As increasing numbers of failed hobby farm endeavors sell off livestock, move back to town and bail out on country life and agriculture, a recurring, ugly theme is their callously dumping and abandoning "old timer" LGDs. After a lifetime of loyal service, aging LGDs deserve respect, a rest, and a safe, comfortable home - not fickle uncaring owners and rejection in their Golden Years.
Above, my re-homed aged Spanish Mastiffs Pia and Zaca living out their Golden Years in their semi-retirement home. I proudly gave these girls to Chuck Avila who had been a huge Pia fan since she was a baby pup. These girls still keep wolves and coyotes at bay from his small herd of goats but are given plenty of "in house" time, plenty of rest, good food, loving care and attention. They are never pressed to do more than they can do. The perfect home for retirees!
These sad ads running on an agriculture "for sale page" below, share a common theme:
"Motivated" owners' epic fail as hobby farmers/ranchers toss in the towel, and dump older LGDs as if they were dirty paper plates or yesterday's news:
ANATOLIAN SHEPHERD LGD Annie is a 7 year old purebred Anatolian Shepherd female. She was raised with sheep and chickens and is currently guarding sheep and chickens. (We are selling our livestock) $250... Tel: | 55398 | MN | 04/22/2017 | More Information
GREAT PYRENEES LGD Bo is a 7 year old purebred Great Pyrenees male. He was raised with sheep, cattle and chickens since birth. Bo is currently a guardian for sheep and chickens. He is very family friendly. $250... Tel: | 55398 | MN | 04/22/2017 | More Information
5 YEAR OLD MALE GREAT PYRENEESFor sale due to financial reasons. Intact male 6 year old great pyrenees, not registered. Been with goats, horses, and deer. Great guardian dog. Let him loose and he'll get the job done. $400 obo Moti... Tel: | 49419 | MI | 11/30/-0001
In nearly 9 years of raising and training Livestock Guardian Dogs I have placed a handful of select older females who's breeding days for me were done or, they were never bred, and thus were spayed and carefully placed with responsible, caring, working ranch/farm homes in semi-retirement status where they could still fulfill their duties, get much needed mental and physical stimulation, but on a much less stressful scale that did not tax them beyond their aged capabilities. With the exception of one home, all of them were and/or are still able to feel a sense of purpose and mission, in a loving, compassionate and responsible environment where they are well-cared for and appreciated. No outrageous expectations, no cheap filler dog food and freezing joints and aches and pains because the owner expects them to "tough it" in extreme elements, and do the job of a younger dog.
Just like humans, dogs get old. With old age comes lessening mental acuity and aches and pains from an active, often pressing and tough life spent keeping predators at bay from cherished livestock. It's important for LGD owners to respect the limits that old age imposes on their hard working dogs, accept reality, and provide their old timers with the care their sunset years require later in life. Thoughtlessly dumping them off as they are no longer needed is never the right answer, unless as I have done, they are placed in carefully screened homes with the acute understanding that the older dog is not to be pressed and used as if it were a rambunctious and vigorous 2 year old. If that is not possible, it is always the more humane alternative to have the dog professionally put down by the owner's vet so he can go peacefully into the night, and escape pain or neglectful circumstances.
This is also why it is so important LGD owners have up and coming youngsters in their line up to take the place of aging dogs - and stop expecting the impossible from their old timers. Because most well bred LGDs have such a strong, ingrained work ethic, it's often hard to make them slow down even when they old, and are in pain or suffering, but responsible owners will bite the bullet and do just that. They don't mercilessly overwork dogs until they are 12 or 15, nor do they breed females after 5 years of age. This is not the sign of a compassionate owner. They set things up so oldsters can slow down, retire, and have less of a work load. Let the youngsters pick up the work load, learn from their mentors, and keep the ball rolling while the old timers can watch from the couch or porch and know "it's all covered" and they don't have to shoulder the whole shebang alone! Common sense…..
One could write a book on the care, feeding and responsible ownership of older dogs - this brief post will touch on some of the highlights. I recommend readers turn to Amazon.com and search term senior dogs or older dogs books to see what is available to read; I also strongly recommend checking out the Dogs Naturally Magazine website as it is a great resource for holistic remedies and feeding options for all dogs, no matter their age. On my Resources Page on my website is also a great website for difficult end of life decisions for older canines. Another helpful aging dog link is here. Let your fingers do the walking - there are many many books and websites out there with good advice. Go find them.
8 1/2 year old Pak and Pala still call the shots around here but are also allowed to sleep undisturbed at night in my comfortable kennel house facility so the youngsters can guard at night. They still are strong and pack a punch. They still get in scraps - Pak is nursing a bruise under his eye right now - but they also know they don't have to push themselves beyond what's needed - they've paid their dues!!!
ACHES AND PAINS
Anyone over 55 knows what comes with age: your joints, muscles and bones begin to 'speak' to you of more rowdy, rambunctious, tougher days of yore, and in short: you start paying for playing in your youth. Dogs are the same. Thankfully there are tons of remedies for aches and pains for dogs. Older dogs will slow down and suffer pain just like humans do. When you see them struggling to get up or whining or showing discomfort over something, check it out. Don't rely on armchair Facebook psuedo-experts - do it right or don't do it at all. Take your dog into your vet for an assessment. Once you have a diagnosis, either follow your vet's advice or, if you need to, obtain a second opinion, and/or seek alternative, holistic remedies to pharma-type solutions.
The one pain medication I always keep on hand from my trusted vet is affordable Meloxicam. It is non-steroidal and an anti-inflammatory for dogs (and humans). A bottle of 100 tabs runs me less than $10. Ask your vet about it's proper use and if it can work for your dog, too.
Glucosamine is another favorite addition to older dog's diets. I also sprinkle Dr. Harvey's Golden Years - available through Chewy.com - on my older dog's food for a supplement. Dr. Harvey produces many great supplements. Check them all out - Chewy seems to have all other sources beat on pricing, too, and free 2 day shipping on orders over $49 is hard to beat.
FEEDING AND FOOD INTAKE
Oldster LGDs may change eating habits. Some eat more. Some eat less. As they age, their teeth deteriorate. The time comes when they may have trouble eating hard kibble; it can be moistened to facilitate easier consumption and digestion. Then there's the topic of what is best for them to eat. Some will prefer raw food, other owners will put their old timer on a senior variety of quality dog kibble. There are many out there. Chewy.com is my trusted source for shipping-free dog kibble that arrives here at my ranch gate via Fed Ex every other week or so. They offer one of the largest selections of quality dog food including many grain free choices - which are always the best - ranging in price. Because I'm on a budget, I can't buy $75 bags of dog food (I know very few commercial and working ranchers who can, frankly). But I've had tremendous luck with the Sportmix brand which comes in a highly appreciated 40 pound bag - is grain free, of excellent quality, NO recalls - and can be nabbed via Chewy for as low as under $27.00 a bag! Finding quality, grain free, filler free dog food in a 40 pound bag for that price is almost unheard of anymore. That's a deal I and my dogs greatly appreciate.
My original "fearless five": Pak and brother Pala (Anatolian x Maremma)
and three Great Pyrenees siblings Petra, Peso and Pinta. Born in 2009, the year I moved here and started my LGD program. Still here, still active, but decidedly slowing down - sleeping in front of my wood stove on cold nights, on senior supplements when needed for aches and pains, and cut a lot of slack and patience when as in Petra's situation, senior dementia starts showing up. Compassion, insight and sensitivity on part of owner is crucial when dealing with aging dogs.
Senior dementia in dogs can take on many forms. With my own experience one of the biggest 'starter' flags of it has been excessive barking over things that usually didn't bother the dog, and another one is food possession. Old timer Petra is often barking at nothing these days - Sally who's a couple of years younger, is also barking more too. Petra hyper-responds to certain vehicles who pass by that set her off. A gentle reminder to her that all is okay, and reassurance that she's needed and doing a good job, is what she gets from me. She also has shown increasing turf and food control and guarding. I assure her no one is after her food, and "her space" in the dining room by my kitchen is always safe and her's alone. Older dogs will often pick a spot to rest where they feel less threatened and safe. Let them do this! Don't push them out or scold for protecting their food and space. Redirect other younger dogs to respect it in a gentle way. Likewise, as he ages, my 7 year old EPI survivor Patron becomes more food possessive although this is also a trait that can come along with the fatal EPI disease. EPI and Patron's gallant story of his surviving EPI are discussed on a page on my website here.
It's still vital that your old timer gets exercise to combat obesity that can typically set in with older dogs. My Pyrenean Mastiff Sally who's coming up on 6 years of age, is a pudgy gal who I have to really make sure gets her leg stretching and calorie burning. She's still sharp as a tack mentally but just becoming "pleasingly plump" as she ages. This brings on stiffness. Because in my case I free choice feed my dogs, it's pretty difficult- with 12 dogs - to only feed her certain dog food that is low calorie. But I'm going to have to attempt it so she does not fall away to a ton! She still charges the back fence line alerting to threats. There are many senior variety of dog food brands out there which have less calories for less active dogs. Again, Chewy is a great resource for these.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR DEVOTION AND COMPASSION
Dogs have feelings too. They respond to your care and love with devotion and loyalty. How you treat your old timers is so important. Do not disrespect them or dismiss their importance. Do not support or buy from bad, irresponsible LGD breeders who treat their old timers with disrespect, or work or continue to breed them far too long in their senior years.
My older dogs get the red carpet treatment here and are always placed above younger dogs in little ways that show them they are "still a part of the picture" so they don't feel abandoned emotionally. Whether backing them up in a scrap, or letting a younger dog know it's out of line pushing an oldster out of their 'favorite spot' or away from food, I am there for them. It is the little things like this that count. My females are typically retired after 3 or 4 litters. They are not puppy machines bred into their senior years. Far too many gutter-dwelling backyard LGD breeders are doing that. Don't support it.
This post is by no means meant to cover all topics with older dogs, but hopefully it will prompt those with older and aging LGDs to 'do the right thing' and care for their senior dogs as they should be - and to enlighten you about some great links and resources as I've posted for you to check out. Take the time to do it. Knowledge - not ignorance - is power.
Truly, times come when older livestock guardian dogs must die of old age, or be put down. If the latter, do it compassionately and with respect and care. Don't force an older LGD to suffer needlessly. Until that time comes, please show compassion and appreciation for your canine partners, and make their sunset years as comfortable as you can - after all, they have given you their lives in service. It's the least you can do for them.
by Brenda M. Negri Cinco Deseos Ranch Livestock Guardian Dogs Winnemucca, Nevada, USA www.lgdnevada.com
"I have to say she speaks the truth. The Spanish Mastiff is not a dog for every one.
They do better as livestock guardians than as pets." --- Norma Roman-Ortiz
I bought my first Spanish Mastiff in 2009. In just eight short years, I've seen the breed in the USA go from being what one would consider fairly rare in this country, to practically an overnight sensation, now numbering well over 1,000 specimens (we'll not include the crossbreds, there are plenty of those out there too). Forget what Jan Dohner claims in her glaringly less than accurate "Farm Dogs" book about there "only being 300 specimens of SM" in this country. Good God, whoa, Nellie - we passed that mark eons ago, are you asleep at the wheel or what.... Whereas in 2009 you could count "SM" breeders and pseudo/wannabe breeders on one hand - now - they practically crop up every week - kid you not. I use the term "breeder" here loosely as most of them are people you have never heard of before, backyard binge/fad buyers trying to cash in on a craze. For example, there's one newbie who just got a male and a female puppy in California, and they are already calling themselves a "quality SM breeder". Oh, really? Not so fast, kiddo. You have some major dues to pay first, and you haven't even raised your SM to adulthood yet…take a number, and get in line at the end of it - where you belong. Or, in another glaring example of smoke and mirrors marketing, they've just put out their very first purebred SM litter (after producing litters of SM 3/4 crosses and even 6 breed LGD crosses) - and yet they're making out like they're on purebred SM litter no. 10….uh, no so fast. Kiss our collective asses, guys….
If you, dear reader as a buyer, scrutinize people like this, their stories fall fast when you dig into what they really have or haven't been doing. It takes work but it's worth it in the end. More on vetting out LGD breeders, at the end of this post and in my next post.
I will say the Pyrenean Mastiff scene is somewhat similar in it's popularity surge, because again, when I started, you could count PM breeders in the USA on one hand and I was the only one breeding them for LGD work - guarding livestock. Now, there are many more breeders. Most breed for pet and show but there are a few out there dipping toes in the working PM market too. A breeder in CA is the one who first brought the PM to the USA in the 1990's and she still breeds today. The breed almost went extinct in it's native country at one point in the 1970's and that is when concerned aficionados in Spain got together to save and preserve the PM. It has slowly gained attention and fans here in the USA now to where there is more interest - although overall, it thankfully is not as crazed as the SM fad has become - yet. My observation over the past few years is that those people getting into breeding or raising "PM's" seem to be a little more sophisticated, more serious and intelligent overall, than some of those jumping into SM's, and most - not all but most - are not as fad-driven. Oh, trust me, there are exceptions lurking out there that scream "bad backyard breeder" - dubious places trying to pass off dogs as PMs who are really something else - I've publicly shamed and busted two of them in MT and AZ on Facebook pages. Overall however, the PM scene so far has not gone into total backyard breeder meltdown mode I think, as much as the SM scene seems to be doing at this time.
"AHOY! Can you hear me now?" :) PM puppy and SM puppy at my ranch
These two Spanish breeds share much in common - their land of origin of course - Spain. They are so close in lineage and purpose, back in the day, some were even shown as both breeds - in dog shows:
Which is better, A or B? A PM that was shown as an SM.
He was also called an SM - and - that's right - shown as a PM….
The purpose of this post is not to detail each breed's past history or get into depth on how they came to be - you can research that yourselves. This is purely for comparison - today's "SM" compared to today's "PM". Lots in common, and a lot of differences. Hopefully this post about their temperaments, size, attributes, weaknesses and strengths, will assist any of you who may be considering either breed in the near or distant future. I love them both. I also seriously recognize as any dog breed - they both have their good side and faults, too.
As a responsible dog breeder, it's my job to vet out potential customers and help them decide which breed might suit them best - not always easy as some folks have their minds made up on the wrong breed, and can't be convinced otherwise. By helping them decide it means I have to be forthcoming and truthful about the good, the bad and the ugly of each breed. Less than honest breeders will try to stuff their respective choice down a customer's throat come hell or high water. They are in for the sale, and could care less, frankly, if the breed really suits you best or not. Just hand them that check and clear out for the next sucker.
So let's dive into it. Both breeds shine in the department of stability and loyalty in temperaments. Less edgy and intense than some other LGD breeds such as some Turkish breeds and Eastern Bloc country breeds. The good (emphasis on good) specimens are calmer, thinking dogs not prone to knee jerk reactions. Highly intelligent. The PM shows more inclination to follow direction and commands than the SM. The SM can be highly independent and thinks on it's own. I've had some who were more malleable in terms of training than others. I've also had those here who I would try to call back from the far fence line, and they'd tune me out. You want me to do what? When? Go fly a kite. On the other hand, all of my PM's have shown inclination to respond quicker to commands and call backs. They seem less distant and more willing to please their master. They are rarely stubborn, and respond quickly.
Here adult Spanish Mastiffs and Pyrenean Mastiffs mingle with Pyrenean Mastiff pups
'learning the ropes' and meeting my sheep.
Both breeds are huge and can take years to mature - up to four for the SM and I've seen 4 1/2 year old dogs still filling out and growing. The SM will typically but not always tower over the PM - but I've seen and bred some PM's myself who are giants. Both breeds can top 200 pounds. The SM typically is heavier of the two breeds. Getting "bumped" by my giant 38" tall stud Furiano del Puerto Canencia or 220 pound Aneto (Patron) del Viejo Paramo, can easily put a grown man on the ground. And let's talk about power. Keep this in mind, millennial aged buyers out there, as you contemplate bringing home a cute, fawning SM puppy around your toddler babies. That puppy is not going to stay small forever and can pose a formidable danger to babies and kids who are not trained or schooled in dog etiquette by their young and wet behind ears parents. Respectful kids around both of these giant breeds is a must have. By nature both breeds are gentle and patient with tiny tots. Don't abuse that. Well meaning giants like the SM or PM can accidentally topple a child onto the ground, and God forbid it's a cement floor and suddenly your rambunctious child has a concussion - or a cracked skull. Again, these are giant dogs. Not big, not large. GIANT. Proceed with respect and caution. They are not to be teased or rode like ponies by children. Make sure your kids are taught to respect these dogs, and they will return that respect with nurturing and protection. They are not toys. Don't treat them like one….
A male SM has a crushing bite and a maw that can do considerable damage. Just ask me. I was breaking up a rare free for all dog fight one day on my ranch, and got between my huge SM stud Furiano's mouth and the other dog. Oops…"my bad" as they say. Thankfully - and here is where the stability and intelligence of the SM breed kicks in - the nanosecond he realized he had bit me instead of the other dog, Furiano sheepishly and quickly let go of my arm. I can't find the photo of my arm on my computer or I'd post it - and maybe that's a good thing - it's pretty sobering. The doctors in the ER room that day were blown away and awestruck: "You are lucky, if he'd closed down on you, your arm would have been shattered in a 1,000 pieces" - they told me they'd never seen a bigger spread of teeth on a dog bite in their careers. I got lucky, alright.
With all that heavy weight comes added stress on joints and skeletal structure. The SM breed suffers from HD and ED and thus, it's always advisable to buy from a breeder who OFA's their stock - and I mean really gets the X rays certified, not just peeked at by one vet, which basically means a big fat nothing in the professional dog breeding world. I still hold the American record for SM in the OFA database, and probably will hold on to that record forever as no one else breeding them in the USA seems to be doing the hip X ray thing "right". In other words, they have one vet look at one x ray and say it's okay - where as with OFA - three vets ascertain the x rays and then rate it. It's publicly posted on the OFA site. My website has the links to it. The PM can suffer health maladies as well however HD and ED do not seem to plague the breed (as of yet) nearly as badly as the SM and I have never had or heard of a PM with HD yet.
That is not to say the PM don't have their share of problems too. I have lost an entire litter of purebred PM pups here to toxic shock syndrome that neither my vet and the labs at UC Davis in California we sent bodies to for autopsies, could ascertain the cause of; likewise, my trusted and beloved PM stud Troy simply died one night from what appeared to be a seizure of sorts; again, autopsy results were frustratingly inconclusive and offered no answers. However, he lived a healthy, happy, robust life for five years here up until the very moment he died. His healthy progeny from many litters still work on many ranches and farms and keep homes and families safe from harm, and his son Bobo is here to carry his dad's torch.
I've likewise lost SM's here to internal bleeding injury, bloat (which can plague this breed unfortunately), pneumonia (in the pup's defense, he suffered from the flight from Spain and succumbed to congestion), and in another recent loss, an older female who battled chronic infection in her elbows, which was only worsened after she was attacked, bitten and severely traumatized by a lowlife, law breaking neighbor's pit bull at my ranch front gate. A hard winter did her in as well as Troy, and perhaps the worst shock of all, my 1 1/2 year old SM female who simply laid down one night and died in her sleep. Why? We don't know. Finally, I have my SM poster child for the dreaded fatal EPI disease, Patron, who, by the grace of God, and a vet's correct diagnosis, lives healthy and happy with enzyme therapy. EPI strikes many LGD breeds - so again, this is not anything the SM alone is known for. Read my Patron and EPI page on my website to find out more about this disease and read about all the other LGD breeds coming up with it, too.
These kinds of things can happen to any LGD breed, so they should not be taken as 'red flags' against PM or SM. Its a fact of life - this stuff happens to ALL breeds. Losing dogs, when you breed and own dogs on the scale I have for almost 9 years now - happens. If you have livestock, you'll eventually have dead stock, as the rancher says.
Food intake. Both breeds can put the groceries away but hands down the PM breed overall seems to take the cake when it comes to consumption - they have a high food burning metabolism and require plenty of good quality groceries, whether it be good, grain free kibble, raw, or a combo of both. Note however, I must say: I've also had big eating SM here too that kept pace with my heartiest PM eaters, but again overall, the PM seems to be a bigger eater. Both breeds require top quality dog food - not filler or junk - to keep healthy. You feed garbage to these dogs and it will show and you'll pay for it. I buy my dog food from www.chewy.com and highly recommend them for quick delivery and usually unbeatable prices.
Drooling. Both breeds do it, often in copious amounts. If you can't handle spittle tossed up on your ceiling and walls of your house, look for another breed - these guys salivate in their water, on their food, on you, your guests….etc. They shed and leave hair in the house, too - both breeds. A way of life. It means nothing to me - I live with it. If it bothers you, look in to a Mexican Hairless breed...
Racists. Yes you read that right. Both PM and SM show marked preferences to hanging out with heir own kind. The average guy is not going to notice this but in a large mixed pack of breeds such as mine, it's quite distinct. I'll have the PMs on the back porch some days, holding court, barring all others from entry. I look out in the cattle and the SM will all be flopped down in a big ball together. Yet they interact well as a team and work together.
Territorial. Both breeds are territorial to an extent although the PM seems to be even more possessive of his people, his porch, his sunny spot, his sheep, etc. I've also had a couple of older SM females here, now retired and living the high life in Michigan - Pia and Zaca - both of whom would lunge, mouths gaping, at anyone coming through my door without me being there first. "It's Pia's world - you just live in it"…..
Let's talk about suitability as pet/companions. I no longer sell SM pups to pet homes; I've done it a few times and it's backfired on me. Let me put it this way: because I breed pure working bloodlines and even the ones crossed with show/non working bloodlines come out with an intense work ethic, I have found the seriousness of the working lines pretty much makes them unfit for living in some suburban SoCal backyard as a status fad yard decoration posing as a "guard dog/family pet". Without adequate exercise the SM can suffer structural issues and being cooped up in a tiny yard don't and won't cut it. Without a mission or a job, they can become bored and perhaps even cranky or less forgiving. The SM overall is a serious breed. Working lines are not jovial clowns prone to laughter and happy romps through the daisies, okay? They are on the job, protecting you and stock from harm. They'll trifle some, and granted engage in play time (I've posted many videos of some of my SM playing on my kennel Facebook page). But overall? They are quiet, devoted, serious, sometimes almost sullen and nobly aloof in stature and nature. They'll tolerate being picked on by another male dog and then one day, suddenly, the perpetuator is flat on his back seeing stars with a 220 pound SM standing over him quietly giving him "that look". Although Furiano could easily kill or lethally maim many of my other males here, I'm always struck by his unwillingness to do so - their magnanimous bearing is an amazing and gracious trait. They don't need to prove what they are capable of doing. I realize there are many pet SM being bred and sold in Europe but again, I raise dogs to work here - and in my world, they must have a job, a mission, a purpose, and simply being cooped up in a backyard in Southern California for days on end, does not cut it.
A whole lotta dog. Certainly far more stable and trustworthy in manner and temperament than many other fad LGD breeds being brought into this country from non-livestock guarding backgrounds, still; not for the faint of heart - a quality, well bred male SM is huge and powerful. Period. In inexperienced or irresponsible hands, with a non-confident owner, it can add up to a bad match.
The PM on the other hand has a more forgiving, impish, playful side to it, combined with an increased interest in listening to their owner and doing his bidding. Although I hear some PM people saying their's can be stubborn, I don't know about that - mine seem to respond at the slightest request, and are happy to oblige quickly. That is why, I have PM's working as therapy dogs, doing Certified Emergency Response, and providing companionship as pets in non-ranch/farm homes, in addition to working on commercial and hobby ranches and farms all over the USA. Don't kid yourself: the PM still packs a punch, and fears nothing. I mean NOTHING. Outsized and outnumbered, I have seen my male PMs take on all comers and hold their own in a mix-up. The females can turn into rabid, screaming banshees at the sign of a threat and both of my girls, Sally and Atena, are regularly the first to the back fence line to ward off neighbor's stray dogs and coyotes - and this includes them passing and blowing by Pak and Pala, my two farther ranging Anatolian/Maremma brothers. Sally is short by standards and plump, but she calls the shots around here more times than you can shake a stick at. If you are another female dog bent on one-upping or pushing limits, don't push her; you'll regret it. The PM may lack the size of a full grown SM but both genders have the heart of a lion - and that goes a long way in a confrontation. Don't mess with a pissed off PM - you'll lose.
Safe and sane. What both breeds share is a still solid, steady and trustworthy temperament. Neither breed is continuously pushing others around or trying to prove this or that. They don't need to. Occasionally I'll have the standard fence fight - you know, put a fence between two males and watch them go from being big buds to roaring enemies. But open the gate and allow them to mingle - and voila, instant friends again, licking ears and wagging tails and all is well. Not all LGD breeds are capable of that. My PM and SM males are and it is a very endearing quality about them.
Grooming - let's talk about that hair and coat stuff. Obviously the SM lacks the longer coat of the PM which in turn means less grooming requirements. They do shed however - and it comes out in short but profuse tufts. And keeps coming. And coming. I usually start the days long process by pulling it with my hands, like plucking a chicken, with my SMs. When I really get motivated of course, I drag out the combs and brushes and have a pile of hair two feet high. The PM of course is more work with it's longer coat. But I've noted an intriguing trait on my PM's: when they finally let go and 'blow' their coat, it seems to conveniently come out in long tracts of hair with hardly a pull; like it almost falls off of them. However, there's the 'deep grooming' that always has to be done and that means some serious combing…and a lot of it. The PM's feet also have very long hair sometimes in between toes. They can pick up a lot of stuff - foxtails, goat heads - and I find come summer time their feet are best shaved and or closely trimmed to remedy this problem. The SM on the other hand with his short hair around his feet, is much less prone to picking up those troublesome weeds. If you live in heavy brush country, the PM may not be the most prudent choice for you just because of the chance that the coat will pick up more stuff, and there will be more grooming involved.
Ear stuff. Both breeds have heavy, flap ears that seem to be magnets for dirt and yes, infections. I see my share here in both breeds, so I would not say either one trumps the ear stuff either way. These breeds and many other flap/flop eared LGD breeds can all suffer from this. Best recourse is to keep ears checked and clean and use non-toxic stuff to try to stay on top of infections. The Zymox products are my favorite and they come in many varieties.
Barking - ah yes, the sound of the dog language. PMs bark more than SM's - generally speaking - however - HOWEVER - let me tell you, I've had SM's here over the years who barked as much ore more than my Pyrenees - gasp! - yes, there's a real eye opener for you. My PM Sally is as vocal as they come and frankly, loves to bark. And bark. PM's Atena and even her sister Alma on the other hand - less noisy. It's a toss up. I can't even pin it down to bloodlines, frankly; I'm inclined to think this is purely an individual quirk, if you will, of each dog. I've had SM here who were like silent Sphinx's - and others who pushed my patience to the end, they barked so much, and seemingly at every noise or reason. So again, I think it's an individual thing. Overall however, they generally - again, generally - are less vocal than some other LGD breeds known for excessive barking.
Let's talk about guarding style. Both breeds don't meander off miles from livestock and that is the main reason I now raise only them, and not more far ranging breeds. I like my dogs to guard tight and close. I don need a dog to travel 20 miles down the highway - like the Anatolians belonging to the rancher down the road from me. Both PMs and SMs - if from good lines and raised right - bond strongly with livestock - it is common to see them licking faces, ears and butts. I like that! It shows me that my SM and PM love their stock. Meanwhile my two aging yet still ball busting, hard charging Mafia Brothers, Pak and Pala - Anatolian and Maremma crosses - do the outside circle if something goes down, and I've seen them literally run off and chase back my SM and PM youngsters if they try to leave the stock and join them. Nope, kiddo, it's like they're saying "get back next to those sheep and heifers where "your kind" belongs and leave the meeting the threat at the fence to us big bad ass White Boys……" It is common to see SM and PM lying content near stock. That's what they do, and that's what I like, and want. Both breeds in my opinion, based on experience, are equals at this.
Close, calm, confident and curious. Just what I want to see in both PM and SM pups and adults. My litters are allowed to mingle with stock in big areas, encouraging travel, curiosity, and building confidence and promoting fitness. Photos above and below show both PM and SM pups doing a great job at sheep introductions and getting acquainted, and close guarding adults.
I have sold both PM and SM to larger commercial livestock operations with equal success. I've also placed both breeds with smaller homesteads and hobby farms. They run equal in those areas; climate is always a factor, and if it is hot country, I typically steer clients away from heavy coated breeds so they don't suffer in the heat, and that is where the SM is better off - as long as they have access to shade and plenty of water, of course. Likewise, I've turned down far north, extremely cold country homes who wanted short haired SM's - even though they can tolerate a lot of cold, in the long run, they suffer more than a heavy coated breed. Remember the breed came from the sunny warm climate of Spain. Why make a dog suffer needlessly? The PM grows a huge, abundant coat and thrives in cooler climes and is one of the most cold tolerant breeds I have ever owned. Common sense in both instances….
When first time LGD owners come to me for their first LGD and are at a loss as to which breed they should pick, I typically steer them towards the PM which overall I feel, is a little more forgiving as a breed, as a whole, than the SM. Having said that, I've also sold many SM pups to first time LGD owners with success as well.
Not all SM are made alike. Not all PM are made alike. So much of how they turn out rests on the bloodlines and how they were raised. That is a huge factor. If raised badly, or sloppy, well, you may be in for a shock. The good ones however, are wonderful.
Keep that in mind for both breeds as you decide - don't just focus on the breed, you are shopping for an integral, honest and transparent breeder, too - one who does not lie about their supposed accomplishments and their dogs and what they are or have produced. You are looking for one who has a proven track record of producing good dogs, and who offers you support, health guarantees and above, all who has integrity and honesty - not blow hard cover ups and wild claims that fall flat.
As for what breed is for you - it's a tough call for some - for others, not so hard. I love them both equally and that is why, I raise and own both. Because my father was Spanish/Mexican, these breeds are part of my heritage, and I am proud of them, and honored to have been allowed to import the dogs I have over here from good breeders in Europe.
As for finding a good breeder of PM and SM, I'll be putting a post right after Easter about what to look for in LGD breeders, and how to choose good over bad so your LGD choice is a win, not a loss or a regret.