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Your Great Pyrenees was made to protect. Pyrenees were bred in their namesake mountains in Southern France to protect livestock of all kinds. They have been used for this purpose to this day. The Pyrenees' immense, majestic size helps to intimidate predators, while the shaggy white coat protects the dog from all weather while making it clearly visible and distinguishable from predators at night.
Pyrenees are known for being calm and laid-back, appearing almost zen-like, with a happy smile. They can move quickly, however, when it comes to protecting their livestock. They naturally patrol and protect their property and charges, and nap throughout the day and night so as to remain vigilent. With their powerful frame, excellent protection instincts, and weather tolerant capablities, the Pyrenees is a natural choice for guarding any sort of livestock, including chickens.
While your Pyrenees puppy is insanly cute and cuddly, she cannot be thought of as your pet if she is to be an efficient guardian. While your Pyrenees will love you and enjoy your company, her real family must be her livestock. Since chickens are small and fragile, your Pyrenees must learn from an early age that she must be gentle with them. Furthermore, your Pyreneese will need to learn to watch out for predators from the sky as well as from the land. A hawk can take a chicken before your Pyrenees can notice if she is not on the lookout. Finally, you will need to accustom your Pyrenees to strangers coming to your property, as well as having a vet examine her. Just because she will live with your flock doesn't mean she doens't need social skills.
Your puppy's breeder should have helped you choose an individual Pyrenees with strong guarding instincts. You will not so much train as develop and shape these instincts as your Pyrenees matures. That said, each Pyrenees is an individual. Your puppy may be naturally gentle with chickens or need to be taught gentle behavior. She may be consantly vigilent of her own accord, or you may need to teach her what to watch out for and practice attack drills. Your Pyrenees may be brave and willing to take on any adversary who comes after your chickens, or she may need to develop the courage to attack predators. Keep an open mind as you get to know your Pyrenees puppy and shape her training.
The Together From Start Method
Sweet natured Pyrenees
If your Pyrenees is sweet with the chickens from their first interaction, and you see no indication of aggression from her, you can let her start living with the chickens from the beginning.
Her own space
Create a space near where the chickens sleep and forage where your Pyrenees can have a bed and feeding area. This area should not be accessible to the chickens, and your puppy must never compete with the chickens for food.
Watch your Pyrenees closely as she bonds with your chickens. Is she staying near or wandering away? Is she worried about any distress the chickens may be in or does she seem indifferent?
Elicit desirable behavior
Encourage your Pyrenees to protect your chickens by creating artificial dangers, then rewarding your Pyrenees with treats and praise when she defends them. If you notice your Pyrenees wander, create a commotion among the chickens and reward her for coming to the rescue.
Reward desirable behavior
Watch closely as your Pyrenees matures and keep rewarding for desirable behavior. If you hear her chase off predators, go to her and praise and reward her. Reward for staying near the chickens and responding to their distress.
The Side by Side Method
A careful approach
If you are concerned about your Pyrenees' potential behavior with your chickens and want to take it slow, you can keep puppy and chickens separate but near for some time until they get to know each other.
Build space near chickens
Build a space near your chickens for your Pyrenees. Ideally she will be outside of their area, so she can interact with them through a fence while protecting them from outside predators.
Encourage your Pyrenees to bond with your chickens by rewarding her for calm behavior when she is with them under your obserervation.
Gradually increase the time your Pyrenees spends with your chickens, until you trust them alone together for short periods.
Elicit and reward behavior
Stimulate mild distress in the chickens so as to encourage guarding behavior in your Pyrenees. Reward her well for good guarding.
The Distract to Acclimate Method
If your puppy is too rambunctious with the chickens and you worry that she will injure them, you can distract her from playing with them until she acclimates to them.
High value treats
Choose treats that your Pyrenees puppy loves above all else. Since she is a large breed dog that is growing fast, choose healthy treats.
Reward for ignoring
If your Pyrenees ignores the chickens, reward her with food. Reward her every time she looks at you, and for maintaining a calm state.
Gradually decrease rewards as your puppy becomes less reactive to the chickens.
Elicit and reward guarding
Cause some minor distress among the chickens and reward your Pyrenees for guarding behavior. Keep practicing until you can trust her with your chickens.
By Coral Drake
Published: 02/21/2018, edited: 01/08/2021