Saturday, February 18, 2012

What a Great Pair of Knees can do for you....

Okay I'm not the first person to make that joke nor will I be the last.  However it seems an appropriate way to start out a blog entry focusing on our Great Pyrenees dogs and the roles they will someday fill here at Cornerstone Acres Farm.
We aquired Icee, a female Great Pyrenees, on January 14,  2012.  Icee was born on 11/25/2011 and is an all white Pyrenees from working parents.  She was born and raised with goats on a farm in Fremont, Michigan. 
Icee (9 weeks)

We then aquired Zip, a 3 year old intact male, from a friend who needed to "pyr proof" her yard before taking him back home.  We would have loved to have made him a permanent addition here as he is quite a sweetheart, but I suppose that is why his owner wants him back!  He originally came from a sheep farm where the owner had sold off his sheep due to health problems which left Zip without a job.

Zip (3 years)

After deciding we liked having a pair of Pyrenees to work our small pasture we began an almost half hearted search for a partner for Icee.  Well, as fate would have it, an email arrived one day and after a couple of phone calls we added Reign to our family.  He officially became our dog on February 17, 2012.   Reign is a 7 month old intact badger male who had to be given up by his family due to allergies.  Reign originally came from a breeder in Ohio.  Although he was not raised as a guardian dog he seems to be quite a natural, with very attentive instincts when around the goats.  We will continue to monitor him closely and only allow him with the goats while supervised. 

Reign (7 months)

So now that I have introduced you to our Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) let me explain what their roles here will be. 
     First and foremost they are to work as a team to protect our livestock.  We specifically chose the Great Pyrenees breed for their tendancy to use their shear size and presence as a deterrant and only resort to force when necessary.  Since we tend to have visitors to our farm that are either buying goats or just want to play with them, we needed a dog that was relatively people friendly.   We do have a coyote population in our area.  Although we have lost a few free range chickens to possible coyote attacks, I have not witnessed any pressure on the goats.  I have witnessed coyotes withing "spitting distance" of our barns and pastures so it could be only a matter of time before pressure increases.  It would only take one hard winter to make the goats look pretty tasty, especially when we schedule our kidding for January here.  Our team of Icee and Reign along with strong fencing and electric wires should eliminate any losses due to coyotes or stray dogs. 
     Secondly these two are fun loving companions for both humans and goats.  In holding with true LGD philosophies they should only be human socialized to a minimum degree.  This is to strengthen and encourage their bond with the goats  - they need to prefer the goats company over human company.  But, as I stated earlier, Reign was raised for the first 7 months of his life as a "pet" not an LGD.  He has a bond with humans already.  However due to the fact that we only have about 1 well fenced acre at this time to "guard" there just isn't the huge concern that the goats will wander away without their protectors.  Icee on the other hand DOES have the bond with the goats.  She is a very sweet dog and loves cuddles and petting, but almost always prefers to wander off with her goats.  She is quite happy walking the fence perimeter and marking "her" area.  These two are very good companions when I spend my time out in the pasture, both loving and attentive.  Happily though, they are calm and content with the company of each other and the goats when I leave.
I'm very happy with both dogs and look forward to watching them grow and learn.  They have a long way to go to reach maturity.  Great Pyrenees don't mentally or physically mature until around 18-24 months of age.  At some point after Icee reaches the ripe old age of two, I may breed her and Reign for a litter of pups. We will make that decision based on their temperment, conformation, guarding abilities and over all health as they mature.  Some time in the next few months we will be planning a segregation plan for them to keep them from early and unwanted breeding.  Due to the slower growth rate of the giant breeds, females often will not reach their first heat until a year of age or older.  If we decide not to breed them, we will definately have both of them fixed.
We will eventually allow our pair to roam with the horses, bucks and does by using jump holes.  We are also in the process of finding a way to feed them without the goats gettng to the dog food.  I will definately post pictures and instructions when we find a way that works for both of these issues. 
I learned a bit of interesting information about the breed while researching why the older Pyr, Zip, might not be eating or drinking as much as I thought he should.  It seems to be a constant issue with many Great Pyrenees dogs, especially those used as guardians.  They do not like to stick their heads into "deep" buckets (such as a horse grain or water bucket).  One school of thought is that it confines their "line of sight".  After moving his food and water to one of those low sided rubber pans he is drinking and eating at a much better rate.  Funny how quirky dogs can be...just like children.

Icee and Reign getting aquainted

Well it's time to do a bed check on all the goats and dogs.

Until next time.......

1 comment:

  1. The goats (well, sheep in my case) eating dog food can be a real pain. It's worse for sheep as the copper content of dog food can be harmful. I've found that adding a few spoonfuls of a really stinky canned dog food along with a little water keeps the sheep from eating the dog food.