Raising puppies for livestock guardian work continues well into the dogs first year. In this part we continue with the remaining two foundation blocks of developing an effective working dog.
In speaking with and reading about individuals who succeed with LGD's they all conclude that a large part of success with raising puppies is being able to teach them to respect boundaries. Under no circumstances is climbing over or crawling under the fences going to work.
Supervise and correct any attempts to go over or dig under fences as you see them. Use the time that you have the dog nearby and bonding to stock to set up the enclosure with hot wires and allow the dog to learn the consequences of crossing electric fences.
Gates also need to be included in the training. LGD's are smart dogs and will figure out that fences may be not so good but gates are okay. They need to know they do not cross gates unless invited out by you or moving with the flock.
When raising puppies doing the work of teaching the pup respect for fences will go a long way to eliminating the core problem seen in LGD's - wandering away from the flock and farm. We have been through taking the easy way versus doing all the training required to establish solid foundations. It isn't worth it as the short cut will come back to haunt you every time.
Preventing behaviors and setting up scenarios where the dog will learn the consequences without you being involved will go a long way to teaching the dog lessons he won't forget when he is on his own with the flock.
Livestock guardian dogs are working dogs and a balance of how much interaction to have with the dog must be found. Blame for any pitfalls is often placed on the dog or on poor breeding, yet in reality the nurturing of a pup, how it is raised and the amount of human interference has as much or more to do with how the pup works.
Be wary of how much attention you foster on the pup. The idea is not to make him into a pet but to let him know your touch by petting him and handling him. Let him know you control the food, and the access to stock and you set the boundaries. LGD's grow into large independent natured dogs. You will need to stay on top of the pecking order, not by using force but by quieting assuming the role because it is your place and your stock and your duty to keep everyone safe.
Your puppy needs to be handled and needs care in the way of basic grooming or to administer medicines. The long time practice of raising semi-feral LGD's is dying out.
Your pup should grow into a dog with social manners and that won't happen if he is raised in isolation and left on his own to figure things out.
It is very useful to teach the dogs about being tied up or restrained or to stay in a crate. There may come a point in the future where you need the dogs out of the way or have to move them or take them to the vet. Being able to do so without having the dogs panic will help.
It is not advised to let your LGD pup play with your house or herding dogs. While they may meet on several occasions so that the LGD becomes familiar with these dogs they should not be allowed to play and become buddies. This will only entice your LGD to spend time at the yard later on and may also encourage him to allow other strange dogs to come into the flock which is something you may not wish for down the road.
It is a matter of personal preference and balance as to how much of a role you play in raising puppies and the pups development. Too little and you have a feral dog you cannot catch and cannot treat when needed. Too much and you have a dog that prefers your company over the company of a flock of sheep.
Looking for More Info?
The book "Livestock Protection Dogs, Selection, Care and Training" by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims contains a chapter of useful information about raising puppies.