Pupdate — Bear the Akbash “Little Big Dog”

A couple of weeks ago I took Bear down to the co-op store to meet a friend who’s lived here a long time (came from here). Bear has nice manners and my friend likes dogs. She looked at Bear and said, “I don’t think she’s a Great Pyrenees at all. I think she’s an Akbash.”

I’d never heard of this “Akbash” of which she spoke.

“A lot of ranchers use them to guard their sheep out here.”

“A lot?” I wondered. That couldn’t be many. There are 40k people in the San Luis Valley and 10k live in Alamosa and 4k live here and 2k in Del Norte and there are other towns, though not as big. And not all the people living on the land are ranchers; most are farmers. Still, there are a lot of dog breeds out here that I have almost never seen in my life, though the most common is the Australian cattledog.

“Yeah, here, look.” She’d found Akbash on her phone and they looked a lot more like Bear than Bear looks like a Great Pyrenees. They are longer, taller and leaner than Pyrs; often have spots on their ears and different places on their body and they can have blue eyes. Their fur is not as thick and fluffy as a Pyr, more often it is silky and not as long.

Bear.

She’s doing great, still. She’s the star of obedience training, and she’s the youngest “student.” She likes doing what I ask her to (she likes me) and we’ve been practicing this stuff since she came. I’m also around her most of the time, and I realize how much a difference that makes in training a puppy. She’s very responsive and very affectionate. She sits and is getting to “sit stay.” She does “down” and is learning “down stay.” She heels more or less well if Dusty walks with us, otherwise, she gets too captivated by the “news” all along the way. I’m now working with her on respecting my space and accepting “intrusive” touches like me checking her teeth, rolling her around and messing with her feet. I can just imagine her as a 100 pound dog who doesn’t let the vet touch her — a nightmare! She’s getting it. She no longer gets emotionally devastated if I say, “Bad dog!” so I can see she’s more secure. Dusty and she have had a few mild spats but it’s Dusty telling her what’s up and not to come up on him from behind. Dusty does not know how to play, and that’s been hard on Bear to understand. She loves all people she meets and doesn’t jump on them. She especially loves little kids who are generally fascinated by her. She weighs 45 pounds and is as tall as a full grown Aussie. (Mindy, to be precise.)

I’m so glad I got her. She’s a wonderful “little big dog.” Given her nature and the nature of the breed, I’m also glad I’ve had several snow dogs over the years and am used to dealing with an independent dog who believes she has a job to do.

Here’s a photo of a full grown Akbash. I took it from http://www.dogbreedinfo.com — this dog is a male and his name is…Bear. Oh well!

AkbashDogPurebredBear

Here’s an Akbash at work. Not a bad job, standing around in a field under the open sky!

Akbash_Dog_in_CA

If you’re interested in the breed, here’s good information.

Night One with an Akbash (not a Great Pyrenees after all)

When the crate training was clearly a fail, I wondered, “How am I going to be sure the puppy is OK through the night? That she doesn’t get into things she shouldn’t and possibly hurt herself?” I honestly don’t worry much about cleaning up after dogs. I have a carpet cleaner and 30 years of experience with at least 20 dogs.

I took her to my room and tied her to the end of my bed so she’d have only a short distance in a safe place to get into trouble and I went to bed.

She wasn’t happy. When she stopped whining I looked at her and saw she didn’t know where I was. I thought, “Most of my friends sleep with their dogs. A lot of the websites that talk about the livestock guardian dogs say that’s just the way it is with these breeds. OK.” I untied her and lifted her into my bed. She was happy to know where I was, but still didn’t settle down. “All the websites say these dogs are nocturnal. If that’s really absolutely true, that might not work,” I thought. I looked at her. She was vigilant; sitting up and staring out the window at the moon.

Then I understood. She needed out. I leashed her and Mindy and I took her out to pee. She peed immediately and then I thought, “What if she just wants to be like Dusty and Mindy? She loves them already. Maybe she just wants to be like the other dogs who’ve successfully made lives for themselves in my life.”

I left her in the living room with Mindy and went to bed. I got up at 3 to take her out. Mindy was happy to help and came along. When we came back, I went back to bed. Bear went to sleep beside Mindy. This morning, they were all waiting. No trouble. Nothing chewed. No accidents. Just three happy dogs who seemed to have been together forever.

In nature, the (livestock guardian dog) is confident, gentle (especially with children), and affectionate. While territorial and protective of its flock or family when necessary, its general demeanor is of composure and patience and loyalty. It is a strong willed, independent and reserved breed. It is also attentive, quite fearless and loyal to its duties.

I’ve never had a young pup who behaved like that through the night. I thought back to my first puppy — Truffle. I didn’t have any dog experience at that point, and I didn’t know much. I put the puppy outside and closed the door. She cried all night. After a couple of nights, she stopped crying. I began to view dogs differently, especially after going through obedience classes with Truffle. My perceptions continued to evolve once Truffle and I began hiking and she was less and less my “dog” and more my hiking pal. One thing is certain; I began to see that I could work WITH my dogs’ natures. I didn’t have to impose my will on them. I simply had to behave with certainty myself. It no longer seemed like a human “training” a dog, but a human communicating with a dog to build a workable, complementary partnership. It’s not a partnership of equals but only because dogs don’t want that.

Anyway, this little being has bonded to me and the other members of her pack and this morning it’s pretty clear to me that she wants to get it right. It seems all she’ll need is love, care and the knowledge that she’s safe and at home. Her natural intelligence and breeding will do a lot of my work for me.

Day One with a Great Pyrenees (Who Now, I Know, Is an Akbash Dog)

If you have a Great Pyrenees or have ever had one please tell me everything you know. I have never even met a dog like this one. In some ways she reminds me of my Aussie/Malamute the puppy school drop-out, Molly, who got so bored with puppy obedience training that she went to sleep in class. Like Molly, Polar seems to want to serve me of her own free will rather than being an “underling” in the sense of being dominated by me. I’ve had a couple of other dogs like that, but this dog is really different. I’m sure in puppy school Polar O’Bear (She’s an O) would go to sleep, too. After one full day with this dog I would say:

1) She does not believe she needs a leash in order to walk with me. She believes that BECAUSE she WANTS to walk with me the string is silly. She does as she’s told/asked, but mostly because Dusty and Mindy get very happy at the word “Walk” and will practice with her. I will continue to leash train her, but never have I had a dog who just WATCHED me and FOLLOWED me AT HEEL.

2) She has her own mind. She is a little scared in a new place, she wants to stay, she wants to please me, but she has a mentality of her own. We had a little struggle over the crate (I’ve crate trained several dogs and never had any problem inducing them to at least stick their head in to eat their dinner the first day). After that, I realized the best strategy for me was to treat her like I would a cat and wait until she came looking for me, momentarily, at least, abandoning her and the whole project. It was effective. I have put the crate away and am contemplating not using it with her. Why?

3) I also realized she may not need to be crate trained. Thinking of her very strongly pronounced Pyrenees mentality, I realized she could feel the crate would hamper her ability to do what she’s bred for — take care of me, my house and my other dogs. I felt like she was telling me, “No! I have a job to do. Have I given you any indication today that I WON’T pee when you want me to? Walk where you want me to? Sit when you tell me? This really hurts my feelings and I feel insulted by it.” I found it interesting because at the shelter she went right into her kennel. Here she would have no part of it; perhaps because it reminded her of the shelter. I’ve adopted other shelter dogs and they were happy to have a crate. It made them feel safe and gave them their own domain. This morning when I went to get her she was EXTREMELY happy I was back and that might be part of it.

3) She lets me do everything to her. I have cleaned both her ears, wiped her eyes cleaned, brushed her seriously to remove the little mats and she is completely happy with all that somewhat intrusive contact. She did not like the collar or the harness but quickly learned there’s no choice and has accepted them both, even letting me take the harness off and put it on again.

At the end of day one, I think I’m in for an experience. But again, please, I would really like to hear anything anyone can tell me about how best to train this breed so she will be happy forever with me.

She has given me the incentive I needed to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to talk about a knee replacement.