Monday, May 16, 2016

A Great Pyrenees Puppy - Companion, Protector, or Both?

Let's go ahead and talk this out. What should a newly-single, grow-your-own-obsessed, working, writing, and worrying mom of two girls and 12 chickens do to calm down and add a little balance to life?

Well if that woman's name is Jen, the answer is to pile on more stuff.

We adopted a puppy.

Meet Delmi, our "noble protector." We call her Mimi for short. She was born to a purebred Great Pyrenees mama and daddy, both relinquished by their owner to Rescue Me Clifford, a fantastic shelter in southeastern Illinois. 

Now some of you, including myself most days, are asking, "Why?? Why would you get a puppy at this juncture of your life?" And to that I say - I am insane! Oh and also for these reasons:

1. My chickens are good eatin'.
I love my birds. I raise them up and hold them and coo at them and let them poo on my shoes and jeans. I name them and sweet talk them and carry them around and train them to come when called. I put lavender in their nesting boxes and the absolute best apple cider vinegar in their water. I am tired of losing them to predators and would love a protective animal to help guard my substantial backyard.

2. There's a hole in our bucket.
Divorce means different things to different people. To me and my family, it means quite a bit of loss. There's a hole. A hole at the dinner table, a hole in the weekends, a hole in the car, a hole in our lives. My oldest is particularly struggling and I decided therapy-via-fluffball would be a good route to take. So far she is loving her little puppy and I think I've made the right choice. What I didn't expect was how much that hole in my own heart would be filled by Delmi's presence. Her Pyr smile and wiggle butt and sweet smell makes my morning and my night. I feel better every time I look at her....and that, considering my traditionally-utilitarian viewpoint on animals, is quite magical. 

So with those two driving factors in mind, I'd started checking my local resources back in February and trying to figure out a way to get a livestock guardian dog without paying out the yim-yam and needing to fall back on a breeder. Side note: I believe breeders have their place in this world, but I've always been a rescue mama, and I will always be a rescue mama. It's just how I roll. The way I finally stumbled upon Delmi was actually quite divine.

I was scanning my Facebook feed one day when I noticed a post from my Sustainability Group's feed. A lady had written something like, "I don't know where my previous post went and I'm sorry if I broke the rules, but I thought I'd repost in case it was an accident - purebred Great Pyrenees pups were just born and given to Rescue Me Clifford, they have great transportation too, just thought I'd mention it...."

I obviously freaked out and applied for a puppy right then and there, without even reading the full requirements from the shelter. I later apologized....then sent them an email.....then a couple Facebook messages....then eventually called (4 times)...because when I want something, I go gaga psycho stupid a little over-the-top. 

I didn't think I would be chosen. I watched the Rescue Me Clifford Facebook Page like a hawk day in and day out, waiting for updates, and watched as litter after litter of other puppies were featured and snatched up quicker than you could say "awwww!" I figured by the time the Pry pups were ready to go home, there was no way I'd be chosen. I went over my application answers in my head over and over. I had chickens! And small kids! Maybe they didn't like that I put Zeus down last spring? Maybe they were worried about the cat? Maybe my fence wasn't high enough? Maybe they wanted someone more local?

My mama and my best friend didn't hear the end of it for a good three days straight. And then...finally.....I got the call. My application was accepted! They wanted to know which puppy I wanted and suggested taking either a female or the smallest male as they would likely be the last to get adopted out. I remembered my big girl liking one of the small white females. I was granted my request. When my big girl came home from school, the shelter had updated the female puppy's online pictures with a tag that said, "I am Anya's dog." I had not seen my daughter smile like that in a long, long time. We drove out to get the wee little white marshmallow and we've been loving on her ever since.

But here is where my story really gets unique. 

In all of my research, I had yet to read anything about training a Great Pyrenees to be both companion (indoor) and guardian (outdoor). Matter of fact, everyone shared very strong opinions against allowing a livestock guardian dog into the house. Also, pet-only-proponents specifically state Great Pyrenees cannot be trained because they are stubborn and you just have to deal with their bad habits. Here are, according to the internet, some of the rules....and then of course, Jen's Rebuttals. Where would a Flaws Forgiven post be without some of those ;)

1. Make the pup sleep with the stock from Day 1.
Jen's Rebuttal: I can't have a puppy sleep with my chickens because my chicken home is not large enough for the puppy. I do not have a nice warm barn, I have a hoop house. Plus, I am certain it would anger my hens and I simply cannot have them all worked up. It scrambles the eggs.

2. Ensure the pup's parents are livestock guardian dogs.
Jen's Rebuttal: I adopted my puppy and am so, so happy I did. Too many doggies born and tossed, in my humble opinion. So I have no idea what her parents did - and that is not her fault. Sometimes parents are terrible and kids are great! Or kids are great and parents are terrible...right? 

3. Keep them outside.
Jen's Rebuttal: An isolated dog is an unsocialized dog. An unsocialized dog, especially around children, is a dangerous dog. I cannot possibly expect a dog that does not spend time with me and my kids to listen to me and my kids. I want her to bond to me so she listens to me. Would it be great for her to bond with the chickens too? Yes....but you know what would be better? Earning her trust and respect so she will listen to me. Thousands of animals are trained each year to override their instincts....the key? Training. And since I don't live outside...that means she stays indoors.

4. Never leave them alone with your livestock until they are at least a year to two years old
Jen's Rebuttal: This is just a huge contradiction to rule number 1. So should we all sleep in a hoop house together? Or....should I keep the puppy kenneled all the time? Or.....should I keep them separate? Here's what I've been doing - puppy stays by my side, always. She comes with me to the chicken house. She comes with me inside. She comes with me when I feed the chicks and change their bedding. She is always with me and supervised....but that means we break rule #1. 

5. Tie chickens around the pup's neck if she kills one.
Jen's Rebuttal: I sought out this dog for two reasons - I love my chickens and I wanted some love for my oldest baby. There is no way on God's green earth she will ever be ok with seeing one of her dead chickens tied and rotting around her puppy's neck. Talk about reversing the therapy!

6. Your Great Pyrenees will never listen to you or will do so rarely because it is their breed and their nature and that is that so don't fight it. 
Jen's Rebuttal: I think this is kinda crap. I hate breed profiling. Can we agree that every dog is different and that predispositions are great and all, but not the say-all, end-all of dog ownership? I've noticed people in this camp like to only point out the, "Great Pyrenees are stubborn and aloof and don't care so you better watch it," instead of "Great Pyrenees were bred to guard animals and you will be fine." Don't come at me with yo drama, dawg!

7. If you love your dog, you cannot leave it outside. It's abuse.
Jen's Rebuttal: I think leaving a dog outside who is visibly disturbed and suffering is abuse. I also think, however, some dogs love being outside and prefer it to being indoors. I have no idea which way Delmi will swing as she's still so small, but my hope is that I can create a sense of security both inside and outside so she may enjoy both. 

What's a Jen to do? I can't follow the livestock guardian dog "rules,".....but I'm also expecting her to protect my birds, which means I don't follow the standard "pet dog" rules, either. 

So you know what I'm going to do instead? I'm going to blaze my own trail. I am going to love on my pup and teach her right from wrong and strive to create a relationship with my doggy that results in both companion and protector, love and strength. I will teach her to stay away from my chickens (because everything we teach dogs goes against "instincts," people) and I will teach her to love on my kiddos. I will teach her where she can poop and I will teach her how to walk on a leash. I will work with this baby girl each and every day until we get it right. I will earn her respect and I will learn to trust her. I will teach her to be an indoor livestock guardian dog....something as rare as a unicorn....and I will do it with love and affection. I don't know about you, but she looks like she has what it takes :) 

Get ready to hear all about my attempt to bridge the two sides, dear readers, because this is sure to be a learning experience. Welcome to the family, little Mimi. We love you.

What is your favorite dog-training technique? Any Great Pyr owners out there? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below and as always, thank you for reading :)


  1. Another beautiful gal in a house of beautiful gals! I so agree that you can mold Delmi with consistent training and love. My Dakota is Great Pyrenees, Husky and Shepherd. We rescued him at 8 weeks. At a year and a half, he is an absolutely wonderful boy in every way. It took a great deal of work but effort made has reaped countless rewards. Best of luck with adorable Mimi!

    1. Thank you :) I think so too! So far she is picking everything up so quickly. She is truly such a wonderful little girl! So lucky to have her!!

  2. Your so right dogs are like people , all differant and you know tjey dont read the books. Mine is managing both worlds quite well!

    1. I am so glad to hear that! Sure do love my Great Pyr :) Thanks for stopping by!