Ten Talents Farm: Colorado Mountain Dogs
Ten Talents Farm
Colorado Mountain Dogs
​"Great Pyrenees Hybrids"

Colorado Mountain Dogs

Living With Colorado Mountain Dogs in Town

by Steven Beam

I was asked by Kristyn Nabeta of TenTalentsFarm.com to write about my experience (so far) regarding owning a Colorado Mountain Dog in town. We live in Colorado, too, but most of her Colorado Mountain Dog puppies are purchased and owned by ranchers, small family farms and people with more acreage in remote areas.

I’m not a breeder, dog trainer or Animal Behavioral Specialist. My observations are completely unprofessional and may or may not jive with your opinion. This article is about a family of four (4) living with a CMD in town.

We live on an elevated half acre lot which is considered rather large here in town but not for typical CMD owners. We have 16 acres of open field across from our house and another hundred or so of treed open space to the north of our house.  Our neighborhood is overrun with deer and we have several packs of coyotes and the occasional bear.

We have an 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter. We hike a lot and spend pretty much every free moment outside doing some sort of physical activity. Our kids are in all types of sports, so any dog we own must be able to handle and cope with kids, and lots of them.

We have always owned Labs and Golden Retrievers and these are the two breeds that have shaped our opinion of how dogs are supposed to be. This is important because you must understand early on that Colorado Mountain Dogs are nothing like a Lab or Golden. In the beginning, we had a difficult time understanding this breed since my only real dog experience was with uber hyper, people pleasing, ball chasing, Labs and Goldens. CMDs are very different and we noticed it from the first minute we brought him home.

My wife has always wanted a Great Pyrenees but she also wanted a walking/hiking companion and a playmate for the kids.  After extensive research on the Great Pyrenees and other larger breed dogs etc… we came across the CMD breed online.

Once I was connected with Kristyn via online, I gave her a call to question her about the breed and she questioned me regarding whether or not the CMD breed was a fit for our family. We had several conversations over the phone and she always made time to answer all of my questions. I was impressed. Kristyn was highly knowledgeable and very frank with me about her reluctance for an “in town” family having a dog like this. She wanted to know everything about us,  where we lived, how much land we had, what our lifestyle was like, could we exercise and care for the dog, etc... She wanted to make sure we could provide proper care for the dog, but also make me aware of what I was getting our family into.

Once we agreed that the logical next step was for my family to view the dogs, we drove to Ten Talents Farm to see her Colorado Mountain Dogs and puppies. It was so much fun!  It was obvious before we even stepped out of the car that these puppies knew people and had been around kids. All of the puppies mobbed us and wanted to play. It was awesome. Lil and Tayla, her two females, greeted us and checked us out thoroughly, then went about their business. We were hooked right from the start.

Weeks later, we picked up Finn, our Colorado Mountain Dog puppy, and the learning process began.

The first step was fencing. We decided to go with Invisible Fencing. I gave Finn pretty much the entire half acre to claim as his own but had them set it up to keep him out of specific garden and flower bed areas. I read a lot and Kristyn even warned me that the invisible fence may or may not work on these dogs; for more dominate personalities, it might not...but for Finn, we trained him fully in one week. He rarely challenges it and when he does, he pops right back into the safe zone immediately. He spends full days in our yard without the collar and never misses a beat even when neighbors walk their dogs by the house. Most neighbors will disconnect their dogs and let their dogs play with Finn before continuing their walk. When it’s time for them to continue their walk, he does not challenge the fence. Inside the house, we have the invisible fence discs that keep him out of specific rooms and areas of the house. It works perfectly and he has been using it for 7 months now. He uses every inch of our yard that we allow him to use.

We liked the idea of invisible fencing for this type of dog because we could tell immediately that he appreciated large open areas to scan. Even as a little puppy, he would scan the areas around our yard and the open fields across the street. I believe fencing this dog in with a 5 foot privacy fence where they cannot see out, would drive them crazy. That’s my opinion.

We quickly learned that we had a lot to learn and understand about this breed. I told myself daily “this is not a Lab or a Golden.”

Colorado Mountain Dogs are very independent and this can be hard for someone to understand at times. Here are my thoughts about Finn and the breed.

As I write this, he is 9 months old and 100 pounds; recently neutered. He still has a lot of growing to do before he is full size.

He loves his family and we know that, but he is 100% perfectly happy being in the yard, by himself, doing his own thing. This was hard for us to initially understand because our previous Labs and Goldens wanted to be with us 100% of the time. He is much more of an outdoor dog than an indoor dog. He needs and wants his space and that has been obvious from day one.

He would sleep outside all night if I would allow it. With roaming packs of coyotes, I don’t feel comfortable leaving him out alone at night. I work from home, so most days he stays outside on his own from the time the kids leave until they return.  Occasionally, he will want to come in and sleep in my office or chew his bone on the deck off my office, but truthfully, he seems happier patrolling the yard.

We LOVE that he is so mellow but this was very hard for us to get used to after having Labs. In fact he is so mellow at times that we initially thought he was sick and asked the Vet if he was OK. The vet reminded us that these are independent dogs that sometimes find it more pleasing to chill on their own.

When MOST visitors arrive he greets them, checks them out and then he’s off to do his own thing. He is very mellow with guests in the house and we all love this. We really appreciate that he doesn’t jump on people, lick and go crazy when guests arrive.

Some visitors are not welcomed as quickly and as friendly as others. I have yet to figure out what it is about certain people that cause him to be openly friendly and welcoming or go immediately into protection and caution mode. He can be particular about adults he likes and doesn’t like. He seems to be able to make this decision (like or not like) from a distance before the people even speak. Quite frankly there have been a few times that I thought he was spot on with his character assessments. Once we introduce him he will be accepting but if it’s someone we don’t know he will generally stand in between us and the new person until he feels comfortable. It’s very interesting to watch him in this situation. It’s obvious he is sizing up the person and watching our actions to see what we think.

I was told to socialize the dog immediately and we did and it worked.  I’ve yet to see him be standoffish with children. He welcomes them fully and greets them with a happy wagging tail and sniffs. The day after we got him we took him to our kid’s school for Field Day. He was mobbed by 250 kids and he loved it.

Yes - before we decided to get a CMD I did read somewhere that these dogs are nocturnal. However, I totally subconsciously overlooked it and didn’t think about it again until we brought him home for the first night. Yep, he stayed up ALL night. He didn’t cry but he did want to play and chew bones all night. He quickly learned our daily routine and we have not had any issues after the first few nights. To his credit he was raised outside at Ten Talents Farm. So far as we know he did not spend the night inside for all of his first 8 weeks. I think being outside early on at Ten Talents Farm helped him learn outside night noises better too. He seems to really know what’s going on around him at night in the forest around our house.

We have noticed that he does patrol the house at night. We occasionally hear him walking from room to room to make sure the kids are in their beds. We have also noticed that he has now claimed the top of the stairs as his preferred sleeping spot. It’s an open two story house so he can see most of the main floor from this perch.

We usually get the kids to bed around 8:30 so Finn and I walk around 9:00 at night and he loves it. We walk about 1 to 2 miles every night before bedtime. He usually sleeps quietly through the night if he gets his walk. I believe he loves his night walks more than daytime walks because it cooler out. Our neighborhood comes alive after dark with coyotes yelping and deer feeding so he is always on full alert when we walk but he seems to really enjoy listening and watching on our walks.

On the leash. Finn loves walking but I personally find leashes annoying. I’ve never had a dog walk much on a leash. All of Finn’s early walks were done off leash and this is how we walk each night. I believe it teaches the dog from day one to stay with you. It may not work for you and trainers may call me crazy but it has worked for my past three dogs. I will usually keep a few treats in my pocket and I do carry a leash but only loop it around his neck if a car is coming or another dog that we don’t know is near. I would guess that 90% of the time he stays within 15 feet of me and occasionally he will get 20-25 yards away. I allow farther distances only when I know we are in a safe area. If he is too far away I yell come and most of the time he will bolt my way. Occasionally he will take his sweet time but I believe he is seriously, in his mind, checking out something important. He definitely has his own agenda.  For this reason I do own an E collar but very rarely use it. The E collar took minutes for him to learn since I already trained him to respect the Invisible Fence. We recently hiked 9 miles with him and he was never on leash. We do pull him in close when other dogs or people are coming but he has learned that this is what we expect so most times he will stop and wait for us when he sees people or dogs coming down the trail.

Barking -  Finn never barked at anything until about two months ago. Now he barks sporadically throughout the day. It’s typically a warning bark that something or someone is coming. Update...he has found his voice at 8 months. We will be getting some type of bark collar to ease the evening barking. I hear from other LGD owners that evening barking is very common. In my neighborhood we cannot have this on a regular basis. We are hoping it’s a teenage thing and he will grow out of it so we have been calling him inside when we hear him barking to keep the neighbors happy. I’ll give it a few more weeks and if there is no change he will have to have a bark collar. How much barking? Let’s talk about perceived threats as this can cause barking.   This was a new term for me when we used in conjunction with dogs. Anyway, we have found that these dogs can perceive almost anything as a perceived threat and this will cause barking. Major threats around our house and yard have been the following. The patio umbrella fell over so it was out of place and thus deemed a perceived threat. He barked incessantly until my son figured it out and put the umbrella back to it’s home spot. Shadows or light reflecting in the patio door window at night can sometimes be a treat, an empty trash bag, a comforter left sitting in your bedroom chair when you are changing sheets is a really bad threat. Basically we have learned that anything could be a perceived threat if it’s out of the norm or different from what he thinks it should be.  This usually happens right as we sit down to dinner and gives me a mini heart attack.  Dogs far off in the distance barking can cause barking too. I think he is telling them to shut up and stay away he owns this hood and it’s his turf.

CMD communication? I’ve never had a dog communicate so much. I’m talking about very low pitched growls, grunts, whining and even blowing repeatedly. He is very vocal and we are still learning what all of his different noises mean. Usually it means he’s unhappy with his current situation or flat out wants something. He does pout too. If it’s -6 degrees and ‘ don’t want an evening walk he is visibly mad and will sit and pout.

Exercise is key. These dogs need walks and lots of them. They don’t all need to be long hikes either. He seems just as happy when we do a quick mile loop or 3-5 mile walk. I would not suggest getting a dog like this if you are going to leave them homes 9-5 daily. They will be bored to tears and probably destroy your house. I’m not kidding.

My takeaways for perspective in town owners of Colorado Mountain Dogs is this…

          These dogs can live in town under the correct situation.

          Socialize often. If you want them to be comfortable in certain situations or around people and other dogs then make sure you                   expose them to that situation a lot in the early days.This has paid off big for us.

          Praise and more praise. I believe he responds best to praise. An enthusiastic “good boy” seems to perk his ears and put a skip in               his step.

          In my opinion they need a larger yard. At least a third acre.
          I would not fence these dogs in a privacy fence as they are made up of breeds that like to roam and scan their surroundings.

          I would not try to own one of these dogs in an apartment or townhouse. They do bark and they need space.

          You must be 100% committed to exercise the CMD or you are setting yourself up for failure.

          They need a lot of fresh water. I’ve never owned a dog that drank so much water in a day. He drinks at least twice as much water               as any previous dog that I’ve ever owned. When we hike we make sure we have water and that has access to it regularly.
          If you walk this dog in the hot months he will stop and lay down and not move until he is ready. I’ve seen it.

          If you expect them to be around kids and people you better socialize them. I can easily see how these dogs could be left out with               the flock for days on end without human contact and be 100% happy. They do not necessarily need to be around people to happy.

          They are very loving dogs. It’s a joy to drive up and see him do a happy dance in the driveway when he sees you coming. When he             wants loving he comes and lets you know. They communicate regularly and I know this as I’ve been around other CMDs and seen             them doing the same thing.

          Don’t be fooled. These are powerful dogs. I know when they walk they can at times look like they are moving in slow motion…                   They look like giant puff balls but they are extremely athletic and unbelievably strong. They can move, jump, react and run very                 quickly and cover a lot of ground very fast when they run.  His stride is long and he runs with a purpose. I personally watched                     Finn’s mom Lil scale a 5 foot farm gate like it was nothing.

          If you don’t give them a job like animals to protect during the day/night then you better have doggie entertainment in place for                 them. I’m talking toys, bones or whatever. They need toys and I believe lots of bone early on. Their teeth are huge so they need                 lots of chew toys.

Finally, I think he keys on my daughter. Shes 8 years old and does just about everything completely wrong to him and around him.           He doesn’t seem to care. She grabs his face (while she is squealing like an 8 year old little girl) and plants huge prolonged kisses on his face, nose, ears or whatever. He never seems to mind. She lays on him, rolls on him and would ride him if she could. He doesn’t care. He is visibly upset if he can hear her in the house but cannot find her. He will look around the house until he finds her then monitors her until she leaves. If she rides her bike off the property and heads down the street he will usually sit and stare in the direction he last saw her until she returns. I’m waiting for him to run through the invisible fence...My son is the rough play and tug of war and run through the house and yard companion. He loves to chase him like most dogs do with kids. The point is that my unprofessional opinion is that they make great family dogs when socialized properly to their future environment. He seems to understand all of us far better than we understand him. He comes to each of us for interaction in different ways. He knows what each of us have to offer him and he accepts that. It is very clear to me that all he really wants is love and mostly... just to be with us. We are his flock and he loves being with us no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Colorado Mountain Dogs