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Livestock Guardian Dog

Orion The Wonder Dog!

We chose a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog for our livestock guardian dog (LGD). At the time, our farm was menaced by feral dogs and cougar -- not to mention bald eagles and possible human intruders.  We had chickens, young llama, and later sheep/lambs to protect.  Orion was a wonderful addition to our farm, but not one without problems. We brought Orion home as a 10 week-old puppy, already neutered. He was dreadfully cute as were his litter mates seen here at the breeder's home in Olympia.. He had badger markings here at 10 weeks but by 9 months they were hardly visible.  His bright white coat was accompanied by just a little off-white in the face and ears and a spot of black on the tail.  

We gradually introduced him to the llamas and twice a day took him around the perimeter of the property.  In no time he knew the boundaries well and had made friends with the llamas.  Soon you could see him going out into the field or back to the barn, in line with the llamas.  Sometimes we think he believed that he was a llama -- just with a different voice.   He hopped into their feeders and ate some of their grain supplement.  He even took part in llama games at dusk when they run (prong) back and forth across the fields. 

Orion grew into quite the gorgeous dog as can be seen in these photos of us with him at the beach.  
He was quite a large 
dog (up to 150 pounds but we slimmed him down to 130) for traveling in our full-size station wagon and minivan but we liked to occasionally take him on little outings away from the farm. We didn't take him for walks in the neighborhood (away from the farm) because we didn't want him to adopt the whole area as his domain.

Predator Control

As a grown dog, we never had problems with the cougars around us or other wildlife.  I even watched Orion staring down a Bald Eagle in a tree on our property on the West side of the state.  One time I heard some dogs barking and went out to investigate.  Orion had found three feral dogs in our pasture and placed himself between the dogs and the llamas.  The feral dogs were calling for help.  I had to go get leads and take the dogs away!  They were terrified!  I have also watched him cross a field silently when there is an intruder and will be there in just seconds before the intruder knows what is happening.  Dogs will take off running the other way as fast as they can go when they discover Orion is standing there next to them.  On the East side of the state we had mostly coyote.  The coyote got the word and stayed off our acreage until a year or so after Orion died!

Problems

Like all puppies, Orion was very curious.  He wanted to know what is under a chicken's feathers. He pulled most of the feathers from the back of one of our hens. The hen survived with a little TLC and separate accommodations during recovery. Orion , like most puppies, will chase an animal that runs. This has led to several run-ins with chickens where we have had to step in to protect the chickens.  We also found him licking a dead chicken one time -- wondering if he had killed the chicken or merely found it already dead.  

He also liked to chew and converted a number of hoses into about 6" chew toys.  Leave a hose out and it becomes his toy!!  Things plastic, like tarps, buckets, miscellaneous small containers, all are great toys.  Just don't sit one down anywhere Orion can reach. 
 
Obedience Training

Orion attended beginning and advanced clicker training classes.  He learned very quickly and the skills that he learned have been very useful for his life on the farm.  Like most Pyrs, however, the command "come" means nothing to him when he is working in the fields.  He obeys it perfectly when he knows he is being "trained" but when on his own, we cannot count on it! This is because Pyrs, like most LGDs, are independent thinkers. They prioritize and if "come" is not first on the list, there is no way they will do it. This independent thinking style is wonderful for guarding but it can be somewhat frustrating at times
for the owner!

Rainbow Bridge

After ten years, Orion came in one night from guarding the fields.  He ducked under the bottom strand of the barbed wire fence and crawled up under our deck to sleep.  When I checked on him later I discovered he could not move his hind legs anymore and could no longer stand.  We decided to take him to his favorite vets at WSU and let them put him down gently so he would not have to suffer.  I carefully transferred him to a tarp and pulled him from under the deck and out to the car where we could lift him into the car.  Linda called the vets to let them know I was coming and then drove directly to Pullman.  
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