What is a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD)?
The easy answer is an LGD is a dog that protects farm animals and livestock. The longer answer is an LGD is so much more than just a dog that protects livestock. LGD’s are dogs that have been bred for thousands of years to create a standard of guarding in dogs that we see today. There are many different breeds of LGD’s with different traits, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. LGD’s have evolved and changed over the years to become what they are today, but their purpose has almost remained the same: to guard and protect. LGDs live and work with their livestock to protect them from predators. They are not house dogs or general farm dogs that go inside, they are working dogs and they work outside 24/7 with their stock.
Are LGDs the same as herding dogs?
No! This is a common misconception, largely because many kennel clubs put them in the herding group. Herding dogs such as border collies are also in the working dog group but they have different instincts, such as a higher prey drive and a desire to chase. The instincts of herding dogs are to herd. They will chase livestock, biting at the heels of sheep, and herd them wherever they want them to go. Herding dogs do not make good LGDs because they weren’t bred to guard and it’s just not in their genes. LGDs do not herd their stock, they guard them and they have a low prey drive-by comparison. They are very different types of dogs and it is why you should never get a dog for work that’s been mixed with an LGD and a herding dog.
Are Livestock Guardians the same as Guard Dogs?
Not even a little bit. We can see why some people might think this, because both have “guard” in their name but they are actually very different. Guard dogs are personal protection dogs that guard people. Often they will undergo lots of specialized training. Livestock guardian dogs guard the livestock, not people. What this means is that an LGD will protect its stock from animals or people, but it won’t attack for no reason. They won’t chase down a threat and leave their stock unprotected. LGD breeds are also independent workers and they can be difficult to train against their nature. LGDs are unsuitable as guard dogs and should not be used as such. The LGD Education Network explains it really well, and you learn more by clicking here.
What LGD breed do you have?
In the United States one of the most popular LGD breeds is the Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog) for their easy temperament and ability to work in diverse environments. There are pros and cons to each LGD breed, and the Great Pyrenees breed was the best suited for our family dynamic and our farm. We breed purebred working Great Pyrenees LGDs. You can read more about Great Pyrenees here or by checking out the Great Pyrenees Club of America.
How big do Great Pyrenees get?
Males typically are 95 lbs to 120 lbs, and females are 85 to 110 lbs, but that can vary. Height for males ranges about 27 to 32 inches at the shoulders and 25 to 29 inches for females. These dogs often look even bigger because of their big fluffy coat. Great Pyrenees are double coated dogs with long guard hairs on top and an undercoat that keeps them warm in cold climates and cool in hot climates. Males tend to have a profuse ruff around the neck whereas females tend to be a little sleeker. Some Great Pyrenees are all white and others have badger markings. They’re not lapdogs, but good luck telling them that!
Are the parents health tested?
We are committed to being responsible breeders and have done genetic panel testing to look for genetic diseases and defects. Both Calypso and Voltaire have been tested for breed-relevant genetic conditions Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR1), Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), Glanzmann’s Thrombasthenia Type 1 (GT), Chondrodysplasia (CDPA), and Neuronal Degeneration which are commonly identified in Great Pyrenees and they both are clear of any defects. Their results are also registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). They both also have public pages on Embark for viewing. Both Calypso and Voltaire have low ALT activity, and this just means that their healthy liver levels are lower than the average dog’s healthy liver levels. This means their veterinarian has to have a baseline bloodwork to know if their liver levels ever become abnormal. Voltaire and Calypso have had OFA checks for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation and have their Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) certification due to extensive health testing. We take the health of both our LGDs very seriously and we are invested in making sure they both live long, happy and healthy lives, along with their puppies.
Is it true that puppies can get health problems even with health tested parents?
Sometimes, yes, this is true because there are a lot of different factors that go into the overall health of a dog. We guarantee our puppies will be clear of genetic defects from the panel with have tested Voltaire and Calypso with from Embark and the University of Minnesota. Just like with human health, there are new discoveries in canine diseases all the time. We do our best to stay on top of the latest tests to ensure healthy dogs. Other health factors include environmental health concerns as well as diet. As large breed dogs its very important to make sure puppies are on a large breed puppy diet to ensure proper growth. Certain activities and sports can be high impact and are not appropriate for young puppies because they can harm their joints and affect development. Pediatric spaying and neutering can also affect the health of the dog, so it’s important to discuss the best time to fix your dog with your veterinarian. Most veterinarians recommend waiting until giant breed dogs are at least two years old to spay/neuter them, but some veterinarians will push for earlier spaying/neutering. If you wish for your dog to fully mature with all of their hormones some vets are starting to perform vasectomies and ovarian-sparing spays (OSS). These procedures effectively sterilize the dogs but keep their hormones intact for proper development. These are not common for regular veterinarians and you may have to go to a reproductive veterinarian to find these specialty services. Many of these health concerns are open to interpretation, so we recommend talking to your veterinarian and coming up with a plan that works for you and your dog.
How can I verify the health testing and results?
Great question! We encourage you to always verify information for accuracy. We register our health tests with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and have the Embark Veterinary DNA panels publicly available for you to lookup. View Calypso’s Embark Veterinary DNA profile here. Click here to view Calypso’s currently registered OFA results (note that further testing will be added in the future). View Voltaire’s Embark Veterinary DNA profile here. You can see all results that are currently OFA-registered for Voltaire by clicking here or searching his CHIC certification number (160296) on the OFA website. We also have physical certificates on hand if you would like to view them while visiting the farm.
Are these puppies only available as LGDs? Or can they be pets?
Our Great Pyrenees puppies are brought up on the farm primarily for the purpose of being Livestock Guardians. That being said, we handle the puppies frequently and give them lots of human interaction in addition to socializing them with the animals. In every litter there will be a few puppies that might be better suited to home life than farm life. That doesn’t mean that they won’t still have guarding instincts, they most definitely will. They will protect your house like they protect our farm, and they will guard your family like they guard our livestock. If you need a general farm dog they can also be used for that purpose, but you need to decide exactly what you want them to do BEFORE you get a puppy because that will change the living dynamic. We recommend only experienced dog owners get these puppies and socialize them with lots of positive people and situations. These are dogs that love the outdoors, and they will need adequate yard space and fencing to keep them from wandering. WE DO NOT SELL PUPPIES TO PET STORES OR AS RESEARCH SUBJECTS.
What do you provide new puppy owners?
Along with your puppy, we will provide information on the breed, caring for your new puppy, health records with current vaccinations and deworming, support on getting your new pup settled, a go-home-goodie bag with some of their current food, and a Trupanion Go Home Day Offer. The Trupanion Go Home Day Offer provides a month of pet insurance with no waiting periods and no cost to you. After the month is up you can continue the insurance with no gaps in coverage or you can cancel it. You must activate your offer within 24 hours of going home to qualify.
What is Trupanion pet insurance? Does Trupanion sponsor you?
No, Trupanion does not financially sponsor us. Whether you decide to purchase pet insurance with Trupanion or not does not affect us in any way. We do not get any money or incentives if you sign up with Trupanion. We partner with Trupanion because we want to offer you and your new puppy the best start possible. One of the biggest expenses owners experience is veterinary care, and pet insurance can help to offset that cost. You can learn more about Trupanion at trupanion.com. Trupanion happens to be one of the few pet insurance companies that works with breeders to offer a free month trial period of insurance for new owners. To compare pet insurance companies please check out petinsurancereview.com or consumersadvocate.org.
What do the optional fees mean?
If you saw our fee schedule on our LGD puppy page you probably noticed there were several ‘optional’ fees. These are things we offer but don’t include in the puppy price. The reason we don’t include them in the puppy price is because they are often not necessary for the majority of new puppy owners. For example, some people choose to pick up their puppy after 12 weeks. We will hold the puppies an extra two weeks with no charge, but after 14 weeks we charge $15 a week as a boarding fee to help compensate for food. Likewise, Virginia states that all dogs must be vaccinated against rabies by four months (16 weeks) of age. They can be vaccinated for rabies as early as 12 weeks of age. We prefer to vaccinate at 12 weeks because it takes 28 days for the dog to be considered vaccinated. In the county of Loudoun, we are also required to license the dog at the time of rabies vaccination. These are additional fees but again, they do not apply to the majority of puppy owners which is why we consider them optional.
How much do you charge?
We charge $750 for a stud dog fee and $950 for puppies, regardless of sex. We believe that $950 is a reasonable price considering the dogs are purebred and everything we include such as the health testing done on the parents, the veterinary care for the puppies, the 30 days of free pet insurance, the offer of mentoring, and whatever other goodies we decide to throw in. You may be able to find cheaper puppies elsewhere, but we offer quality dogs whereas others are more interested in the quantity of dogs they can produce to make the most money.
What vaccines do I need to do for my puppy?
We will give the puppies their first doses of vaccines and deworming. Check with your vet and local laws to see what other vaccines are required in your area. Rabies is usually given between 3-4 months of age depending on your state’s laws. You will have to give boosters for the vaccines that we administer to your puppy. Talk to your local veterinarian for the best vaccine schedule, there have been aggressive cases of parvovirus lately so your vet may have a different schedule than what was previously recommended. Depending on your area you may want to consider giving your dog a lyme vaccine as well once they are old enough. Flea, tick, and heartworm medication is also imperative because LGDs live and work outside in an environment where parasites thrive.
Are your puppies registered?
No. While our sire Voltaire is AKC registered our dam Calypso is not registered. She makes up for papers with her superior guardian qualities and a winning attitude. Although she doesn’t have papers we are committed to breeding quality Great Pyrenees and making informed decisions to better the future of the breed. It’s fairly common for working LGDs not to have papers as some breeders mix LGD breeds, but be wary of an LGD breed mixed with a non-LGD breed. Both Calypso and Voltaire are Great Pyrenees, and Embark has confirmed that through DNA testing. If you want to do sports with your dog the American Kennel Club has created a program for purebred’s without papers (or purebreds that are a part of another kennel club) called the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) that allows purebreds without AKC registration to participate in their events. All of our LGDs are working dogs and therefore do not leave the farm to participate in events, but if that is something you’re interested in it is possible without an AKC registration. What is important to look for in an LGD is the health of their parents, their temperament, and are their parents actively working as LGDs.
How old do puppies have to be to go to their new homes?
Puppies should be a minimum of 10-12 weeks old when they leave their mom. We typically keep the puppies until they are 12 weeks unless otherwise agreed upon. Be wary of breeders sending puppies home before 10 weeks of age. This is important because the puppies learn a lot from their mothers during these first few weeks of life. Since their mom is a working dog these puppies get their own little internship in being an LGD before they have to go to their future homes. Even if you’re not getting a puppy for LGD work they should still be with their mothers until 10-12 weeks of age.
Do Great Pyrenees get along with other pets and children?
Yes! When socialized properly GPs get along great with other pets like cats and children. Start socializing your puppy from the day you bring them home. Here is a downloadable socialization checklist created by veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin. We will socialize puppies with the livestock, their parent LGDs, and our family (including children). We also try to desensitize them with recordings of fireworks and other loud noises. Positive reinforcement is the best way to socialize dogs to be friendly, focus on praise, cuddles and pets, along with rewarding good behavior. You should also teach your children how to behave around dogs and how to be gentle. That puppy you are allowing your child to play rough with now will get to be a big dog one day and they won’t understand why they suddenly aren’t allowed to play rough. It’s not fair to the dog and it’s not fair to your child. Responsible dog ownership is so important especially with children because if the dog hurts the child it is very rarely their fault but they are usually the ones that suffer. Dogs should never be left alone with young children or pets they don’t know. The American Kennel Club has created a great little dog safety book for children which you can find here.
Should I get a male or a female puppy?
This is mostly a personal choice. You should take into consideration what sex dog you already have (if any). There’s a saying “Males fight for breeding rights, females fight for breathing rights.” It’s usually recommended that you have male/female pairs, as they are less likely to fight among themselves than male/male or female/female pairs. If all dogs are spayed/neutered it’s less likely they’ll fight but still a possibility.
Can I get more than one puppy at a time?
No, and here is why. Getting two puppies at the same time can create an effect known as littermate syndrome. Littermate syndrome is where two puppies (related or unrelated) can form a bond that in the end is destructive to both the dogs and their owners. It can lead to things like aggression and temperament issues, separation anxiety, codependency, inability to train together and just harder to train overall. It’s very hard training two puppies at the same time, it’s almost impossible to devote the amount of time needed to train two puppies and run a farm competently. Also, if you think having two puppies is bad wait until they are teenagers! It would be a disaster. Dogs should be a minimum of 18 months in difference before getting a second LGD, although we recommend an age difference of two to three years, depending on individual maturity. Read more about littermate syndrome here. That being said, if you get a puppy and an older dog at that same time they might be okay after an adjustment period. It would still be a good idea to acclimatize them over time. You can check out rescues and breed clubs such as Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue for older LGDs in need of a forever home.
I want a puppy to be a poultry guardian
Not a question, but definitely something we like to talk about with people interested in LGDs. Poultry, waterfowl, and game birds are easy prey and can definitely benefit from an LGD guarding them, however they are the hardest animals to train your LGD to guard because LGDs were not originally bred to guard these animals and they have a difficult time bonding to them. Puppy’s and adolescents think of these animals as fun squeaky toys to pass the time with and must never be left unattended with these birds until they are mature and reliable enough to do so. This takes time, patience, and training. All of our dogs (including our house dogs) are safe around poultry so we know it can be done, but its not an easy fix. Puppies and teenagers should be able to see the poultry but not have access to them, and vice versa (suicidal chickens are a common problem). Prevention is the best way to set your puppy up for success. The Learning About LGDs YouTube channel has a video specifically on LGDs and poultry which you can check out here.
Do LGD’s need training?
Yes and no. You can’t simply release an LGD puppy into a pasture and expect it to know everything. A puppy is going to need to be separate from the stock when they are not supervised (but still able to see them and be near them) until they are old enough to be trusted around the other animals. Popular methods of doing this are putting the puppy in a run or pasture next to the livestock or tethering them. When tethering makes sure you know how to tether safely, and know you’re local laws as some areas prohibit tethering for long periods of time, in which case a kennel might be more appropriate. Dogs should always have access to shelter and water, no matter where you put them. Puppies also need a fair amount of exercise, and they’ll be harder to train without it. As puppies, they will also want to chase things that run (read: poultry) and as teenagers, they will want to get into trouble. Great Pyrenees do not mature until they are 2-3 years old. A lot of it depends on what kind of stock you have. Poultry is the hardest stock for an LGD to bond with and will take the longest to train on. Some LGDs will instinctively know to bark at predators and strangers, but if you socialize your dog to strangers and strange dogs they may be less likely to bark at strangers. This may be ideal if your puppy is going to be a pet, but if you want a working dog you have to set them up for success and not allow them to be exposed to bad habits and strangers.
What kind of training should I do?
Your LGD will have instincts that don’t need to be trained, such as keeping away predators and barking at strange animals. It might be a while before those instincts kick in (usually around six months of age), but they will come as your LGD matures. We recommend the first training you do be leash training so that when you are with your stock your LGD can come with you in a controlled manner. Use a D ring to clip a leash to your belt or a runners leash if you want your hands free, reward good behavior with treats, and correct or redirect negative behavior. Other things your LGD should be taught sit, lay down, mine, leave it, stay or place, and they should come when called. If you are in the Northern VA area and want to work with a trainer we recommend using Jeff from Ridgeside K9, he worked with our girl Calypso.
What should I feed my LGD puppy?
It is important to feed your puppy properly to avoid health issues in the future. We recommend talking to your veterinarian about the most appropriate diet. We feed our puppies large breed puppy dry food soaked in bone broth we make on our farm. We will supplement their regular diet with raw food. When feeding your LGD make sure that livestock and poultry can’t get to their food (they will eat it!) because this can cause your LGD to guard their food and attack their stock. It’s best to feed them separately away from the other animals, or to provide them with an area the other animals can’t get into. We use the Bergan Aut-O-Dine feeder and keep it within the kennel area so the other animals can’t get to it. If you want to feed your puppy raw food exclusively, make sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need and are eating a balanced diet. You can read about what to feed your LGD here.
What are some general requirements for LGDs?
LGDs are not apartment dogs, they need space to roam within safe boundaries. Suburban or rural environments are the best, along with strong fencing. Fencing is non-negotiable, without it LGDs will roam onto other people’s property or into roads where they can be a danger to themselves and others. Most experienced owners of LGDs will recommend spaying/neutering to help prevent roaming, as it is such a strong instinct for LGDs. Some LGDs dig, some climb, some jump, and some respect their boundaries, it just depends on the dog. Another requirement is these are working dogs and without work to do they won’t have an appropriate outlet and will be unhappy and possibly destructive. Guarding is in their nature, they need a job to do whether it be guarding their family or their stock. Great Pyrenees require a fair amount of exercise, puppies in particular will be difficult to deal with if not exercised appropriately. LGDs should not exercise by chasing livestock as this encourages bad behavior, it is better to physically exercise them in a pen or separate pasture. Mental exercise such as scent work, puzzles, or hide and seek games will also help tire puppies out. LGDs need access to shelter and water at all times too, and a place where they can be alone if they need to. This can be a stall in a barn, a crate, a kennel, or something similar. Working LGDs live and work outside 24/7 and should not be brought inside your home except as a last resort. This is because if they are inside with you and your family they will bond with you and your family instead of your livestock. If you are looking for a home guardian or pet then that’s okay, but if you want a working LGD you’ll only confuse them and create problems for yourself. This doesn’t mean you should ignore, neglect, or not interact with your LGD, you definitely should, you simply want them to bond to their stock. At the end of the day LGD puppies are still puppies, and they need to be in a safe environment where they cannot get hurt until they’re old enough to look after themselves. Puppy-proofing their kennel or area where you keep them when they are unsupervised is important to ensuring their safety.
If things don’t work out will you take the puppy back?
Yes. Ultimately we want what’s best for the dog and we will take the puppy back if you run into problems. We will try to do our best to set both you and the puppy up for success.
Is an LGD right for me?
This is a question we encourage everyone to think about. What is your living environment? Are you in a rural, suburban, or city home? Do you have adequate space for an LGD? Can you afford to add an LGD to your family or farm? Do you have work for your LGD? Do you have the time and energy to put in the work to train a new LGD? Why do you want an LGD? LGD’s are a long term solution to a predator problem, but they’re also a huge investment in time and money. It takes LGD breeds an average of 2-3 years until they are fully mature and able to work without supervision. The amount of effort and expertise you put into their training can shorten that time (Calypso was working independently at 15 months of age, but we enlisted the help of a professional trainer and worked on training with her every day until we were comfortable having her on her own, and she’s not perfect), but you have to remember that dogs looking for trouble will probably find it. Long term they will be the best defense for your livestock, and they will often work until they are between 10-14 years of age or until they are physically unable to work. Great Pyrenees are hard workers and giant love bugs, and if you can commit yourself to caring for them and training them then you will end up falling in love with the breed just like us and having a competent protector for your family or farm.
I’ve filled out an application for a puppy, now what?
We will review each and every application we receive and get back to you. If you don’t hear back from us in one week, send us an email or message us on Facebook to make sure we received your application. If we turn down your application we will tell you why. Ultimately we are looking for the best match for the puppies; we want to make sure they go to good homes with responsible dog owners. If we do accept your application you will be placed on a waiting list for our next available litter. When that litter is ready we will do our best to match you with the best dog for your needs. If you accept the match then at that point you can put down a deposit and pay the balance when you pick up your puppy at or after they turn 12 weeks of age.
Please note that this FAQ is just an introduction to Livestock Guardian Dogs and Great Pyrenees. We highly recommend that you do your own research on LGDs and Great Pyrenees. Read articles online, read books, talk to people you know with LGDs, and join the Facebook group for Learning about LGDs. You should also research Great Pyrenees, the breed, look at AKC and the national breed club, seek out information from your local breed club, and see if you can meet someone with a Great Pyrenees. You should research BEFORE you start looking into getting a puppy because you want to set both yourself and the puppy up for success. Getting an LGD is not something you should do lightly and you should be prepared for all of the ups and downs before getting one. When adequately prepared an LGD can be a wonderful addition to your farm and family.