Since we couldn’t run our farm as naturally and forage-based as we do without some form of protection, I’ll update you on our guardian dog program.
As you may recall, back in 2014, we bred our registered Colorado Mountain Dog LGD, Iris, to a full Pyrenees stud, who was a proven LGD, had the temperament we wanted, and whose age (9 years) still found him in excellent health. They had a beautiful litter of pups. After waiting a bit to see how the pups turned out, we were extremely pleased (as were the buyers), so we wanted to repeat that breeding. First, however, we had Iris’ hips x-rayed, and consulted with our vet at length about her health and candidacy for breeding. In 2015, another mating resulted in a second litter of adorable little snowball pups, which sold equally as fast. At that point, we realized there was a tremendous need for responsibly bred, affordable, well-started, and healthy livestock guardian dogs.
Purchasing an LGD can really be like playing Russian Roulette in some ways, as the genetics are all over the place with almost all breeds today. As with most animals, especially in America, irresponsible breeders have messed up genetics so much, and results can be very hit-or-miss based on the mixed up genetics of modern LGDs.
Knowing we wanted to be part of the solution, rather than the problem, we took some steps to ensure we fit the “responsible” category. First, we developed an official breeding plan of sorts, with health standards we would require in our breeding dogs, health exams, written guidelines, policies, return exceptions, and so forth for buyers. We came up with a plan for really ensuring the pups all had a great start in their lives as LGDs, and evaluated our own needs, and what market we wanted to focus on serving with our dogs. This helped us plan the type of stud dog we wanted to find.
Since the original male was getting older, we found our own stud dog (Tundra), who came from a line of proven CMD dogs and excellent health. We also had retained a second female from Iris’ first litter (Charity). When the two turned a year old, we had both of them evaluated and x-rayed by our vet team to ensure they were as close to “perfect” as we could get. Tundra was, Charity was considered closer to “good” rather than “excellent” on the hip rating. As a result, we had Charity spayed, then used Tundra with Iris for her third litter, born in 2016. Unfortunately, as Tundra matured, he did not have quite the temperament we were looking for. We were aiming for quieter and calmer, and he…..well…..wasn’t. He was a talker, and crazy immature and hyperactive. I also noticed a huge difference in his pups by the time they were only 3 weeks old. They too were extra talkative, more active, and more domineering towards each other than either of our previous litters. Not bad pups, by any means. He was in fact, a great dog and a great LGD, just not what we needed or wanted to breed for.
The tough decision was made to rehome him to a farm better suited to his disposition and start our search for the perfect stud again. As it turned out, we found a great home, but they really needed two dogs. So, we agreed to sell the both Charity and Tundra. We were sad to see them go, but glad we could help a new farm get off the ground. So, we were back to square one–but not for long. I located a breeder down south with a litter of full Pyrenees pups. They had the sire and dam on property, as well as some adult siblings, all of whom I could evaluate for health and temperament. I wound up purchasing 4 of their male pups, hoping I could keep the “best” (for our needs) and give the others a good start to help other farms.
Over the next 4 months, that’s exactly what I did. I put Iris partly in charge of helping to train the pups, and we watched closely as they grew over the next few months. When one showed consistent barking issues, he lost some points. When another showed more dominance issues, he lost a few points. When one ignored poultry, as the others showed too much interest in a chicken, that one gained some points. And so on and so forth, until we narrowed the selection to two. Then, it was a matter of deciding which of those two would be the best compliment for Iris’ strengths and weaknesses. Finally, by late September, I had selected my pup.
Our new pup, Cedar, is an absolute gem! He is the most laid-back, easy going, happy dog, and only barks if there is a true threat. Otherwise, he is content to just sit and watch the goings on around the farm. He loves people, adores his goats, and is gentle with pretty much everything we’ve ever introduced him to. He hasn’t shown a tendency to wander off, or a desire to challenge anyone at feeding time. These are all characteristics I love, and hope to pass on to any pups. On top of that, he is a beautiful, very regal looking dog. He doesn’t have the big, boxy, drooly look of many modern Great Pyrenees, and I’m hoping he stays that way. Of course, nothing is certain yet. He still has to pass the x-rays and breeding evaluation by the vet in a few months, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
In the midst of all that, we also took in 3 LGDs that were in urgent re-home situations for different reasons. We were able to help all 3 find new homes that were better suited to their individual needs and instincts. It always feels great helping other farms match to such great dogs!
Currently, it seems a bit quiet around here with just Iris and Cedar, now that all the other pups and rescue dogs have their permanent homes. As busy as we’ve been though, it’s also nice to have a bit of a break for a few months from raising and training pups. Nonetheless, assuming his evaluation goes well, we are looking forward to another litter of pups around here–hopefully by summer of 2017.