Meet Scout! Scout is my Livestock Guardian Dog. She is an
Anatolian Shepherd and was raised with goats from the time she was
a tiny puppy. She watched and learned from her parents as they
spent their days and nights guarding the goats in her original herd. LGDs (Livestock Guardian Dogs) are an important part of owning goats.
The coyotes are thick here and there is always the danger of a roaming
She was taught as a puppy to be submissive to the goats, but her
instincts still make her a protector.
It's very interesting to
watch how the goats respond to having a "predator" in their midst.
They don't really seem to "like" her around but none are afraid
of her like they would be if another dog came in the pasture. BUT, when she
is on guard and gives a warning bark, they all know to run to
the safety of the barn because their protector has seen or
smelled something she doesn't like.
LIVESTOCK GUARDIAN DOGS
Suzanne W. Gasparotto
ONION CREEK RANCH 11/13/09
Wherever you live and
raise goats, your livestock needs protection from predators.
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) have been bred for hundreds and
even thousands of years to provide this necessary function. From
bears in the northwest USA to coyotes in Texas to packs of
roaming domestic dogs in suburban and urban areas, Livestock
Guardian Dogs are the best predator protection available. Other
types of livestock guardian animals cannot see as well at night
and don't seek out predators with their sense of smell like
livestock guardian dogs do.
There are many breeds and sub-breeds of Livestock Guardian
Dogs. Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Komandor, Maremma,
Ovtcharka, Karst, Tatra, and Kuvasz are a few of the most
recognizable LGD's in this country. All breeds perform their
jobs similarly, with subtle differences between them. Some
mature faster intelligence-wise, others have long coats adapted
for comfort in very cold climates, while some breeds are more
even-tempered. This writer prefers the Anatolian Shepherd
because of its short hair (perfect for hot, dry, thorn-infested
West Texas), its sunny disposition, and its early mental
maturity. Anatolians are smarter than most people you'll ever
The Livestock Guardian Dog is stubborn, single-minded, and
focused solely on its herd and its protection. We Texans call
this characteristic "hard-headedness." Livestock Guardian Dogs
are often not especially social animals, tending instead to stay
with the goat herd. Although some folks manage to make pets and
companion animals of them, their "alpha" nature does not
particularly suit them for this role. They should never be left
unsupervised with children, pets, or livestock other than those
which they are guarding.
It is critical that you work with the dog and socialize it to
you so that it is manageable. If you have dogs, cats, poultry,
or other livestock, you must be careful with the introduction of
the LGD to these animals. Unless the Livestock Guardian Dog is
taught otherwise, all other animals, even other Livestock
Guardian Dogs, are enemies to its livestock. A LGD puppy raised
with your pets and other livestock generally provides the best
opportunity to have them all get along. There are drawbacks to
beginning with a puppy, particularly if predators are a current
problem. A puppy isn't ready to handle predators on its own and
won't be until it is about eighteen (18) months old.
LGD's work best in pairs. A male-female pair, at least one of
which has been neutered or spayed, works well together. An older
dog works well with a younger, less-experienced animal, teaching
the pup how to refine its instincts. Do not run two unspayed
females or two intact males together. When one of them comes
into heat, fights will occur. It is dangerous to physically get
between two fighting LGD's. To separate two fighting dogs, use
the strong spray from a water hose. Do not put yourself between
them or you will need medical attention. In most instances,
running littermates together is not successful because sibling
Livestock Guardian Dogs are sensitive animals -- the ability
to sense what is happening makes them good at their jobs. Don't
shout at them and never strike them with any object, including
your hand. Speak calmly and slowly when instructing or
correcting the actions of the LGD. You must at all times be the
'alpha' -- the dominant one -- in the relationship. Take a
misbehaving LGD by the scruff of the neck and turn it upsidedown
on the ground to indicate to the dog that you are in control.
Ninety-nine percent of the dog's activities will be the result
of instinct bred into it. That other 1% can make or break its
effectiveness, and that is where the 'alpha' human's role is
LGD's are big animals. They grow fast, often achieving
weights of over 100 pounds in 12 months or less. Their bodies
mature faster than their minds, so remember that you will have a
very large puppy on your hands for some time. Livestock Guardian
Dogs under eighteen months of age should work in tandem with an
older LGD. Don't be alarmed when the adult Livestock Guardian
Dog goes up to each goat in its newly-acquired herd and licks or
gently paws its face. This is normal get-acquainted behavior.
Newly-acquired weaned puppies should be put in a pen separate
from but adjacent to goats before being introduced into a goat
herd. After several weeks of this arrangement, carefully
introduce the young LGD into a small group of goats in a
location where the producer can monitor all activities. Don't
put pups in with juveniles under a year of age, kids, pregnant
does, or does that are nursing kids. Don't put multiple puppies
in with the same group of goats; their rough-housing will wind
up hurting some goats. Put a pup with an older experienced LGD
who is assigned to a herd of mature bucks or does. The pup needs
to get banged around a bit by the bigger goats for him to learn
his place in the pecking order.
The biggest challenge facing most LGD owners is making sure
that the dogs get properly fed. The Livestock Guardian Dog
thinks of itself as one of the goats in the herd. In fact, the
dog will assume a subservient place in the herd and will
sometimes give up its food to its goats. Some Livestock Guardian
Dogs will eat goat food at the trough with the goats it is
guarding and will even try to eat hay. Obviously, this
nutritional level is much too low for a canine. Establish a
location where the dog can eat undisturbed by the livestock, and
feed the dog at the same time that the goats are fed. Don't be
surprised if the LGD eats one day, then skips eating for several
days. Some Livestock Guardian Dogs tend to eat like wolves . . .
gorging when food is plentiful to hold them over until the next
meal is available. This is instinct-in-action.
Some LDG's (Anatolian Shepherd comes to mind) have a body
build similar to that of a Greyhound . . . long and lanky. It
always looks like it needs to gain weight. Any animal which can
run 35 to 40 miles per hour has to be lithe of build.
The Livestock Guardian Dog often looks like it is doing
nothing. Don't be fooled. The LGD is always on watch. During the
daylight hours, the dog will be hard to find and, if located,
will appear to be sleeping. In fact, it is resting and watching
everything. Two or three dogs working together will be spread
out around the pasture at strategic points and inconspicious to
all but those who know how to look for them. Introduce a strange
animal, person, or object into that pasture and watch what
happens. A huge ruckus ensues as the dogs make their presence
known by calling out to the intruders and to each other. This
writer has observed one of her LGD's become suddenly upset by
the presence of a spider underneath a board in the back of the
goat shelter. The spider was hard to find and barely visible,
but the dog saw it and didn't like its being there.
Nighttime is when the Livestock Guardian Dog becomes active,
vocal, and really goes to work. As dusk approaches, the dogs
begin to call out to each other and to predators. The LGD has
sounds for each situation; when predators are around, it makes a
distinctly recognizable bark that is quite different from the
sounds made when the goat producer comes with feed or when a
goat is down. Specific sounds are vital for protecting the herd
from predators. LGD's are barking machines. If the sounds of
dogs barking all night bothers you or your neighbors, then
Livestock Guardian Dogs are not for you. Some LGD's are guarders
and some are patrollers; the goat producer won't know the
difference until he observes the mature dog at work. Remember
that the dog will likely be 18 months of age before it is a
successful working animal. A patroller does not become a guarder
easily -- if at all. Patrollers need acreage over which to roam.
Patrollers don't know your goats from your neighbors' goats --
they are all goats in need of his protection.
Livestock Guardian Dogs are independent and self-sufficient.
They can survive for days in pasture conditions with their
goats. They will catch and eat rabbits, squirrels, and other
small animals -- but it is always necessary to provide dog food
for them. LGD's should be vaccinated against rabies, parvo,
distemper, and other serious diseases annually since their
exposure to these diseases is high. They seldom sleep under
shelter. Indeed, Livestock Guardian Dogs do not need us. It is
WE that need THEM.