By Paramjeet Singh Dhesi *
Livestock Guardian breeds are among the most ancient breeds of dogs. In fact, the role of flock guardian may have been one of the first uses humans found for the domesticated dog. Livestock Guardian dogs (LGD) probably originated in the Middle East or Asia. These dogs are more commonly known as the Flock Guardian Dogs. This should not come as a surprise, since these are the areas where cattle has been given great value, since ancient times. Nomadic tribes routinely used dogs to protect their flocks of sheep and goat,
as they depended on them for food and clothing. Livestock Guardian dogs (LGD) were used in ancient Assyria and Babylonia to protect sheep from wolves, as well as to guard the house. Persians of biblical times actually had laws protecting their sheep guardian dogs and family watchdog from abuse. Ancient Egyptians developed separate breeds of dogs for herding and guarding flocks.
Since they were used for protection of flock and livestock, they were of course powerful and protective dogs (thankfully, they are not counted among the extinct species yet). These are the breeds that are employed as sentinels and defenders. In earlier times, where there were great chances of the agricultural-beings (crops, cow, sheep, goat) being attacked by other natural predators, they were the best suited guards according to the owners. Especially, shepherds relied on these heavy-footed canines.
Currently if you have a farmhouse with sheep and goats, you will notice that your LGD gels well with them. This comes naturally and genetically to them. And if you do not have any sheep or cattle in the house, you might find your LGD sitting aloof and wondering “Why Am I needed In This House Which Has No Flock To Protect!”. On the other hand, they can also befound to be aggressive towards any other creature trying to pry in it’s owner’s house. This is not it, yet are a few of them which are calm and good home companions, such as The Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz and Komondor.
These guarding dogs are sprinters, rather than long-distance runners. We have found that Terriers are used as Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) Other types of livestock guardian animals cannot see well at night and don’t seek out predators with their sense of smell like the livestock guardian dogs do.
There are many breeds and sub-breeds that they have, like the Central Asian Shepherd (Alabai), Caucasian Shepherd and Anatolian Shepherds. 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. I prefer the Central Asian Shepherd (Alabai) breed because of its short hair (perfect for hot, dry), sunny disposition, and its early mental maturity.
You must not leave your LGD to spend all its time alone; it has to be socialized in order to handle, feed, and medicate it, so that it does not become an antisocial dog which would be aggressive even in its little actions.. 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 (LGD) is taught otherwise, all other animals, even other Livestock Guardian Dogs, are enemies to its livestock. An LGD puppy raised with an older Livestock Guardian Dog should allow the older dog to temper the rough playfulness of the pup to avoid injuries to its livestock. .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, preferably neutered/spayed, works well together. Dogs that are sexually intact are not working when they are breeding or raising pups. An older dog works well with a younger, less-experienced animal, teaching the pup how to refine its instincts and control the playful behavior that can result in injured or dead sheep. LGD’s are big animals. They grow fast, often achieving weights of over 100 pounds in 12 months or less.When an adult LGD is put into a sheepfold, it will usually walk the perimeter fencing, stopping to smell and urinate on fence posts. It may also walk up to each sheep in its newly-acquired flock and lick or gently paw its face.
Challenges for LGD Owners:
- The biggest challenge being faced by most LGD owners is making sure that the dogs get properly fed. Some Livestock Guardian Dogs will eat sheep food at the trough with the sheep it is guarding and may try to eat hay. 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 sheep are fed. Don’t be surprised if the LGD eats one day, then skips eating for several days.
- 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.