When you first hear the words “livestock guardian dog”, you might simply think of a farm dog: a dog that’s able to herd and protect your sheep and goats. But it’s not all that simple. Farm dogs are far more varied than that. There are farm dogs that herd and there are farm dogs that simply serve as a companion. But these dogs may not be exactly what a livestock guardian dog is.
So, what is a livestock guardian dog?
Well, a livestock guardian dog would be a dog that’s innately born with the desire and need to protect their owner’s livestock. A livestock guardian dog would fight with any predator to the death in order to ensure their herd’s safety. A livestock guardian dog isn’t constrained to only one breed. Instead, there are a variety of breeds that make good guardian dogs.
What makes a good guardian dog is actually the characteristics and behaviors that they exude. Firstly, good livestock guardian dogs are always ready to defend their herd. They are constantly on the lookout for any potential dangers. They also purposely mark the corners of their land to warn off predators. If there are any approaching intruders or dangers, they will bark fiercely to warn them off too. As they have to protect your livestock, guardian dogs will also be massive, powerful and fearsome beasts. When provoked, they will relentlessly attack and fight off dangers. However, they are also playful and gentle with all that they protect.
In a normal intruder scenario, this is how it will go: An intruder approaches and encroaches upon the guardian dog’s territory. The guardian dog senses it and begins barking fiercely in the hopes of driving the intruder away. If the intruder continues to move forward, the guardian dog will run towards the intruder to try and scare them away. If all the guardian dog’s deterrence fails, the guardian dog will begin its attack. They will fight to their death to ensure that their livestock is protected and saved from all and any danger. There is no intruder that a guardian livestock dog would back down from. Bear, wolves, cougars, or humans, they’d still fight and attack to protect their flock.
All the different breeds of livestock guard dogs hail from the same ancestors. They are the descendants of the dogs that once worked with the shepherds and goat herders of Europe and Asia. They mostly share a few similar characteristics. For example, they have fantastic senses. They are also large and strong enough to fight off any predators. And yet, they are calm and gentle beasts when danger is not near.
How do you choose the right livestock guardian dog?
There is a wide variety of livestock guardian dog breeds, from Akbashes to Tibetan Mastiffs. These different breeds all come with different types of personalities, working attitudes, and looks. Not every breed will suit your needs and it’s important to do further research on each breed before deciding on one. This can greatly change your experience with your livestock guardian dog! To best know which breed is best for you, you should speak to fellow owners and ask them about their experience.
Another important point for choosing a livestock guardian dog would be where you’re getting your livestock guardian dog from. Some livestock guardian dog breeds can also be raised for showing and hence, they are never trained to protect or work on a farm. Even if you are adopting them as a puppy, this will still greatly affect their abilities. This is because they will have never been trained by their own mothers in the basics. Work ethic and attitudes also pass down in the lines and hence, this is definitely an important factor.
How to take care of your livestock guardian dog
Your livestock guardian dog is your farm’s protector and is always constantly on the move. They are always assessing and looking out for your farm. To ensure that your livestock guardian dog is at its healthiest and most efficient, you should feed them with high-quality dog food. They will also need a large amount of space to roam about. In fact, they will often try to increase their territory’s space when possible.
Livestock guardian dogs are also not the same as pet dogs or even herding dogs. They have different instincts and behaviors and will thus act differently from other dogs. They will be the happiest when given a clear job to do and with careful and clear directions from their handler.
How to train your livestock guardian dog
The best way to train a livestock guardian dog is to train them from a young age. They can be trained by either an older livestock guardian dog or by a human handler. It is best if they are trained by both. If you are the main worker on your farm, it would be best if you were the dog’s handler. This would mean that you would also need to undergo some training yourself.
Livestock guardian dogs are consistent protectors of your farm. Similarly, the training given to your livestock guardian dog has to be the same. As a handler, you’d have to constantly train them in their duties and repeatedly and regularly ensure that your livestock guardian dog follows its expected duties. This allows them to thrive and be trained to their best ability. As the handler, you are the leader. You would have to lead them and your livestock guardian dog is also expecting that of you. When unfamiliar animals or people are introduced to the farm, your livestock guardian dog will be wary and cautious of them. As their handler, you would have to introduce these strangers to your livestock guardian dog. This will allow them to know that they are approved and allowed on the farm. They will then quickly warm up to these newcomers.
A livestock guardian dog is the best and most important addition you could have on your farm. Your livestock would be more secure and you would be able to sleep better at night! But, do remember to truly understand the needs and characteristics of a livestock guardian dog breed before making a decision.