Need Advice on selecting a farm dog/sheppard breed

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Need Advice on selecting a farm dog/sheppard breed

This is a discussion on Need Advice on selecting a farm dog/sheppard breed within the Working Dogs forums, part of the Dog Shows and Performance category; This will be my first dog in my adult life. I was raised in the country with a German Sheppard from childhood, into my teenage ...

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Old 07-03-2014, 04:19 PM
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Need Advice on selecting a farm dog/sheppard breed

This will be my first dog in my adult life. I was raised in the country with a German Sheppard from childhood, into my teenage years when she passed. My parents never bought another dog, and I have never been in a position to own a dog. I always say I hate people who own dogs who truly don't have the time or living space for a dog. I am now 28, married with a 4 year old daughter. We built a house on 10 acres which I was looking to add some sheep and chicken pens. Now I do live a fairly busy lifestyle but my business is now at a point where a lot of my work is from home and I have time to manage this. I'm a avid hunter and always like to have my own hormone free meats ie wild game and local farmers. Well I want to raise my own now. I won't ever be getting into cattle or pigs. Just chicken and lamb.

So since I am "busy" I need a true herding breed. So that already brings my breed selection down. Now I do have some other requirements for my dog. I am surrounded by woods, and my woods are full of coyotes. FULL!!! I plan on housing sheep indoors in evenings but daytime is still a risk. I need a breed that can and will hold his own. That being said I also want a dog to be a guardian of my home and family. Although I want it to be clear I am not looking for a dog that no mail man can come up my driveway.

My biggest fear is I am going to find a breed that is perfect guardian of my sheep and property. But will be a liability in terms of people coming over. I plan on having the invisible fence put in on the entire property (yes I priced it out). I never want my dog to roam and possibly harm someone. I have current neighbours who think their dogs own the entire concession and I have had near bites on more than one occasion. So I don't want to be that person.

Anyone offer any good breed selections? I am not sure I want another German Sheppard. Ours was very territorial, anytime someone came over she needed to be penned. Everytime we left home she needed to be penned in case someone came over. I need the dog to be free all day to herd and guard sheep from predators. So I need to be able to trust that my dog will learn to bark and perhaps warn me of strangers, but won't attack. And in terms of attacking when "needed". Realistically any breed will defend there loved ones in time of need. So that's not even on my radar.

Thanks
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Old 07-03-2014, 07:57 PM
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Are you wanting a guardian breed or a herding breed? They're two different things- typically livestock people will have a breed that moves stock around and another that guards it and lives with it. These are called livestock guardian dogs.

There are a couple breeds that are more all around. English shepherds come to mind- they are an all purpose farm dog that does a little hunting, guarding, and can move some stock.
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Old 07-03-2014, 09:13 PM
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I think I'm after a guardian. I plan to build two separate pens each being about 2 acres. The sheep won't be able to escape. So I don't need a dog to round them up and herd them or anything. Just one to protect them from predators.
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Old 07-03-2014, 09:59 PM
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The most common livestock guardian breeds you'll be likely to find are Maremmas, Great Pyrenees, and Anatolian Shepherds. All of these breeds should be aloof with strangers but not aggressive, unless said stranger threatens their flock. What you need to do is find someone who breeds and USES LG dogs. Someone breeding them for pets or for kicks is not going to produce the dogs you want. You may even find someone breeding mixed LGDs that will suit you just fine. You just want a dog from real, working lines and a breeder that can help you set your dog up for success.

An invisible fence is a bad idea though. A determined dog- say, a LGD chasing a coyote off- will blow straight through an invisible fence. Then be stuck outside it. Not to mention that no dog should be wearing the collar for such a fence 24/7, which a livestock guardian would have you. You need real fencing.
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Old 07-04-2014, 12:11 AM
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You might also consider getting a donkey instead of a dog for this work. They're usually incredibly hostile to coyotes and will drive them away at all costs, and are unlikely to stray at all. They don't need the training that a Livestock Guardian Dog does, they are cheap to pick up in this economy, they are generally hardy, fun to watch, and you can get a different dog that doesn't need to stay with the flock all the time.
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Old 07-29-2014, 10:17 PM
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a couple different things here.

You mention coyotes and the dog holding his own. Are you expecting the coyotes to attempt to eat your sheep and the dog to intervene? Or are you expecting the coyotes to attack the dog itself?

Is your primary purpose to defend your sheep? As mentioned, a donkey (or llama) works well at repelling coyotes. (Neither can handle wolves) However I expect you want to have a dog to have a dog, and protecting your livestock is a secondary concern.

People have mentioned the Flock Guardian breeds. These are definitely an option, but realize that the Flock Guardians were created to live with the sheep and be far away from humans on some distant mountainside. They tend to be independant thinkers, and a real flock guardian doing flock guardian work isn't much of a pet. Also flock guardians tend to think first about their flock. You have a pile of sheep and a flock guardian watching them, plus on the other side of the farm a baby playing on a blanket while Mom hangs up laundry. A snake approaches the baby. The flock guardian is less likely to view that as a threat to be dealt with. A breed that protects it's people first, and then the lands and animals it deems it's territory 2nd is more likely to intervene.

I guess this is a round-about way of saying on 10 acres with a handful of sheep and chickens there is NOT a need for a flock guardian breed. Things are different if you have 10,000 acres and a 300 head flock of sheep.

Now, realize that most of the time when coyotes go after livestock on a small farm all you really need is a dog that will sound the alarm and then YOU get your flashlight and shotgun and go deal with the problem. It's different than having a dog far away needing to fight off a group of coyotes on his own.

Also realize the risk from coyotes viewing a pet dog as food is one coyote luring the dog away from the farm (but you are already addressing this with invisible fence) and then when far enough away, a couple more come in for the attack. One attacks to draw an opening then the other attacks the exposed rear.

Granted, a big strong healthy dog (GSD on up) on his own is going to be able to fight his way out of this, but a pair of dogs who can back each other up is probably a better solution than one big strong dog.

If you do want one big strong dog, you'd be hard pressed to go wrong with a properly bred Rottweiler, or a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (or his longer haired cousin the Bernese Mountain dog)

...or a German Shepherd, or a Giant Schnauzer, or Beauceron, or Bouvier Des Flanders, or a Briard. All of these have background as working with livestock as well as general protection. This background isn't a guarantee that an individual will still carry that programming from 100 generations ago, but what it DOES mean is they aren't likely to be carrying traits that would be negative to filling this roll. A sled dog just isn't going to be interested in the sheep and will often see chickens as prey. A hound will often follow his nose and end up who knows where, and won't show much interest in the livestock once their newness has worn off.

But really, a trip to the local pound to pick up a medium to large size mutt, plus bringing home a companion dog in a few months is going to more than fit your needs
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Old 08-01-2014, 12:32 PM
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Livestock guardian breeds like Pyrenees, Maremma, Kangals, Anatolians, Caucasian shepherds, Central asian shepherds, Tornjak, Sarplaninac, Armenian Gampr.
They were born to do that work and they will stay with their livestock when raised with them and fight to the death for them. They require minimal training when it comes to protecting livestock.
Fair warning though, they are not for novice dog owners and can be extremely dangerous if in the wrong hands. However all farmers I know use these dogs for protection of their livestock without much issue. The biggest problem is that they generally cannot be left alone with livestock until they are about 18-24 months of age since their boredom and adolescence may cause them to harm your stock or leave them unattended. For this reason it would be ideal to start with an adult guardian and get puppies later on who will be raised and "trained" by the adult guardians.
If you don't want to be the person with the unruly dog, the important thing is early socialization and lots of it. These dogs are independent thinkers and will make decisions on their own. You need to help them see that humans are not a threat but predators are. These dogs can be trained to protect just about anything but do require training in order to assist in distinguishing between what is a threat and what is not.
But, all in alll, they're the most likely to defend your stock to the death. You can get any other dog but most of them will likely just bark and hope the predator goes away. If that's sufficient, then thats okay.

Maremmas/Pyrenees tend to stay closer to stock and don't chase off predators as much. Dogs like anatolians/kangals tend to wander a bit more and will often chase off predators or kill them. Most farmers I know have a mix of either. Pyrenees to stay near their stock and kangals to kill repeat offenders who don't know when to get the hell away from the sheep.

I highly recommend LGDs but thats because i love them endlessly and have worked with them on multiple occasions. However they are not for everyone and require a lot of work initially and a lot of grief until you understand how they function and think. Pretty much no other dog will protect you or your stock as well as these dogs.
And of course, if you fail to adequately train them you now have a massive problem on your hands... they're all pretty much large-giant breed dogs with extremely protective/territorial instincts and don't tend to back down. So only consider one once you have thoroughly researched them. And I promise you with the first one, even if you think you're ready, you probably won't be. It took a lot of work and tears for me on my first LGD but totally worth it in the end.

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Old 08-01-2014, 01:39 PM
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I was going to suggest a llama That's what I will get if there comes a day I have property with animals that need protecting.

But yeah, the others have already covered LGD breeds. My personal choice is a Great Pyr. I like the idea of having a "stay at home" protector of the property/house (or just a big dog that barks and looks scary). It would still be a pet for me though.

Livestock guardian breeds typically need to be kept with and raised with sheep, not raised like a pet dog. They have to bond with the sheep, not you. So a working one doesn't really make a great pet.
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Old 08-01-2014, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Anyone offer any good breed selections? I am not sure I want another German Sheppard. Ours was very territorial, anytime someone came over she needed to be penned. Everytime we left home she needed to be penned in case someone came over.
That is not the proper temperament for a German Shepherd. They should be aloof with strangers, but not aggressive towards guests.

Generally, the reason GSDs get aggressive like that is lack of socialization. An aloof temperament can easily sour to aggression if the owners don't socialize it properly. Every dog needs to be socialized, breeds created to be aloof need it all the more.
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Old 08-01-2014, 02:10 PM
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For the record, the OP has acquired a bernese puppy.
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