7 Tips to Train Your Great Pyrenees to Guard Chickens!

The Great Pyrenees is a mountain dog that was historically used to guard livestock against predators. They are calm, confident, and intelligent dogs that can be trained to protect chickens from predators such as coyotes, foxes, and raccoons.

Some Great Pyrenees are natural protectors and some, like ours, needed a lot of training in order to be fully trusted.

Train Your Great Pyrenees to Guard Chickens

Below we discuss the steps needed to train your Great Pyrenees to become a chicken guardian.

Training Your Pyrenees – The Basics

Great Pyrenees are a great breed to train as a livestock guardian dog. They are large and imposing, and they have a natural instinct to protect their flock.

However, you likely need to train your Pyrenees to guard your chickens. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

Step #1 – Supervised Guarding

Introduce your Pyrenees to your chickens when they are young. Puppies love being outside, so it’s a good idea to take them outside with you whenever you’re working with your chickens.

It’s very important that you DO NOT keep your Pyrenees puppy with your chickens unsupervised.

As you’re around your chickens, reward your Pyrenees when they remain calm and ignore the chickens. Positive reinforcement is key in training dogs.

Since your dog is still a puppy, they’ll likely chase the chickens occasionally and try to play with them. Be patient and consistent with your training methods.

Step #2 – Proper Tools

As you’re out with your chickens, make sure that your puppy is always on a leash. Usually, we tied the other end of the leash to our belt so we would have both hands free to work.

Also, before your first training session, tie a flag or white rag to the end of a rod or stick. This tool is effective for getting your puppy’s attention quickly when you need it.

As you walk around, if your puppy starts to stare at or chase the chickens, smack the flag on the ground in front of their nose. This will teach them that this is undesired.

Chasing or attacking chickens isn’t the first action, it’s usually the result of puppies first stopping and staring. You want to train them to ignore the chickens entirely.

Step #3 – Realistic Expectations

Great Pyrenees are known for being independent and strong-willed, which can make training them a challenge. However, with consistent training and positive reinforcement, most Great Pyrenees will do well with their training.

Still, it’s important not to fully trust them until they reach at least one year old – this is when most are developed enough to be trusted.

If they’re still having issues, though, don’t lose hope! They don’t fully mature until two years old.

Limit your puppy’s unsupervised access to your chickens until then. Even the most promising puppy students are still prone to issues.

Tips for Success – Make Training Easier

Great Pyrenees are bred to be independent, territorial, and fearless. Here are some tips to successfully train them to protect your chickens:

Tip #1 – Use Adult Chickens Starting Out

When starting out your guardian training, begin by using older chickens.

Chickens that are at least three months old can run and fly away if your puppy starts chasing them.

Chicks and young chickens are easier to catch, so you’ll want to keep them separate until your dog can be fully trusted.

Tip #2 – Put Your Dog’s Food Away

Before you start any training sessions, make sure that you put your puppy’s food in an area that the chickens can’t reach.

Chickens will eat dog food if given the chance and your Pyrenees may get upset and act out if they see them eating it.

Additionally, make sure that your puppy is well fed before taking them around the chickens. This will eliminate any hunger reason for them trying to chase and catch a chicken.

Tip #3 – Be Consistent and Reward Good Behavior

On Day #1 of training, make sure that you clearly know the specifics of what you’re trying to get your Great Pyrenees to do. Make sure that their good behaviors are rewarded and praised.

If you allow your dog to get away with not following your commands they’ll begin to think that they can do whatever they want. Consistency is key in training any dog.

Have small treats or praise them whenever they act as they should around the chickens.

Tip #4 – Include an Older Trained Pyrenees (if Applicable)

One way to “shortcut” teaching your Great Pyrenees puppy how to protect chickens is to pair them with an older dog that already knows the ropes.

The older dog will show the puppy what’s expected and how to behave around the chickens. This can also help ensure that the puppy doesn’t get too rough with the birds as the older dog will correct them.

Common Issues – Problems Likely To Arise

Despite the Great Pyrenees natural protective instincts, there are some common issues that can arise when tasking them to protect chickens.

They’re fiercely independent and have a mind of their own. If they don’t feel like obeying, they may instead choose to wander off or chase your chickens.

Issue #1 – Chasing and Stalking Chickens

When training a Great Pyrenees puppy to protect chickens, it’s important to discourage them from chasing and stalking the birds.

This can be done by providing plenty of playtime separate from their training sessions so they’re less energetic around your chickens. Also, it’s important to provide positive reinforcement when the puppy behaves appropriately.

Great Pyrenees are smart opportunists, so don’t get too comfortable too early with their progress.

At least with our Pyrenees, she knew what was expected of her while we were out together. If we went inside and left her free, she instantly would change and start causing issues with the chickens.

Issue #2 – Dead Chickens

When Great Pyrenees puppies are being trained to protect chickens, it’s common that they may accidentally kill one or two. At three months old, a Pyrenees will have a ton of puppy energy, yet be the size of a fully-grown medium breed dog.

Recently, The Guardian newspaper ran an article on chicken farmer Lloyd Nelson. He uses Great Pyrenees to protect his chickens and said his puppies will kill an average of two chickens before they’re fully trained.

“It’s just playing,” Nelson said. “But their large size means the chickens don’t have a chance.”

Despite the occasional loss of life, Nelson says he wouldn’t trade his Pyrenees for anything else. “They’re worth their weight in gold,” he said.

In conclusion, a Great Pyrenees is a great choice for a chicken guardian dog. They are large and intimidating dogs that can ward off predators, yet they are also gentle and loving animals that make great companions.

With some basic training, these dogs can be taught to protect your chickens from harm. So if you are looking for a reliable guardian for your backyard chickens, a Great Pyrenees is the perfect dog for the job!

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