Livestock Guardian Dogs
Livestock Guardian Dog
The centuries-old use of livestock guardian dogs to protect livestock from predators in Europe and Asia is well known. In the U.S., the most common guardian dog breeds are the Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, Akbash, Maremma, Komondor, Kuvasz, and Sharplaninac.
Some livestock guard dogs can make wonderful family pets and capable home protectors with the right socialization, training and environment. It is best to purchase a guardian dog from a reputable breeder who will guarantee the dog against any physical defects and/or non-performance.
Although their size is intimidating, they are gentle with children as well as livestock, and possess such qualities as strength, courage, and protectiveness. But for the most part, a livestock guardian dog is not a herding dog or a pet, but rather a full-time member of the flock. Guardian dogs protect livestock by patrolling the pasture, confronting predators, barking, scent-marking, and discouraging potential predators. The guardian dog must consider itself a member of the flock to insure a strong bond, which will bring out its protective instinct.
Most trainers encourage independent behavior with a very little human bonding. The protective behavior of the guardian dog is mainly instinctive, therefore a minimum of formal training is required other than the correction of undesirable behaviors such as biting or wandering off.
The three most important traits to look for in a successful guardian dog are trustworthiness, attentiveness and aggressiveness because the dog has to be trusted to not harm the livestock, must be aware of the location of the livestock at all times and must be naturally aggressive against any potential predator.
Livestock guardian dogs need daily exercise and the discipline of a job to keep them happy and well-adjusted. They tend to have a long puppy hood and adolescence, often not reaching maturity until they are 2 to 3 years old. Strong-willed, they need strict training, intense supervision and strong human leadership.
A guardian dog is a valuable animal and must be protected from moving vehicles, being mistaken for a predator by neighbors, shootings, and trappings. It is important to let your neighbors know that you have acquired a livestock guardian dog, because a patrolling dog may easily be mistaken for an intruder. In-ground dog fences, as well as training and tracking collars are great tools to use to protect and train your guardian dog.
Monthly grooming is important for the guardian dog who spends most of its time outdoors. Grooming also provides an opportunity to check the dog for health problems such as fleas and ticks, weight loss, and dehydration.
The benefits of using a livestock guardian dog include reducing predation, reducing labor, allowing the livestock to graze on land that wasn't usable due to predators, allowing livestock to be out during the night to make better use of pasture land, increasing the size of the flock due to more usable land, increasing profit, increasing self-reliance in managing predators and peace of mind.
A guardian dog should not be viewed as the only solution to predator problems. The owner must be committed to training and helping the dog see itself as a member of the flock. The effectiveness of your guardian dog will depend on the disposition, natural instinct, age, and pasture conditions, such as the size and cover available for predators.
Finally, in order to insure you have a good guardian dog, an investment of time and patience is important. Once a dog is trained and learns that it is the shepherd of the flock, it will be invaluable.