Whitmore Farm uses Great Pyrenees from working stock to guard our livestock and poultry from predator activity. We DO NOT breed Pyrenees but rather, use rescue dogs to work our farm.
We first started looking into LGD's (livestock guardian dogs) after our first major predation event one afternoon during which we lost a large number of high-quality chickens to a probable dog attack.
We are commited to sustainable style of farming and given the worsening predator problem in our area, we quickly settled on the idea of using LGD's as our primary deterrant to further attacks.
Dogs currently working on the farm are: Spike, Joy, Jackson, Tammy and Kim. We do not breed our dogs and all of our dogs are spayed or neutered.
There is currently a huge problem with Great Pyrenees in need of a good home. While Pyrenees are loving animals with a wonderful disposition, 5,000 years of breeding for independence means they do not make good pets in a suburban setting. These dogs are working dogs and need to be in a setting that allows them the exercise and freedom they require.
Most of our dogs came from the Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue. These SIX rescue dogs have turned out to be just as good as our dogs from show quality lines or from farm stock. If you are looking for a livestock guardian dog, we encourage you to consider a rescue Great Pyrenees. The Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue serves Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia.
We chose Great Pyrenees because they are less aggressive towards people, have a very easy temperment, and are more easily trained than some other breeds we looked into. The 'pyrenees' refers to their native range in the Pyrenees Mountains that straddle the border between France and Spain, the traditional Basque region of Europe. In their native France, they are Le Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees or Le Chien des Pyrenees.
The Great Pyrenees likely evolved from a group of white flock guardian dogs that originated ten or eleven thousand years ago in Asia Minor and gradually worked their way into Europe perhaps as early as 3000 BC.
Over the millenia, certain instinctual characteristics have been chosen for which add great value to the Pyrenees as an LGD, but can be problematic when they are kept as pets.
- Range - These dogs do love to roam! They are expert escape artists and can easily scale a 5 foot fence, squeeze through the smallest openings, and dig under gates and fencelines. It's said that one dog can cover 20 acres easily. We feel that spaying/neutering is important for most farms because they can easily sneak away for an unplanned rendezvous with the neighbors dog when in heat.
- Temperment - These are the most sweet and gentle dogs. They are often described as one of the LGD breeds least likely to be overly aggressive towards people (and children). Even as puppies, we have found them to be easy going, not overly exciteable, patient, and tough as nails. This can be a problem for owners of working dogs - the urge to take them into the house can be strong! We feel that it is important for LGD's to spend their time with the flock on pasture and we make a conscious effort not to treat our dogs as house pets. They are a valuable part of the workforce on our farm.
- Training - Great Pyrenees need exposure to the animals they will protect. This means they need to spend time with their charges from an early age. I have read that they should be exposed to all the animals on the farm before 3 months to properly 'imprint' on them. This needs to be balanced with a need to protect the animals from the sometimes overzealous, playful nature of these young dogs.
Most people seem to recommend a combination of techniques including:
- exposing the animals through a fence line so they can see the animals but do not have direct access to them
- putting 'disposable' animals like excess roosters so nothing too important will be lost if an 'accident' should happen (and they will happen, particularily with poultry in our experience)
- using some of your older, more assertive animals to train them. Nothing like a good butt from a crusty old goat to put them in their place.
- Coat - While their long coat can be a real asset in the winter, it can be problematic in hotter, more southern climes. As well, there is a fair amount of time you must commit in grooming to remove the brambles and matts of hair they invariable will get. Some authors say the thick coat is insulating against the heat in the summer, but we have had problems with hot spots on our heavier-coated dogs if we don't clip them during the hottest part of summer, usually hanging around 100 degrees for weeks at a time.
- Day/night - Great Pyrenees are somewhat nocturnal. They will spend great amounts of time sleeping during the day, and patrolling and barking at night. This can be a real annoyance to neighbors and must be considered with this breed.
It is reported that there is about a 90% satisfaction rate amongst farmers using LGD's for livestock protection. This means about 10% of the time, the animal is unsatisfactory. The problem is that many of their protection qualities are felt to be instinctual and typically do not 'kick in' until 18 to 24 months.
As a large breed dog, they have a long adolescence period, and 18 months can be a very long time to wait for a troublesome animal to 'outgrow' its bad behavior. Our opinion of the breed as a working dog will continue to evolve as we live and learn with them. In the meantime, there is no shortage of dog kisses on our farm.