Livestock guardian dogs are an effective measure to help decrease sheep predator losses to your stock. While it is often the case that these dogs are highly effective as flock guardians using them doesn't guarantee you will never have another loss. Also if you do have losses it does not always mean the dog is not working. It could mean you have more predators than you thought and your dog needs backup.
LGD's possess an innate response to protect that which they feel an attachment to; be it us, our children, our porch step, a large territory, our other dogs, or our livestock. Their purpose lies in their ability to bond strongly and to ward off danger. Our job is to show them what needs their protecting.
While we'd like to say that using these dogs is as simple as putting the dog with the sheep, this is rarely the case. These dogs require time and commitment.
We've gone through a lot of struggles with LGD's and have learned a lot about what not to do. Just when I think we're settling in and understanding each other, I learn how much I don't know.
Today on our ranch there are several LGD's at work. But our place is but one of thousands using livestock guardian dogs. The vast array of situations these dogs are found in is testament to how adaptable and intelligent they are.
LGD's should not be considered fighting guard dogs. While it is their nature to fight and defend should they feel enough pressure, it is rare that these dogs will need to fight. Many do their job by vocally warning, marking territory and chasing predators off. The presence of confident dogs will often be enough.
Raising and training dogs, be it livestock guardian dogs or herding dogs, is a personal endeavor. In the end building respect through quiet power and consistent rules wins the day and the dog. The best way to learn is to read and talk at length and/or visit those who have success with the dogs they use.
Two Notable Resources
A good resource is the book titled Livestock Protection Dogs: Selection, Care and Training by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims.
A second excellent resource is the following free pdf document by Linda van Bommel that shares information on raising and training LGD's and profiles a couple of ranchers who use multiple dogs for protecting thousands of head of livestock on large tracts of land.
van Bommel, L (2010) Guardian Dogs: Best Practisce Manual for the use of Livestock Guardian Dogs Invasive Animals CRC, Canberra.
To read personal accounts about the LGD's at our place visit the Ranching With Sheep Blog.
Some specific posts you might like:
Plus, a collection of Working Dog Stories submitted by our readers can be found at: