Recently, we not only got some new piglets, but we also got ourselves a new LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog) to add to our farm. After getting Zeus settled in, we decided that it would be best to train him to work with our new American Guinea Hogs. Specifically, we’re training him to work with the piglets. They are both still young animals, their size is similar and they will grow together. This is something that is going to work to our benefit; no grown pig, goats or sheep to beat up on a new pup, no big dog to beat up on another baby animal. It’s a win all around.
Even though Zeus was born and sold to us as a LGD, he was just 8 weeks old when we got him; a long time shy of being a trained dog. It’s going to take a lot of time and work on our part to get him to official LGD status. For now, he’s starting by being intigrated into the piglets’ home and slowly being allowed out with them, being monitored and left out for larger amounts of time as the days pass.
We started to let the piglets and Zeus get used to each other by bringing a dog cage into the pen. First, Zeus stayed in the cage, the door closed and locked, so that everyone could be near each other. They could get used to each others’ smells and noises, but they could also be completely separate, providing a safe haven for all animals. No playful puppy jumping around and playing with the pigs, and no group of bullying piglets cornering the pup. If you chose to integrate your LGD with a group of animals, it’s important to visit him daily to check on the cage, feed and water him (pups require more food than adult dogs) and also clean out the cage. Living in a small space with food, waste and play areas being in close proximity can add up to a mess quickly.
After we saw that everyone was getting used to each other, we started to leave the door open for Zeus to come out of his cage. He’s able to walk in and out, as he pleases, and the piglets pretty much stear clear of the inside of the cage. This LGD-to-be was constantly monitored during his first few times out of the cage, until we were confident that he was ready to be left alone, for short stints, without directly supervising him. Again, this is a process that can take days or longer. It all depends on the amount of time you can devote to the training, coupled with the dog’s personality and your patience level.
Zeus and the piglets don’t seem to mind each other too much. They’re mildly aware of each other, can share a water bowl with no issue and give each other the occasional sniff.
I don’t think it will be long until they are a bonded group of animals, but it’s going to take continued time and work to ensure that they are able to work together and not just play around. That’s another reason it’s important to keep supervision to a maximum. You need to be around to witness your new LGD’s behavior; corrections need to be made and undesireable behavior put to a stop to ensure the safety of all the animals, along with letting your pup know that his job is to guard and hang out with, not to play with or possibly harm them. Correction in confident and authorative tones will be learned faster. Choose the same word, again and again, to put the kibosh on bad behavior. Words like “No,” “Stop,” or “Enough” work great. Just be sure to choose the same word and tone every time.
Something we considered when integrating Zeus in with the piglets, was how we would get him and our other LGDs aquainted. The area that we have set up for the piglets in the barn was purposefully placed alongside the goat pen where our Great Pyraneese LGD, Athena, works.
If you’re looking for advice or information on things to consider when look for an LGD, check out my article Quick Chat on Livestock Guardian Dogs. And if you’re looking for a good resource to have on hand for LGDs, I recommend this book written by Storey.