RAISING A GAMPR
YOU'RE NOW A SHEPHERD
Congrats on your new Gampr puppy... or adult! Owning a Gampr and experiencing our deep connection with them is immensely rewarding. Armenian Gamprs are not hard dogs to own when the basic building blocks are established.
For the best possible success, we recommend that owners raise their Gamprs, mimicking the practices of the shepherds by following what has worked for them for centuries.
Armenian Gamprs come from the Caucasus Region, where they have been used as livestock guardian dogs for thousands of years. They live with their shepherd and dog pack in the mountainous areas, moving nomadically to allow their flocks to graze in the beautiful countryside. There are typically 6 to 10 dogs in the pack who are not confined by fencing and are free to explore at will but choose to stay close to their tent and family without roaming away for good. Gamprs are expected to work nicely with their pack mates and remain close to their flock and human family.
Raising an Armenian Gampr can be either easy or adventurous, but their fundamental nature is to do well and watch over their charges. Learning is partly automatic, as the instinct is within our dogs, but it will depend on a developed partnership between the gampr and the owner.
It takes time to become a mature LGD, but there is no definite answer on how long that should take. Each dog, owner, and farm are individualistic with much variability, so the only way to know that the dog is ready is for the owner to learn about their dog thoroughly. Some dogs are trustworthy from very early on, and others are later to mature.
Some pups will adjust more quickly than others. A few do not appear to learn anything about livestock until they are older, but they learn daily from their positive interactions, even if you don't notice.
The more closely you monitor your Gampr, you'll know what to expect from him. The more time you spend with him, the more you will understand him, his reactions, and any weaknesses. Use those predictions to create a safe and positive learning experience for him instead of leaving him in a situation where he is likely to make a silly puppy choice. All activities with new animals, especially very young ones, must be supervised to prevent problems.
During supervision, you'll learn to prevent those silly choices by redirecting the pup prior. Gamprs respond best to a positive affirmation of appropriate behavior. Using negative reinforcement is detrimental. Instead of correcting an action after they've made a mistake, prevent it with redirection before it happens. Allow the puppy to mature and gain confidence before allowing them free reign.
The time of day does make a difference, as well. Gamprs are more active around sunrise and sunset. At these times, it is recommended to keep young pups or untrustworthy adults in neutral areas to work off energy safely to prevent any playing with livestock. It is a perfect time to let them play with other dogs and children or romp around the non livestock area of the farm. After the pup tires, they will be ready to eat and then rest. Use the opportunity to take the dog into the livestock area for a slow walk or maybe even a nap during those quiet times of the day.
The first step in understanding training and how to raise your Gampr is knowing what doesn't work.
'No touch' popped up a few decades ago in the US, became wildly popular, and is still promoted today in some circles. The idea is that to make the best LGD, they must never be handled so they will bond with the livestock. New pups arriving at a sheep camp are not thrown out with the sheep and never touched, so this idea directly conflicts with how shepherds have excellently raised their dogs over the centuries. This leads to feral dogs who are nervous, overreactive, and unable to be handled or vetted when the time is needed. Thankfully, this idea has mostly disappeared as educated people realize it is exceptionally harmful.
Property confinement is another silly myth. This idea is that to raise the best possible LGD, you must never take them off the property for activities like car rides, hiking, walking, or general travel. Livestock owners will likely not have a significant need for their Gampr to leave the property often, but if they do, there's no harm, and the dogs enjoy it. It's a good idea to desensitize them to these activities at a young age, so they are comfortable when they need to make trips. For companion Gamprs, take your dog out and explore; they love to hike! Taking a dog off the property will not cause a Gampr to start roaming, suddenly dislike working the homestead or run away in protest.
Pen them up or put them on a permanent tie-out so they will bond with the stock. Bringing home a puppy and placing them in a pen (or tying them on a lead in the field) so they'll bond with its fence-sharing sheep is ineffective. As you spend time with your Gampr, especially in the stock areas, their bond with you will help them create bonds with other stock. Penning or tying one long-term causes grief, stress, and confusion.
Bringing an LGD inside will ruin them, is what a few small circles will say. That is entirely false. It's the opposite of how shepherds raise their puppies; they've had thousands of years of practice. Gamprs have the intelligence to be flexible family members and will not be confused by letting them inside. The idea that we will ruin a dog by allowing him indoors belittles their intelligence and will not undo thousands upon thousands of years of instinct.
THE SHEPHERD'S WAY
Gamprs greatly value their relationship with their shepherd, thrive on that bond, and aim to please. What is yours is theirs, and they will protect it with their life if needed. They will disregard the owner's needs if they do not have that bond or clear expectations.
Shepherds do not use our modernized methods or products to train their new pup but, instead, a simple, no-fuss approach to bringing up a dog who will be a productive member of the pack. An experienced shepherd knows that first, the dog should come from a good line of true Armenian Gampr working dogs so the pup will have the correct intelligence and inherited mindset to succeed; then, he will be capable of learning to respect and listen to the shepherd through everyday, repetitive daily interactions.
When a shepherd adds a new puppy to the sheep camp or a litter is born, those puppies will live close to the family, underfoot, until they are older, braver, and more confident. The puppy will spend his days playing and sleeping in the shade of the family tent and learning manners from the older dogs, children, and the shepherd. Usually, there's a temporary fence constructed to keep sheep out of the living quarters, and in these situations, the puppies choose to stay close to or inside the tent, where they feel the safest. Over time, they will become more confident and venture out further to explore new territory by taking advantage of gaps along the fencing. The puppy is typically not allowed to venture outside the family tent at night.
At this age, there are no real expectations of puppies other than keeping them out of trouble. If there's more than one, they will sleep, play, explore together, and just be puppies. They will find bones or hides to chew on and children or other dogs to play with, occupying their time and energy, especially during peak energy hours in the early morning and evening. When puppies look like they are about to get into trouble, the shepherd will redirect them to prevent the action.
Besides playtime and practicing being puppies, the most critical times of the day are when it's time to eat. Puppies look to their shepherd come mealtime, which typically consists of the day's stale bread, old cheese, extra sheep's milk, and on better days, meat or scraps. They know that their shepherd expects some manners and patience at feeding, so they learn to sit and wait quietly for their portion of the food. During this time is when the puppies fine tunes their listening skills. They are brilliant and understand that their shepherd treats them well by providing them safety and food, so they try to please and gain more affection by listening intently and proceeding with the appropriate action. In return, the shepherd rewards the pups with their meal, and the routine is repeated each day.
This simple sheep camp routine naturally creates the essential shepherd-Gampr bond, builds trust and confidence, allows the puppy to mature at his speed, and prevents chaos since the puppy is being redirected during constant supervision. After a few months, they will be completely assimilated into the pack yet still watched closely by the shepherd.
If you aren't a member yet, we highly recommend joining the Training Support for LGDs group on Facebook. Answer the questions to join, then look for the GUIDES to read all about positive training.