This beautiful structure was built by a recent buyer of a pair of our pups – oh how I appreciate buyers who care this much! The family had a building contractor working on their property. Every night when the crew left my buyer raided the scraps. This mansion is constructed mostly using repurposed materials.
In addition to being visually pleasing I’d like to point out all the strengths in this design:
The house has large doors; most LGDs won’t use a house that they can’t see out of well.
Each individual house has two openings. This means a dog can’t corner his/her partner. As all married folks know partners don’t always get along. With the Maremmas times of stress and squabbles can be during adolescence, if one of the dogs is cycling, or if one of the partners perceives the house as a resource to guard. It is up to the dogs to work out their differences; you’ll find you really don’t have much say in the matter. Doing what you can to help keep them safe is important.
The large, open high platform will be cherished real estate for the dogs. They really appreciate a high vantage point. Also, sometimes LGDs attempt to lay claim to barn space. This upper level will allow goats to be on one level and the dogs another; what a great use of space. This would work inside of a building too. I plan to build platforms in several of my barns.
The platform has multiple exit/approach options, including right off the edge. The platform is three feet off the ground. I wouldn’t want to see my dogs jumping from that height everyday but in an emergency they sure could if they needed to. By the way, the straw bales are in place in the photo because the pups were only five months old and were initially a little insecure about using the ramps. I doubt that lasted long! The bales will be removed so that the goats don’t use them similarly. And yes, clever goats could use the ramps but I think the dogs could teach them it was an unpopular choice.
The houses and platforms are two separate pieces joined only by the ridge cap. It will be easy to move the houses with a tractor as uses around the property change.
Also important is the location of this structure. It is not near a gate, water trough, or feeder. These are areas common to livestock. If the dog’s dwelling is close to these areas the dog may decide to guard all of it. This sets up a conflict between the dogs and the livestock; the situation can get out of hand in a hurry, even if you eventually correct your mistake and move the structure. It does not serve the dogs or the livestock to feel adversarial towards each other.
And on that note…it would not be appropriate to feed the dogs on, in, or near this structure, no matter what the weather, because this too can set up a resource guarding situation. Training to prevent resource guarding starts with appropriate management of the environment the dogs live in way before problem behaviors happen. Scolding your dogs will not work; setting them up for success will.
To wrap things up – not everyone can create a masterpiece like this structure, and it isn’t essential to the happiness of working dogs. But if you pull some of the pieces from this scenario and apply them to your own situation that may be helpful. Setting up housing for LGDs that they will actually use must consider the world from the dog’s point of view.