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  1. #1
    Puppy (New Member)

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    Question Intro - 4yo GP LGD new to me - dominance issues

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    The GP looking dog's name is Captain and the other, Jack. (I joked that we'd have to get a female and name it Sparrow) After looking at pics of hundreds of big white dogs, I've decided Jack is at least part Old English Sheep Dog. Of course they haven't been sheep dogs for so long, there's no instinct for that. (curse you Border Collie) Jack is skittish and it took 4 hours for him to come out of the back of the truck. He was in a cage that they must have had to shove him in as it was too small and I couldn't tell what he looked like until we shoved him out into the back or the truck. By that time, I had already said I'd take them. As we were driving away, my wife said; Why do I feel like we just rescued two dogs? We were told he was born in the field and hadn't had much experience with people. The next day, I figured something else out. I was walking across the yard with a piece of pipe in my hand and they both put their head down and scooted away quickly. Ah, so they've been beat with a stick or similar object, nice. Might explain Jack's skittish behavior.

    The next day I had Captain out on a leash and it was shedding time of year so we were plucking and brushing the loose chunks of fur. My daughter was brushing him and he nipped at her face. Didn't bite but his teeth did hit her chin and barely broke the skin in one spot. No more brushing by children. She might have found a tender spot.

    Been a few months now and they have a pretty good sized pen and I've been clearing for a perimeter fence around 12 acres and it will be separate from our yard. Captain wants to own all the food so I divided the pen and feed them separate so Jack can eat too. I did see him let Jack have some food once but only after Captain flipped the bowl with his paw so that Jack had to eat off the ground. Seemed a bit extreme to me.

    Captain is a little different to me but this breed is new to me and I think he spent most of his time away from people regardless of what the lying previous owner says. He seems to want to show dominance over me, in that when I go into the pen, he promptly gets in front of me and I either have to walk around or walk through. I do the latter most of the time to try and show no fear. That's a little harder to do since he bit me.

    We still have the Pit Bull mix, Mollie, and she's old and it's cold outside so we bring her out to do her business in the pen. I have a piece of fence I drag across for a transition area so that I don't have to bring Mollie that 10 feet on a leash. She does like to escape and visit dogs up the road and one neighbor has a little yappy pug that Mollie went after one time so I DO NOT want any dogs escaping and going up there again. She won't attack another dog but sniffs so intently that the other dog ends up biting her and then it's on. My neighbor's had a triple bypass and doesn't need the stress and that little pug is his baby. I've given him permission to shoot any of my dogs if he feels the need.

    Well Captain slipped past me and tried to go under a camper to get outside the transition area. I panicked and grabbed him by the fur on his back and pulled him out from under the trailer and he promptly bit my wrist. He didn't latch on or go into major attack, take down mode and being cold, I had a heavy jacket on so he didn't even break the skin. After he bit, he immediately put his front paws up on a bucket which put his face right at the same level as mine so I put my other arm out and he started making like he was about to bite it so I put it down, leaned away and kept an eye on him over my shoulder. I was sort of cornered and the only way I could get out was to get past him and I'm a little guy. I think he may outweigh me. Quite scary but I turned and stepped away, turned towards him, called him an ahole using a deep voice and sort of pushed towards him and put my arms out a bit but not up and corralled him back into the pen, talking/dursing sternly to him the whole time but not freaking out kind of yelling.

    Naturally, the next few times I went into the pen was a bit nerve-racking but it's gone fine. Been a few weeks since the altercation and I walked through him yesterday rather than walk around. I really think it's a matter of very little human interaction with most if not all of it being bad. He's just not going to let a human hurt him if he can help it.

    I've been working like a madman on clearing the fence line and will have it done in a week or two, depending on the weather. Then sometime in early Spring, I'll get the posts and wire up. I'm doing 4 foot high tensile with 6 strands, 4 hot and two ground. I'm amazed at how well both these dogs are at staying in the pen now. It's 39 inch field fence that they could easily get out of but they don't so I'm sure the 4 foot electric will keep him/them in and hopefully keep goats in too. I'm still not sure if I'm going to put Jack out there. They get along great most of the time but every once in a while, Captain reminds Jack who's the boss. Gets him on his back and makes him yelp. Sometimes for a little too long imho. I went out and yelled at him the other day and he stopped but when he looked at me, he had blood on his nose. Not sure who's because Jack is so skittish it would be hard to get a look at him and Captain, well, I don't want to get bit again. I didn't see any other blood on either's body and I'm still not sure who's it was. Both are intact males but I haven't a clue how I'd ever get either one some place to get neutered. When Jack finally came out of the truck, I got a leash on him to put him in the pen and had to drag him all the way, yelping like I was killing him. It was not a choker so he wasn't being choked. I'm sure he had never had something around his neck like that. So I think I'm going to keep him up here in the pen and work on his confidence and put Captain out in the field. Not sure yet. They might get depressed if separated, we'll see.

    I've already been told the obvious. That I shouldn't have gotten them, got someone else's problems. Also been told I should just get rid of them. Well, there's no humane society, shelters or dog pounds out here in the boonies. In fact, people from the small cities nearby bring their unwanted dogs out here and drop them off assuming all us rural people want 100 dogs. Some get taken in, some get put down as my neighbor says. I've also been told to bring them back where they came from but they were moving which is why they were getting rid of the dogs, allegedly. Plus I'm not bringing dogs back to where they'll get beat. My options are put Captain down or give him chance until I see how he is with goats. Jack's just scared of humans but he wants things to be better. He will come up and lick my hand as I'm latching/unlatching the gate and I can stand there and pet him, until Captain comes over and takes over the spot. Even though he's Mr Dominant, he wants lovins too. I'm trying not to give him too much attention though as I don't want him to bond with me so much that he won't bond with the goats.

    What I'm looking for is some insight into an unsocialized GP, particularly one who's been an LGD. I know that's how some people prefer their LGDs to be with no or very little human interaction. Evidently that's how these two lived. Jack won't go near his food until I'm not near it so that tells me that's how they would catch him, with food for bait. And then maybe the sticks came out.

    With all the posts about GPs biting, there must be some advice as far as how much dominance to show them. Maybe just keep a distance as far as bonding/relationship. He knows where the food comes from so that's a little mental leverage but I'm not speaking of using food in any way to adjust his behavior. Just that he knows I'm the one that feeds him so he's automatically going to have some sort of respect for me.

    I think pushing through him rather than walking around is the right thing to do. I don't want to show fear or let him think he's in charge. He used to always have his bowl upsidedown and I'd have to go hunt for it in the pen as it was moved all the time. So I bitched at him one day and poured the food on the ground. Ever since then, his bowl is always upright and in about the same spot. That tells me he's smart and does have some respect for me. (ok, technically that was using food to change behavior)

    Jack's going to take some pampering and being that he's so scared, I don't think it's a good idea to put him out there with no human interaction. He needs lots of work and I think having the other dog around is going to distract from that. IF Captain is good with the goats, I'd probably get a female, young, fixed, LDG of some kind as a companion/working partner. He's gentle with Mollie because she's a female, even though she's fixed. Jack doesn't seem to have the appearance of any of the LGD breeds. The closest thing I saw was young Old English Sheep dogs, before the fur turns into dredlocks and he is young. He's gotten a lot bigger since we got them but his fur hasn't gotten much longer so he's probably mixed, perhaps with GP, who knows.

    Any constructive thoughts?
    I say constructive because I've already heard elsewhere how stupid I am, what I should or shouldn't have done and been told to just get rid of them but as I stated above, options are limited here.

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

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    Hmmmm, don't want to downplay anything but what you've described doesn't sound like a total disaster... yet

    Sounds like there are some things you need to sort out with Captain. If the only time he's bitten you was that one incident when you made a grab for him, clearly he was not intending on hurting you. He was surprised by your action and reacted. But he only warned you off, no more. He was very precise with his bite. His follow up action of meeting you head on was self-defense mode, not attack mode. He was right to prevent you from raising your arm because you could've been thinking of hitting him. He doesn't know you well enough yet. These are positive signs that this dog can be worked with.

    What you need is not to "dominate" him, not in the sense of physical dominance. Completely wrong. I don't disagree that this dog is challenging you, but that's because he's an young intact dog that is not familiar with the human ways. With a pyr, the human has to gain the pyr's trust and respect. Hard handed dominance approach will only bring out similar tough response from the pyr. They are big and they are confident of their size and power. You need to apply a psychological approach rather than brute physical force. To gain the pyr's trust you need to show him you know what you are doing and you are in control of your world around you in a calm, confident manner. To do that you need to show him you control everything he likes: food, attention, access to things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using food to teach him things. It's a total misconception to think it's bribery. He doesn't speak English and you don't speak dog. But you both speak food. It makes sense to me to use a tool to communicate that is readily available - such as food. It makes much less sense to me that a better approach would be to force a behavior based upon intimidation or fear. If you can find a way to have Captain neutered it would also help with his reactions.

    If you are comfortable enough that he would not just randomly attack you when you go into his pen (which doesn't sound like is happening), try to relax your body language when you do. relax your shoulders and don't stare straight at him. Direct eye contact is a challenge to him, and would naturally illicit a similar response from him. Talk to him in a quiet, calm tone as you enter without direct eye contact. The objective is to convey to him that you are not interested in bringing him harm. Quite the opposite, you want him to be your working partner. Bring him high value treats with you. But only offer them when you feel comfortable with his presence. You want to offer treats when you are calm and confident because you want to reward his matching your calm confidence. This dog has "street smarts", he just needs to learn how to communicate with you. I would strongly urge that you don't put Captain into a big pasture until you've established some trust with him. The bigger the space you give him, the harder it will be for you to get through to him.

    As for Jack, I don't know how recently you took the photo, but he looks REALLY young, as in several months under a year old. That would explain his skittishness. He's only a baby even though he's bigger than full size adult dogs. Also, with these giant breed dogs, in the first year they do so much growing of their body that their mental development is far behind their physical development. As for his mix, I wonder if he's a pyr/komondor mix. That mix would likely result in a very large dog and Jack looks like he's pretty big. I would agree with you that Jack would likely benefit a lot with more human interaction. I would suggest that you work with him away from Captain. Captain is being a jerk with the puppy and Jack doesn't need that while you are teaching him about your world.

    Overall I think you have two dogs that can be worked with. You just need to work with them separately and in different ways as they have different personality and clearly Jack is still a young pup.

  3. #3
    Puppy (New Member)

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    Yeah that's pretty much my line of thinking. It wasn't an attack. It was a reaction to pain and most any dog pulled by his fur like that would react the same if not worse. I don't normally physically handle a dog like that. Like I said, I panicked at the thought of him heading off to the neighbor's. A smaller, less confident dog might have kept attacking. My neighbor is part of one of the older families here. The surname can be seen many times over in the phone book and cemeteries and we're new comers to this rural area and trying not to get a bad reputation.

    Good call on Jack. Captain was supposed to be about 4 yo when we got them 6 months ago and Jack was said to be 4 months. He was noticeably smaller than Captain but has caught up in size.

    Yes, I've been trying to be relaxed and nonchalant around Captain since then and that's resulted in him giving me a lot more "let's be friends" stretches like in the pic.

    When I read some of the dog training articles, it just seems like every 30 seconds, you're giving the dog a treat and it does sound like bribery to me or giving into a child's demands all the time, asking to be taken advantage of.

    Neither of them seem to know their name so I need to work on that and they'll have to be separated for that although I should start using their names more often. I suppose that's where treats would come in handy. To get them to respond to their names and come to me, which neither will do at the moment. I actually do with Jack but not so much with Captain but I think it's mostly because I don't care for the name. That and I wasn't sure about how much interaction and bonding I should be giving an LGD. Like anything else, especially on the web, I've read differing opinions on that.

    Now that you mention it, Komondor was probably what I was thinking, hence my mention of dredlocks. His fur hasn't gotten any longer but he's still young and may be a mix. The eyes and face, up close, are very similar to Captain's so who knows.

    Thanks. All the replies I had on the LGD section of a homesteading site were basically, get rid of them ya dummy. I'm more the type that prefers to fix something than to just throw my hands up in the air and say replace it and that's with inanimate objects.

    I think the sheep farm was supposed to be 400 acres so I'm sure this is quite a change for them.

  4. #4
    Puppy (New Member)

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    Update

    Originally I wasn't interacting with Captain much at all. I had read articles that said not interacting with them would ensure their focus would be on the livestock they were supposed to protect. Kinda made sense and I knew the situation they came from being a 400 acre sheep farm and Captain didn't pay any attention to the previous owner at all while we were there so I assumed that's how they managed them and I was worried interacting/bonding might ruin Captain as an LGD. That and I don't have any livestock here yet. That will happen this year. Might have worked out for the best as I probably would have stuck them out there, fed them and assumed everything was fine when in reality, ones scared of humans and the other probably had a little hatred of them/us or maybe that was mostly fear too.

    In the last few days I've been going in the pen with Mollie when she goes in there to do her business and while in there, talking to Captain and Jack and petting them. As of this morning, Captain is like a new dog. I petted them, talked to them and when I stopped, Captain bounced around in circles like a puppy, came back and sat down right next to me so I said; You know how to sit? Good boy and petted him. I stopped and he bounced around, came back and sat and pawed my leg wanting more attention.

    Went to the store, came back and surfed and looked out back a few minutes ago and he was standing there with his head held high and his ears perked, yet folded over half way up. He actually looked happy and cute for the first time. He's always had that low head thing and nary a tail wag. When I saw him like that, I poked my head out the door and said hi and he did the stretch and wagged his tail like I'd never seen. I just assumed it was a serious working GP thing the whole time which sort of reinforced my thinking that interaction would be bad for him.

    And now I feel like a putz for not having done this sooner.

    Can't wait to get the perimeter fence up so I can work with them one at a time. That fence will be around 12.5 acres out of the 15.5 and the house and current dog pen is on that remaining 3 acres. I can park a few vehicles to separate things visually.

    I've read more about Komondors in the last few days, including more than once, that they're more apt to bite a person than most LGDs.

  5. #5
    Puppy (New Member)

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    Ha! Just surfing around the forum here and found a pdf, "Livestock Protection Dog Fact Sheet" in a stickied thread in General Discussion. In the 3rd paragraph of that pdf;

    Independent behaviour is encouraged
    and human bonding is kept to a
    minimum.
    I am vindicated

  6. #6
    Road Dawg Brayjj's Avatar

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    This is great news. If you look on YouTube at a lot of homestead blogs most of the ones I've seen have dogs that are family guards and livestock guards. They do both. Your news sounds great.
    Don't feel badly. A lot of people do things that work for them but if it's not working for you then you change things up like you are! This is encouraging news! Perhaps you will get to a point you can get them neutered too!

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

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    So glad to hear that Cap is beginning to get the idea that you are no harm to him, and in fact, you might not be a bad human!

    I think the idea that one should avoid interacting with a working LGD may be somewhat outdated. Like Brayjj said, plenty of working dogs have relationships with the human family and will look out for both the livestock and human charges. The famous dog behaviorist, Patricia McConnell, had a couple of pyrs and she wrote about how her second pyr, Tuplip was both a working dog and also spent time inside... on the couch.

    I think it's important to have a relationship with one's LGD because they will need to be attended to from time to time. You need to be able to let you get them shots, and tend to injuries if necessary. Working LGDs know their job and can maintain a working relationship with the humans while still totally focused on their job.

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