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Discussion Starter #1
I'm curious as to others experiences with working dogs. I know Walther has a number that he talks about from time to time but never in enough detail to satisfy my curiosity.

Specifically, I am going to be getting several dogs in the next 12-24 months for watch/herding duties. I wonder how much breed figures into things. I also wonder how much you have to train them -- and if you don't have the time / ability to train them how much training it would take a real trainer to do the job.

Right now I would be inclined to buy Great Pyrenees or something similar. They seem to have a disposition that would mean if you kept them around the animals from a young age they are just naturally going to watch/guard them. I'm sure thats being a little idealistic, but breeds such as GP's have been bred for hundreds of years to watch over flocks. Since we will ultimately have pigs, chickens, a few goats and maybe a cow or two this is very important. I can't stay up all night monitoring the front forty :)

I would also like to have the ability to use dogs to move pigs around. Our experiences with moving pigs have been frustrating to say the least. It seems the critters never want to go where you want them to go. We are getting better, but a little four-legged (and much quicker than I) persuasion would go a long way IF I COULD DIRECT IT. I don't have the foggiest idea how to train a dog for that and I don't know if dogs such as GP's would be good at it either. From what I have read, probably not but I don't have any direct experience with these things.

thanks for you input.

keith
 

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Herding vs. protection..........those are 2 very different instincts. Having owned a GP, I never saw anything resembling any herding instinct.
 

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I'm curious as to others experiences with working dogs. I know Walter has a number that he talks about from time to time but never in enough detail to satisfy my curiosity.
There are a number of articles on my blog about them. These two links will give you a line into those:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/animals/dogs/

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/tag/dogs/

Ours are a pinch of Black Lab, a pinch of German Shepherd and a lot of Other. They do both guarding and herding - both functions can be done by the same dog. One good dog is worth about five people when herding and they love their work, 24/7. Lets me sleep at night. It does take time to train them. You can't expect a puppy, even at 18 months, to run the farm. Training augments instinct.

I would also like to have the ability to use dogs to move pigs around. Our experiences with moving pigs have been frustrating to say the least.
I would strongly suggest getting Temple Grandin's book on Livestock Handling. I don't agree with her completely on pastured pigs - I have more experience than her on that - but she knows a lot about herding and the same basic principles as for sheep, goats and cows apply to pigs.

http://www.amazon.com/Humane-Livest...1409092094&sr=8-1&keywords=livestock+handling

Some of it is experience. Some of it is the right tools. Sorting boards make a world of difference. See:

http://www.sugarmtnfarm.com/?s=sorting boards

and

http://images.google.com/images?q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+sorting boards

White gloves, arm extending sticks, looming, lines all help.

We herd in, sort and load pigs every week for market plus sorting and moving groups between pastures, weaning, moving sows to different boar herds, etc. With experience you get better at anticipating the animals and directing them.

Pigs flow like water.

Pigs like to run along a fence line.

Pigs like to be in groups.

Pigs are very observant of looping.

Pigs go to the light.

Pigs go to the corner.

Pigs prefer going down hill to uphill.

Pigs that don't herd well should be culled - in time you'll have pigs that herd better.

Lots of little details that you figure out in time.

Cheers,

-Walter
 

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It has been my long held belief that the reason pork was deemed "unclean" in the Bible , was because they drove the Shepherds crazy trying to herd them.:rolleyes:

I have never seen the need to herd pigs. Bang the feed bucket and they come running.

The little I know about GP is that you must leave them with the flock all the time. From that, I don't see how one could also be trained to herd it's herd mates.

I have owned a couple Border Collies. I do not recommend them, unless you have lots of work (sheep herding) to do. They are an intelligent, high energy and idle time is not how acceptable. You could have them herd sheep for a half hour three times a day and then a couple hours agility training each day, combined with daily one hour each tennis ball bounce and catch, with the Frisbee toss. While loaded with instinct, herd training is required. That means you'd need to teach the commands, come by, away to me and stay and use them in a manner that efficiently moves the sheep towards you. It took me three times watching the video and a few days in the field learning. The dog took an hour times two days. Yes, the dog learned faster than I. Smart dog. But my neighbor has had a few Border Collies and they never got the herding done right. Each ended on a chain in the back yard. That is just cruel, IMHO.

Four legged herding easier if you could direct it? Don't think so. Imagine a remote controlled four wheeler, with you at the controls. I doubt your joy stick would be any match for a wily hog. Calling commands to a dog would be problematic. The pig moves faster than you can speak and the dog obey.

There are dogs trained for pigs, but their methods are different from what you want. Pig Dogs work like Bear Dogs and **** Dogs and Coyote Dogs.

Plan on cooping the hens and getting the rest of the livestock up to a pen closer to the house at night.
 

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Haypoint is correct that the dogs must be self guided to a very large degree. You don't remote control them like a toy car. Rather you tell the dogs what you want done in a general term and then they help you do it. To a very large degree we don't even tell them - they simply know what to do because it is part of the patterns of life. The closest we come to "Remote Control" is a few commands like Drop, Back, Over, Form A Line but the dogs do their own thinking. They're very fast. The dogs train the pigs to herd from a very young age. This is part of what the weaning paddocks are about.

Our dogs are trained to herd pigs, sheep, poultry. The poultry is by far the hardest animal to train dogs to, especially chickens. They just push all the wrong buttons in the dog brain screaming prey with their fluttering. Our dogs do a great job with them but that is because I've let go the dogs who couldn't - bred and trained for this ability over many generations of dogs.

I've heard people say that pigs won't herd, they're wrong though. Just eat the pigs that won't herd and you're left with the ones that will. This quickly selects for herd-able pigs. This is part of why it works for us. Herdability is one of the characteristics that we specifically select for in our pigs.

-Walter
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Walter,

Not to inflate your ego, but I read your blog religiously :)

I read through all those to make sure I hadn't missed any..I had missed one previously. However, I guess what I am looking for is more specific things if that is possible -- and it may not be.

It would seem that your dogs do both (primarily) guarding and (sometimes) herding. I think it's safe to say that isn't typical but at least you proved that it can be done. In re-reading your posts it struck me how much that your dogs are mixed breeds. In fact, if I recall, the original dog was dropped off on your road.

I would think that breeds such as GP's are so "overdeveloped" in regards to guarding that they would be much more difficult to teach to herd. Something I should consider a lot as I really want dogs to do both. I have never consider a collie as haypoint is talking about, but then again I would suspect they would be the opposite -- all herd and no real gaurding.

You said that you primarily train via positive reinforcement. I don't suppose that's very original -- sounds like I just need to pick up some books on dog training as a start. I'm sure I'll have questions along the way but we can get to those soon enough.

I have heard of Temple Grandin but have never read any of her books. I have a stack to read, I'll add it to the stack.

Now where do i find the intelligent mutt :)

thanks
 

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I have Pyrenees and Border Collie.(females)
The Pyrenees do very good job guarding the pigs and yes they do herd the pigs also. You will be surprised at how little you have to train them. It just comes natural for the Pyrenees. Best to get them young so they grow up with the pigs.
They do live with the pigs most of the time.
The Border Collie i couldn't do without. Very smart and good around the pigs she also helps with the herding if i need her. I use the Collie mainly with the cows. No animal or bird will mess with the pigs with the Pyrenees on guard in the pasture and the Collie on guard outside the pasture and around my house.

P.S. Best to get female dogs. The males will roam if not trained well.
 

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Last year I got a 1/2 Pyranese, 1/2 Anatolian that was a couple months old and had been left in pasture with the mother who was guarding milk goats ranging on 200 acres. I brought the dog home and it lived in a 16' pen with a young boar about its same size for 2 months. Then she started getting out and coming up to the house where our Golden retriever family dog was and I figures all was lost. I instructed the wife and kids NOT to play with her. She went back and forth between the yard and the pigs and now she probably spends at least half of her time down with the pigs, she will just go down and hang around with them on her own. She has chased a few other dogs off, but she was watching intently as she was younger and taking cures form the retriever who is very territorial. I started to get 2 as many had suggested. I am glad now I did not. One puppy can only play rough with a smaller animal so long, 2 can do damage and feed of each others frenzy. I would not suggest 2 puppies, but one now and when you are sure she knows her job add another, she will teach the other. Having one adult dog who knows some basic ground rules will help.

I do gunsmithing and have people all the time tell me they want a sub MOA rifle. Dogs are like sub MOA rifles. You can get the best there is, and if you do not have the ability to use it properly you will not get sub MOA groups. I am glad to hear you are at least honest about your training abilities. I believe many dogs are blamed fro inexperience of the owners. The same way many rifles are blamed for inexperience or lack of skill for the owners. If I were you I would be looking for a Anatolian or Anatolian Pyrenees cross. I would focus on simply guarding. This they will learn for the most part on their own, if you bond them to the animals they are guarding early on. Training for herding takes some experience. Moving pigs (horses, cows, goats, chickens) In my opinion, it is just hard to beat training them to tow with a feed bucket, for moving from pasture to pasture.

Just FYI. The Pyrenees have been in the US for quite some time and many have been made into family dogs, the Anatolian's have not been here as long and still retain more of the herding instinct from all the information I have found. Pyrenees are also known to want to enlarge their territory, while the Anatolian are known for keeping smaller territories. In other words a bored Pyrenees will tend to want to roam far and wide, maybe into the neighbors place!! BOTH will bond with whatever they are happiest with. If you make them real happy being around people (playing, rubbing, etc), guess what, you will have a people dog, not a pig guardian.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
As a complete aside...muleman I use to be a really good shot. Now I'm not so much because my eyesight is deteriorating. I'm still pretty handy with a pistol as the target isn't that far off but I have trouble seeing through scopes and once it gets beyond a couple hundred feet with an open sight it's all a very small blur. A few years ago I bought a shotgun and said forget it. If I can't hit it with buckshot we have a problem :)

I am not as familiar with the Anatolians as the GP's but they are one of the breeds I am considering and I'm certainly open to a cross. I had not heard about the smaller territory for them..would be interesting if true. As another aside because it's late and I'm trying to avoid working about six months ago I had a friend give me a weaned pup who's mom was a GP and the dad was unknown. Turns out the dad was a lab. Not a good mix. Holy cow..at some point she might have settled down but as far as I could tell she acted just like a lab. The EXACT OPPOSITE of what I wanted. And she was scared to death of piglets that were smaller than her. I found a very good home for her and we moved on ... I'm doing research now for when we move to our larger acreage and have more space for the dog(s) and more need (as we will havve more pigs).

I'm perfectly willing to invest in training for someone to teach them some basic herding if that is what it takes. That would be assuming it wasn't incredibly expensive but I don't think it would be necessarily. I think I can manage the guarding training myself as it seems to be more simple. My farm is an investment and certainly to begin with I will contine working outside of the farm to improve it and keep it going. I realize the immense value of good dogs on a small farm and it's very important that they be able to help with tasks of moving animals as we will not have a large number of people around to manage them.

thanks for the feedback everyone ...it's why I love this forum! Lots of good stuff.

keith
 

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One might think we simply go lucky with our original dog that simply showed up and said he was going to work here. That is, it seems like luck until you realize that a lot of dogs were dumped at our doorstep. Virtually all of them were not qualified and I called animal control to take them away. So there was a heavy applicant selection process even from the start.

Most discussion of livestock dogs tends to focus on the extremes of either herding or guarding and there have been breeds like Great Pyrenees where the guard function has been extremely developed and there are those like the Border Collies where the herding function is extremely developed.

What doesn't tend to get discussed is there are a lot of other breeds like German Shepherds and others who have both functions strongly developed and have been used traditionally to do both guarding and herding. I think this doesn't get talked about much because the fanatical people who say dogs can ONLY guard OR herd. They're wrong but they yell their mantra out so much that I've watched them shout down discussions and insist their way is the only way. The reality is there are a lot of other ways out there.

This is much like the people who scream that pigs can't eat grass. I try to not have my pigs and dogs read these sorts of discussions because they either respond by getting upset or laugh so much they fall and roll down the mountain.

But back to working dogs: good genetics is important. The skills of hunting translate into both herding and guarding. Then training develops these skills. Same reason we school our children - to help them learn to be better at things. Shepherds have been working with dogs that do both herding, guarding, hunting, transporting and finding for millennia.

Best place to find a working dog is from a farm who has working dogs so look around you for dogs doing similar work to what you would like to have them do on your farm.

Cheers,

-Walter
 

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This discussion kind of reminds me of when I went down to North Louisiana and bought a leopard Catahoula to hog hunt with. I ask the guy on the phone is the pups would make good hog dogs. He told me both parents hunted, the ***** would bay, and sire would try to catch, but would not bay.

His statement was this and could not have been more true. "If you work with them they will make hog dogs, if you don't they will just be a dog!!" I think the same can be said for LGD's
 

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The old stock breeds like German Shepards and Rottweilers were also called driving/drover dogs. They were an extension of the Shepard himself guarding and moving the flock or herd in open country. Breeds like the border collie and Aussie are more of a cutting breed for controlled movements and dividing groups. They are incredibly high energy and live for the excitement of moving livestock. I think pyrs do show some of the old drovers instincts. Mine patrols the perimeter at night, puts the chickens up at dusk, keeps the potbelly out of the coop, and puts the guineas that I want loose back in their pen because that's where they belong. I don't think it would take much for any dog with an aptitude for working with livestock to learn a new skill. lDogs learn very well from routine and repetitive action. Almost any dog with basic training(come, sit stay, back, leave it)and respect for his person can be taught to do just about anything. If you want a dog to help move pigs bring him with you everytime you do it. When he knows his job he will do it the best he can everytime.
 

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Also be wary of guardian dog crosses sometimes they take on the worst of both breeds. Pyrs for example are very stubborn and do things their way they are also very protective of what is theirs. Boxers are hyper, silly, have a short attention span and tend to be kind of neurotic. I had a boxer pyr cross. He was a nut case. Very smart, easy to teach, but impossible to train. He was great around other animals but he hated my llama. And when he was set on something there was no calling him off. I had to put him down a few months ago because he became aggressive with both dogs and people he knew. I love mutts, 2 best dogs I ever had no one could guess how many breeds were in there, but when you cross two pure breds sometimes you get all the bad and none of the good.
 

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I know a bit about dogs and training....

I'm surprised people don't use more malamutes. Maybe because of size idk I think they could be one of the most useful for all duties.

Super protective, lightning fast natural herding instincts super easy to train. Also good family dogs.

A good friend of mine is a retired special forces dog handler, so I get world class training and techniques for free. He has a female that's only about 50lbs but even the 800lb steers don't stand a chance against her lol

Just a thought
 

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From what I know of malamutes and other breeds of that working class, they have an incredibly high prey drive that can be difficult to control. They also tend to out smart their owners and take a lot of understanding of dog behavior to handle and train correctly. Not a good dog for a novice but a great dog when paired with a knowledgable pack leader.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The northern working dogs are all good. In my climate (east Tenn.) the summers would a bit hard on them, but I certainly could consider it. My family had a Norwegian Elkhound for years when I was young. They are hard workers and very smart. Malmutes, huskies etc. Lots of good stuff there.

thanks,

keith
 

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The hunting and pack instincts are very valuable in this work - farming. We have a lot of predators and the solution is that our pack is bigger (physical size), more numerous (numbers) and it's their home territory. Coyotes in particular but other predators too understand territorial boundaries very well. Most of the time our dogs don't get into an actual fight with predators, they merely mark their territory and sing away encroachers. Vocal marking is a big part of territorial marking across many species.

-Walter
 
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