Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Guard Dog Possibility - photos added

Okay, am I crazy or too much of a worry wart?  There is a 1/2 Great Pyrenees, 1/2 Akbash guard dog available near me.

He's 5 years old, has been raised with sheep.  He's good with sheep, children, cats, other farm animals. He's excellent with newborn lambs, and never was aggressive to sheep.

I went to meet him the other day and he's very mellow...

and very BIG.

The only things holding me back from snapping him up are:
1.) his history of arthritis in a back leg (he can't jump fences anymore)
2.) my lack of previous experience with any kind of guard dog.
3.) my husband doesn't think we need a guard dog since we've never had any losses in the 8 years we've had sheep here. 

#1 makes me nervous about possible vet bills in the future.  The previous owners have given him glucosamine pills in the past, but now just an aspirin when he's stiff and sore.  They say it's been a long time since he's needed any aspirin. They say having a shelter for him in the coldest months of the year keeps in better shape. They say he can run, but when I saw him he was very laid back.  I saw him walk and he wasn't limping at all.

#2 is most compelling, I'm not really a dog person. I'm not as stern as I need to be to keep a dog submissive. I've read that these breeds are very smart and need someone who can keep them in line as they can have a mind of their own.

I say #3 is pure luck in combination with the Australian Shepherd marking the area.  We had a coyote within 50 feet of our barn right before lambing in 2008 and a cougar was spotted just north of us (about 3/4 mile) right before lambing this past spring.  There are bears in the woods adjacent to our paddocks. And our neighbors have a penchant for taking in and caring for other people's dogs for months on end. 

What you guys think?  I need to make up my mind or let someone else take him.


  1. I'm actually not much of a dog person myself, but have really enjoyed Hank. A true working dog is completely different than a house/yard dog.

    Two thoughts - if you wait until you have a problem, it's not only heart breaking, but also puts you in a crunch where you might have to take a puppy that's going to need training/supervision and be months away from being ready to work. However, if this dog is too old to take care of a problem, especially a cat, I'd hate to put him in a bad situation.

    My two cents...

  2. You know my history with LGDs. The life expectancy of large dogs is much less and if he is experiencing problems already...... Large dogs eat a LOT so that is another expense. You have less acreage than what is recommended for a guardian dog (minimum 10 acres of pasture). They do get bored when they are confined and it leads to "issues".

    My two cents....

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ladies! The big cat moved on through last spring without incident - I think any dog would have a hard time with dealing a big cat.
    Yes, I was concerned about the boredom issues too. But I was thinking he might be a good first step toward us finally being able to have sheep utilize the 40 acres of pasture and hay land we own 14 miles from here. One thing I forgot to mention was that this dog is free to good home.

  4. I'm probably a sucker, but I'd take him if I were you. Of course, my husband is a vet (large-animal), so at least I would have free access to advice and drugs (not surgery). If his history is accurate, he sounds very good indeed.

  5. Having absolutely no experience with LGDs, but some with dogs in general.....you might consider taking him to a vet for a once over to see if the leg is 'just' arthritis. That way you can be sure it isn't a more serious issue. The former can be controlled with aspirin or some of the newer pain relievers available from the vet. My old collie lived on an aspirin a day for two years, until I had to move her up to a vet prescribed tablet. (She was 13). Also I would 'guess'...again not having any experience with LGDs specifically, that his age will help with any submission or wandering issues. He has learned how to be a good guardian, and will probably, once settled, take over the job w/out much need for correction or interaction. Much different than a pup, I imagine. As for not having problems before...I'm in the same boat. I have no guardian animals, just decent fences, but I know that at any time while I'm away 'something' could get in with the sheep. After all of that... you would be best to just go with your gut instinct, as there are some real good pros/cons for either choice! Also maybe they would let you take him on a two week trial or something....
    Take care, and good luck!

  6. If I could afford another dog, I'd take him in a heartbeat! Then again, I love big dogs...

    All I know is that a good guardian dogs is priceless. I think the idea of a vet check is a good one, although my heart would just say take the big guy and give him a good home!

    I know. Not very practical. Maybe that's why my life is the way it is....


    But, I am happy!

  7. Well it looks like I will be getting him! Stan is coming around to the idea that this is a good time to get a guard dog, before we actually NEED one. The current owner will meet me at the vet's office and he will get his rabies shot. That way I'll get to ask more about his medical history before I bring him home. From what I've been told by experienced guard dog breeders and owners, arthritis is pretty common in the mature dogs like this and it's not that hard to manage.
    Now I just hope my sheep will adjust to him.

  8. I have had Maremmas in the past (a working pair), now have a Pyr....who is in the house! We adopted him as a one year old rescue and I just couldn't put him out in the barnyard...I'm a sap! I have a llama...that we are probably going to move as he isn't very much of a guard....we had a coyote come right up to the fence next to the sheep this week and he was very "ho-hum". The Maremmas definately did their job and would NEVER have allowed that! But there is the liability concern that comes with guard dogs. Then again if I was having major problems with lots of coyotes....I would go with the dog...just know that they work better in pairs! If I don't locate a good guard llama....that will be MY next move.

  9. Hi Donna, I'm afraid I'll be letting this one in the house too. Everytime I look at his photos, I want him more. My husband and I are going to see him again tomorrow and if all goes well, he'll be coming home with us! An experience guard dog breeder suggested that we don't combine the vet trip with going to a new home. As that could cause him to never want to go the vet again. I'll let him get used to the place and then we'll schedule the vet visit.


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