Dog advice please...

Prairie Rose

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
176
Reaction score
357
Points
102
Location
Central Illinois, zone 5/6 line
Hi there, I am having a problem with my new dog that is really stumping me, so I could use some advice. Earlier this summer, my family rescued a starving great pyrenees that had been on his own for months. He's an awesome dog and he meshes well with us, but now that we have had him a while and he is starting to feel better, his guarding instincts are popping up and we are all getting a little frustrated.

We aren't new to dogs, or even big dogs that need a lot of training, but we've never had quite the independent thinker as this pyr is, and we're kind of at a loss. We don't know his history--if he's been bred or raised to be a livestock guardian or a pet; he's obviously house trained and knew a few basic commands that we have built on. This dog sleeps literally all day until about five pm, when he gets up and wants a walk and to eat and be loved on for about an hour, then he goes back to sleep until midnight when he begs to be let out, where he does nothing but stand in the backyard and guard the house (by barking, of course!) until the first person to get up in the morning lets him in and he eats and goes to pass out until the evening.

The barking is not an issue, and neither are his instincts to guard the house. We actually like that and don't want to discourage him from doing it. The plan is to fence in a chunk of our yard around the house and build him a substantial shelter. That way he can go out safely and guard his house, we don't have to worry about him escaping. This was supposed to happen this month, after harvest, when we had free time and equipment. We weren't planning on winter coming early, or harvest coming so late. It is looking like the fence might not come until spring, if the ground freezes before we have the time to set posts and concrete.

Right now he only has a 40 foot cord and the underside of a porch for shelter, and we are running into nights where that is not enough. We try to keep him inside on nights when it rains, it gets cold, or is snowing sideways, but it makes everyone unhappy. He stands at the door and barks every twenty seconds all night long. If he's not barking, he's patrolling the inside of the house restlessly interspersed with barking. We have tried to wear him out on nights he stays in, we've tried to take him out to 'patrol' a few times in the night to let him see what's going on, we have tried everything we could think of, but nothing seems to work for us. In the morning he is still unhappy and restless, none of the humans have slept, and it's a giant mess.

Does anyone have suggestions for helping him to settle down at night? In the beginning, we could 'crate' him in his space and he would settle down and sleep after half an hour. But he was almost starved to death and had no energy. Do I give up and try to change his routine so he is up all day and will sleep all night? Do i just resign myself to getting no sleep this winter? I need ideas...help!
 

Prairie Rose

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
176
Reaction score
357
Points
102
Location
Central Illinois, zone 5/6 line
It was an adjustment for us, to be sure. Our akita rarely barked, or made much noise at all. She was one of those dogs who would come and stare at you until you figured out what she wanted. If she wanted to 'speak', she did so with a squeaky toy.

The pyrenees barking at night is not necessarily a bad habit...it's his job, something this breed of dog was bred to do for hundreds of years. He was bred to do his job almost completely independent of humans, keeping flocks of sheep safe from predators in the mountains. In general, they're not really motivated by the idea of pleasing people, and only barely by food. I don't want to try to fight against that breeding, everything I have read suggests it is even foolish to try. We are trying to set it up so he can follow his instincts without making everyone miserable. During the day this dog is sweet as he can be, keeping a quiet eye on what goes on in the house, and offering a belly to rub any time anyone gets near. In fact, I have a big white head in my lap now, just snoozing away and keeping my feet warm.

I'm just trying to figure out if there is a way to teach him that it's fine for him to guard and alarm outside at night, but on the rare night he has to stay inside because of weather, he doesn't have to guard.
 

PlantNurse15

Attractive To Bees
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
47
Reaction score
58
Points
60
Location
USA
Try to make him the fenced in area and doghouse that you talked about. Leave him out there at night to guard. Maybe get family or friends to help put it up soon so everyone is not miserable.
 

Prairie Rose

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
176
Reaction score
357
Points
102
Location
Central Illinois, zone 5/6 line
I live in a weird inbetween place that feels like the country, but is actually city. I live on a big 'country' block on the outskirts of town, surrounded by cornfields backed by some wooded acreage. We're the only house on this entire block. That said, my closest neighbors are a hardware store, a bar, a giant church, a walmart, and a garbage truck depot. There's a busy interstate less than a mile down the road, and we have a lot of fast moving traffic at all hours of the day and night. In the summer we have issues with drunks and solicitors casing the house, and recently the local homeless sheltering on the edge of the property. It wasn't always so sketchy here, but it has gotten noticeably worse in the past 7 or 8 years.

I don't have any neighbors to complain about the dog barking for a few hours, but I am also not in a place where I can just let him out without a super secure fence and let him be.
 

baymule

Garden Master
Joined
Mar 20, 2011
Messages
13,615
Reaction score
16,060
Points
417
Location
Northeast Texas
I have 2 Great Pyrenees. They are a special dog, to be sure. Paris, our female was a free throwaway chicken killer. It took 2 years to turn her around and she became the best chicken guard ever. Paris is 10. Our male, Trip, is 5 and loves to patrol all night. That is what they do. We moved, got sheep and that threw a whole new learning curve for the dogs and us too!

Thank you for educating yourselves about this breed of dog and for not trying to make him over into something that he isn't, but trying to work with him as he is. Yes, they are big sleepy heads during the day and they work at night when predators are out. They bark to warn predators away. If your dog and a coyote have a fight, you will take your dog to the vet for stitches and treatment. The coyote won't get any stitches or treatment. The coyote won't be able to hunt or eat, it will probably die. The coyote knows that a fight isn't in it's best interest, so it moves on for an easier meal.

Now on this barking all night. The dog is establishing himself as master of the universe. Everything he sees belongs to him. Put yourself in his place, what are potential threats or predators? An acorn falls and hits the car, the noise is a potential threat, he must bark. A neighbor walks outside and makes a noise, again the dog must protect you and he barks.

You asked how to settle him down at night. You back him up. You let him know that he has your support, you have his back. That means that you first tap on the window, then go outside and call him to you. Praise him and tell him good dog, then calmly tell him to be quiet, it's ok. Reassure him. It will be real hard at first. Make sure that you tap on the window! Reason? Because as he figures out what is a threat and what is not, when he barks at night, you can tap on the window to quiet him. I've had dogs look back at the window, knowing that I am there, they quiet down and settle down. Patience. Patience. And more patience.

Over time, he will figure out, with your help, what is a threat and what is not.

You didn't get a fence up and now it is frozen and you can forget about a fence. But when you build one, make it tall enough that he can't jump it. Our Trip can jump a 4' fence flat footed. We put up a hot wire to contain him. You might consider a 6' fence if you don't like the idea of a hot wire. He may dig out, be prepared to lay 2' of woven wire (not welded wire-it is crap) on the ground and attach it to the fence with hog rings so that he can't dig out. This may sound extreme, each dog is different, he may be ok with a 4' fence and never jump it, he may never dig out. Use your judgement.

Now for shelter until you can build him a fence and the shelter you want for him. How high off the ground in the porch? Will a hay bale fit under it? Make him a 3 sided shelter with a piece of plywood over the hay bales for a roof. make the hay bale shelter 2 bales long. This allows you to put one across the front to help block wind and make it warmer for him. If the porch is high enough, put hay bales on top of the plywood for added insulation. Fluff up some hay and put it inside for him to sleep on.

This dog is fortunate for you to have found him. You are trying to understand him on his terms. I wish you the best with him and will be glad to help you any way I can.
 

baymule

Garden Master
Joined
Mar 20, 2011
Messages
13,615
Reaction score
16,060
Points
417
Location
Northeast Texas
That said, my closest neighbors are a hardware store, a bar, a giant church, a walmart, and a garbage truck depot. There's a busy interstate less than a mile down the road, and we have a lot of fast moving traffic at all hours of the day and night. In the summer we have issues with drunks and solicitors casing the house, and recently the local homeless sheltering on the edge of the property. It wasn't always so sketchy here, but it has gotten noticeably worse in the past 7 or 8 years.

I don't have any neighbors to complain about the dog barking for a few hours, but I am also not in a place where I can just let him out without a super secure fence and let him be.
There it is! A store, a bar, a church, Walmart, and a garbage truck depot. The bar is open late at night, garbage trucks go to work in the middle of the night, drunks and homeless, ALL of these are threats. Come spring, fence your property, including the driveway and let the boy go to work protecting you.
 

Prairie Rose

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
176
Reaction score
357
Points
102
Location
Central Illinois, zone 5/6 line
Thank you for the encouragement! I have been 'backing him up' so to speak, since we first got him, and the barking has decreased from all night long to just a couple of hours, and then only sporadically. It did get worse when they harvested the corn all around the house last week...we've only had this guy a little more than two months, and he had no idea about the world here past the cornfield so he is establishing his dominion over everything he can see now.

I did go out today and buy him a shelter, since my porch is too little for me to stack straw bales around and still have room for him to fit under there. I don't have the building skills to build him what I wanted to without help, so storebought it is for now. He now has an igloo doghouse to keep him dry and I have started stacking straw bales around it as a windbreak against our strong winds here and some extra insulation. I need a few more bales and a big piece of wood and a tarp to use as a roof, but we're not supposed to get any more weather until after my next day off, and I bought the last few bales of straw the store had until their next delivery. Now he can go out even when it's raining or snowing, and we can all get some sleep!

I just love this dog to pieces, but he's so different from every other dog I've ever had, it's like being a new dog owner all over again.
 
Top