Starting Your New Komondor Puppy In The Pasture
So you have just brought home your new Komondor puppy! He/she is so cute, white, fluffy and sweet.....and seems SO little. Putting this fluff ball out with those big mean old does/ewes seems like a crime, but you need to do it. For every person running LGDs (livestock guardian dogs), there is probably an opinion on how to start puppies, however, this is how we do it at Braefiddich with great success.
There are many misconceptions regarding LGDs. We cover many of these on this page and others. For another great, concise review of many of these, please read Carolee Penner's Guarddogblog, Myths and Misconceptions Regarding LGDs, Parts I through III.
Choose a small pasture and the appropriate number of goats/sheep. Large pastures will let goats leave small puppies behind and this is not optimal. Young dogs need to spend their time in close proximity to the flock to encourage the bonding process. As well, young puppies are like young children. They need frequent naps and food with a safe place for both. Locate your puppy's safe zone were the goats will spend the majority of their rest time. The pen should have shelter for inclement weather, a feeder for dry food and water. It should be goat proof (with exception of very small kids that can't be kept out anyway) with a creep panel of sorts that will allow the puppy to come and go easily. (See example) With this set-up, the puppy has a safe place to rest and food the goats cannot access. (back to fencing page)
As the puppy gets older, he will spend less and less time in his pen and more time lying with the goats. Following the flock will be much easier physically as the puppy grows and he will require less sleep as well. In time, he will out grow the creep panel and the safe pen will lose its necessity. When the puppy can no longer get into his pen, he will need to be fed in the "danger zone" of the goat pasture. During his daily feeding, he will learn to defend his food from the goats but do help him at first! It seems some goats live for the possibility of getting into dog food.
Choosing the goats to place with the puppy is very important. They need to be dominant enough to put the puppy in his place if needed. Puppy needs to learn he cannot play with his charges. However, very aggressive goats should be kept far away from him as a young puppy can be seriously injured or even killed. Don't place very young kids with a puppy that wants to play unless their dams are fierce! Puppies have been known to chase and jump on their charges, or pull them around by their ears or tails. Most puppies are pretty well behaved, especially if they have an older dog or another puppy for company. If you have one that isn't, please contact us for assistance! We may not have seen it all.....but we have seen a great deal. No situation is without a solution and we use several that usually get the job done. Check the Hints page, as there are a few ideas there.
One of the biggest problems most people with LGDs seem to have (and frequently tolerate) is a dog that does not stay with the flock. We have seen this behaviour justified - "My dog is so good, he even guards the neighbor's cattle." UNTRUE, UNTRUE! A dog that is not with his flock is not taking care of business. It is important that your puppy learns to stay in the pasture he is assigned. Set your puppy up to succeed. Make sure the fence is good. Walk the perimeter and fill any holes under the wire with rocks. If possible, place an electric wire close to the bottom of the fence, at least while the puppy is young. This insures that any "punishment" for trying to get through a fence comes from the heavens, not a person!
Do not get stressed out if puppy gets out, especially at first. This is all new to him and he would like to get home. Pick up a straying puppy, scold him and put him back in his pasture. FIX the hole! Wait a very short time and go into the pasture to pet and praise him. If he continues to get out, add a smack on the rump to emphasize the scolding. Again, praise him when he is with his flock. It would be very beneficial to add a hot wire now, for your sake and the puppy's. This is the same method you would use with a child, negative reinforcement of bad behaviour, positive reinforcement of good behaviour. Keep your punishments as minimal as possible. Remember he is young and learning. Remember you are raising him to be your working partner.
When the puppy is older (5-6 months or more), we send him out to a larger pasture with a more diverse group of goats and an older dog. If you can add the puppy's first flock in the mix, it will help considerably. After all, he is already bonded with them. If reluctant to follow the flock, walk him out with the flock a few times and insist he stay with them. Sometimes that requires a few well thrown rocks or a switch! As with any punishment, go easy as possible but make sure he goes. Don't let him wear you down and don't feel sorry for him. This is his job. If there is no older dog, carry on the same way. Most puppies go with their goats happily. After all, it is an adventure out there! There is much more to see in the "big" world.
If your puppy is guarding alone, be careful where he is working. Large, rough or heavily pressured pastures are not the place for immature dogs working alone. Situations like these require one or, preferably, more mature dogs to effectively guard. Placing an older puppy with mentors in these pastures is fine, just don't put him there alone. Use your puppy in smaller, more well controlled pastures until he is able to defeat a predator either through intimidation or contact. Again, running your puppy with older dogs is the ideal, however, it is not always possible.
Many people getting into the sheep/goat business are firmly convinced the family pet will never, ever hurt the livestock. We wish this was true, however, dogs are by nature predators. It is imperative your puppy has not been allowed to socialize with your other dogs, pets or herding. Your dog must allow your herding dog to work the livestock, but this is with you present and overriding his desire to get rid of that troublesome dog. A LGD should not allow a herding dog to "work" stock alone. We have even know people who allowed their LGD (s) to play with neighbor dogs, albeit at the neighbor's house, compounding the error with allowing the dog(s) to leave the flock If the dog attacking your livestock is a friend, your puppy/dog may be at a loss in decide how to act.
While your pasture puppy doesn't need to learn the "social graces" to the extent a house companion needs, there are still many things he does need. Walking on a leash, riding in a car for short distances, allowing touch and medical attention, coming when called, "Leave It!", allowing you to take something away are all necessary for him to know. We cover these on Socialization.
Your Komondor puppy will grow into the most valuable partner you will have. Socialize and raise him well. Take care of his health and feed him well. Most importantly, don't set him up to fail. He is not mature enough when young, either physically or mentally, to guard effectively on his own in large or rough areas. Successes allow puppy to grow into a great dog. Failures hinder this and may even injure him if it is a conflict.