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How to Train a Great Pyrenees Puppy to Guard Chickens

How to Train a Great Pyrenees Puppy to Guard Chickens
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Time icon5-12 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

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. 

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Defining Tasks

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.

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Getting Started

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.

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The Together From Start Method

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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.

2

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.

3

Observe

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?

4

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.

5

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

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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.

2

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.

3

Encourage bonding

Encourage your Pyrenees to bond with your chickens by rewarding her for calm behavior when she is with them under your obserervation.

4

Increase trust

Gradually increase the time your Pyrenees spends with your chickens, until you trust them alone together for short periods.

5

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

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Rambunctious puppy

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

Decrease rewards

Gradually decrease rewards as your puppy becomes less reactive to the chickens.

5

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Dolly

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Great Pyrenees

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1 Year

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Question

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I tried letting my dog dolly around the chickens while I had her on a leash. She did good and stay calm for a little over 20 min but when I let her off she would chase them around the yard. Just wondering what would be the best way to train her to be around them and protect them

April 29, 2022

Dolly's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cody, First, I would not trust her off leash for a while. Keep her leashed or training whenever around them. If she practices chasing without your interruption this will become a lot harder to address. It doesn't sound like you are doing that, just wanted to warn you up front to avoid difficulty later though. Second, many livestock guarding breeds don't naturally guard birds the way they would something larger. The bonding that can happen with other livestock when raised with them often isn't created with chickens and other birds. The dogs who do successfully guard them often guard them as an extension of their overall territorial behavior and not wanting something like a fox or raccoon on their territory period, opposed to seeing the chickens as family like many would a flock of sheep when raised with them. Because of this the goal is often teaching pup to leave the birds alone, boundary training pup so pup stays in the area where the birds generally are, and pup living in that area enough that they become territorial of that land and everything in it against all predators, regardless of what the predators specific intent is. To teach pup to leave the birds alone, I would work on a solid Leave It command, practice pup being around the birds with you on a 20 foot leash, and enforcing leave it with the leash if pup tries to go after one. Pup will probably be fine until a bird flaps or runs - be ready when that movement happens. Reward pup for ignoring the birds, especially when they run past or get excited. When pup is doing well on the 20 foot leash every time, then practice on a 40 or 50 foot very light weight one, so pup is less aware they are leashed because it's lightweight, and you are further away, and even duck behind a tree so pup doesn't see you all the time while they are around the birds. Also be ready to correct if pup goes after a bird or even fixates on one too much, like they want to hunt or chase it. For some dogs, doing this practice throughout pup's first year is enough to train pup not to chase after or kill one, some dogs need the additional step of an e-collar leave it, so you can be 100 feet away, completely out of sight as far as pup knows and enforce the leave it command and training you already did on long leash, but with pup thinking you aren't present. Reward good calm responses around the birds so pup still likes being around them, but just learns to be calm around them. Pup will also need to spend a lot of time in their area once you are ready for pup to protect that part of the yard where the birds go, but I would keep a physical barrier between the birds and pup until pup is trained when doing that part, such as a coop and chicken wire, or pup inside a fence where they can hear, smell, and ideally see the birds still, but can't get to them to catch one. Livestock guardian forums are also a good place to post questions and learn from other owner trainers along the way if you have never trained a livestock guardian dog before, or are new to teaching this specific type of livestock guarding. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 3, 2022

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Flo and Pearl!

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Pryador

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18 Months

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My girls will watch my chickens and cats but once I turn my back they will go after them! 🤦🏽‍♀️ Theyve killed a chicken and a few kittens!! They especially get vicious at night with my cats!!!

Sept. 26, 2021

Flo and Pearl!'s Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kiley, Many livestock guarding dogs have a hard time with birds. The same bonding that can happen with a larger animal like Sheep, often doesn't transfer to birds. The dogs may guard the birds as part of their larger territory in general, but often not for the same reasons they would guard larger livestock as their "family". Cats can also go either way. Kittens in general are viewed more as prey. If your chickens are free range and it works for your farm, you may need to set up an area where the chickens are contained to keep pup away from them. Pup can then be expected to guard the outside of the chicken's fence as part of the larger territory pup could be motivated to keep predators off of without direct contact with the birds themselves. A second option is to leave the birds free range and teach pup to avoid the birds. This means pup wouldn't be going near them so it leaves the birds more open to other predators, but it should at least stop pup from killing them. This is what I recommend doing with pup and the kittens, since the cats are not something to be contained and once adults will not need guarding as much as the birds would need. Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill livestock. To stop the killing you would need to pursue training like that, creating a strong avoidance of all cats, and either the birds themselves or any attempts to break into their fenced area once you set that up. I would only allow pup around the other animals on a long training leash right now, practicing your Leave It command anytime pup displays prey drive toward the chickens or kittens. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY More videos of teaching impulse control around other animals from additional trainers. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 4, 2021


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