Since we had only ever had pet dogs, prior to getting the Livestock Guardian puppies, we did a lot of research on this genre of working dogs. Many of the questions regularly asked on forums were about keeping the dogs contained to their pasture. “How do I keep him from climbing over the fence?” “How do I stop her from digging under the fence?”
Initially we looked at commercial dog runs but they are a) expensive b) small and c) generally have no floor so do not solve the digging out problem. Eventually we figured there had to be a better way, and when planning the layout of the sheep and goat barn, we incorporated the dog run into it, making it the divider between the sheep and goat “stalls”.
We started by laying a panel on the ground. To that were attached the side walls.
The panels used for the sides have smaller gaps than the cattle panels. Rather than 4×6 holes, each hole is only 6×2. This means the puppy couldn’t squeeze through the holes in the panel, even when first brought home. A regular cattle panel was then placed on top. The “roof” panel secured the whole thing and turned it into a tube. Finally a panel was cut to create the ends, each of which is secured in such a way it can swing open to become a gate, so that animals can enter from either end.
The dog run served as a handy place to hang sheep and goat feeders. More importantly, it allowed the puppies to interact with both sheep and goats safely, and allowed the stock to adjust to the idea of having dogs living among them. As the ewes and lambs gave birth, the pups were able to see, smell and hear without causing any problems – and without being traumatized by protective new moms.
The pups slept in their dog run every night until they were 6 & 8 months old. Later it was used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy when Karina had her first heat cycle. And in between it was used to separate kids at night so we could milk their moms in the morning.
Initially we thought the dog run would be a temporary addition to the barn, but it has been so useful as a separation pen that we have never dismantled it.