Friday, January 4, 2013

Adopting Adult LGD's

Sherry from Spinner's End asked for advice about bringing in two adult LGD's to an already established farm with pet dogs on site.  I'll do my best to write down some tips here.  But feel free to call me, Sherry, using my contact page info.  I'd be happy to talk to you about the subject if you have questions I don't cover here.
My first advice to anyone thinking of adopting adult LGD's to do LGD work on an established farm is: GO FOR IT!
It has been my experience that a working LGD with good temperament and good behavior will be a good LGD at a new farm, regardless of the species being protected, as long as the transition period safely integrates the new dog into the 'pack' at it's new home.
I've adopted three adult LGD's.  Two of them stayed at my farm and were trusted, valued, working dogs.  The third was re homed to a separate farm where he was no longer dominated by his sibling and he was able to succeed in his job.
Below are photos with captions that display a few 'moments' in the life of the 'transition period' and introduce the adult LGD's that I have worked with:
Greta (indoor/outdoor pet) getting to know Shachah (6 yr. old LGD) during some off-leash, supervised play-time.
Sibling LGD's, Capone (in kennel) and Pooja (drinking).  Both were quite matted when they came to live with us.  It took several grooming sessions to get them cleaned up.  Pooja was finished in this pic, but I still had more to clip on Capone's back end.

Siblings Pooja and Capone, groomed and unleashed.  Capone was eventually placed at a separate farm because the "sibling unit" wanted to establish other territory rather than get along with my current LGD, Shachah.  Once Pooja was spayed and separated from her brother, whom she was obsessed with dominating, she wanted to become part of Shachah's 'pack' and those two dogs worked as an excellent team.
As I said above, it is my experience that a good LGD can be a good LGD at a new and different farm if the dog has to be re homed.  Of course, I have some disclaimers to mention: I've only worked with three adopted adult LGD's.  All my LGD's have been Great Pyrs.  I'm not an expert.  I'm not responsible for someone else's failed or successful experience, take my advice with a grain of salt, etc, etc, etc.
But, for what it is worth and for those that care to read more, I have done a lot of reading and had some small experience with this, and what I've found is...
The published advice on this subject is often overly apprehensive, negative and/or complicated.  The dogs tend to be more flexible than we give them credit for.  They have a stronger instinct to belong to a flock/pack than we expect.  One can't make an LGD accept limits that it doesn't feel are necessary.  And it is the farmer's responsibility to discover the dog's tendencies and create an environment that the dog can thrive in.
Bringing in a single LGD was quite easy.  We kept Shachah on the leash or in the kennel for about a week.  By day two he started digging his way out.  We supervised his introductions to our pet indoor/outdoor dogs.  First on a leash.  Then just in person.  We took him on long leashed walks around our property.  After a few days it was clear Shachah was desparate to be out of the small kennel, so we put him in the electronet with the sheep.  We continued the leashed walks.  Shachah started digging his way out of the sheep pasture.  Once, while we were moving electronet, Shachah went on an unleashed walk.  He simply walked around the farm as though it were his own thinking FINALLY those silly people weren't preventing him from doing his job.  He came back to the sheep.  We decided he probably wasn't going to run away.  So we left him out and from that moment on he was the BEST LGD I could have ever asked for.
Bringing in a pair of LGD's, with a working LGD already on site, proved to be much harder.  First, the pair were siblings that had never been separated.  And the female was still intact at the age of 5.  I'm not a dog whisperer.  But sibling canines, left to their own devices like many LGD's are in the course of their work, can become fixated on each other.  Or attached, or one will be very dominant.  Let's just say, they MIGHT have sibling ISSUES.  I only learned about these sibling tendencies after we came up with the solution of re homing the one sibling.  But my advice is just to be on the lookout for issues.
The issue we had with Pooja and Capone was that they considered themselves a complete unit that did not have a compelling reason to integrate into the dog pack we had at our farm.  We had a neutered male LGD (Shachah) and two spayed female pet dogs (border collie & chow)  The sibling pair got on well with the pet dogs but NOT Shachah.  Shachah felt no need to share his flock or farm with two new dogs. 
We were doing all the same things with the new pair that we had done with Shachah.  But we quickly discovered that if both sibs were out of the kennel two things were going to happen.  1. They would gang up on Shachah to try to establish alpha position.  (Yes, we broke up dog fights between 3 GP's.  Luckily for us, all dogs were very respectful of people and we never got hurt.  I might have only survived because I'm so dang stubborn and bossy...and my dogs know it...but I don't recommend anyone diving into dog fights like that.)  2. The sibling pair would take off in an effort to establish a new territory separate from Shachah.  (We brought them home from our neighbor's farm 2 miles away several times.)
The other thing we realized was that some of the negative behavior was due to Pooja being intact.  She would not engage in fighting Shachah, but would attack her brother and force him into going after Shachah (sibling domination issue!).  Once Capone was attacking Shach, Pooja would dive in to help out.
None of these problems occured when one of the sibs was free and the other was locked in the kennel.  The free sibling wouldn't leave the other behind, or attack Shac.  However, the sibling in the kennel would be having a meltdown the entire time the other dog was out.
For these reasons, we decided to re home the neutered male sibling, and keep the female, but get her fixed asap.  Our reasons for choosing Pooja over Capone were these: 1. Capone slobbered more than any dog I've ever met and I really didn't like that.  2. I had read that most LGD's tend to work best in male/female pairs.  We already had Shach as our male and I had no intention of re homing him.
Capone quickly found a home and his new owners claimed he really came into his own without his sister dictating his every move.  As soon as he was gone, we started from the beginning with Pooja.  She was kenneled or leashed.  We got her fixed immediately.  And we took all the same introduction measures that we did when we first brought home Shach.  It was truly amazing how Pooja, not having her brother to focus on, quickly indicated to all our other dogs that she wanted to be accepted into the pack.  Shach was willing to accept her presence with her new attitude.  In just a short while she was allowed to roam freely.  Within just a couple of months we were able to witness Pooja and Shach really work as a team against predators.
I would not expect that much trouble bringing in two LGD's unless there is already a working LGD on site.
Well, I think I've run out of steam on this subject.  If anyone has questions, post them in comments and I'll do my best to answer them.
Best of luck, Sherry, if you decide to take the new LGD's home! 

1 comment:

Spinners End Farm said...

Sabrina, thank you so much foe your thoughtful and thorough treatise! It is so very helpful to have your experiences elaborated on for ourselves and others I assure. We are still on the fence and deciding and this information is very helpful and appreciated. Adding these two would bring us up to five dogs which is a lot, so we are thinking of telling the owner to use us as his fail safe if he cannot find them a good home on a farm. They are located in the central upper peninsula of Michigan if you know of anyone looking for a working pair of Great Pyr's.

Thanks again! Sherry