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Q: What is a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD)?

A:

Livestock Guardians are animals that protect livestock on the farm. They can be llamas or donkeys, but in most cases, they are dogs that have been specially bred over many generations with a focus on natural protective instincts coupled with low prey-drive. These dogs are known as Livestock Guardian Dogs, or LGDs for short.

There are many different breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs, but they all share some common traits:

  • Large (usually) and have strong bite power to handle threats
  • Trustworthy personalities and reliable behavior
  • Generally low energy but capable of powerful bursts of speed
  • Thick coats to protect them from weather or injury
  • Intelligent and independent thinkers, so normal obedience training is often frustrating for the owner and the dog
Common breeds of LGDs in the United States include:
Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs (don’t mistake these for German Shepherds; they are very different in temperament), Kangal, Komondor, Spanish Mastiff, Meremma, Sarplaninac, Karakachan, and many more.

Livestock Guardian Dog standing watch over his flock.
This Anatolian Shephard Dog stands guard over his flock.

Many flock-owners have begun keeping LGDs to protect the flock from predators. While these dogs can do well with poultry, they are often better at perimeter protection since they don’t bond to poultry quite the same way they do to other livestock. They can be trained to work with your flock, but be prepared: it is normal to have a few losses during the learning process, and it is best to purchase dogs that were raised with flocks for the best chance of success.

There are some important considerations when deciding whether to add Livestock Guardian Dog to your farm or home:
  • They can be noisy - these dogs like to prevent threats, much like the security light in your yard. To do this, they often bark to let any predators know they are on duty, particularly at night when many predators are most active. You likely won’t be able to curtail this, so be sure it won’t bother you or the neighbors.
  • Fences make good neighbors - and keep your dog at home with the flock. Many of the LGD breeds like to patrol ever-widening territory. Some, like the Great Pyrenees, have nicknames that tell you a bit about the tendencies (like “Great dis-a-Pyrs”), so your fences need to be secure to contain your LGD.
  • LGD’s require training and commitment. Many LGD breeds do not really mature until they are about two years of age. As they mature, they may go through phases in which they test boundaries and even have accidents with the livestock. During the training, the owner needs to be out there working with the dog on a daily basis, supervising them with the livestock. It will likely be easier to train a dog to patrol a perimeter, but any dog working with the flock directly will need more intensive training.
  • LGDs need a confident, stable pack leader. If you are afraid of dogs, an LGD won’t be a good choice for protection.

Livestock Guardian puppy in training
This LGD puppy is in training to be a great farm guardian.

Livestock Guardian Dogs can make a wonderful addition to your home and family, as well as your farm. Be sure to carefully research the breeds before making a decision and set aside time for training; doing this will help ensure your new dog will serve you faithfully all its life and become a treasured member of your household!