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Training a maremma for chicken guard duty

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I've been thinking about getting a LGD either pyranese or maremma.

 
I was just introduced to someone with some 13 week old maremma (male and female available). I was thinking female. We have coons, mink, cougar, bear, eagle, harks, owls - and stray dogs around here.
 
My questions are about socialization / training. The puppies have grown up so far in a family setting with other dogs, cats, people, and some exposure to geese. Is 13 weeks too old to start on chicken training? I know imprinting at a young age is important.
 
Also - I have 2 dogs that have bad habits around chickens. I suppose if I go forward with this maremma, I'll  just have to keep the other 2 dogs away from the chickens while the other one learns to be be part of the chicken pack. 
 
Any other tips or suggestions?
post #2 of 10

13 weeks is not too old.  You still need to supervise.  Best if you have a setup where the dog can be near the birds all of the time, without being able to get to them when you are not present, to learn their behaviors and coexist peacefully.  Then let them together with close supervision when you have the time to be there.  They figure out pretty quick that the birds are not for sport if you make that clear with your attitude.   Puppies will still be playful so there is always risk up to about a year old.  Our guy is about 5 years old, our chickens are never locked up, ever, and we have not lost single bird to predation (or him) during the time he has been active on his own ( about 4 years now ).  Maremmas are awesome, but don't expect them to be like any other dog you have known.  They are completely indepedent minded, stubborn, and sometimes pushy.  Ours is outdoors all year, everyday, as he should be, and has no interest in coming inside for any reason, which is fine by us because that means he is doing his job, guarding the area from coyotes, bear, racoons, fox, weasels, loose dogs, and even a bald eagle once that I saw.

 

One requirement is absolute though - proper fencing.  Without borders the Maremma will expand its territory for miles, leaving the stock unprotected.

 

Also, the other dogs could influence behavior - pack mentality.  So that needs to be kept in check. 

 

And, finally, if he or she is to be a full time guard, be mindful of your neighbors.  The dog will be active at night and will bark to deter anything it senses as a potential threat.  That can be annoying to others.

 

Hope that helps. 

 

I've had many kinds of dogs and can truly say that Maremma is unique.  Just don't expect them to be like a house pet - that is why so many end up in shelters.  They are truly bred for a purpose and aren't going to act like the lab that always is aiming to please and be friendly with strangers.  I will probably never own another kind of dog though.  They're magnificent is their own way.

Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
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Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
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post #3 of 10

The Great Pyrenees is not some robotic attack machine.  They are usually quite gentle and loving animals.  The maremma I am un-familiar with.

 

 

Watch here between minute 1 & minute 2 for a whole pack of great Pyrenees dogs to appear, but do notice that they all inspect every sheep dog in sight so they can make sure that dog belongs.

http://video.pbs.org/video/1855474387/

 

The Idea is to raise the young pup with what ever species you wish it to protect.  After imprinting on you chosen species, the dog treats that animal (or should) like one of its own. 

 

The pictures of Spanish Great Pyrenees decked out in spiked "fighting" collars does the breed a disservice.  The spiked collars are to prevent wolves from getting hold of the dogs neck and killing it.  Since GP often spend whole seasons living alone with sheep and goats in the mountains and without a Shepard in sight to lend a hand during a wolf attack, the spiked collars make perfect sense if you want your dog to run off or kill wolves.

 

You may be setting up a dangerous situation for your first two dogs.  If you get a heavy duty guard dog species like a GP, and it imprints on chickens, the guard dog may do grave (as in graveyard) bodily harm to any dog or other varmint that molests your flock.  But isn't that what you want? 


Edited by chickengeorgeto - 1/13/13 at 5:15pm
Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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post #4 of 10

You missed the imprinting window although you can still pursue the classical training route.  They are bred for protecting mobile herds which chickens are not so greater effort will be required for confinement as indicated above.  Be prepared for full maturity not to be realized until dog is nearly two years of age.

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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post #5 of 10

I think that you may be okay even though they are a little older.  I would at least look at them.  I think the hardest part would be in picking one at that age.  Do as much reading and research as you can.  There are many theories of how to raise a LGD.  Check out BYCs sister site, there is a person their that raises Caucasian Ovcharkas and has a very interesting method.  Here is a link to the thread http://www.backyardherds.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=23557   Here is another site that I found http://www.lgd.org/library.htm#LGD

 

I am raising my first LGD so I am no expert.  I know many say that you should have the pup with its charges from a young age.  But there was no way I was putting an 8 wk old outside alone.  Mine is inside for now, he does bird chores with me.  He walks calmly among the birds (now that the geese are gone) and is just starting to notice "other" smells.  He plays when he is not in the birds area.  He's 4 months now and is doing a good job.

 

With the predators that you have, you may want to consider getting 2.  One dog is not going to be able to deal with bears or cougars alone.

DOGS: 4 Shih Tzu, 1 Papillon, 1 Great Pyrenees

CHICKENS: 1 BO, 2 EE, 2 WLH, blue and splash JG, plus various aged JG, BO, JG/BO and JG/EE chicks.   

DUCKS: Muscovy ducks: Adults, juveniles and ducklings.  Pekin ducks

 

Some threads started with basic info.

Picking a duck breed, where to buy, what genders to get

Raising and caring for ducklings

 

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DOGS: 4 Shih Tzu, 1 Papillon, 1 Great Pyrenees

CHICKENS: 1 BO, 2 EE, 2 WLH, blue and splash JG, plus various aged JG, BO, JG/BO and JG/EE chicks.   

DUCKS: Muscovy ducks: Adults, juveniles and ducklings.  Pekin ducks

 

Some threads started with basic info.

Picking a duck breed, where to buy, what genders to get

Raising and caring for ducklings

 

Reply
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the replies.

 

I told my wife - "we're just going to look " lau.gif

 

 

 

We chose the male because the two females came running up to greet us and wanted a lot of attention - too needy. He just stayed back and watched - did his own thing but friendly once he got to know me. He has a mind of his own - thats for sure. The look he gave me said "A leash - you can't be serious!" We're working on that...

 

He was very calm when meeting the chickens and our other dogs. My dogs are normally excited when meeting new friends but something about this puppy settled them down right away. He's not like any other puppy I've met. I've only known full grown LGDs so maybe this guy is "normal". A real smooth customer LOL That will probably change as he gets used the new place.

 

The chickens are confined to their outdoor run for now and he is in a fenced area next to the run. His doghouse door is towards the chickens. Smelling and viewing all day. He gets one-on-one time with the chickens when we are there to supervise and some time with the dogs. I'm gonna have to work on that arrangement cause the hens can't stay locked for too long.

 

post #7 of 10

Nice choice.  Get him used to the collar and leash AND getting in the car early on so you'll able to go to the vet.  At 100 pounds if he doesn't want to get in you will have a hard time for sure - speaking from our experience, you can't make him do what he doesn't want to.  For us it takes patience but he does get into our truck after thinking about it first and then deciding he is OK with it.  We just don't force the issue or he will lock down.

 

Good looking pup.

Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
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Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
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post #8 of 10

Ah yes, the "we are just going to look" line.  lau.gif  It was hard for us to pick out ours.  None of the pups had been handled or even picked up by people.  They lived with the dogs, goats and birds.  They would all scream when we would try to touch them.  Not once did any try to bite, which is very common in a scared pup.  We wanted a male, so narrowed it down that way.  We ended up with the runt, which you wouldn't know now.  He's gone from well below my knee to 3/4 up my thigh in height in 2 months. 

 

Good job not picking the most outgoing pups.  My GP only took 2 days to get used to the leash, he still doesn't like it.  He is still scared of the car but we just have SUVs so I think its also intimidating to him to get into something so big. 

 

I would only advise NO unsupervised contact with the chickens.  People that I have talked to that use LGDs for their birds did not leave them unsupervised until at least 2 years old.  They mature slowly and it is much better to avoid the potential of any chicken related problems.  I've read posts on backyardherds.com about people who have had problems because they allowed the dog inappropriate behavior when young.

 

Good luck.  He's a looker.

DOGS: 4 Shih Tzu, 1 Papillon, 1 Great Pyrenees

CHICKENS: 1 BO, 2 EE, 2 WLH, blue and splash JG, plus various aged JG, BO, JG/BO and JG/EE chicks.   

DUCKS: Muscovy ducks: Adults, juveniles and ducklings.  Pekin ducks

 

Some threads started with basic info.

Picking a duck breed, where to buy, what genders to get

Raising and caring for ducklings

 

Reply

DOGS: 4 Shih Tzu, 1 Papillon, 1 Great Pyrenees

CHICKENS: 1 BO, 2 EE, 2 WLH, blue and splash JG, plus various aged JG, BO, JG/BO and JG/EE chicks.   

DUCKS: Muscovy ducks: Adults, juveniles and ducklings.  Pekin ducks

 

Some threads started with basic info.

Picking a duck breed, where to buy, what genders to get

Raising and caring for ducklings

 

Reply
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for tips.

 

Should I limit Dexter's access to my other dog? So far my rottie has been very helpful at getting him to follow my lead and teach the rules around here. They have lots of fun - but that's not going to be his job. If I let them play to much maybe he won't take his job seriously later.

 

In my first post I mentioned my dogs had bad habits around chickens. It was just one dog that didn't live nice with chickens - she found a new home.

post #10 of 10

If the Rottie isn't very chicken aggressive then I think it would be OK.  In fact, it might be a good idea to get them to eat together to sort out any potential food aggression early on.  It will be good for them not to perceive eachother as competitors, especially if they are both males.  Both breeds are very strong and potentially lethal as adults, as you probably know.

 

About the job: What I found with our Maremma is that he guards the property more as a whole and the chickens (and the cat) are basically a part of the property.  They just sort of coexist.  Sometimes he chooses to sleep next to the coop, sometimes not but always within earshot. I am not sure how he decides.  He rarely uses any of the dog houses except in cold wind and rain.  I don't think there is the same kind of bonding as there would be with sheep or goats (or humans and maybe cats, too).  Although, I have seen him get in the middle of two fighting roosters to try to break up the conflict - an interesting observation that makes me wonder about his regard for the birds. 

 

As a disclaimer, I am no expert here, so I don't want to lead you astray, but I have had a very interesting decade raising chickens and lifetime dealing with different dogs.  I am sure you will be as suprised and amazed at the differences in the nature of this breed of dog as I have been.  And for all the thinking and worries that I had in the beginning that there would be tragic mistakes and injured birds, in the end it seems like he naturally knew what he was supposed to do and now we sleep easy at night knowing he is out there.  Let good 'ole common sense rule and remain positive and patient.


Edited by Peck Johnson - 1/17/13 at 11:18am
Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
Reply
Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Dominiques, a Maremma Sheepdog and the most wonderful wife who takes care of all of us.
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