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Guard dog question

3756 Views 34 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  AndyTheCornbread
We probably won't end up doing it, but we've been talking about getting a dog when we move to our new place. There is a bear highway on the property, coyotes and bobcats around, neighbor dogs, and the occasional mountain lion. I want to have goats and chickens, and I don't want predators eating them. So this would be a guard / farm dog.

However, I know nothing about dogs and I don't have the brain cells to spare to learn about how to train them (all free brain cells are being dedicated to learning about pasture management).

My question is, are dogs like horses in that you can get one that is well-trained, but through a series of interactions the dog can be sort of untrained? Or re-trained with bad habits? You know, the way people are always pointing out that every interaction with a horse trains it? Or will a dog, once trained, stay trained? If I could un-train a dog just through my uninformed and ignorant interactions with it, I guess it would be better for everyone (including the hypothetical dog) to not get one.

Sorry if this is a dumb question, I obviously know nothing about dogs.
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Yes and yes. You can "untrain" any well trained animal by being inconsistent or not reinforcing the training they have had. Some dogs are better equipped to stay with outdoor animals. That being said no dog is going to fare well against a large bear or mountain lion. I am sure there are others in your area that have outdoor animals and it may be best to talk to them about how they keep them from becoming dinner. There are some posters on this forum that live in areas with large predators and have had chickens and goats. In any area you live in chickens and other poultry need to be locked up in coops overnight for their safety. A coop should be made to keep out even the smallest predators (in my area mink and raccoons will kill an entire coop in no time) Coops will need to be cleaned and bedding supplied etc.

I grew up with goats and our only issue was keeping them in the pen they were supposed to be in! SO no help there.
 

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Great Pyrenees are popular dogs to keep with goats, sheep and the like. I've heard of some that were ok with chickens too. If they have been brought up with another Pyrenees who does its job well, they'll usually be ok, the breed was developed be livestock guardian dogs. They're pretty massive, and their thick fur helps protect them from bites from predators. But they ARE the kind of dog that will potentially take on a predator. They might bark to alert their family to what's happening, but when the going gets tough many of them will attack and defend because that's what they were bred to do. So you risk then having a dog that will possibly be injured in the line of duty and I can't imagine anything would fare well against a mountain lion. On the other hand, a large dog like that is sometimes enough to simply deter smaller predators from coming around, and possibly even bears depending on the kind of bear (we have the occasional black bear here and they are typically pretty shy, often scared away by large barking dogs, etc.)

With any livestock dog like this you'd want to look for something that comes from a "working line" versus a show line. Dogs that are still bred today with their "job" in mind, very much like certain horses are bred with certain jobs in mind.

Any kind of livestock dogs are often very smart and have a "mind of their own" so to speak, so it is best to have some training knowledge before jumping into something like that. I have no doubt you could learn, you could see if there are dog trainers in your area that you could have a conversation with. I sincerely think if you devote yourself to it that dogs are less of a learning curve than horses. Dogs, like people, have a predator's mindset, whereas when working with horses we have to adjust to working with a large, prey, flight-animal.

A better solution if you want to reduce the risk of your working dog being injured by predators would be to look for a breed that would be more of an alarm system, something that might bark or howl to alert you that something was wrong outside that might have less of a natural tendency to jump on a predator in defense of it's "herd." It can be a hard decision because when you're looking at keeping an outside dog for the purpose of guarding, there is always the risk of something happening. We had a cur-mix when I was growing up who stayed outdoors most of the time and he was attacked by coyotes once. He survived and learned not to wander during the night. But then he would bark at night CONSTANTLY because he could hear things out there I guess. He had one kind of bark for just the average, every-night kind of noises, and a different much scarier bark for when something wasn't right, when something was really out there that wasn't supposed to be. That's a difference you only learn over time I guess with each individual dog.

Note on the chickens: I had a professor who kept quite a number of chickens and set up a wire fence in a good portion of her yard. Of course if a chicken REALLY wanted to they could get over the fence but most were content to stay in. I "chicken sat" for her once, and one of my duties was to let them out in the mornings and go close the coop at night. I didn't have to do anything to get them in the coop... they just automatically went to bed as the sun started to set and I would go close them up. Carshon's suggestion about a coop is a very good one, you might even be able to free-range chickens during the day and then close their coop at night. Many predators that become a problem poaching chickens are much more of a problem at night than during the day.
 

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My thoughts would be if you have a very established trail you know certain animal traipse, going to be very hard to make them go elsewhere after years of habit forming movement...
If you, as a human make your presence known by being out and about leaving your human scent, mowing grass and cleaning up tree debris, you might discourage cutting through that field, but the animals will cut through another location to get to a water supply or food source, they must....
I think sometimes you must pick your battle and learn to get along in harmony with other animals that share your land...
Most wild animals will avoid contact with humans and where humans often are if possible.

As for dogs, any dogs....
Dogs, same as any other animal need consistent handling and set boundaries to remain a good companion and or protector.
I don't know about the bears as don't have them near our home.
We do have a large variety of other animals, wild and for the most part...where we humans go often those animals either avoid or quickly pass through, not lingering.
I have dogs, all labs or lab/mix who although family dogs will protect and attack anything that threaten us or each other I have witnessed.
We had, past tense, a family of coyotes who tried cutting through our property.....they now go around the fence line not across...they learned how aggressive my "pets" can become!
Since the dogs have come to live here the other animals have moved but are not gone, just changed path a bit for their safety...
To me to be "bear security" would be a very special dog and personality...
The food chain of predator and prey is a hard one to change in nature.
I have to wonder if a working dog of this disposition makes a family pet and indoor resident too.
Referring to very different traits for the animal to have, turn on and off...

:runninghorse2:...
 

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^It is a very good point that certain working dogs specifically used for a task, no matter how well cared for and well treated, sometimes do not make the best family pet if that's something you're also looking for. They might be YOUR pet, but might not take well to other people or children. That can potentially be difficult for a beginner owner especially if you're unfamiliar with dog discipline and behavior and might be nervous of larger breeds. Certain working dogs can be intense. Some breeds are more geared toward splitting a life between family and work, like the labs. Others are not.

My barn owners keep blue heelers and man... I never really thought of that breed as a "guard" type dog but they are INTENSE. They would bite a stranger, especially over the kids or animals. They've accepted me well enough after being introduced by their owners and are happy to receive pets and attention or treats but I have no doubt in my mind they'd turn on me if they thought I were a threat to the children. On the other hand, as protective as they are of "their" children I'd be willing to bet they wouldn't be as tolerant of other small, pestering hands.

As long as they have kids/animals to herd they don't seem to wander from the property. The property is fenced but the dogs could go under the fence if they chose. Before I started coming there, they apparently packed up and killed a neighbors German Shepherd (a significantly larger dog than the heelers) who kept crossing the fence line and harassing their animals.

And speaking of "un" training an animal. Their older heeler had learned well enough not to bother the horses. His puppy does NOT want to leave the horses alone at all, and it has made the older one harder to control as well. The horses do kind of just get used to it but it is still a nuisance at times.

I don't say any of this to deter you from a dog. If you have the time and are interested, some pet stores offer puppy obedience classes and the like. Reputable breeders are often more than willing to have a conversation with you about the traits of a breed and training tips (but you have to be careful about who is "reputable") If you are interested in owning a dog a good family dog could be a start, something big enough it could come in and outside with you that you can raise and become accustomed to as it grows. A friend of mine is a groomer and very interested in dog breeds and behaviors which is where I learn a lot of info. One of her dogs is some kind of herding breed mix (perhaps heeler or Australian shepherd mix) and he is wicked smart, which makes him very trainable but STUBBORN about being trained or told what to do. Some breeds are like that, more strong-willed, they know if you're a "pushover" just like a horse will. But they're still great dogs, just might require some more advanced training skill. An old mentor of mine adopted a Doberman puppy sometime last year and honestly I think it was a bad choice for her family... it has had to go away to "puppy boot camp" and is still tearing up the world in their house and I think it's because they are so busy with kids activities all the time it really doesn't get the advanced exercise nor the experienced handling that it needs to be a well behaved dog, much like a high-energy horse.
 

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I have handled dogs for years, shown some and gave classes.

IMO, if you have no experience with dogs, getting a herding or guard dog would not be wise as a first dog. They have to be well trained by experienced people.

Roosters protect chickens quite well, and geese can be very aggressive.

Starting out with a more family friendly dog, in a smaller size, will give you some dog experience, and also most dogs will alert their owner to danger.

Look into the more companion/working type dogs, like Labradors or boxers. Getting an adult dog is a good option too, just stay away from adds that say "needs to be in the county" as those dogs usually have no training and run off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My plans were to have an enclosure for the chickens and goats at night, and only have them out in the day anyways, and most predators now (except hawks and eagles, which a dog wouldn't be much use against anyways) are nocturnal, so maybe the dog isn't necessary.

My intention with the dog was to have it not be a "pet" dog, but a well-treated, respected working dog. It would not be allowed inside and we wouldn't expect to be cuddling with it, although we wouldn't deny it affection either.
@Saigold people keep saying that about donkeys, but there are two mini donkeys where I board, and the dogs just chase them around. The ponies also chase them around. They only seem to bray when they think they are going to get fed. Maybe these are a really poor example of donkeys, but based on what I've see I don't have high expectations for any other donkeys either.
@AnitaAnne good point about the rooster. Maybe that's the way to go.

I appreciate everyone's posts, particularly those of you who made parallels to horses, which is something I can understand, LOL. I guess this is something that I will consider as a possible option if it becomes necessary, but we won't plan on having a dog to start with.
 

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My intention with the dog was to have it not be a "pet" dog, but a well-treated, respected working dog. It would not be allowed inside and we wouldn't expect to be cuddling with it, although we wouldn't deny it affection either.

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It is these type of statements that concern me when I read them. Dogs need to be part of the family, or they leave.

Don't get a dog if this is your thoughts on how a dogs life should be.
 

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It is these type of statements that concern me when I read them. Dogs need to be part of the family, or they leave.

Don't get a dog if this is your thoughts on how a dogs life should be.
I hesitated to put that in the original post, for fear of this reaction. But people have kept working dogs, that were not pets, for thousands of years. So I question whether this is really true.
 

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I hesitated to put that in the original post, for fear of this reaction. But people have kept working dogs, that were not pets, for thousands of years. So I question whether this is really true.
You are speaking, I think of sheep herding type dogs that live with the flock. That is a whole different type of situation, and in the "olden days" the shepherd lived out there too with the flock.


The other types of working dogs like you describe are sledding dogs, kept on chains and hound dogs used to hunt that are often lost while hunting. We see these as strays, constantly. The folks just go buy or backyard breed more.


If that is the type of dog care you want to do, that is of course your choice. But with no experience, well...that is just asking for trouble.


Get an alarm system instead.


Definitely do not get a dog that lives to serve their family, like a Boxer or a Labrador, as you will break their heart.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Definitely do not get a dog that lives to serve their family, like a Boxer or a Labrador, as you will break their heart.
For sure, which is part of why I asked. It seems from the replies I received above that there are certain breeds of dogs that want to work and don't want to sit inside and cuddle. No doubt dogs within these breeds are individuals, just as horses within breeds are individuals. I wouldn't buy a cuddling dog and then stick it outside and ask it to just live out there and guard things. However, a dog that wants a job would be a good candidate, I would think.
 

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Not sure about mini donkeys being very protective. I know the regular sized ones tend to be. But I personally had a few experiences with donkeys and don’t ever want one for myself lol. Our neighbor has llamas and those guys will boot it toward dogs and other intruders and chase them. But that’s like having another horse to feed I suppose lol.

For outside dogs I don’t think you necessarily need to have a ‘professionally’ trained dog. Most dogs have protective instincts. If you go the dog route do research for sure as for as what breed. As you might end up with the dog being the predator to your chickens and goats instead of the wild animals. Dogs LOVE to chase.

We bought the remaining half of a flock of Chickens a long time ago. The half that remained after the hawks were through with them was terrified of all large birds and the roosters would protect them. The guys that had them before had them contained the really young birds in an open top pen. So the hawks would have a buffet without any work. But rooster can also be a pain and attack people too.

If I was in your place I’d start with whatever animals you want and be it time to see if you end up having a problem with the predators coming in or not.

Some people would use a sound cannon. I think it’s popular in Europe. It lets off a ‘shot’ randomly to scare of wildlife. But it might scare your neighbors too lol
 

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For sure, which is part of why I asked. It seems from the replies I received above that there are certain breeds of dogs that want to work and don't want to sit inside and cuddle. No doubt dogs within these breeds are individuals, just as horses within breeds are individuals. I wouldn't buy a cuddling dog and then stick it outside and ask it to just live out there and guard things. However, a dog that wants a job would be a good candidate, I would think.
Again, and I speak from experience, someone with no dog experience is not qualified to control a working dog, especially not one that has the strong will to fight off threats.

Proceed at your own risk, and of course the risk to all your animals when you have no idea how to control the dog. These dogs can just as easily attack those animals you purchased the dog to protect. Plus yourself.


I have been bitten by an Akita and a Briard (French sheepdog) during training sessions and it can be very painful and even life threatening.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@Saigold yes that's probably what we're going to end up doing.
@AnitaAnne that may well be the case. It's why I asked. However, reading through the responses above, yours does not seem to be the majority opinion.
 

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@Saigold yes that's probably what we're going to end up doing.

@AnitaAnne that may well be the case. It's why I asked. However, reading through the responses above, yours does not seem to be the majority opinion.
Quote from @Saigold "As you might end up with the dog being the predator to your chickens and goats instead of the wild animals. Dogs LOVE to chase."
 

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Quote from @Saigold "As you might end up with the dog being the predator to your chickens and goats instead of the wild animals. Dogs LOVE to chase."
Yes, definitely something I had thought about, which was why I was wondering about training and un-training. For instance, say I bought a dog that had been trained not to chase chickens, but then because of ignorance on my part I failed to reinforce that training, might it start chasing them? It seems possible, but I don't know for sure. Perhaps it would depend on the dog.
 

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My ACD has attacked a full grown mtn lion that was stealing meat off an elk I had hanging up at the corner of my shop. She's lucky she isn't dead after that one. She will also drive off bears from camp and will grab 2,000+lb bulls by the nose or rear hocks. She will also go through an open window of of somebody's truck to bite them if she doesn't know them(don't ask me how I found this out). However an ACD would make a terrible dog for a newish to dogs type of owner. They are great guard dogs, but you have to be on top of the totem pole with them at all times and you can't let them get away with anything you don't want them doing, not even once or they will try and figure out a way to do it again. A lot of the working breeds are like this, they can think for themselves and you MUST be top dog and absolutely consistent in discipline or you will end up with a dog that bites family members, kids etc.

If you want a more forgiving dog that is going to bark and be fairly protective and bold but not stupid aggressive you could try an intact male labrador retriever. After they reach hormonal maturity they tend to be a fairly protective family dog but they are a lot easier to train and maintain than the livestock breeds.
 

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My ACD has attacked a full grown mtn lion that was stealing meat off an elk I had hanging up at the corner of my shop. She's lucky she isn't dead after that one. She will also drive off bears from camp and will grab 2,000+lb bulls by the nose or rear hocks. She will also go through an open window of of somebody's truck to bite them if she doesn't know them(don't ask me how I found this out). However an ACD would make a terrible dog for a newish to dogs type of owner. They are great guard dogs, but you have to be on top of the totem pole with them at all times and you can't let them get away with anything you don't want them doing, not even once or they will try and figure out a way to do it again. A lot of the working breeds are like this, they can think for themselves and you MUST be top dog and absolutely consistent in discipline or you will end up with a dog that bites family members, kids etc.

If you want a more forgiving dog that is going to bark and be fairly protective and bold but not stupid aggressive you could try an intact male labrador retriever. After they reach hormonal maturity they tend to be a fairly protective family dog but they are a lot easier to train and maintain than the livestock breeds.
Agree. Have seen very aggressive intact Labradors. But probably still too much dog (they are very smart) for someone who has never owned a dog...


I watched the neighbors dog dig right through their front window! Took the dog less than a minute to get out. Not sure what kind of dog he is as he is mixed, but he is almost as tall as a Great Dane.


Here is a picture of him as I confronted him
 

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