort Knox - you might NOT need more than one or two working dogs. But say you answered only #6 as C. If you can find a puppy that is great - but a puppy is just as easily prey as your stock is since a puppy is no match for many predators I've listed. So adding a puppy and an older dog (8 years + even) if your pressure is very light might work out well. By the time your older dog is ready to cross the rainbow bridge, the puppy is ready to go to work in earnest. A good source for an older dog that may be able to handle minimal predator issues if you have them is to look for somebody who may be retiring an older dog from an intense predator situation. It doesn't happen often as we get attached to our LGD, but you never know - somebody may really like the idea of a "safer" retirement home for their beloved LGD.
Many times predator pressure will have highs and lows. You are better off to be prepared for the highs since it is often hard (and expensive) to find an adult ready to work LGD and often takes too long for a pup to be big enough and mature enough to hold his own. For example if your local pressure is low because the food source (other than your livestock) is high that is great. But if you get a season that may wipe out a good portion of the prey species, then what? Of course even having a good food source (other than your livestock) can be bad too. What can happen when wildlife eats well? The population can expand, right? So when the predator population expands beyond "normal" then they prey population can't keep up and THEN they come to visit your farm for a hand out!
**Keep in mind that as your current dogs age you should be bringing in additional pups before your current dogs are unable to protect any longer. Allow them a bit of a "rest" in their golden years by giving them a pup to work the fences! As in question #7 if all your dogs are between 0-4 you should be set for a while, but if your needs determine that you maybe should have 3 working dogs and one is around 4, you should really consider starting to look for a pup to start working as a "replacement" for the older dog. So, even though the recommendation may be to own three, you should have 4 on hand as one is "in training". Then as that pup takes his place in the pack and the older dog retires you may still have 4 but one is retired so to speak.
The short answer is no, never shave a Great Pyrenees.
The long answer is actually that it depends. There are rare cases where I would say yes you need to TRIM your dog or perhaps even shave. Times like if they are matted beyond simple grooming or if your dog will be having surgery (the vet will shave what is necessary).
A double coated Pyrenees with a good clean coat will be best left UNSHAVED. Our first male, Reign, had a coat that required a bit more grooming to avoid the dreaded matting. Our next male, Bruno, and our female, Icee, have VERY maintenance free coats that lend to full shedding of the undercoat without help, no mats and "natural" cooling abilities. I could type up WHY leaving a good clean coat intact rather than shaving is best, but the infographic below shows it much better than I can.
Click the picture below for another article found on the Albert North Vet Clinic page (which is where I found the picture).
At our farm we have lots of visitors. We wanted a breed that would protect from both four legged predators and aerial predators. We needed a compromise between protective yet friendly. The Great Pyrenees (or Pyr) was our choice. They have been bred for intelligence and the ability to think on their own. A working dog often does not have the benefit of a shepherd or shepherdess out in the field to direct him in his duties. Just as they are loyal if kept as a loving house pet, they are just as loyal to their charges in the field. Many ranchers prefer to have at least a pair of these amazing dogs since they work very well in teams. How many you need will completely depend on your preferences, your set up and your predator situation. Their main method of protection is to be a deterrent. This is accomplished by LOTS of barking. As a general rule Pyrenees are people friendly dogs, or at the very least NOT generally people aggressive which is almost imperative if you have many farm visitors. There are other breeds of guardian dogs out there which also cross well with the Pyrenees breed. Some of these breeds are the Anatolian, Akbash, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma and less commonly the Tibetan Mastiff.
Our Great Pyrenees are NOT registered. We are not into showing, but raising wonderful companions and livestock guardians. Our main goals are raising and breeding dogs that have unquestionable loyalty, dependable gentleness, unwaivering guardian skills and easy to maintain hair coats. Ours do tend to be a bit larger in size than the "breed standard".
The following was copied from
and is a general breed description.
The Great Pyrenees is also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. The length of the dog is slightly longer than it is tall. The head is wedge-shaped with a slightly rounded crown and is in proportion to the rest of the body. The backline is level. The muzzle is about the same length as the back skull. The skull is as wide as it is tall with flat cheeks. There is no apparent stop. The nose and lips are black. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The dark brown, medium-sized eyes are almond shaped and slanted. The dark brown, V-shaped ears are carried low, flat and close to the head, rounded at the tips, and set about eye level. The chest is fairly broad. The well-feathered tail reaches the hocks and can be carried low or up over the back in a wheel when the dog is excited. There is sometimes a crook at the end of the tail. The Great Pyrenees has single dewclaws on the front legs and double dewclaws on the hind legs. The dog has a weather-resistant double coat. The undercoat is dense, fine and wooly, and the outer coat is long, thick, coarse and flat. There is a mane around the shoulders and neck which is more apparent in male dogs. There is feathering on the tail and along the back of the legs. Coat is either solid white or white with patches of tan, wolf-gray, reddish-brown or pale yellow.
The Great Pyrenees is a capable and imposing guardian, devoted to its family, and somewhat wary of strangers—human and canine. It is often used to guard livestock. When not provoked, it is calm, well-mannered and somewhat serious. Courageous, very loyal and obedient. Gentle and affectionate with those he loves. Devoted to family even if self-sacrifice is required. It is very gentle with its family and children. It does best with children when it is raised with them from puppyhood, and if it is not being used as a working flock guard be sure to socialize it well with people, places and noises. It has an independent nature, and may try to dominate or intimidate a less secure owner, and/or an owner who treats the dog as if he is human becoming stubborn or territorial. Owners need to be firm but calm. Be confident and consistent with the dog Setting rules: the dog must follow and stick to them. The Great Pyrenees is a serious worker, but very independent. Be patient when training the Great Pyrenees, as it may be slightly difficult. If left alone inside the home without the proper amount of exercise and / or leadership it can become destructive. The Great Pyrenees is good with non-canine animals, and usually loves cats. These dogs do not reach maturity until they are about 2 years old. Some are not good off the leash and may wander away. They need an owner who understands and practices natural dogmanship. The Great Pyrenees tends to bark a lot and some tend to drool and slobber.
Height: Males 27 - 32 inches (69 - 81 cm) Females 25 - 29 inches (63 - 74 cm) are the average heights, but some Pyrenees are as tall as 40 inches (1 meter)
Prone to bloat, hip dysplasia, bone cancer, luxated patellas. Can develop skin problems in very hot weather.
These dogs are not recommended for apartment life and would do best with a mid-to-large sized yard. They need space, but adapt well to family life. They are not really active indoors, but need regular exercise outdoors. A fence is a must as they may wander away in search of the borders to what they believe is their territory. Puppies are very active and might have the tendency to wander off or escape. Prefer cool climates.
Pyrenees need plenty of exercise to stay in shape. If they are not actively working as flock guardians, they need to be taken on a daily, long brisk walk.
Life span: About 10-12 years
Coat maintenance: Regular brushing of the long double coat will keep it in good condition, but extra care is needed when the dog is shedding its dense undercoat. The outer coat does not mat unless there is a burr, foxtail or some other outside object that gets stuck to the coat. This can be an issue for outside working dogs. Some owners choose to shave the coats in the summer to avoid this from happening, but beware of sunburn. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. Great Pys shed all year round but do so heavily once a year.
The Great Pyrenees originated in Central Asia or Siberia. The breed was descended from the Hungarian Kuvasz, and the Maremmano-Abruzzese.The Pyrenees is also a relative of the St. Bernard. contributing to its development. It has a long history as a guard dog of sheep. The dogs made their way to Europe; the Great Pyrenees remained in the high mountain regions until the Middle ages, when the breed gradually gained popularity with the French nobility as a guard dog. By the late 17th century, every French noble wanted to own one. Armed with a spiky collar and thick coat, the Great Pyrenees protected vulnerable flocks from such predators as wolves and bear. The Great Pyrenees has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property. The AKC officially recognized the Great Pyrenees in 1933.
Also here is a link to the AKC breed standard for the Great Pyrenees
There are many reasons why we think we offer a great plan for pairing you with that ideal puppy (or puppies) and we offer tons of support for as long as it's needed!
1) We offer Volhard Puppy Aptitude Testing (along with our daily observations) to help optimize the best placement potential of each puppy. We are better able to rate pups as strong independent working dogs or more docile loving pets.
2) We raise dogs well socialized with stock. Our pups aren't born in the house and raised only within the same property of livestock - they are born in the barn with the stock. We do keep pups in a secured area to avoid any mishaps with a goat stepping on a tiny newborns. They do however share an open stall wall with the goats....the smell of goats is no surprise to the pups as they grow up! Somewhere between 2-3 weeks of age the stall where the pups are born is no longer closed off. From this point on pups have full access to the goats, chickens and ducks. Although our current female (Icee) was born and raised with stock, our current male (Bruno) was brought into our farm at 18 months of age from a pet home. However both dogs display natural and strong LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog) skills.
3) We offer a lifetime of support for any pup or dog that leaves our farm. We offer support in the form of problem solving, training help and rehoming if ever necessary. We are willing to take any dog back at any time. We have actually set up our farm and pastures just so we can offer this. To date we haven't had to take any back, but we are always here to do so. If you do ever rehome your dog, we still offer these services to whomever you sell him/her to. No pup that leaves our farm should EVER end up in a shelter or rescue.
4) We are frank and tell it like it is. We would rather be brutally honest about the pluses and pitfalls of owning a Great Pyrenees. They are NOT for everybody andthey are NOT for every situation. We aren't here to sell puppies. We are here to propagate a wonderful breed of dog and share the joys AND honest sorrows of owning such an amazing dog. You shouldn't leave our farm with your new puppy to encounter any hidden surprises!
5) Our dogs and our puppies are healthy. Our livestock that our dogs are housed with is also healthy. Nothing leaves our farm sick or debilitated OR exposed to sick or debiltated animals.
6) Our pups are socialized with humans enough to allow them to become gentle and loving pets, but raised hands off enough that they settle in extremely well to any new guardian home.
7) We hold our pups to an age that is ideal for allowing important learning and training here from their parents before they leave. This still also allows them to go to their new homes during that critical bonding time to help with creating strong and long-lasting bonds their new stock and/or family.
8) Our pups go home with a small bag of their current food, their age appropriate shots, a microchip, wormed and a record of all pertinent information (including all known pedigree information).
The list below was taken directly from http://www.volhard.com/pages/pat.php. This list shows the 10 areas that are tested. These areas are extremely helpful when determining if a puppy will make an outstanding guardian or a better loving playmate for your children.
1. Social Attraction - degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence.
2. Following - willingness to follow a person.
3. Restraint - degree of dominant or submissive tendency, and ease of handling in difficult situations.
4. Social Dominance - degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person.
5. Elevation - degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control, such as at the veterinarian or groomer.
6. Retrieving - degree of willingness to do something for you. Together with Social Attraction and Following a key indicator for ease or difficulty in training.
7. Touch Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to touch and a key indicator to the type of training equipment required.
8. Sound Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to sound, such as loud noises or thunderstorms.
9. Sight Sensitivity - degree of response to a moving object, such as chasing bicycles, children or squirrels.
10. Stability - degree of startle response to a strange object.
Pyrs are an extremely loyal and intelligent breed. Of large size but gentle nature they are ideal for even households with smaller children or with other pets. They are not a breed with excessive energy, but do need a good firm hand when starting basic training. They have a thick long hair coat that can differ in manageability from dog to dog. Some may require more grooming to remain mat free. This hair is shed once a year and be prepared for some clean up!! Pyrs do tend to dig if left alone or during extremely hot months. A joke I once heard while researching the breed myself is what do you call an unleashed Great Pyrenees? A Dis-a- Pyr!! Although ours are strictly goat guardians and stay well within the confines of their fence, I think that either a fenced yard, close supervision or thorough training is a MUST with your new Pyrenees.
As far as making your new Great Pyrenees a family dog as well as a guardian dog, there are two schools of thought on the feasibility of that. Some say that to guard efficiently they must bond solely with the livestock and have very minimal human contact. Others believe they can be totally bonded to their humans and still be guardians. I do believe that if you have many acres needing their attention, you are best NOT making them a pet, as they will be less likely to follow their herd away from the barn/home to the distant areas where the livestock need them most. Our dogs are wonderful loving dogs, however they are NOT allowed to leave the pasture. They MUST bond with their charges and should see them as their main priority. A Livestock Guardian Dog that comes into the house at night is not able to do his or her job at the time many predators are active. They are great with small children (but watch the jumping - these dogs should always be taught basic manners as they are big and can easily knock even an adult over) and can make super pets and companion animals as they bond very strongly and are of the gentlest nature with their families. But be careful, Pyrenees will roam if given the chance…as I said they think everything they see is theirs to take care of!! Oh, and they will get along with most anything they are raised with from other dogs to barn cats. And they will know the difference between your dogs and the neighbors dogs that don’t belong. Ours even guard against aerial predators like hawks and eagles (and sometimes blue jays and barn sparrows).
A jump gate is a good means to allow your dog access to places that you may not want your stock (sheep or goats or otherwise) to go. Our first jump gate was built to keep the goats from going into our LGD's doghouse when she whelped her first litter of pups.
How do I build a jump gate? A picture is worth a million words so this is my best answer to that question.
Do jump gates really work? For us they have. We have had a few smaller (younger) goats go thru the one pictured as it is in a hog panel and a little lower to the ground. Per the notes in the picture a height slightly higher off the ground would be recommended.
How do jump gates work? The theory behind it is that due to the triangular shape the animal has to somewhat cross it's legs to get through....this is to streamline the shoulder width a little and allow passage.
Where should I (or shouldn't I) use a jump gate? I use them to give the dogs access to multiple pastures where I would rather keep the stock in those pastures separated. I use them to give the dogs a place to eat or whelp away from the stock. I would NEVER recommend using a jump gate in a perimeter fence, only in cross fencing.
Are jump gates 100% foolproof? Nope. We have had a few younger of our does figure out the one in the picture...I'd never say anything is foolproof when it comes to goats!! However we have had great success and even though I give dimensions on the one above but you may have to play around a little with the sizing and height of your gate.
Some helpful tips for your new working LGD puppy. ***Introducing older dogs into an established pack generally will take a different approach than I will outline here.*** Please keep in mind that there really are as many ways to “train” a new puppy as there are puppies! These tips are based on our experiences and our pups and dogs. They are based on years of experience with dogs in general.
While an LGD IS different than your basic lap dog, some things remain the same to work with.
While you might want to love and cuddle your scared and lonely new puppy a lot, DO NOT do it. Now I’m not saying don’t touch or acknowledge puppy. I'm also not saying don't love on or cuddle them at all. I cuddle puppies every day they are here! What you don’t want is for you, the human, to become their only comfort zone. The safety net so to speak. You want the puppy to bond with the stock and the other working dogs you have. This isn’t going to take long, maybe around a week. It may take a little longer depending on your stock and/or if you have other working dogs. During this time feel free to acknowledge the puppy when he/she isn’t trying to get your attention. Pet the puppy. You don’t want the pup to forget about how great humans are of course!! Feel free to love on them, but don't reinforce fearful behavior. If you, the human, are the only source of comfort the puppy will automatically crave your presence and seek you out. This is NOT what you are going to want if this takes the pup away from the pastures/barnyard. Now I understand that stock (goats and sheep at least) can be pretty unforgiving of a new puppy or dog. For our stock it is helpful that we already have dogs. However the goats DO recognize the difference between individual dogs and with a new dog/puppy they are going to usually either flee in fear or put said pup in its place by knocking it around a little if it gets out of line or posturing against it. While I’m not advocating allowing your new puppy to be abused or injured, but allowing your stock to establish a bit of a pecking order is perfectly acceptable and even beneficial. If a pup tries to chew on your favor does ear, it should be within her rights to give the pup a reprimand. Always have a place that the puppy can escape to, a piece of a cattle panel in a corner works great for smaller pups.
So to break it down, here is how I do it. I walk out to do chores for the first two or three days. Each time I walk out, the puppy may come running and want attention such as petting or cuddling. I won’t immediately give it. I often acknowledge a pup with a quick pat and hello, but then I actually pretty much ignore the puppy as I go about chores. Usually about 15 minutes after I first enter the barn I'll notice the puppy has given up seeking my attention and is with the other LGD or perhaps with the goats. Generally at that point, I will walk over and talk to the puppy and give a good petting and cuddle. I might also work some training in at this time. Although puppy might follow me after I’m done with giving it attention, I once again go back to ignoring. I can't reinforce negative behavior by returning to a crying or whining puppy. By about day three or four I notice the puppy may still acknowledge my arrival but doesn’t seek me out in such a needy way. I continue my routine of “ignoring” the puppy for at least a few more weeks, but really only if the pup appears to seek me out for comfort. (Comfort and company are two different things however.) I’ve found that a two to three day time frame is also the amount of time it takes my stock to finally accept the new pup. (It took longer when we introduced a new puppy to stock unused to dogs and when we introduced a new adult dog.) I do pet and interact with puppy daily, actually every time I do chores which is 2-3 times a day. I never chase or push a puppy away. I'm never aggressive or mean to a puppy. As the noticeable bond and comfort level between the puppy, adult dogs and stock grows I allow MY interaction level to also grow. Basically the less the puppy needs me, the more I’m willing to give. Just because the puppy doesn’t need me, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t enjoy the attention or isn't attached. More cuddling, more play and actually some training is mixed in. I work on teaching them their name, the sit and come commands and I make sure we have no food aggression issues.
As far as fencing, here is a little bit of advice. With our first dog we may have gone a bit extreme which has caused some problems for us. We never taught her how to ride in a car or even how to leave the pasture. Once her first "adult" vet appointment rolled around a year after she arrived, we had some fun getting her out of the pen! But on a good note, even if a gate is left open she will not leave the pasture! That is probably a combination of her bond with the stock as well as her just never being allowed out. I would suggest working car rides and walking on a leash into your training program. However most of the pup’s time should be spent IN their pasture. If there isn’t a compelling reason that the pup should be outside the fence, I suggest that they should NOT be outside the fence.
***update, we have changed a few things here and as I update pages on the website here, I wanted to say we have worked with our girl and she will now come easily into our yard (which happens to be fenced for livestock now too).
There are groups out there that advocate keeping your dog in the house to begin their bonding and training. I'm not necessarily against this method. I am a bit put off by their groups however as they are adamant that their way is the ONLY way. I don't believe there is ever only one way to do things and if this method interests you I can direct you to some of the groups found on social media. However, I won't detail any of those methods here as they aren't how we do things so I have no personal experience to impart to you. We did however add a 18 month old "pup" to our pack who was raised solely indoors as a pet and he has been an absolutely amazing LGD from day one, so there should be some merit to their methods.
I have found that most problem issues with LGD can be directly traced to errors made by their owners. (See the part above regarding "can LGD guard poultry" and read about our biggest mistake so far.)
***I hope to add to this “as I see it” training advice as I think of things that would be helpful.***
I just wanted to cover a few things that many people don't do with their LGD that they SHOULD be doing.
EVERY LGD should know the following:
LEAVE IT - If a dog has made a kill or is chasing a predator I would use the leave it command to have them leave it so I can deal with it.
ENOUGH - I utilize this command for limiting/correcting excessive barking
(See also "Can a young dog be trusted with livestock?")
The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. The in between answer is most likely not.
This is a popular misconception as well as (IMO) a way for breeders to excuse or hide poorly bred pups. A pup should be raised with stock whether or not you have an older dog. Will you need to be part of the training process? Of course. Should you expect losses as a natural course of doing business...that is an emphatic NO. So how can it or should it be done? There is SO much to describing this situation of a young pup with stock that I can't possibly get it all here, but I'm going to try.
First off there is very much a difference between the statements "A LGD can't guard efficiently until they are 2 years old" and "A LGD can't be left with stock unsupervised until they are 2 years old" The first may be true and is the statement that the dogs just can't defend and do their job physically or mentally depending on the predator pressure you have and the size of your dog. A 12 week old pup isn't much more than prey itself for eagles, coyotes or even bears. But pit them physically against a fox and they most likely would win. BUT a 12 week old pup doesn't generally have the mental acuity to decipher and thwart a threat. A 1 year old pup on the other hand may have the size to dispatch a single coyote attack, but most likely won't have the mental savvy to deal with a pair or more of cunning coyotes.
As far as the second statement, A pup may NOT work well right off the bat unsupervised with poultry or young stock like lambs or kids. However waiting 2 years is bunk. A pup (especially a bored one) can very easily see these like sized animals as siblings and therefore play things! A chicken can't tolerate the amount of mouthing and jumping as a true dog sibling can and disaster can happen. Supervision, interaction and training is the key if you don't have any other dogs to help show the ropes to a new pup. Keeping a pup with adult stock (but away from stock who are actively birthing) is a great way to allow your pup to learn the ropes safely. ANY AND ALL play or actions that including touching livestock with mouth or paws should be immediately reprimanded and stopped. This is where adult stock is recommended with a young pup, they can and will protect themselves from a small puppy when you aren't around and you can reinforce any training while you are present.
For poultry guardians, we do recommend caution when leaving your pup with stock. Having a closure to retire an over stimulated pup to as well as other GOOD stimulation for your young pup to keep him from trying to run off energy with the birds is a good idea. Giving a pup experiences with a broody mother hen or a new mother duck helps train your dog that chicks and ducklings are most definitely NOT fun to play with and are off limits!
No matter what, an LGD IS a dog, albeit a different type of dog with sometimes different training methods and that training is important in the early months of life. Waiting until a dog is 2 years old to try and discourage behaviors that weren't able to be expressed is going to make your life, your dogs life and your stocks life much more miserable.
Yes they can.
I think that there are some limits, but not in the way most take them or assume them to be.
The commonly seen comment "Dogs can't be trusted with stock until they are 2 yrs of age" is a statement that I believe has gotten skewed from the original statement that dogs can't guard well until around age 2. These are two totally different statements. The first part - dogs can't be trusted with stock until 2 years of age - is generally a very inaccurate statement.
I might not let a dog be on his/her own without some sort of back up (human, strong fencing, safe barns, another dog, etc) until age two. But that doesn't mean that they can't be with stock alone until then, just that they may not have the mental or physical strength to thwart an attack prior to that.
Now, I don't allow a young dog to be with birthing mothers until I KNOW how they will respond. However all our dogs ARE with adult or junior stock from day one. There can be a difference in the way a dog perceives a birthing mother or a newborn kid and I see no reason to take chances without supervising this delicate time. Although I've never had an issue with a dog over two with newborns or kidding does, I've also never had problems with dogs UNDER two.
Keep in mind however that not all dogs are suitable to be with all stock, it's just a fact that all dogs ARE individuals. Just because I haven't had problems with my current and past dogs doesn't mean that some dogs may be more apt to problems. I say this last part just because I feel that too many people also take for granted the "magical" properties of these dogs. They are NOT magical, they are living creatures who can and do make mistakes and will require your guidance. Use common sense and when in doubt ask someone for help and err on the side of caution.
Going over? Electric fence or google "Fence Top Rollers Dogs". There are mixed reviews on the roller, but electric is definitely proven to work.
Going under? There are a few ways to manage this behavior. 1) electric fence - one strand a foot off the ground 2) fill holes as you find them using their own feces to fill (yep gross, and the dogs usually think so too) NOTE: A dog can dig out easily in under an hour, if relying solely on this method you just might lose your dog. 3) put stones, wire or heavy bricks around the perimeter of your fence line. 4) attach "loose" fencing to logs at the bottom if there is too much play in the fence allowing dogs to push under
My short and quick answer here is no. As a general rule I would prefer not to offer pups in pairs, but in full disclosure I have done it a couple of times to buyers I felt had full information of what raising two pups entails as well as the resources to give them the proper training to allow them to become healthy functioning adult dogs. I've raised pairs myself with good success so I know it is possible, but I also know it isn't easy. Anyone willing to sell you two pups without discussing the pitfalls of doing so probably won't have the best interests of the pups or you at heart.
Take a look into "Litter mate Syndrome". Keep in mind this is NOT limited to actual litter mates, but can be an issue when getting two pups of similar ages at the same time even if unrelated. Many people think that having two puppies at the same time can give the pups someone to play and bond with and therefore make the whole puppy stage easier. However two pups growing up together presents a whole set of different issues than if you have one. With two pups, each must have one on one training with their shepherd/owner as well as training with each other. So rather than making things easier, you have effectively tripled the amount of training you must actually do. Often with two pups, their bonding will be very strong with each other and they will look to each other for comfort, cues and bonding instead of looking to the stock or their shepherd.
Is raising two pups impossible? No it isn't.
Is it easy? No it isn't.
I highly recommend spacing your pups out at least 6 months and preferably about 1 year.