When making the decision to use an LGD (livestock guardian dog) or when seeking advice about dog behaviors, it is important to take into consideration the situation on your own farm. There is a lot of advice about working dogs suitable for small suburban farmers that would not be feasible, or of great concern, for a rancher using dogs on a larger land base and vice versa.
The LGD and the neighbour will need to get along. When neighbours understand the nature and the job these working dogs perform they are far more apt to be supportive. Afterall, your dog might be the reason the neighbour also enjoys a predator free status.
Barking may become an issue if you live surrounded by neighbours.
Dogs working in urban settings will need to be more tolerant of people and children.
Respecting fence boundaries will be more of a concern when dogs live in suburban settings. There is greater risk of the dogs becoming a nuisance or getting hit by vehicle traffic.
Fence running and fighting may turn into an issue. Being successful will rely on both you and your neighbours willingness to understand each other needs and to each manage your respective dogs.
In suburban settings there is often a problem with stray dogs wandering and chasing livestock, and even killing animals. While it may run counter to the way the pet dog society would view it, an LGD in suburban setting is often more useful if they will not tolerate stray dogs harassing stock. In today's lawsuit society, this can make them more of a risk and a liability.
Training the dog to bond with the stock is equally important no matter where the dog is located. The difference being that dogs in suburban settings will likely take up the job of guarding yard and family as well as stock. Dogs on large land bases will have far less opportunity to hang around the yard or the kids.
Letting the neighbours know about your LGD and how they work will also go a long way in rural settings because at some point your dog may end up on their property.
Barking is seldom a concern and ranchers often prefer dogs who do bark as it gives them a heads up about what is happening far afield.
Some effort to socialize with the dog on large land bases has to be made if you do not wish to own a semi-feral dog.
However, ranchers are often less concerned about their working dogs
being as tolerant of strangers since dogs on the open rangeland will
seldom see strangers. While those in an suburban setting can find all
sorts of ways to socialize their dog to strangers, and to new sights
and sounds, those in rural settings have to go out of their way to do
the same so it isn't likely to happen.
No matter what your situation the most important thing you can do is instill in your dog a respect for fencing. That said however, many adults will problem solve their way around fencing later in life, but perhaps more so when they are on large land bases and not being observed everyday from the kitchen window. LGD's most often cross fences when they are pushing predators further out of their territory.
Much of the advice given about fencing guardian dogs is to build Fort-Knox-like fencing. On small land holdings this is feasible advice. But on very large land holdings doing so would come at a cost far greater than is often possible for the rancher.Herding dogs
are often used on larger operations, where there is open rangeland to manage. It will be an important step to teach the LGD to be tolerant of the herding dog that accompanies the boss. Or to manage the guardian dogs who will not tolerate herding dogs by tying or crating them when you want the herding dog to work (sometimes not a feasible option depending on number of dogs and ability to catch them).
If your curious about using multiple LGD's in a rural setting and on pasture follow us on the blog. I often write about the highlights and pitfalls of flock guardians.