Sunday, January 15, 2012

Heidi, The Great Pyrenees Puppy - Week 2

Last week I started documenting the development of our Pyrenees puppy.  She is 8 weeks old now. Once mature, her primary role on our farm will be guarding our goats.  For now she is a typical puppy with the attention span of a gnat. 

She has been living in the barn with three of my young goats all this week. but she has been spending more time outside in the small yard with the goats.  Sometimes she will bark at them and offer to play.  For this behavior she is snubbed by the goats.                                                                           

We were starting to work on crate training during her brief stint as a house dog so I moved a crate in to her "Heidi hole" and arranged some hay bales next to the crate so that she has no choice but to sleep in it. I also feed her and give treats in her crate. Her heat lamp provides warmth in the rear of the crate. This worked very well for several days then one evening Don went to check on her and she was lying on top of the hay bale. I’m beginning to think I pamper this puppy too much.  However, after she has been out in the snow I see her curled up in her crate basking in the warmth of the lamp so I think I’ll leave it a while longer. Accepting a crate is important so that she can be transported to the vet and training class.                 

Heidi is much more mobile and coordinated this week and has grown noticeably.  She has also discovered the large dog house in the yard. She thought It WAS a safe place to observe goings-on until the goats decided that if the dog wants the dog house then we want it more.  Prior to the puppy moving in, the goats never set one hoof in that dog house. They always spent their time on top of it.  When I last looked the goats were taking turns lying in the dog house. Heidi made a feeble attempt to retake the house but to no avail. 

I let Heidi mingle with the adult does for brief supervised periods on a couple of mild afternoons and she explored their larger yard. Last week, when I carried the puppy into the doe yard, my herd queen stood and trembled from head to hoof.  Interestingly, she doesn't seem bothered by my four other large dogs but this armload of fur set her off. This week she began to accept the existence of the puppy and eventually stopped trembling when the puppy was nearby. She never took her eyes off Heidi though. After all it is the herd queen’s responsibility to monitor the goings on around the herd and Tenny does a good job of that.

 Heidi also discovered that she is small enough to easily walk through the wires in the field fencing.  She found her way around the backside of the barn through the yard and made a bee-line back into her "Heidi hole".  Smart dog!  I guess she needs to grow a bit more before I can put her in that yard but at her current rate it won't take more than a week or two!

I spent more time researching the pros and cons of socializing livestock guardians. Some recommend a hand’s off approach and others recommend as much socializing as possible.  Because one of Heidi’s roles will be as a companion, we don't want to risk having a dog that is people shy. We also have adults and children that come to our farm to see the goat kids. For these reasons, we decided to enroll her in a Canine Good Citizen class starting in March when she will be 4 months old.  We concluded that we would rather have an over-socialized dog patrolling the farm rather than one who might be fearful of strangers or worse, perceive them as a threat. A properly socialized Pyrenees should be able to "read" people and determine their intent. Even then, Heidi should primarily function as a deterrent by her mere presence and not by aggression.

Every day I take Heidi out of the goat yard for her "quality time". Because she is so young much of this time is spent playing and cuddling.  Because she left the litter at 6 weeks, I was concerned about her not learning to "play nice" from her siblings and mother so one thing we are working on is making sure she doesn't use teeth. If she touches skin with her teeth I squeal loudly and shun her, much as a sibling puppy would.  It is amazing how well this works. One of her favorite things is to play with her giant ball.

We also practice walking on a 20-foot lead with me holding the other end of the rope. This accustoms her to a having a lead attached to her collar. For now she willingly follows me. We explored the workshop this week and learned about cats, well at least the one cat that didn't hide. We also went on a short walk to visit the bucks in our back pasture. I am also working on grooming by brushing her, filing her toe nails, and looking in her mouth. Because she will be such a large dog, I am encouraging her to sit (notice I didn't say teach) while being petted. I also routinely take her food and treats away from her then give them back. I want her to learn that I control all food and treats and am the alpha of the family (don’t tell Don). I definitely don't want a food-aggressive 100 pound dog. 

When I return her to the goat yard, she never cries or whimpers. She accepts that this is her "place".  As she matures, my hope is that she can relax and have a bit of down-time when she is with me. At other times hopefully she will know she is on duty.  Even Pyrenees need a break sometimes.  Only time will tell if this works.


  1. Very interesting and great pictures. I especially like the one of the goat and Heidi staring at each other. I love the story of the discovery/rediscovery of the dog house. Nothing makes something so desirable as someone else wanting it.

  2. You're doing a great job with her, Shelley. I'm impressed. I can't believe how much she's grown already. Well, yeah, I guess I can. I love that you're documenting this.