How to React to a Working Livestock-Guardian Dog


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Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are one of the most effective means of predator control. This very old method of protecting sheep, goats, or cattle is once again essential to coexisting with predators on our landscape. LGDs live full time with their animals and make independent decisions about potential threats to their charges. With their increasing use on private and public land, encounters between these working dogs and humans are occurring more often. Occasionally these encounters cause issues, especially between recreationalists and ranchers.

Owners of LGDs want you to be safe, but we all need to behave appropriately around these serious working dogs. Knowing how to react is essential — whether you are hiking on shared public recreation and grazing land or even when visiting a farm with a LGD.

LGDs are naturally and defensively protective and they take their job seriously. They primarily work by warning off threats and that might include you. If you are at a distance from a flock, the LGDs may calmly stand up and watch you as you pass by - perhaps coming slightly closely to observe you. If the dogs believe their animals are threatened, they will respond in a series of graduated steps - barking, bluffing, and charging. Most LGDs are discerning about true threats, but some dogs proceed through these steps quite rapidly. These threatening actions deter almost all large predators so that actual physical encounters are uncommon.

Visiting a Farm

If you are visiting a farm or passing by on a road, you may see an LGD behind a fence with his stock. The dog will likely bark and may rush up to the fence, especially if you have a companion dog with you.

Don’t attempt to reach through the fence, pet, or feed the dogs. LGDs are naturally aloof to people they do not know and they do not want to make friends with you. Their owners strongly prefer that people not feed their dogs. Ignore the dog and continue on with your business.

9/1/2017 1:15:15 PM

The title of this blog post was an instant turn off. I don't "react" to LGDs but then I am not afraid of them, either - some people are - in fact, a lot of LGD owners and self-labeled "experts" are afraid of LGDs. This blog post proves that. I don't "react." I respond to LGDs in an intelligent, calm manner by assessing the signals that the dog's body language is sending to me. It is how I can live with a huge pack of LGDs that has run from 10 to 25 dogs at a time, without fear and without major issues. It takes a desire to go deeper than surface "quick fixes." It demands trust. Not many people it seems, have that level of trust with LGDs, and are quick to dump them all in the same pot and make grossly inaccurate assumptions. That is what gets them in trouble. There is a calm, appropriate way to approach working LGDs in stock by using and understanding canine body language, , and this blog post is lacking in providing the reader sound methods on how to accomplish that. The harsh term "react" infers speed and haste. People who suddenly "react" often send out the wrong signals to a dog, further inviting attack. Sadly there are too many commercial and even hobby farmers, running untouched, semi-feral LGDs who are high risk to own let alone use and be around. Until people realize the reality that socializing and handling LGDs from puppyhood in no way, shape or form ruins or hurts their guarding abilities (if they are truly well bred LGDs anyway), people will continue to only "react" with knee jerk reactions instead of a more humane, holistic, thoughtful way with these dogs. There is a better way with these dogs if you open your mind to it. and

8/30/2017 4:34:42 PM

Here is a good story about the LGD's. My friend, a veterinarian here in Pennsylvania, has several LGD's and about 200 sheep. Pennsylvania, as of August 28, 2017, has an anti-cruelty law which went into effect, which among other new laws, prohibits any dog to be outside for more than 30 minutes if the temperature is over 90 degrees or under 30 degrees. So an animal rights activist called the sheriff about my friend's LGD's being outdoors guarding the sheep and the temperature was over 90 degrees. Now the dogs are in a pasture with a creek with cold running water and plenty of shade, but the animal rights activist wanted the dogs confiscated on charges of "cruelty". So the sheriff arrives and informs the owner that he can no longer leave the dogs in the field guarding the sheep when the temperature is over 90 degrees. So the owner agrees and says "OK, you go up in the pasture and move all those sheep and the dogs into the house because it is 90 degrees in the barn too". The sheriff refused. So the owner says, "It is alright to leave the sheep in the field, just the dogs have to be in the house right?" The sheriff said "Yes". Owner says "So if the dogs are in the house and the coyotes kill the lambs, who pays for the loss?" The sheriff said that wasn't his problem. So the owner says, "You get your deputies to sit up there in the field and protect those sheep in this 90 degree weather while the dogs rest in the house in the air conditioning. That work for you?" The sheriff got in his car and left. Hasn't been seen since. This is a problem with the animal rights activists and their loss of reality.

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