Training farm dogs

weeper_11(2b SK)April 19, 2009


My husband and I just bought two cheap male puppies, 4 months old, and they are Great Pyrenees/German Shepherd cross. We may be giving one away to my sister, as she is also looking for a farm dog, if two dogs ends up being too much (I think so, my husband thinks not, lol)

Here's my problem. We've only had them for a few days. When we are not outside, or are at work, or at night, we tie them up. If we are outside, even if we can't really watch them, we let them off. Usually they wander around the yard quite a bit, but always come back to check out what we're doing.

They are both fairly bad at coming to us though. They seem to know what it means, because sometimes they will come, but if there is something more interesting to look at, they just ignore us and come when they feel like it. I don't want to ALWAYS have to tie them up...if we go away for 4 days or more, I'd like to trust them to stick around. I've heard that tying dogs up a lot can lead to behavior problems.

How can we teach them to stay put? If we give the one puppy away, will that make a difference? We only have two horses for them to "look after" while the neighbors have cattle, so I'm afraid that once they get confident in our large yard, they will start wandering off to protect someone elses animals. They definitely like people, but they are not nearly as people oriented as many puppies (like labs) that I've seen.

I just want them to be happy staying around home! But we really can't afford to put in a permanent perimeter fence. What can I do? Also, should we invest in a fairly small chain link fence (maybe 15 ft. x 15 ft) to go around their dog houses, rather than tying them up?


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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

German Shepard's are not a farm dog, they are a police dog, so I wouldn't get my hopes up for great farm dog behaviors (like strong livestock guarding instincts). Staying and healing are both pretty common things for pet owners. Get your self a clicker (Something so that they associate the inevitable treat with something other than you) and reward them for behaving as you want them too. There are thousands of books available on dog training, and each and every one will have these two staples in them. If these are your first puppies a puppy class is probably available in your area (most areas) and that would probably be a good idea.

The big problem with tying dogs up isn't the rope, it's the neglect, people leave their dogs tied up for hours on end, and they tend to get upset and bark.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 10:42PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Well, I've had a German Shepherd as a farm dog before...and she was great! I don't WANT them to guard point was the with them being half Great Pyrenees, which have a major protect and guard instinct, they might be likely to wander to the neighbors cattle.

I don't normally give dogs treats. Usually I just praise them and give them a good rub when they do well. Doesn't that work also?

As for the neglect thing..I only work half days, so neglect won't be a problem. I've just read that being in a dog run as opposed to being on a long leash makes a difference to a dogs psyche. Has anyone else heard this?

My concern is...when it is a farm dog, and not a city dog, it is very difficult to ALWAYS be there when the puppy may cross over the property line, unless you keep them tied (unless you are there) or keep them in a kennel. So how do I teach them that staying home is good, and going away is bad?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 11:37PM
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German Shepard's natural instinct is to herd and they were used for cattle long before being used for police work. I have heard good things about them being good farm dogs as well and thankfully you know that from experience. Hopefully being mixed with GP they will not tend to wander as you are concerned about. German Shepards are very loya dogs while Pyrs are scouts. I have never had a Pyr personally although I have had a German Shepard for about 13 years and he was great.

To answer your question I might start watching dog shows (dog whisperer is a good one) on TV, get a training book from the library and ask everyone questions. If you want to pay some money you might want to hire a dog trainer.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 12:41AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

I would get rid of one pup. With a companion, pup is not going to make YOU his best friend, he has his brother. Two dogs make a pack, they don't really need anyone else, so why should he latch on to you?

I would rather see dog in a pen than tied.

Next should be obedience lessons. I start with dog on a long line, 25ft. I let dog run around, then step on rope and wind him in as I say "Come". Pet and praise him when he reaches you, a VERY fun place to be! I am not much into food rewards, since I may not have it on me. I STILL want dog coming because he LIKES me, LIKES to be petted when I call.

You NEVER call a dog to punish him, no matter how bad he was!! Teaches dog that it hurts to COME.

You also teach dog DIFFERENT words for doing things like entering the kennel area, rewarded by feeding his dinner! You can use "Kennel" or "IN", and then put the bowl down. I usually add "SIT", after they enter reliably, gets me a DOUBLE training session on my pup.

German Shepherds are a herding dog originally. The basic all-around farm dog, who also went into Police work. They are a REALLY INTELLIGENT breed, LOVE to please you and need a job to stay busy. Not sure what the Pyr will add to the cross or tone down. Entirely different in nature, not as people oriented, and certainly NOT a breed who works to please you in obedience.

I know some folks are very happy with the invisible fence type collars. They have both buried wire and broadcast models that prevent dog getting too far from signal. You HAVE to train dog to the perimeters for a while, to get training and limits SOLID before trusting him with collar. You have to keep working batteries in the collar to keep fence effective. With failures of collar, dog will start looking for ways to try escaping. Collars need to come off for part of the day, can rub holes in the skin. Can be shocking dog constantly in wet weather, wet hair and skin.

Problems can be with other dogs crossing the wire or into the broadcast area, no way to keep them out. Your dog may just bull thru the pain to get the other dog. Then your dog CANNOT get back in, is punished for trying!!

I like an actual fence, maybe just around the house area. Do be aware that German Shepherds are very creative in fence escapes. The Pyr I know best will NOT jump an 18" decorative yard fence, stays in her "yard" at all times. Won't even follow the other family dogs over the little fence. She is a very odd dog anyway, not what I would call typical Pyr. Totally unresponsive to any obedience training and the electric collar. Other Pyrs were VERY GOOD on the perimeter fence with their collars, patrolled the inside of large farm area, even with busy roadside activity and pedestrians. Owners were vigilant with collars, never had any loose dogs with that fence setup. Pyrs were farm and show dogs, very good breeding, trying to do their job guarding the place. BUT they stopped at the fence, even chasing other dogs. Not sure how typical that is.

I would NOT be leaving my dog, even with the collar and fence, alone loose, for several days. MUCH better to kennel him, keep him protected and enclosed. He still should be wearing a flat collar with ID tags in case he got out. I would consider a 6ft fence a good height, unless his Shepherd side got creative. He probably would have showed you this previously when enclosed. We needed wire tops leaning over the inside, to keep our GSDs inside the kennel area. One climbed straight up wire like a commando, height did NOT slow him down. Just falling back inside was all that kept him contained. Probably why most dog kennels are covered! We also had 2ft of buried wire under the exposed wire, they could dig holes big enough to bury a cow in!! Tried tunneling out till they hit the wire. Just needed more work to keep them busy! Again, not sure how ambitious a mix dog would be.

You might check the Craigs List type places, see if you can find a used kennel for a good price. They go together easily, very solid to contain a dog.

But back to basics, you need just one pup at a time, so it attaches to you BEST. You are his friend and leader, he follows directions. Check around, often local schools offer a basic Obedience session. This is great for socializing a young dog to others. You can curb aggression or shyness, so he is not over-reactive in group settings. You get some basic handling, time spent with the dog, all GOOD THINGS. To me I just want dog comfortable and OBEDIENT when told to sit quietly by me on a leash, NO MATTER how naughty the other dogs act. This is NOT home, dog does NOT have to be excited or protective here. I do not care if dog is show-style Obedience-perfect in heeling/sitting. Dog staying beside me snugly is fine, but MUST be listening, not pulling, following directions as I give them. Dog sits, lies down, stays put as I walk around it, so I know dog understands direction. Dog may not stay down for the 3-5 minutes Obedience wants, but if it stays sitting or down while I am close, I am happy. We go for the socializing and getting calm in group setting. WELL worth the cost in money and time attending. We take our dogs many places, so Obedience in practical settings is very important to me. Dog may be in crowds of hundreds, all day, so has to be calm and relaxed, staying by me on leash, sitting and walking, willing to be petted by any nearby people. After class, this is usually very doable.

I have had the GSDs and now have Bouvier dogs, which we enjoy. Not much similar except the confidence that they are GOOD dogs, like being petted a lot, have nothing to worry about as they go along. Bouvier is LESS creative than GSD, so gets in less trouble. Still a working/herding breed, so very eager to please you, willing to work with you and LOVES being petted and praise. Bouvier does need firm training and stays rather silly until about age 2yrs. Not the breed for you if you won't train them, way too big for no control on them.

Lessons with dog training are best kept short, so even 5 minutes DAILY, will get a lot taught. 5-10 minutes twice a day will have dog progressing in skills like they are Einstein. We tell the 4-H kids not to overdo training time, dogs have less fun the longer you drill them.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 4:22AM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)

You must have an effective way to manage your dogs when you cannot directly supervise them. Whether it is a fence, a tie-out, or whatever, you do not want them to wander over and harass the neighbor's cattle.

Speaking as someone who has free-ranging chickens, I have asked my new neighbors to either guarantee that their dogs won't eat chickens, or else keep them away from my property.

Most farm dogs learn the ropes through constant interaction with their people. They follow you around and learn what they are and are not allowed to do. They learn that they should come when called because there's something more interesting to do than whatever they're involved in -- and you have to make it more interesting with some kind of positive reinforcement! Whenever you cannot directly supervise, the dog needs to be in a place that is safe for him and for his surroundings.

I absolutely agree that a single puppy will be WAY easier to train than a pair of buddies. Pass the other one to your sister and have play dates so they can run off that puppy energy.


Here is a link that might be useful: My place: Busy Solitude Farm

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 8:06AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

I really appreciate all the quick responses! Yes, I'm putting up a free-to-good-home poster in the local store, in case my sister decides a ginormous dog isn't for her. I want to give one away before I'm seduced by their cuteness! Even though I've never had two puppies at once, I completely agree with having just one for now. One puppy is work, two puppies is chaos!

I guess until we can afford and have time to have an actual kennel built, we'll just have to stick with the long rope and dog house. It is a good thing that spring is finally kicking in (sort of) in my area, and I have tons to do outside...that should give him lots of opportunities to play off his rope under supervision.

Thanks again for all the encouragement.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:12AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Oh! I thought of one more potential problem. How the heck do you guys train your dogs to stay out of the flower beds? I have a wide one around the edge of our house and I have no idea how to make them understand that the flower bed is NOT their territory!! Any ideas?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:29PM
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Pyrs are known for expanding their territory (some call it wandering) and barking. Continueing to tye up your 1/2 Pyr will lead to aggression issues at or around 2 years old. It stems from them not being able to protect their charges and frustration sets in.
Also it's recommended for a livestock guardian to be 100% LGD, meaning livestock guardian breeds. The reason for this is you never know which mixed breed trait will be dominant-the herder trait or the guardian trait. Will they be protecting to the end or chasing to death?

This is not a mix I would trust to protect my animals. Perhaps as an overall farm/house dog, as we've had dobermans & sheperds before, but not the livestock protector. Bad mix of traits there.

Please go to and read up on the Great Pyrenees. They are an independent dog, and yes at times they won't come to you, it's normal for the breed. There is a saying, a loose pyr is a GONE! pyr. Effective fencing is a must.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 8:56PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Brendasue - Yes, we will definitely work on building a secure large kennel. There seems to be some confusion over what these puppies are for, however. We did NOT buy them for livestock protection! My question was whether these dogs would be happy WITHOUT a herd to protect, as we don't keep our cattle by our yard. These will be basic farm dogs, nothing more.

Thanks for the info anyway - I'll check that website out.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 10:13AM
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Oh ok. I thought I read something about horses.

I guess my post came on kinda strong. I just wrapped up assisting in finding a home for a displaced pyr. These dogs end up in shelters far too often because owners do not take the time to understand how they work, and their needs. I would have taken him had I not found him a home, just to keep him out of a shelter or rescue group.

Depending on which breed characteristic becomes dominant, your pup will want something to protect. Without livestock, they'll bond to you, and if you know what to expect of the breed you will be better prepared to handle it and/or prevent issues. I'm glad to hear you'll be checking out that website. There are many articles about the breed, including one for pyrs as pets.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 5:05PM
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Brenda Sue you are absolutely right about too many of these dogs being in the shelter. I thought about Pyrs myself because they are big ole fluff balls but last year I went to that website you talked about and I realized this was not the dog for me. I have been watching animal planet and they have very good breed information on some of these dog shows. I have been suprised at the original uses of some dogs (like the Dashound). In my passive search, I still haven't found the one with the right traits.

I hope this works out for you weeper. Each breed is a beautiful dog. Make it work!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 8:18PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

Gardens: We have one garden on the south side that the dogs and cats both like to sun in. I put a pair of 6" tall stakes around each bedding plant. They get the message fairly quickly.

I don't like a ground chain for tying up dogs. I have two skylines I've set up. One end of 1/8" cable fastens to the porch, the other to a tree 70 feet away. A pulley travels the cable, and a light weight chain about 12' long attaches to the pulley. The dog is clipped to this. It's sized so he can get under the porch.(refuses to use a dog house.) and it gives him about 10 feet on either side of the cable. there are enough trees and sticks and squirrels that he can keep himself entertained for hours. Takes about a week for dogs to figure out how to keep their chain untangled from the trees -- as long as they can't tangle around more than 1 tree at a time.

Sherwood Botsford
Sherwood's Forests Tree Farm
"Trees for Rural Living"
(780) 848 2548

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 3:55PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Alright, so now I have a question very appropriate for this the heck do you make puppies understand that the flower bed is a no-walk zone? I have a flower bed that wraps around the house on three sides. So far the puppies haven't been digging in it, but the like to run through it all the time, and once the flowers start coming up, they will be destroying a lot of plants. Plus, they are already compacting the soil.

I've tried saying NO! as soon as they cross the rock edge (it is a raised bed) or OUT! if I see them walking in it. They know I'm angry, but they aren't sure what to do! How to I get them to understand that walking around flower bed= good, going through it=bad? Any suggestions? Do those ultrasonic things work for keeping pets out?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 5:04PM
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Get real. Part of the dogs job is to trample the flowers. LOL

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 7:13PM
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Hi ya'll. I'm new to this forum so I hope ya'll don't mind me putting my 2 cents worth in on this question. I've had both GS's and GP's and I have to tell you that a mix of the 2 could be borrowing trouble. Both of these breeds are extremely intelligent and were bred to be a multi-tasking animal. The problem with the GP's is they think on their own and make decisions on their own. Giving one of the pups away may help somewhat, but you're still left with a dog that has a tendency to be very dominant. The GP's usually consider you to be part of their "herd" and can become very over-protective if you aren't careful. As for keeping them on chains ... I personally don't think that's a wise idea. Good fences really DO make good neighbors. Especially if you have very large dogs.It could turn into a horror story if your dogs got into the pasture with your neighbors cattle and he went out there to feed his cows and your dogs went into "protect mode". You don't say if you have children, but if so, are you prepared to have these dogs attempting to "herd" them and having your or someone else's child get hurt or worse ? If you don't want a dog as a guardian for your livestock as you stated, wouldn't it be better to go with another type dog ? I would research the breeds I was interested in and then work on getting a full-blooded dog I knew I could trust. Also, the fact that you mentioned leaving for several days at a time concerns me. Dogs left alone that long are going to get into trouble no matter how well you think you have them trained because they're going to assume that you've abandoned them and it's party ! Animals are a huge responsibility. With no livestock to guard and being unable to put a fence right now and leaving for several days at a time, are you sure that you want a dog of this size and mix ? Maybe you'd be more better off with a small "house-type" dog that you could take with you when you had to be away and that would be a lot easier to handle when full grown ? I hope none of this sounds as though I'm trying to be ugly, because believe me I'm not. I'm just looking at your situation through a different perspective.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 8:04PM
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Weeper, this is just my opinion, I don't think you are ready for dogs yet. They seem to irritate you and keeping them on a rope is cruel- IMHO. You want a farm dog but don't seem to know what that means to you. Susan's post above gives good advice. Tom

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 8:56AM
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Oh my yes, I agree with Skagit goat man. Do yourself and the puppy's a big favor and rehome them both. Do some research on line, and educate yourself on what dog ownership entails. I can't believe you would buy two 'cheap' ;-( puppies, toss them out in unfenced yard and expect them to stay ;-( and chaining or tying them all day is not the answer. Guaranteed, if you let these pups wander, one of your neighbors will end up shooting it. People that own livestock do not appreciate stray dogs running their cattle or sheep. So please, if you don't want to rehome these dogs, at least build them a secure fence, and then get some help on the care and training of a puppy. I don't mean to sound mean, but there's just a lot more to owning a dog then just buying it and tossing it some food and water everyday. I hope you find some help, good luck to you and the puppers.

Betty, who has 6 working Border Collies.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 1:56PM
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