There are a lot of misconceptions about what they are, what they can do, and how to train or not to train one. So who am I to talk about LGDs? Well, before I got one, I did a lot of research, read a lot of books, and talked to a lot of other people who owned them. These dogs have the instinct to keep things safe.
Depending on your situation and the breed of your dog, they can either stick close to the animals they are guarding, or range further afield and protect the animals by keeping predators away from your farm. If you have a farm, homestead or larger ranch with any kind of livestock, one or more! When I first got a LGD, I had sheep, goats, llamas and all kinds of fowl, including peacocks, that they looked after.
As I got to retirement age, the livestock has mostly dwindled to chickens, guineas, and turkeys. These dogs can be a chicken guard dog, dogs that protect sheep, herd protection dogs, goat guard dog, livestock protection dogs… whatever you want to call them, and whatever livestock you want them to protect, they can do it.
I had a new neighbor who wanted to put a chicken coop in her unfenced back yard that had woods not ten-feet away from her proposed coop site. I tried to tell her she would have trouble keeping chickens safe, but she insisted I was wrong. She swore up and down there was nothing that could hurt the chickens, so no problem!
Turns out she was wrong. The foxes acquired a taste for them, and she eventually lost all her chickens. But if you have a big enough farm to warrant the services of a livestock guardian dog, then you likely have at least some of the smaller predators like opossums, raccoons, or foxes. And by the way, this includes aerial predators like hawks as well. Bottom line, the people who have a lot of livestock and also a bit larger property are the most likely to be able to use the services of a livestock guardian dog.
These dogs are premium protection for your livestock. Even if you live on a farm they might not be the right fit for your particular situation, especially if you have a smaller homestead. So if you are just looking for a pet, or you live in an apartment, or you just think they look cool… sorry, but none of those are good and valid reasons to have a livestock guardian dog.
This is not an uncommon occurrence… think how many times people see a dog in a movie and suddenly want one. Now a lot of these dogs are being dumped at animal shelters because people had no idea what kind of needs that particular dog really had or if it would fit in their lifestyle. Getting a dog then later having to give up the dog is hard on the family, and goes without saying is REALLY hard on the dog.
They are great at their job, but they are not the right choice for everyone. There are some downsides to them and you need to be sure you know about those downsides, understand the ramifications of those downsides, and can live with those downsides before making a decision to get one of these dogs.We have raised several litters of puppies, and there are many tools to use in the early stages of training.
One of the main tools I use is the rollover. This is a vital skill for all Livestock Guardian Dogs to have and, although many, if not most, of my pups naturally develop it, it is helpful to reinforce it as early and often as possible. There may be a use for that in the opinion of some handlers, but if early training is done, I find it to be completely unnecessary. We have a lot of young handlers-in-training at our farm, so I teach all my kids to do this so the skill is taught and positively reinforced often.
From the time the pups eyes open, each time you handle them, roll them onto their back. Once they can walk, even if a little wobbly, this skill can be developed further. Try to roll them over as they are approaching you; a surprise rollover from behind will startle rather than train them. Approach gently and calmly, but not necessarily slowly. Approach from a standing, not squatting position — you are training the pup into submissive behavior upon your walking approach. Gently roll the pup over; most will assist, but some stubborn little ones will resist.
They are small enough still that you can very gently maneuver them into a side lying position by taking in one hand the scruff of their neck which often relaxes their entire body and wrapping the other hand under their tummy and around their hip joint, lifting up their feet rarely need to come off the floor before they cooperate, but your hand under their hip will support their weight and protect their spine and gently rolling them onto their side.
Once the pups are walking and scampering around, my kids and I always roll them over when we are approaching. I continue that practice for the life of the dog: by weeks, it is a natural behavior for mine. If you have a dual-purpose dog, which to me is a human companion and a working dog not just a dog unattended in a field with only contact with its main handler most of its lifeyou can incorporate these drills into play with your pup.
Our pups are known to create rather a road block in front of the barn when they learn this: pups in a heap lying down, waiting for praise, is an enjoyable slowdown to my chores.
It can sometimes be just one word too many, and confuse the pup as to what is a command, what is praise, and what else you might be communicating. Rather, I simply ignore the pup by removing eye contact and walking away. Cattle, sheep and goats will lunge, even young ones, and the dogs will begin to associate the approach of the stock as a signal to lie down.
Chickens and other fowl are a little different; they are flighty and unpredictable, loud and easily startled. They move very differently than other stock, which presents a completely different training challenge, which I will address in detail in another post.
Once again, even though LGDs and fowl is a topic of its own, all other training should be the same no matter what your pup will do when it grows up. The calm nature of the dogs around the stock, combined with the training activity, will bring out the naturally gentle and submissive breeding that makes these dogs a wonderous thing to behold around small and delicate kids and lambs.
It is the beginning of the development of respect between the dog and both the handler and those who benefit from the mighty and gentle protection of the dogs.
Patience is a must. We cannot simultaneously expect independent thinking and mindless obedience. This is what makes them the perfect pasture companions to our chickens, sheep, goats, cattle and even horses. This is also why we have trouble with them obeying fencelines and expanding their territory. They are good at what they do, and they know it. Be patient with them and they will be everything you expect, and then some. God has created these wonderful and amazing animals, and we raise them in a way that we believe would please Him: gently, lovingly, and with respect for the 2, years of unique breeding that makes them the majestic and wonderful creatures they are.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Early Training of Livestock Guardian Dogs We have raised several litters of puppies, and there are many tools to use in the early stages of training.
Website Design by Web Considerations.Many livestock producers have learned the value of adding livestock guardian dogs to their farms. Key factors to raising successful livestock guardian dogs include acquiring dogs from working lineages; bonding of pups to the species to be protected at an early age; and managing the dogs in a working partnership with the shepherd. Allowing pups to explore gentle adult sheep results in tight social bonds between the animals.
Photo by Cat Urbigkit. Purchase pups from working parents, preferably parents that are used with the same species you want your pup to protect. Your preference may be for purebred dogs, or for crosses between two guardian breeds, but never purchase a pup resulting from a cross with a non-guardian breed. Set the pup up for success. The primary period to bond pups to the species to be guarded is between the ages of eight and 16 weeks.
A recently weaned guardian pup seeks the company of a group of lambs. Young animals raised in close association develop lifelong bonds.
Bonding pens work well to get pups off to a great start. Place a few calm and gentle ewes, goats or cows into a pen, with a protected area for the pup where he can see the livestock, but can escape to safety. Present the pup to the livestock under your supervision, but give the pup some quiet time where it can watch its new friends. The pup will get to know its livestock first through watching and sniffing noses, but will soon venture out for some gentle exploration.
Visit often to supervise, but let the pup spend the majority of its time with its livestock. Sibling fourth-month old pups demonstrate they are well on their way to becoming effective guardians as they stick close to the side of a resting ewe.
A gradual process of adding animals and range allows for the pup to become accustomed to its larger flock and landscape, and develop more self-confidence in its guardian duties as its body grows. Producers must be able to call and handle their guardians for care, so reinforce the human-dog connection, ensuring your dog is comfortable and content as your working partner.
Be clear in teaching the pup what you expect from it, including staying within its territory. If the pup strays from the flock, or follows you to the house, return it to the livestock. Give the dog the benefit of training and experience. Train the pup to a few commands, to wear a collar, walk on a leash, be tethered on a cable, and be held in a crate or kennel. Walk the pup into buildings and stock trailers, take it for rides in the farm truck, and let the pup learn what it feels like to be examined, brushed, and restrained.
Introduce the pup to other farm animals including other species of livestock, herding dogs, chickens, etc. An attentive adult livestock guardian shows affection to a friendly ewe. Expose the pup to a variety of experiences it will be expected to understand later in life. From learning the dangers of vehicles and farm equipment, to encounters with people riding bicycles and motorcycles, early exposure to new experiences will aide the dog in its future success.
Provide human supervision, correcting bad behaviors early on so they are not repeated. A good scolding goes a long way, but repeated correction may be needed to reinforce learning.
Livestock Guardian Dogs: What You Need to Know BEFORE You Get One!
Feeding routines are important. Feed the pup near the livestock not at your house preferably at the same time every day. A livestock guardian dog serves as a calming presence for its flock during the stressful shearing process. Make overall care a routine. Provide good dog food to your pup, but be careful not to overfeed or underfeed. Until your pup has proven his reliability, use caution during the livestock-birthing season.
The Training of a Livestock Guardian Dog
When your dog reaches the point it lounges nearby without interfering, you can sleep easier at night knowing the pup is well on its way to being an effective herd protector. Cat Urbigkit lives on a working sheep ranch in western Wyoming with her family and her livestock guardian animals, including guardian dogs and burros. Urbigkit is the co-owner and editor of The Shepherd magazineand enjoys traveling the world learning about pastoral cultures.
Her photographs of ranch life and wildlife appear in numerous books and magazines, and her daily Facebook posts are popular.Livestock guardian dogs are most of the time outside dogs that remain with a group of animals they protect as a full time member of the herd. Their ability to guard their herd is mostly instinctive, this helps when the dog is bonded to the herd from an early age. This is the opposite of herding dogs that controls movement, the livestock dog blends in with the pack to watch for intruders.
The way they wade off unwanted predators such as coyotes or bobcats is by being present with loud barking to warn intruders. He is a working dog whose duties include protecting his flock, herding his posse and melting the hearts of all humans who dare to meet his gaze.
He is the kindest, sweetest soul and is truly dedicated to his purpose. Rain or shine, Archer is there for his critters and is the greatest ranch hand a homestead could hope for.
You can see in the pictures below he loves being a livestock dog. Below this paragraph are the two best brushes I have found for Archer! We have trialled a few others and these ones are by far my favorite. One helps with the big knots around his tail and the smaller one can cut out the burrows of hair he gets around his ears. Every few weeks we need to brush him and he loves it.
12 Keys to Raising Successful Livestock Guardian Dogs
He enjoys when we are in the pasture with him! Archer, our favorite livestock boy has such a fluffy tail when you get through his whole body and get to his tail he sometimes loose interest - little tip try and start with the tail to make sure you get that part! This collar that I order two of at a time has a tag on the collar you can put his name, your phone, number and house address. I did not want a hanging tag on him in case it falls off or he gets it stuck in the fence some how.
Our boy is funny he will go a few months with the collar on but then we will go on spurts where we will get them off and chew them up. I have just learned to order two a time for him. When you get this collar I would get one that is waterproof and has at least a ft yard reach. We do not have this on him all the time is it just when we are training our sweet boy! In my option yes, but I do not think this type of dog will enjoy sleeping indoors with other dogs. Archer loves to protect his herd and he will spend time with us but after hanging out with our Labradors he will want back in with the goats and sheep.
He prefers to be outside in the pasture and with all the animals at night time. He will bark to alter us of any intruders at all time of the evening.I know that by now you have seen the many pictures I have posted of our wonderful Livestock Guardian dog, a beautiful Great Pyrenees named Esme. The care and training of a Livestock Guardian Dog is an investment that will NOT disappoint, as long as you do it the right way. They were bred as dogs of war and then used during peacetime as sheep guarding dogs.
They are one of the least aggressive of the large guardian dogs LGDso often people cherish them as family dogs. This independence shows when you call them—they come, but maybe not on the first call. Raising a livestock guardian dog is much different than raising a pet dog who lives with you in your home.
Making the right decisions in the period of training will guarantee that you livestock dog performs his duties perfectly for the rest of his life. But choosing to raise him as a pet with little or no specific guardian training will give you a dog who cannot be trusted with your livestock. Raising puppies to become livestock guardian dogs is a 12 month to 18 month venture. These breeds of dogs are slow to mature and thus are often not trustworthy and reliable before this age.
I want to take a brief look at three major areas of training for a livestock guardian dog. Livestock guardian breeds come with an inherent ability to guard that which they bond to. When you bring your pup home be prepared for him to spend the night where you expect him to spend his nights as an adult.
With the stock. Not in your house. Every day the pup will need to exercise and have interaction with his charges. You can allow free time outside the puppy pen whenever you are around to keep an eye on the action. For the first few weeks, lock the pup up when you are not there to supervise. Our Esme slept in the large dog kennel at night and during the day we put her in a separate fenced section.
She could smell and be out with the goats and chickens, but the fence kept her from developing any bad habits of chasing the livestock. This will leave a bad impression and could ruin the demeanor of the dog forever. If they continue to misbehave, you lock them in their pen which they utterly hate.
You can also praise the pup for good behavior. Pet and feed the pup when he is with the livestock, not when he is away from them so that he never develops the bad habit of being possessive of his food. As the pup matures you will notice if he is bonding to your livestock or not. If the dog is to guard, it is not good to raise it around other non-Great Pyrenees dogs where it can pick up bad habits such as chasing poultry or livestock.
Once chasing starts, the chicken soon becomes a diversion, and that dog can no longer be trusted with poultry. Closely monitor your Great Pyrenees puppy for its first months if you desire to raise a trustworthy poultry guard. Some dogs take 2 years to become trustworthy around chickens. A large part of success with raising puppies is being able to teach them to respect boundaries. Under no circumstances is climbing over or crawling under the fences going to work.
Supervise and correct any attempts to go over or dig under fences as you see them. Gates also need to be included in the training. They need to know they do not cross gates unless invited out by you or moving with the flock.
Adult Great Pyrenees will naturally cover a one to two mile radius. Fences, electric fences, and invisible fences all work good. Neutering helps to keep a male dog at home. Close supervision and correction the first two years will help yield a dog that stays within the property lines.Dogs have long been providing us human beings with innumerable services. Humans have been selectively breeding dogs for thousands and thousands of years to get different types that can do certain jobs for us.
How to Care for & Train a Livestock Guardian Dog
We have dogs that are bred to be nice companions and good lap warmers, personal protectors, sled pullers, rescuers, hunters, trackers, herders, and even guardians of our flocks. For a homesteader, protection of your animals is important. If you are keeping cattle, sheep, alpacas, goats, or other livestock, you are vulnerable to loss from predators.
With a properly trained dog on the farm, you can avoid these losses. A guardian dog for your livestock should prefer to be with the flock rather than in the home with people. This is a unique trait in these types of breeds. Part of this comes from genetics and instinct, and the rest comes from being raised from a puppy to live outside with the livestock. The dog generally considers itself to be a member of the flock and does not require much training to protect its mates.
The protective instinct should be natural, but you may need to invest time in correcting other behaviors that are undesirable. It is firstly important to understand that there is a difference between a herding dog and a livestock guard. Herding dogs are specifically bred to be willing and able to lead groups of livestock and to keep them in order.
Although it may vary by individual animal, in general, herding dogs do not have the instinct to protect their herd or the capability. Livestock-guarding dogs are breeds of dog that are not instinctual herders, but who do bond with livestock and feel the need to protect them from predators.
Livestock-guarding breeds are not very common, but you should be able to find several breeders throughout the U. Less common guard dogs are the Maremmas and Akbash. Other dogs that may be suitable for livestock guarding include the Bernese mountain dog or the Tibetan mastiff. The Great Pyrenees is probably the most commonly used livestock-guarding breed in the U. They originated in ancient times in the Pyrenees Mountain area of France and are thought to have originally come from present-day Turkey over 10, years ago.
These dogs are extremely loyal, devoted to both their flock and their human family, and make excellent guards. Keep in mind that all of the dog breeds that were designed to guard livestock are going to be naturally independent, stubborn, and strong-willed.
They are wary of strange dogs and strange people and tend to be aloof even with their human family. Do not expect this to be a dog that will rush up to greet you or roll around for a belly rub.
They are devoted to their guarding jobs. When you have selected a particular breed, be sure to find a reputable and experienced breeder from whom to purchase a puppy. This should be someone who has already raised several litters of successful livestock dogs. They should be able to give you references from previous purchasers who are happy with the dogs they got. You will also need to select an individual puppy.
The breeder should be able to help you with this task, knowing that you will be raising it to guard your flock. Look for a puppy that is confident and alert and that barks when suspicious of a new person. If possible, observe the puppies in contact with livestock before making a choice.The specified tournament must be completed in full for bets to stand.
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