Choosing a Livestock Guard Dog Breed, Part Two

| 12/6/2013 10:00:00 AM

livestock dogsIf you haven’t read Part One, please take the time to do that. 

Before we take a quick survey of the most common LGD breeds here in North America, we need to remember a few very important points. First, LGD breeds were specifically developed over centuries to do this work through selective breeding for specific traits. Someone may tell you that their Lab or terrier or herding dog (or whatever) is great as a livestock guardian, but that is definitely not true for the vast majority of non-LGD dogs as many folks learn to their sorrow.

Second, most LGD breeds were landrace rather than standardized breeds. Landrace means that a dog or any livestock animal has been bred without a formal registry, although their breeders may have kept written or informal pedigrees of their animals. Landrace breeds often have a greater diversity of appearance than standardized breeds. Most LGD breeds are now making the transition from landrace to standardized breeds, as breed clubs and registries have recently come into existence in their native countries as well as in their adoptive homes in North America and elsewhere in the world. This can be a tumultuous process, both in the LGD homelands and in their new adoptive homes. Folks can become quite passionate about their breed and their beliefs. As a breed conservationist, I take the position of the FAO – a breed is whatever the people in an area regard as a breed. We have much to learn from the peoples who have worked with LGDs for centuries, as we in North America only have roughly 30 years of experience. 

Third, just as there are a multiplicity of terriers and gun dog breeds, the reality is that there are many different LGD breeds. Beyond physical differences, individual breeds often became specialized for different kinds of work that required different combinations of behaviors. These physical and behavioral differences should be treasured because they increase our ability to choose the right dog for our situation. These different breeds need to be carefully conserved. Many of these breeds faced near extinction during the European conflicts of the 20th century and were only saved by dedicated admirers.

Fourth, individual differences between dogs in a breed can be significant. Please take these descriptions as generalizations. Take the time to learn more about these breeds before making your choice. Breeders and breed clubs are wonderful sources of information and mentorship.

Because these breeds were developed in a great sweep of areas from western Europe to Asia, it makes more sense to take a very brief look at the breeds geographically rather than alphabetically.

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