I am in a livestock guardian dog group on facebook and I must tell ya, I've thought of dropping out of the group on and off for quite some time. I remember commenting on someone else's post who was seeking advice on how to train a dog to not mess with the chickens. So, having successfully tackled that one, I shared my little tips. Unfortunately, I had a guy (who thought he was a dog psychologist) tell me I did it all wrong and went on to tell me what my dogs think and why they act the way they do and that I'm pretty much ruining my dogs.
I'll tell ya what my dog was thinking. He was thinking about chicken. Pretty deep stuff right there.
So, instead of sharing my training experiences in that group and getting hammered, I'll write my own post about it. Take that, LGD group. Hmmmf.
My children train our dogs with my guidance and they have repeatedly won in their large 4-H obedience classes year after year. Our dogs don't eat chickens either! And by-golly they aren't abused. We must be doing something right!
This post is not on how to train a livestock guardian dog, but a farm dog. There is a difference. Although I have Great Pyrenees who stay with the goats and some that stay around the house, I also have a Golden Retriever, a Golden Pyrenees and a Boxer/Beagle. With either a farm dog or an LGD, it is very important to at least teach them basic obedience. But I will be focusing on your general farm dog.
Having a well trained dog on the farm is so important! Although they are not perfect, our dogs listen to us and respect us, and that in itself prevents so many bad things from happening, which I will explain in a later post. When you train your dog or puppy correctly, there will be a healthy relationship between the two of you. That in itself is invaluable!
The most important thing you can do when you get a puppy, is train them when they are young.
A puppy is never too young to learn how to sit. When you teach him this, make sure you don't put too much pressure on his hind-end to go into the sitting position, just a gentle nudge is all you need. Dogs usually work well with treats when learning how to sit.
Once he knows how to sit, we start leash training at around three months. We use a collar attached to the leash at first. The puppy will put up a fight for a little while, but each time the little guy calms down, we praise him and pet him. These training sessions need only last around 15 minutes per day. After only 1-3 days of this, the puppy will normally be used to the leash.
Then we move on to the choker chain. The choker chain is your friend. Not an evil abusive tool, but a corrective tool that I can't stress enough about. It drives me bonkers to see a dog with a regular collar on and a leash, dragging their owner around. Yet when I mention a choker chain the haggard owner gives me a skeptical look or tells me their dog doesn't do well with a choker chain. The picture below is how the choker chain should look on the dog.
A choker chain, when used correctly, will keep your dog by your side when going for walks.
When we put the choker chain on the puppy, he will pull on it and panic at first because it tightens and he doesn't yet realize why. Because of this, it's important to be gentle with him and give him breaks with positive reinforcement. We hold off on treats until he is calm and ready to move on to the next step. So lots of petting and hugging helps to strengthen the bond and reassures the little guy.
Once he is used to the choker chain, we start to walk around with him a little bit more and teach him to walk next to us on our left side. If he starts to pull ahead or lag behind, a quick little pop of the leash will tighten the choker just enough to get his attention. This does not hurt him, but he will realize that he better slow down and stay next to you. You might have to do this often, depending on how stubborn your fur baby is, eventually he will figure it out. The video below is of my daughter and our little rescue dog, Snyper. Notice how quickly she pops the leash when he is lagging and how quickly he responds to it.
Consistency is key. If you keep correcting quickly whenever he pulls, that puppy will eventually be a wonderful companion to walk around the farm or anywhere.
While you have him used to the choker chain, now is the time to take the leash training a little bit farther by teaching him to sit when you stop. Since your puppy already knows how to sit, you can tell him to do so when you stop, and if you continually tell him he will eventually do it automatically. If he forgets, remind him verbally and if needed, give him a gentle push on the top of his behind.
Farm life can be exciting for a dog, so learning to sit next to his owner is a great way to keep him under control when a potentially exciting new animal arrives on the homestead or when the rabbit gets lose, etc.
Eventually, you will not need a choker chain or even a leash!
And yes, you can teach a Great Pyrenees too! Watch my daughter and Lilly work harmoniously together. Even though in this video she is on leash, she does just as well off leash.
The next lesson will focus on teaching your dog to come when called. Stay tuned for Part II!