Need help with guard dog problem

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by oldbat, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. oldbat

    oldbat Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 1, 2009
    This is addressed mainly to the people on this board who seem to have some knowledge of how to train/rehab a dog. (Mods: feel free to move it if it would seem to fit better somewhere else.)

    It's rather involved and convoluted, so please bear with me.

    I moved to northeast OK about 18 months ago, bringing along my ten year old Great Pyranees/Border Collie, Katie. In Montana, she'd been a life saver in keeping coyotes, eagles, hawks, fox, badgers, etc. away from my chickens and heritage turkeys... (Dogs were not a problem because anything running around loose was shot on sight by the first rancher it crossed.) .....until she was home alone one day while I was working in town, and a really nasty thunderstorm rolled in. It had balls of lightning rolling on the ground around my place (according to a neighbor across the valley), and took out everything electronic in the house (computer, phones, TV dish) and the sensor on the yard light.

    When I got home, unaware of what had happened since it had not even clouded up where I was 20+ miles away, the screen on the back storm door was in shreds, the audio on my computer was screaming, and Katie was gone; couldn't find her anywhere, and it was two days before she showed up again, muddy and bedraggled. Ever after, if a storm got within 10 miles of the house, she was panting, pacing, and trying to leave. A total basket case.

    She has hated OK and its summer heat and humidity...I'm not overly fond of it either... (she has the heavy coat of the GP) not to mention the numerous thunderstorms at all times of the year. She was so paranoid and hard to contain on my fenced 2.5 acres for a while that she lived with my son in Tulsa, where she seemed to be more content in his fenced in .66 acre yard, but then she started knocking his work computer, etc., off the desk, in an effort to find a place to hide from the noise, so I brought her back out to my place near Gore...70 miles away.

    Apparently she developed some "abandonment issues" while living with Brian, because if I leave her in the fenced in yard while I go to Muskogee to get feed, she'll dig out and go to a neighbor's place, hiding under his pickup truck or in his garage. Another neighbor, a quarter of a mile up the road, is a gunsmith, maybe specializing in black powder rifles. When he touches one of those things off, the ground shakes, and I really don't blame her for getting rattled. She is almost uncontrollable after a couple of shots from one of those guns. Basically loses her mind.

    Last week, he started blasting, and in a matter of seconds, she was gone. When I couldn't find her, but found a place where she'd dug under the yard fence. I got in the pickup and drove up the road, to the highway, noticed some goats clustered and with their heads in the air, looking west. Followed the highway in that direction, and found her trying to get into a farmstead. It had taken her about 10 minutes to vacate my premises and travel over a mile.

    It's getting to be a major problem, between the black powder rifles, thunderstorms, and now motorcycles blasting down the highway 1/4 mile to the south. The only way I can keep control of her is with a choke collar....(she's 93 pounds, size of a GP, with the markings of a Border Collie). I don't like tying her with that thing, (and don't, if I can help it) but she pulls out of anything else.....all that neck hair that GP's have. And now, with her anxiety, she's beginning to affect Pest.

    Pest is a black, year old female that Brian found as a puppy, trying to scrounge something to eat one Sunday morning in Tulsa while he was on a Diet Coke run to a QT. Skinny, bedraggled, hungry, probably dumped, she ran out into traffic, trying to follow him, so he stopped, bundled her into his car and brought her home. She was small enough that he was carrying her under his arm when he walked in the house. Black, with a narrow white strip on her chest, ears that make her look like the "Flying Nun", she's probably a cross between black lab and maybe doberman. Nobody would claim her when he tried to find an owner, and Animal Control claimed they were full, so she stayed at his house. Her energy knew no bounds, she was completely out of control, and his place was way too small for her shenanigans, so she came home with me to my 2.5 acres where she's been wonderful help.

    At first she chose to ignore anything I said to her, but after a session with my corn broom applied liberally to her butt, she soon had a complete grasp of what is expected of her, and is now quite happy to comply.

    She'd learned to protect the chickens by watching Katie's reaction to hawks at Brian's place when we all lived there. (I'd gotten majorly bored while trying to find my own place, hatched out some eBay eggs, and housed the chicks in his unused garden shed.) She's a big dog too....83 pounds at last checkup, and fast; has run down at least two squirrels and shook them to death.

    But....she's starting to get nervous when Katie has a panic attack....sometimes several times a day when the weather is bad and it's also hunting season....and I don't want her getting to the same state Katie is. She has a bed on the front porch, and at night is the first line of defense when something unwelcome shows up. If she's noisy out in the pasture for very long, I turn Katie out of the house. Between them, they seem to have been able to keep predators at bay.

    There is something quite large out and of my 45 pound BBW turkeys was killed and CARRIED....not dragged....almost a block across the pasture before all but it's wings and it's bare breast bone were eaten. Don't know if I even want to know what it was, but a neighbor swears that a couple of years ago a black bear broke into his greenhouse (left tracks for id) and killed all his rabbits. My mail lady also insists there are cougar in the area. Whatever....either one would be bad news.

    A couple of nights ago, after a particularly lengthy session with something, Katie, probably in her pursuit of whatever was out and about, dug under the line fence and into a neighbor's pasture where about 20 yearling heifers have been newly deposited. Pest never crosses our boundary fence, but Katie has/will, and is going to get shot if she keeps doing that. And, I don't find any fault with that....that's just the way it is in the country. But I don't want her to leave this earth that way. I will do it myself first.

    When I was just a kid of ten or so, my pet English Shepherd, Rowdy, got hit by a car he was chasing on the road past our place in MN, badly injured, and Dad shot him. Then he made me bury him. I've pretty much stayed away from dogs since then. Katie is the first I've owned in the years between....I'm now 72.

    I know a whole lot more about correcting horses than dogs. If a horse is scared of something, you just keep on various distances, and at various intensities ...... until they accept whatever they're afraid of. But, I don't know if that works with dogs, or if it just makes them worse.

    I have...a .22 rifle, a .22 mag saddle carbine, a 30-30 carbine, and a .357 pistol, and know how to shoot all of them. Would there be any benefit to setting up a target, chaining Katie in the area, and over time....probably lots of it....working my way up the chain of guns, starting with .22 shorts? Would/could .... this make her more accepting of gunfire/thunder, or would just it they say in Montana..."spitting into the wind"?

    The other far as I can tell are....

    #1: putting her down, or

    #2: moving back to Montana where there are only thunderstorms to worry about in the spring and/or fall, and an occasional rifle shot during deer and antelope season.

    Any and all suggestions would surely be welcomed at this time.

    Thanks. et
  2. Brindlebtch

    Brindlebtch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2009
    I am sorry that I can't give you any advice. I have never known a dog to et over the fear of thunderstorms. I have even known some that had to be traquilized to get through them without hurting property or themselves.

    Clearly the ball lightning event was unimaginably (for us) traumatic for her.

    Dogs do learn by watching other dogs, so as Katy continues to be fearful of these things you can expect Pest to become at least mildly fearful.

    Sorry I can't give you any help.
  3. Boyd

    Boyd Recipient of The Biff Twang

    Mar 14, 2009
    you can get puppy prozac and puppy xanax and start working with her just like you mentioned with the horses. You may need a good stout lead, training coller and lots of love and patience. Keep her close at first, and as you are flooding her with the stimulus that frightens her (storms, guns, bikes) slowly let her away from you over a period of time.

    It's worked with my Pitt to a degree (guns and motorcycles that is) but whenever there is a thunderstorm in the middle of the night, he still finds a way to sneak under the covers between me and the wife.
  4. Wolf-Kim

    Wolf-Kim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 25, 2008
    First step I would take, is ask your vetinarian for some meds. This will help you gain some control over her, make it easier to work with her, and make is easier to keep her in the yard.

    Next thing I would do, is getting her to associate loud noises with good and not bad. Medicate her, then have a helper go to the back of your property with a .22. Through the use of a radio to keep contact between the shooter and you. Have them fire once, then you ask the dog to sit. Once she is seating and calm reward her with cooked piece of chicken. Do not reward, if she panicks. If she panicks to the point that you are completely unable to get her to sit calmly, move the .22 and your helper further away and repeat this process.

    Ideally, this is how it would work.

    You are in the house with the dog and some small pieces of cooked chicken. You have a helper with the .22 as far back from the house as possible. Through the use of a radio, you signify to your helper to fire a single shot. After the shot, you ask the dog to sit and once she calmly does so, reward her with a piece of chicken. Over the course of a few days(or weeks) gradually move the .22 closer to the house. Once you can fire the .22 close to the house with minimal panicking, repeat the whole training process without the medications. Only fire the gun 1-3 times a day, that way you do not overwhelm her. Do not rush this training. Once you can do this with .22, work your way up the chain like you said. Everytime you start with a new gun, start from the beginning and firing from far away and moving closer. The reason is, if you fire near her and send her into a panick she may not realize she is not being harmed. A panicked dog is a dangerous dog.

    If you decide to try with the way you suggested. Buy a crate and place her in the crate. DO NOT TIE HER. If she is chained and panicks, hitting the end of the chain could cause damage and the sensation of a tightened collar will be a negative association, even though she's the one tightening it. A panicked animal is not a logical animal.

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2009
  5. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    I know Patricia McConnell discussed a dog she worked with that had the same issue. I believe I read it in her book “On the Other End of the Leash”. I wish I could remember exactly what see recommended in this situation. Fears are difficult things to help your dog with. I highly recommend the book. You might be able to find it at a library and definitely at a book store.

    One thing to consider is it sounds like your dog needs a very secure place to be able to hide. We have one dog that hates thunderstorms. He has a need to hide which ends up being under the porch or down in a basement bedroom. What he would really likes is to have little den. We just got several crates that we leave open. Every night when he comes in from guarding the chickens, he heads straight for the crate and curls up. It’s my understanding that a safe and secure place is very important to all dogs.

    I would suggest that if your dog doesn’t have one yet, build her a very secure doghouse. If she has one, make it more secure and more comforting. I would locate the doghouse in a safe spot; maybe under a porch or a corner of the house, anyplace that feels like a den. Give her meals in the dog house. Give her treats in there. You could put a door on it to crate her in the doghouse from time to time. Basically do anything and everything to get her to view that doghouse as her safe haven. Note, this will take time, especially with a Pyr (they really love being outside).

    As you probably have noticed, Pyrs are actually very sensitive. It doesn’t surprise me that she was so deeply affected by the thunderstorm. It sounds like it would have scared the s____ out me. Because they are so sensitive, I would NOT force her to do anything, especially tie her up and shoot guns around her. I’ve tried similar things with our Pyr; it never worked and only made her more determined to get away and to have more fear. Heck, she could easily associate the loud noises with not only lightening, but also being tied up and not being able to get away from the source of the noise.

    Good luck and please don’t put that sweetie down. Oh, and go find that book.

  6. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    P.S. I basically like Wolf-Kims training idea. Positive reinforcement is powerful tool. Give treats like they are going out of style. Heck, you don't even need to wait until she stops panicking. It might be able to distract her with a treat when the noise is made which might help her to associate the noise with a good thing.

  7. Big C

    Big C J & C Farms

    Dec 15, 2008
    Vernon Texas
    Its quite a change moving into the OK/Texas area.
    People hear of this (what you described about the storms) and don't quite understand...

    Would suggest a local vet. He/she should be able to give you some advice. Would cost some money, but would be money well spent.
  8. ()relics

    ()relics horse/dog shrink

    Jan 4, 2009
    We medicate our kids to calm them down....We medicate our 30 somethings to pick them up...PLEASE...Let's not medicate our pets...Fire a gun around her to involk a reaction???? PLEASE not that....JMO... It sounds like she has been a vaulable helper on your farm//ranch prior to moving. Now you have moved and she may feel that she is without a job. She sometimes is left alone and she may, like you say, become anxious....I think some times dogs react the way they think we would want them to react....Make sense?
    I have been startled by loud noises...Why can't a dog be startled? After the initial shock of the noise and after I determine that it is not "going to kill me", I proceed with what I was doing before I was startled because i have LEARNED that there are loud things and most of them are not life threatening; though they may sound like they are....Dogs/horses/whatever need to be taught that they are going to be OK after their initial reaction...Their natural reaction would be to run and hide until they can "figure out what just happened"...teach her to relax instead of run. How?? You she will be able to sense from you if she should be scared/run or if she should lay back down.
    Bird dogs are taught when they are newborn that gunfire is a way of life, happens all the time, and there is no need to be scared. Actually if my dogs are out of my sight and hear a gunshot they automatically double back towards the shot so they will be able to "mark" the bird or recieve instruction....That would seem backwards for a dog...Running towards the sound of gunfire but that is what they learn....AND NOT BY FIRING ROUNDS OVER THEIR HEADS....They are introduced to it early and learn its not a big deal and nobody else, including you/me, is freaking out so " It must be OK"
    We train our horses to accept gunfire more or less the same way...We use them when we hunt "The Big Plains of North Dakota"....many people have horses that are fine with gunfire...again not trained by firing around them but by being with them and remaining calm apparently not even noticing the gun shot... they learn to do the same....But go into the corral and have someone slam a door or make some other "loud scary noise" then you, instead of being calm and unnoticing, proceed to run around as though you are being chased by an unseen monster....The horses will follow your lead and you will have a rodeo....
    again JMO...reassure her, expose her,let her react the way she fells she has to, then correct her and show her how you would like her to react...Will it work? I would try it....I bet you will be able to see the difference...Maybe not overnight....PUT HER DOWN???? I hope you weren't serious...Move back to Montana??? You could move anywhere and have the same problem....Again JMO...please don't hate the opinion
  9. oldbat

    oldbat Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 1, 2009
    Thank you all; some interesting replies. I'm in the process of mulling over the different viewpoints and will post a reply in the morning....been a long day after a sleepless night (some critter was out and about again, and both dogs were noisily on duty), and not thinking the best. I will be back tomorrow. Again, thanks. et
  10. Wolf-Kim

    Wolf-Kim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 25, 2008
    If you are willing, a professional trainer or behaviorist will be very helpful. With a professional trainer/behaviorist, they will be able to witness the dog's reaction firsthand and determine the best course of action. These are people who make a living by reading and "fixing" dogs, they may witness the dog panicking and realize that it isn't seperation anxiety or storm anxiety but ???. Many people shy away from professional because they feel they can read their dog just fine or they feel a professional would be too expensive. What most people do not realize is that you are not paying the trainer/behaviorist to "fix" the dog for you, but rather you are paying them to translate the dogs behaviors and explaining to you how YOU can "fix" these behaviors. The real training come from the owners, therefore you don't really have to pay a behaviorist for multiple sessions because they aren't the ones training the dog, just teaching you how to fix the problems yourself and how to read the animal yourself. They are very well worth the money, just be sure to find a reputable behaviorist and not the cheapest one who calls themselves "certified".

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