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Every farm and homestead needs a guard dog.

For quite some time now I have wanted to comment on guarding dogs. More and more reports and opinions have appeared recently, but it surprises me that so few homesteaders and farmers have yet acquired one of these dogs.

When I left the sidewalks only four years ago I purchased an old homestead in the Missouri Ozarks and filled it with goats, ducks, chickens, geese and rabbits. Opossums, raccoons and coyotes got several of the feathered critters, and - although upset - I thought that I had to live with that.

However, before adding calves as an enterprise, I considered a guard donkey for their protection. I found a gentle jenny that had been raised with cattle. She did fine - within her limits, that is. One day two neighbor's dogs joined a stray canine and went after the calves. I found the jenny in a corner of the pasture with her chest ripped open by the barbed wire the dogs had forced her against. And several hours later I found the calves. They had been chased through a total of five fences; it took the rest of the day to herd them back home.

Shortly thereafter I came upon another neighbor's pet dog mauling one of my Angora goats nearly to death. That's when I got angry and went out and got my first Great Pyrenees guard dog, a 4-month old male.

Placed with the goats day and night, ownership of the goats soon switched from me to him. He instinctively knew what to do. It was I who expected too little of him and misjudged him and the situation a few times. I found out that, although having always had dogs around me, I had to disregard all I thought I knew about dogs and had to relearn to recognize these dogs' incredible performance.

And the more I found out the more I was awed. Aside from their protective instincts, they have dignity, they have a great disposition, they have intelligence.

The Pyr in action

I have seen a Great Pyrenees in action. And what a sight it is! When a coyote approached my large herd of goats grazing on a hillside, the dog changed from his usual calm, laid back attitude to one of growling, charging fierceness. The coyote ran, the dog followed; but only far enough to secure a non-return. The dog never left the goats exposed to possible threats from another direction by other possible predators.

Soon after I bought a young female. And although thus far all my other dogs or cats had always been neutered to reduce unwanted pet population, I entered the area of dog breeding, believing that definitely more people needed one of these animals.

When I moved my little farm to Texas, the two dogs came along. I expanded my homestead to again include goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and guineas and have never ever lost another animal to any predator. There are no raccoons, no skunks, no opossums, no coyotes in the vicinity of my place. Even chicken hawks are being deterred by the dogs. We still can hear the coyotes in the distance, and some of my neighbors keep losing their stock.

The Great Pyrenees is, in my opinion, the perfect dog for any type of farm operation. They are exceptionally gentle with their people, and they love children. They also seem to have a particular sense for anything helpless that may benefit from their gentle protection.

As more and more people become aware of the value of these dogs, the Great Pyrenees are being used in different settings on varied stock. Commonly thought of as the protectors of sheep and goats, they are increasingly being placed with ranging cattle as well as with penned ostriches, emus, deer and other exotics. They also make the perfect all-around farm dog, protecting the whole homestead. Since most farms do have a dog - why not use one that offers so many more advantages than a "regular" type of dog? Despite his large size, once the dog has grown the feed requirements are amazingly low.

I have sold my pups into all types of environments: as pets and companions for elderly and childless couples, as guarding dogs for children, as show dogs. What gives me the most gratification, however, is a puppy that goes to someone who has it targeted for what it is bred for: the protector of the weak, the guardian against predators.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Great Pyrenees
Author:Macaulay, Karin
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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