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  1. #1
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) snow0160's Avatar

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    Default Livestock Guardian Dog as Pets (Ethical Argument

    I was chatting with other LGD owners on Facebook and many of them do not believe LGD should ever be kept from their natural instinct guarding livestock. I know for certain breeds such as Maremmas, breeders don't even sell them for companion/pet purposes. They argue that when you do, you see a surge in abandoned dogs in rescues or overbreeding. The idea is that as companion animals since they do not work or exercise their instinct to guard, and thus, develop unwanted behavioral issues such as aggression, over vocalization..etc. Many believe they do poorly with obedience and cannot be trained as a companion dog.

    I wonder how true some of these arguments are. This is the age-old argument of Nature vs Nurture. Most of the people making these arguments have LGDs that never stepped a paw inside a home. They have lived outside with very little human interaction. If you subject any dog of any breed to those condition, I doubt their reaction would be different. If you don't socialize a dog to other humans, I doubt they would like other people. I am not sure this is their natural instinct or just lack of exposure. The same can be said about basic obedience.

    If you survey these farm dogs, I wonder how many of them have received formal obedience. Yes, i do believe certain breeds are harder to train but that is not to say they are not trainable. It seems to me that even protecting livestock is a training process and so is the CGC.

    So here are some questions:
    1. Are LGDs less happy as pets rather than working dogs? Is it cruel to keep them against their instinct to roam and protect?
    2. Just because they don't excel in obedience, does that mean they cannot master it?
    3. Many Pyrs are mistaken for English Goldens. Their temperaments are truly different. Do you believe that LGDs should not be recommended as pets due to abandonment issues? Their adolescent phase is truly challenging and long. Many dog owners are not equipped to handle large dogs. I know a lot of rescues recommend Pyrs only to those who have handled LGDs before.
    4. Many LGD breeds do not want to be part of the AKC because a rise in popularity can lead to overbreeding and all the problems associated with it such as health decline, abandoned dogs..etc. Many argue that this is seen with the Great Pyrenees. How true is that?
    5. Does your LGD prefer indoors or out? Do indoors dogs have better health? If you can keep an eye on your dog at all times, isn't easier addressing any health-related problem such as simple injuries to lyme disease etc. I know both Kit and Sahara never stayed outside longer than checking the parameters of the yard. They stroll right on back to the AC area lol. On the flip side, there are wild dogs that live in the wilderness and they do fine in their den. Since I live in Orlando, FL, I cannot stop thinking about the Orcas at Sea World. They live twice as long in captivity but I wonder how happy they are. One of them became aggressive and killed a few people. Perhaps it is a bad idea to compare domesticated dogs to Orcas.

  2. #2
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    Be careful on Facebook. I found that there is a whole lot of needless drama in some of these LGD Facebook groups. I remember being invited to join one group and quitting two days later because the whole purpose of this particular group was to badmouth people in another group to which the other members also belonged. These were all people who were old enough to know better (ie, not seventh graders).

    Iíve also found that there is a whole lot of bad advice on Facebook. Terrible, awful, potentially very dangerous advice. Itís jaw-dropping.

    The argument that having LGDs as pets leads to more of them ending up in shelters is one of the dumbest things Iíve ever heard. If that were true, the shelters would be overflowing with Newfies who are kept as pets as opposed to working dogs. When was the last time you saw an actual Newfie up for adoption?

    Irresponsible breeding lands dogs in shelters. So does picking a dog breed based on looks instead of temperament. I remember one guy a few years ago who wanted a Pyr because he thought they were big, white, teddy bears that would follow him around and were easier to train than his beagle whom he had a hard time controlling. He ended up getting really mad at us when we told him that he didnít want a Pyr based on those criteria. He told us we were bad people and quit the forum.

    I canít speak for everyone, but it seems that a good number of us who have LGDs as pets find that our dogsí protective instincts are pretty much fulfilled in a home setting. Sebastian does a great job of alerting me to everything he thinks I should know about, and loves the comforts that being a house pet brings. Anyone who thinks heís miserable lounging on my couch instead of being out with the livestock is more than welcome to come over and judge for themselves.

    I have to suspect that the ďthey shouldnít ever be kept as petsĒ argument is also a way for certain people in that community to justify animal cruelty. Here in Texas, it is no secret that far too many LGDs that arenít really great at guarding livestock are either dumped out in BFE to starve to death, or shot. The people who saved Sebastianís life posted a picture of a four-month-old Pyr puppy who was shot in the head while someone was en route to pick him up to transport him to safety. Why was this puppy shot? This idiot farmer put the four-month-old puppy in with his chickens, and was angry when the puppy killed some of his birds. He got tired of waiting for rescue transport to arrive.

    If you think this is a rare occurrence, I would urge you to follow Big Fluffy Dog Rescue. They have stories like this all the time. Plus, Jean, the president, has a fabulous sense of humor, which comes through in her posts.

    So, yeah. Please donít believe everything you read on Facebook. No, LGDs are not right for everyone, but they make wonderful (but difficult) companions for some of us.
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  3. #3
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) snow0160's Avatar

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    I love you SBM! Your response is awesome and put me at ease. Some of these people do shame those who keep LGDs as pets. I felt really uncomfortable but I wanted to see why? I was willing to entertain their argument but also look on the flip side. What you've said about negligent working dogs is very true. I've seen and heard it first hand! Again Thank you for writing this.

  4. #4
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Antonia's Avatar

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    Snow, the situation with my trio is an unusual mix of both companion and working dog. They work at night guarding the monastery but have to be very heavily socialized due to the large volume of visitors that we have come through the monastery. They excel at their work and love being part of the family... This goes for my Pyr and my two Kangals. They love coming inside, napping in mommy's room and visiting the sisters in different places where they are working. So, they are both pets and working dogs and I've had LGD breeds that multi-tasked like this for years.

    I know the information about hands-off and no socialization for working dogs has been disproved and no truly knowledgeable breeder of working dogs is going to recommend this. It's my opinion that LGDs can be completely happy and fulfilled as companion dogs IF their people understand their instincts/how they are wired and allow them to fulfill this in their unique setting. So many of the dogs that end up in trouble are there because of the incorrect expectation of their owners. Not the dogs fault at all and not the fact that it should be a "working" LGD that got it into trouble. I know of two Kangal dogs currently in rescue that are outstanding dogs, one is my Ru's littermate brother. But, their folks didn't do their homework and work to understand what their dog needed to be the best they could be. It just tends to be a lot more of a crisis when your out of control dog is a 135lb dog with heavy guarding instinct... My Tyro, in the wrong hands, would likely have been one of the failure stories. Not because he isn't cut out to be a companion. He LOVES people, but he has been a major handful to raise and if we hadn't had some experience, we'd have given up on him somewhere along the way. It's not the fact that he's an LGD, it's just who he is and he comes in a very large and powerful package. I do think there are some individuals of LGD breeds that are truly happier with stock. The female Kangal we had before Tyro was one of these and we ended up returning her to her breeder where she could be placed in a working home. It was not an easy decision but she was not a fit for our home and she was not truly happy. We got her when she was 6 months old so whether this was who she was or the fact that we missed crucial socialization time is hard to determine. I think what a lot of folks forget is that dogs are individuals, not just a breed. If we treat them with respect for their individuality and let them tell us what they are comfortable and interested in doing, there are no failures. Failures are created by folks thinking dogs are created with a cookie cutter and you can use a one-size-fits-all mentality in interacting with and raising them...

  5. #5
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    It looks like you expanded your post while I was responding, so let me go point-by-point.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    They argue that when you do, you see a surge in abandoned dogs in rescues or overbreeding.
    Nope. Not true. It’s not about what purpose the dog is going to serve when it leaves home, it’s about how carefully the litter was planned, how selective the breeder is in choosing a suitable home for each puppy, and whether or not the breeder has the new owners sign a contract with a spay/neuter clause and a return any time for any reason clause. Period. I have only really seen this from show line breeders. I can’t saw that it doesn’t exist in the working line world, I just haven’t ever seen it.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    The idea is that as companion animals since they do not work or exercise their instinct to guard, and thus, develop unwanted behavioral issues such as aggression, over vocalization..etc.
    Nope. Not true in the least. They still work in a home setting. How would anybody know if a dog is aggressive or over vocalizing when the dog is in a pasture with livestock?

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    Many believe they do poorly with obedience and cannot be trained as a companion dog.
    It depends on the dog, depends on the handler, and depends on the methods being used. We have a senior member of this forum (not me) whose personal experience blows this argument out of the water.

    If I had known then what I know now, it is possible that Sebastian and I could have had some success with obedience. As it is, he was consistently one of the best behaved dogs in our old apartment complex. As an adult, he is pretty consistently cooperative with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    I wonder how true some of these arguments are. This is the age-old argument of Nature vs Nurture. Most of the people making these arguments have LGDs that never stepped a paw inside a home. They have lived outside with very little human interaction. If you subject any dog of any breed to those condition, I doubt their reaction would be different. If you don't socialize a dog to other humans, I doubt they would like other people. I am not sure this is their natural instinct or just lack of exposure. The same can be said about basic obedience.
    These arguments are total hogwash, and made by people who completely lack the personal experience to make them. Really, Farmer Joe is going to make a blanket statement about ALL LGDs who are kept as pets without ever actually keeping one as a pet?

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    If you survey these farm dogs, I wonder how many of them have received formal obedience. Yes, i do believe certain breeds are harder to train but that is not to say they are not trainable. It seems to me that even protecting livestock is a training process and so is the CGC.
    How many working dogs? Probably close to zero. It’s not really practical to leave your livestock unprotected so that you can take fluffy the fierce to training class. I’m not sure why anyone would need to teach loose-lead walking to a dog who is going to spend most of its life off-lead.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    1. Are LGDs less happy as pets rather than working dogs? Is it cruel to keep them against their instinct to roam and protect?
    Nope. Sebastian has a blast warding off all the bad guys in my neighborhood from the comfort of our West Elm couch. He enjoys air conditioning, memory foam people-sized beds, luxury sheets, and resting his chin on my marble coffee table. He also loves wet food treats, squeezy cheese, pizza bones, Trader Joe’s beef rolls, and doggie ice cream. I don’t get the feeling that he thinks he’s “missing out” on anything by not having any livestock to guard.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    2. Just because they don't excel in obedience, does that mean they cannot master it?
    Nope. Again, it depends on the dog, the handler, and the techniques. Realistically, you probably shouldn’t go into it expecting the dog to earn an OTCH, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    3. Many Pyrs are mistaken for English Goldens. Their temperaments are truly different. Do you believe that LGDs should not be recommended as pets due to abandonment issues? Their adolescent phase is truly challenging and long. Many dog owners are not equipped to handle large dogs. I know a lot of rescues recommend Pyrs only to those who have handled LGDs before.
    Around here, English Cream Golden’s are mistaken for Pyrs. I think that LGDs make wonderful pets for the right people. They can be very challenging, but all breeds have traits that make them not right for everyone.

    Again, dogs that come from reputable breeders don’t get abandoned, whether they’re LGDs or not. You see so many LGDs in shelters and rescues thanks to backyard breeders and people who get livestock to breed, and think, while they’re at it, they might as well breed LGDs. They start churning out litters before they even know what makes a good LGD. They think all you need is a stud and a bitch in season.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    4. Many LGD breeds do not want to be part of the AKC because a rise in popularity can lead to overbreeding and all the problems associated with it such as health decline, abandoned dogs..etc. Many argue that this is seen with the Great Pyrenees. How true is that?
    The only LGD breed club that I’ve seen that doesn’t want to be part of the AKC is the Maremma Club of America. The Working Group currently has 5 LGD breeds (including the Tibetan Mastiff), with 7 more in the Foundation Stock program.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    5. Does your LGD prefer indoors or out? Do indoors dogs have better health? If you can keep an eye on your dog at all times, isn't easier addressing any health-related problem such as simple injuries to lyme disease etc. I know both Kit and Sahara never stayed outside longer than checking the parameters of the yard. They stroll right on back to the AC area lol. On the flip side, there are wild dogs that live in the wilderness and they do fine in their den. Since I live in Orlando, FL, I cannot stop thinking about the Orcas at Sea World. They live twice as long in captivity but I wonder how happy they are. One of them became aggressive and killed a few people. Perhaps it is a bad idea to compare domesticated dogs to Orcas.
    Well, wolves live an average of 13 years in the wild, and 16 in captivity, if that helps. A good number of issues facing captive Orcas stem from the fact that their tanks are nowhere close to being big enough to simulate their natural environment. It probably doesn’t help that their family units in captivity aren’t kept intact the way they would be in the wild. So, the comparison between Orcas and LGDs is pretty unfair.

    As far as health goes, a lot of it has to do with genetics, with another large factor being how well the owners take care of the dogs. An inside dog who is fed McDonalds cheeseburgers every day probably won’t be as healthy as a working dog whose owners keep up with all of its shots and preventatives. However, an outdoor dog who isn’t well cared for is at risk for a whole lot of really nasty diseases.

    I have to say that I have a friend who has six Pyrs that guard his livestock in shifts. While one pair is out guarding the livestock, the other four dogs sleep happily inside on the cool, tile floor. He never intended to have six at one time, but that’s how life turned out, and it works for them. I don’t think any of his dogs have formal training, but they’re good working dogs, and good indoor dogs. They’re well cared for, and happy no matter whose turn it is to sleep outside with the livestock.

    Don’t let the Facebook crazies get you down. This forum is full of happy, healthy, well-adjusted LGD house pets.
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  6. #6
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Jewel's Avatar

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    I'm trying very hard not to be sarcastic here... I will just point out a few facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    They argue that when you do, you see a surge in abandoned dogs in rescues or overbreeding.
    Fact: Bro was the result of an intact working pyr and a stray mutt in heat. Yes, you can blame it all on the stupid stray mutt, but if that working pyr wasn't intact, he would not have sired 5 pyr mutt puppies. This scenario is repeated countless times each year in Texas.

    Fact: SPIN (pyr rescue group here in North Texas) gets calls regularly from ranchers to pick up puppies from their intact working LGDs that they don't want.

    Fact: there are so many of these unwanted pups produced from intact working pyrs that many of these guys are shipped from Texas to the East Coast to find homes.


    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    Just because they don't excel in obedience, does that mean they cannot master it?
    Fact: Guardenia's Jewel of the Crown HOF CD OA AXJ OF CGC -- my Bijou, my soul

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    Many LGD breeds do not want to be part of the AKC because a rise in popularity can lead to overbreeding and all the problems associated with it such as health decline, abandoned dogs..etc. Many argue that this is seen with the Great Pyrenees. How true is that?
    Many LGD breeds have serious temperament issues. The komondor is an AKC registered breed. They are not popular because they do not have desirable temperament for family companions. The Kuvasz too is a recognized AKC breed. The Kuvasz also has temperament issues. The pyr, and also the maremma, are less aggressive than other LGD breeds and thus are more popular as family companions.

    Quote Originally Posted by snow0160 View Post
    Are LGDs less happy as pets rather than working dogs? Is it cruel to keep them against their instinct to roam and protect?
    Fact: It's a romantic fiction that all these LGDs live in beautiful mountain valleys and roam on thousands of acres of lush land. A large number of LGDs do not have the freedom to roam. Many live on modest sized farms and ranches and they are confined to fenced in pastures their whole lives. There are some areas in the U.S. where pyrs that guard sheep that are allowed to graze on government land do have a large area to roam with their stock. But most do not.

    A lot more pups are born than needed for work because many pups will fail as LGDs. I guess it is far less cruel to just shoot them dead or abandon them and let them starve.

  7. #7
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) snow0160's Avatar

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    I agree with everything that you guys have said because that was also my experience with Sahara. She was very happy as a companion dog. Why do people continue to be so adamant about how LGDs can only be kept as working farm dogs? For Maremmas, this is especially true in America because in Italy (where Maremmas originate) many are kept as pets. What is even worse is people posting about mutt shaming. A few months ago, I saw a post in Maremma FB group of a Maremma Border Collie puppies. They were very cute but the poster was vicious about them as if they were polluting the master race. I figured the post was just going to get ignored but it had soooo many comments supporting that person and attacking mutts. I am no dog snob so I thought it was horrible. I really do not understand the sentiment.

    For poodle owners, many people hate doodles because of breeders do charge unjustifable prices for them. Today I saw a Pyredoodle at the farmer's market and the owners said they paid $4k. I've seen Bernedoodles go for $6k. I understand the justification here because the doodle breeders are seen as unethical and greedy. I'm sure this isn't true for all doodle breeders but the general trend for poodle mixes are very expensive and the demand remains high. Now, why shame LGD mixed breed? I've also seen a lot of shaming of bully breeds but that is a new can of worms.

  8. #8
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    If I saw anyone saying anything about ďpolluting the master raceĒ in any context whatsoever, I would probably block them. Anyone who says something like that is the one who should be shamed back to 1935. I think I just retched a little from the thought that someone would literally bring Nazi ideology into a discussion about cute puppies. That person could proceed to tell me that the sky was blue, and still have zero credibility with me.

    The argument against doodles that I have heard in the purebred world is more about the quality of the dogs used in doodle breeding programs. Each national breed club has its own set of bylaws. I havenít read them all, but the ones that I have read specifically state that member breeders can be sanctioned for knowingly producing mixed breed puppies, or selling a dog that the breeder knows will be used for producing mixed breed puppies. It is their belief that all of the best examples of their breed will be produced by breeders who have membership in their breed club. Therefore, any dog knowingly used to produce mixed breed dogs is of ďinferior qualityĒ. Thatís their reasoning, not mine.

    With that being said, I do kind of feel that some doodle breeds are maybe a little ridiculous. Would I live with a Saint Berdoodle, Pyredoodle, or Bernedoodle? Totally. Would I pay someone six grand for a puppy? Nope. They werenít bred for any purpose other than to be cute. I only want to pay breeders who are serious about preserving and/or improving their breed/s of choice.

    I love my mutts, and if someone wants to bash me for it, fine. I seriously donít need people like that in my life, anyways. They want to bash me because Chester has some bully in his mix? Cool. Itís their loss. Raising Sebastian really taught me how to be comfortable enough in my own skin to pay the trolls and morons no mind. With that being said, I donít exactly go out looking for people to argue with.

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  9. #9
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) CaseysMom's Avatar

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    [QUOTE]I was chatting with other LGD owners on Facebook and many of them do not believe LGD should ever be kept from their natural instinct guarding livestock. I know for certain breeds such as Maremmas, breeders don't even sell them for companion/pet purposes. They argue that when you do, you see a surge in abandoned dogs in rescues or overbreeding.[QUOTE]

    I choose not to make further comments about the farm dogs at my previous residence; suffice it to say that I called a rescue organization and they picked up two sweetheart females who were not successful as LGDs, and two 3-month-old males who didn't sell. All four of these dogs were adopted by families and were very successful as spoiled indoor dogs.

    [QUOTE] Many believe they do poorly with obedience and cannot be trained as a companion dog. [QUOTE]

    I enrolled Casey in a basic obedience class at a big box store when he was a year old (he came from 2 LGD parents), and when he completed the 8-week class he was tested for his CGC and passed with flying colors. Did this address his behavior problems? No. Did it prevent adolescent brat behavior? No. But he sits and heels on demand and takes treats with a very soft mouth. Will I go further with his training. Maybe.

    Since I live in Orlando, FL, I cannot stop thinking about the Orcas at Sea World. They live twice as long in captivity but I wonder how happy they are. One of them became aggressive and killed a few people. Perhaps it is a bad idea to compare domesticated dogs to Orcas.
    Don't get me started on the Orcas in Seaworld. Watch the movie "Blackfish" to see the entire story.

    Please pardon the way this post is laid out; I should leave the fancy formatting to Jewel & SBM

  10. #10
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    I got curious last night, and did some digging on Facebook for the group in question. I think I found it. If weíre talking about the same group, it all makes sense.

    The group that I found is devoted to discussing and educating newcomers about serious working LGDs ONLY. They state specifically that they donít want to talk about training techniques for pet LGDs or dogs that have non-LGD breeds in their mix, because they consider that to be off-topic and detrimental to their mission. I totally see their point.

    Now, itís a closed group, and Iím not joining, because I donít have anything useful to add to their conversation. Iím not a farmer, I have no plans to be a farmer, and discussing either of my dogs would be off-topic to them. Sure, Sebastian seems to get most of his personality from his LGD side, but he still has Saint in his mix. Not every Saint/LGD mix is going to inherit the same traits from the same side of the family. They donít want people new to the working LGD world to see pictures of Sebastian and think that any olí Saint/LGD mix would be a great addition to their farm. Saints have some traits that could make them potentially disastrous in certain livestock guarding situations. I think maybe thatís why certain members of that group reacted so badly to the Maremma/Border Collie puppies. Yes, the puppies are adorable, and should be valued as the living, breathing, emotional beings that they are, but a Maremma/Border Collie mix is not an ideal candidate for Livestock Guardian work. Iím not sure the people who objected to the photo of those puppies (which the ďAboutĒ Section clearly states is prohibited in this group), would feel the same way about, say, Maremma/Anatolian puppies.

    I do think that their opinions on pet LGDs are mistaken, but appreciate the fact that they are stating those opinions in a group that was to be a ďsafe spaceĒ for them to express those views. I would find it far more objectionable had they posted those sentiments in a place where both pet LGDs and working LGDs were welcome to be discussed.
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