Predator Control

We have had quite a number of inquiries and have put together this article for people asking us about using the dogs for predator control.

Predator control is the Komondor’s original task. However, few dogs work well for owners who are not “good with dogs”, and the Komondor is not likely to be at his best unless he is trained specifically for his task. No matter how much training, if any, he gets before you get him, in the end how well he performs for you in your situation will depend on how well you have taught him what you require of him.

A Komondor is not a hunting dog, and he is not primarily a herding dog, though on occasion he does herd. He falls in the category of guard dog; originally he was a livestock guard dog; he is now used also to guard people and property. He has no “inborn instincts” to kill predators. He has rather a very strong instinct to protect anything he has come to think of or been trained to think of as “his” from anyone, or any animal or anything that is strange. This instinct is truly bred into the dog and seems to emerge at maturity without any special training. Indeed we caution owners to be aware that a Komondor will probably protect what is “his” from your friends as well as your enemies, unless the dog Is carefully introduced by his owner to new people and new things. With mechanical things sometimes introductions cannot help much — a Komondor can “attack” a vacuum cleaner, a lawn mower, or a train If he has never seen one before, and more than one dog has died loyally trying to protect his family from a “strange” truck that they thought was a threat to loved ones.

A Komondor puppy Is not a grown dog. In familiar surroundings a puppy should be outgoing and friendly. Even a very young puppy may be wary when faced with a stranger, unless you supervise introductions and reassure him that a stranger you want him to accept is a friend. We have had puppies only a week or weeks old bark at a stranger’s footfall. From around 18 months until around 2 years, many go through a very trying period of testing — they seem to be adolescent then and In need of proving themselves. They want very much to be the boss, and the human master must be the real boss.

We think the dogs adjust best to owner and flock If you get a young puppy and raise it with you and your livestock. If you do this, however, you must realize that the little puppy requires a great deal of supervision In his initial encounters with animals. A grown cow or horse can hurt or even kill a little puppy. A young puppy, on the other hand, can hurt a fragile goat just trying to play with it — after all, a 4 months old Komondor puppy can weigh over 40 pounds! Your supervision must take both these extremes into account. As a breed, the Komondor is cautious, conservative, and stubborn. It Is usually not so hard to supervise first encounters, encouraging good behavior as well as discouraging bad behavior. This is better than trying to prevent disasters later on. We do strongly recommend routine obedience training as early as possible. Various owners use different commands, but several things are very basic. First come attention to the word NO, and leash training. We follow this with sit, stay, down, and most important come. There are several good books on obedience training; If you need a list, we can supply one. Remember always that leash training, “sit”, and “down” are all things you can force the dog to do to get the Idea across. “Come” is not that kind of command. It is, If you will, an invitation. For that reason, we advise that every time you give this command, and the dog obeys — no matter what he has done before you called him — you always praise him for coming to you. A dog Is not a child, and the learning process is not the same. You cannot explain later to a dog what the problem was. The command “come” is very useful for many things, including calling a dog away from something he should not be doing. With any dog you must praise for correct response as well as reprimand for Incorrect response.

A Komondor does not hunt out predators, or anything else, and he also is not a herder. So we usually encounter less trouble with his chasing chickens, etc… than with many other breeds. But any dog around small stock must be watched carefully In the beginning. Correct first encounters are crucial If bad habits are to be avoided. The owner showing the dog that he cares for the stock and protects It is often enough to convince a Komondor. Praise for gentle, friendly behavior is as important as reprimand in case of rough play or chasing. The dogs seem to form special attachments to stock they have overseen from birth. The lambs that are born after you get the Komondor are more precious to him than the ones that were there before he came. Owners often report that their dog “fell In love” with the new lambs or kids. He will want to be near them, etc., and this should be encouraged, though of course you have to oversee it.

You will have to teach your first Komondor who the enemy is. Usually an older dog will teach a younger one. If the dog sees you running after something chasing it off, or if he feels you hating something, he will join you. Sometimes the dogs, even very young ones, simply react to evil intent: a burglar, two footed or four, will usually rouse the ire of even the most inexperienced dog. The Hungarians often trust the dogs so much they will not let in any stranger whose way the dogs bar. Here in the U.S. we cannot usually work In this way. We see more “strangers” every day, even in remote areas, than most European shepherds do, and not all of them like dogs. Komondors rarely like people who don’t like them! This is something to remember when “strange” workmen or delivery men arrive. You really need a place where you can confine the dog If someone he does not like must work on your property.

The guarding nature of the dogs means usually that few predators are killed. The dogs stay with the flocks and drive predators away. If pressed, the Komondor fights, and he is a formidable fighter. Under ordinary circumstances he will bark and display aggression to announce his presence and forestall forays by predators. Everyone reports that the dogs are quiet by day and bark at night. They also mark their territory with their scent and by scratching the earth. This can mean that often your losses are cut and your neighbors losses increase. In view of this, we think it is wise both to Introduce the dog to your neighbors, and also to be sure your dog learns as quickly as possible both his property boundaries and that he must not leave his own property. This is the thing that most ranchers report takes the most time and determination. When you get to that point, we do have some suggestions from people who have taught this successfully.

We say we wish everyone could see a Komondor in action before getting one. This is not always possible. We do strongly suggest that, especially if you cannot see any and still want to try one, that you get only one dog, and see how he works out. The dogs are not everyone’s cup of tea. They require a firm but affectionate master and work best at maturity if they are considered fellow shepherds rather than servants. They are very devoted and hence very sensitive to your displeasure. Physical force is rarely needed and indeed is sometimes rather sharply resisted if the dogs thinks he Is being punished when he has no understanding of his “crime”. Shaming often works better than beating. The dogs are very bossy with other dogs, and we do not recommend two unaltered males together.

Our M.A.S.K.C., Inc. member breeders would prefer not to supply breeding pairs. We wish to preserve the breed as it has been for centuries, and to do this we want to see only the best specimens bred. A dog can be a marvelous working dog, but if he has physical faults like poor hips, poor pigment, poor teeth, a bad coat, etc… we would prefer not to have him used for breeding. Any dog or bitch of unsuitable temperament should not be bred, even if it is a handsome physical specimen. We disapprove of breeding unregistered dogs; the Hungarians worked very hard to get the dogs registered in order to preserve the breed. The care and effort they put into this and the benefits we get from it should not be lightly disregarded. Many things cannot be predicted in any one little puppy, and no one can responsibly predict that two small puppies will grow up to be a suitable pair to breed. If you start with one Komondor and it turns out to be a great mature dog, you should then, and only then,seek out the best possible mate for that particular animal. From our point of view, by that time you also will have learned more about the breed and will be in a better position to raise, supply and service puppies properly than a novice can. Get the Komondor if you require his special services — not to raise and sell the dogs to others before you yourself really know what they are like. Experienced breeders will tell you that breeding and raising these dogs is not easy. In Hungary they say that it requires money, money, and more money. It is also easier to have the patience that is required if you start with a dog you know to be your proven, invaluable guard and companion.

If we can be of further assistance, please call on us.
Joy C. Levy, Editor; M.A.S.K.C., Inc. Komondor News