Livestock Guardian Dogs
What are Guardian dogs?
For centuries farmers and shepards have used Livestock guardian dogs for protection from predators for their flocks. As we all become more aware of nature and safer ways to protect our planet people are looking for better solutions to predator control other than poisons, traps and guns to keep their stock safe.
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) share some common traits: they are about the same size and color as the livestock they were bred to guard; they exhibit the traits of “Responsibility” (the tendency to remain with the livestock) and “Reportability” (regular checking-in with the human caretaker of the flock.)
There are many more similarities among the LGD breeds than there are differences between them. Some breeds, like Pyrenees., were developed for tractability around people; others, like Tibetan Mastiffs, were developed for hostility toward those not of their camp – most LGDs fall somewhere in the middle.
Types of Guardian Dogs
The original LGD stock came from migrating Eastern shepherd dogs which developed into the individual breeds particular to a region, for example, the French Pyrennean Sheepdog and the Hungarian Kuvasz.
In N. America the most well-known LGD is the Great Pyrenees. These dogs take their name from the mountain range in southwestern Europe where they long have been used as guardians of the flocks.
In North America they are called Great Pyrenees. In the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe, they are known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. In their native France, they are Le Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees or Le Chien des Pyrenees.
The Maremma Sheepdog is a lesser known LGD but for those familiar with the bred they are well valued for the guardian traits.
There is evidence of the Maremma as early as 13th century from a picture in a church in Florence. In Italy, the shorter coated Maremmano and the longer backed Abruzzese merged into one breed sometime in the 1860s, due to seasonal movement of flocks. Today’s Maremma is still the most popular and common sheepdog in Italy. It is said that the courageous Maremma can ward off wolves, bears and human predators.
The Maremma Sheepdog is a lively, intelligent, sturdy and courageous dog but never aggressive. The dog should have a coarse white outer coat and a dense protective undercoat. Should be a solid white color and have good solid bones and good musculature development. The head should be wide between the ears and narrow to the muzzle. The ears are small and high set. The eyes should be almond share with black out line and be dark in color.
Other types of Livestock Guardian Dogs;
Adidi , Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Castro Laboreiro, Cuacasian Ovtcharka, Estrela Mountain, Great Pyrenees, Kangal, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, Middle Asian Ovtcharka, Perrp de Pastor Mallorquin, Polish Tatra Sheepdog, Pyrenean Mastiff, Sarplaninac, South Russian Ovtcharka, Tibetan Kyi-Apso, Tibetan Mastiff, Tornjak.
Picking Out a LGD
It must be understood that these breeds of dogs have been breed for centuries to do a job and do not make good house pets on small plots of land. There are rescue centers all over N. America filled with unwanted dogs. These dogs need space and work! They do their job of warding off predators in a three step process; first is to let the predator know they are on the job which they do by barking. They will bark at anything they think is a threat which means they bark a lot! If that doesn’t work they make a big show of being tough and only if all else fails will they get aggressive and attack.
If you are looking for a pet or a guard dog these are not the dogs for you. They are not guard dogs or herding dogs they are guardians and there is a big difference between those three jobs. For a dog to work out best for you it is important you get the right breed.
Ok now that we have gotten that clear and you are sure that a guardian dog is what you need the first place you should start is looking for a breeder, most breeders will be on a farm (I hope).
The mother and father should also be working dogs as a lot of the guardian instinct is genetic. Once you have found a breeder and have had a look at the parents now you can look at the pups. It is up to you which sex you want, I like females but you may prefer males.
I like to pick the dog that seems to pick me. It should be interested in people and isn’t afraid to be removed from the litter. Our dog went right from a litter of ten at eight weeks of age into the barn with the alpacas. So you want a dog that is self confident and brave. Some breeders will keep the puppy and train them as guardians for you but I wanted the bonding time with the puppy. Everyone in our club had a bet on as to how long it would be before the puppy was sleeping in the bed with me, they lost the bet but it was tough.
At the feed trough with the Alpacas at three months old.
Training your LGD Dog
1.Select a suitable breed and reputable breeder. Rear pups at a time from 8 weeks of age with sheep, goats or alpacas, minimizing human contact (probably the most critical ingredient for success)
2. Monitor the dog and correct undesirable behaviors.
3. Encourage the dog to remain with or near the livestock.
4. Insure the dog’s health and safety.
5. “NEVER BEAT YOUR LGD.” They will remember harsh and abusive treatment forever.
Working with an LGD takes mind over matter and often relies on keeping a cool head. Alpha dogs in the pack do not need to be brutal to punish underlings. Try using Alpha rolls, spitting or using lemon juice in their mouths, picking them up with feet upwards, time-outs to a shed or garage. Use Alpha techniques to make your dog respect you.
6. Give the puppy a safe place it can get away from the stock. We had a divider wall with enough open space at the bottom for the pup to get under and away from the alpacas. We fed her on that side of the wall with a staw bed and water. Make sure your stock is not going to fighten or injure your pup, keep an eye on them for the first while. Put the puppy in it’s own place when you can’t be around to watch. Perhaps you might have a pen with some gentler stock who you trust not hurt the pup. The key is that the pup can get away if it has to.
7. Train only the basics; stay, down, come, do not over train. Going on a led is good as well but that is all you really need to can handle them they know their own job all to well.
Angel, our Top Dog
We bought Angel from a sheep farm were her mom, a Maremma comes from a long line of guarden dogs. Angle’s dad is a Great Pyrenees. Angel gets her unique coloring from her dad which is not often found as most dogs are white. We think we are lucky as she seems to have taken the best traits from each breed of her parents and is a wonderful dog.
Some people use other animals for protecting their flocks but we wouldn’t have any other animal other than Angel as she is more than just a guardian she is part of the family. She is wonderful to visitors and loves to play catch and have her belly rubbed. She is a joy to greet in the morning as we do our chores. She good company but boy watch out if you are not suppost to be in her paddock. She’ll give you the bums rush and we wouldn’t like to see what happens if you don’t rush off, so far her bark has been enough to get critters moving along in a big hurry.
We will be breeding her on her next heat. We would like to keep one of her daughters as we think two dogs are better working in a team if a larger predator needs to be fought off.
Although Angle is extremely friendly she needs to work to be truly happy because of that we would not be inclined to sell any of her puppies as pet. Also she needs a lot of space to run as she is quite large almost hundred and twenty pounds.