Is This Breed a Livestock Guard Dog?


| 8/10/2020 5:41:00 PM


Livestock Guardian Dog BreedSo we hear these questions nearly every day on LGD forums and Facebook pages and they go something like this - Can I use a Great Dane as a LGD? Or a St. Bernard? How about a heeler and Golden crossbred? My neighbor has some great pups that are a cross between a Great Pyrenees and an Aussie, so would they make a good LGD? We also see lots of dogs advertised as LGDs – but they aren’t.

Livestock guard dogs or LGDs are a group of similar dog breeds just like herding dogs or hunting dogs belong in their own groups. Being a LGD is not a job you can train any other breed to perform. Developed over centuries by working shepherds, livestock guard dog breeds possess a specific set of qualities and behaviors that make them excel at this very special work.

North American Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds

These are the only breeds of livestock guardians readily available in North America. Other breeds are used in different countries and may occasionally be found here as well. Nothing else is truly a livestock guard dog. 

  • Akbash Dog
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Caucasian Mountain Dog
  • Central Asian Shepherd
  • Estrela Mountain Dog
  • Gampr
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Kangal Dog
  • Karakachan or Bulgarian Shepherd Dog
  • Komondor
  • Kuvasz
  • Maremma Sheepdog
  • Polish Tatra Sheepdog
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Sarplaninac
  • Slovak Cuvac
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Tornjak 

What Makes a Breed a Livestock Guardian?

This is what is crucially important to remember – the livestock guard dog breeds have been selected for a very low or non-existent prey drive, a longer period of social bonding than many other breeds, and a physical appearance that suggests “friend.” They have also been selected for the essential traits of attentiveness, trustworthiness, and protection of their stock. LGDs are exceptionally nurturing and tolerant of their charges. LGDs also possess instinctual responses to first warn off threats rather than immediately attack. Successful owners take these natural LGD behaviors and carefully monitor and encourage them as their pup grows. These inborn traits can be so strong that some adult LGDs, who were never socialized with stock as puppies, will still make outstanding guardians – because of the strong and correct instinctual behaviors they possess. 

Due to their size and appearance, members of the public sometimes confuse LGDs with protection breed dogs. However, many LGD breeds have been tested by police, military and schutzhund trainers, who have repeatedly found them unsuitable because of their important lack of strong predatory behaviors. Conversely, this is why protection breeds do not make good LGDs – they have a strong predatory instinct. 



The inherited LGD traits are the reason why you can’t take a Lab or a Border collie or another non-LGD breed and easily train and trust it to behave properly as a livestock guard. The prey or chase drives in many breeds are just too high to make them reliable guardians. Some breeds are excellent watchdogs but lack the nurturing instincts a LGD exhibits towards its charges. Other breeds lack the protective coat to work outside in difficult weather. Still others do not possess the size, agility, or sense of responsibility to take on serious predators. These are also the reasons why crosses with a LGD and a non-LGD breed are just not reliable as working livestock guardians. The pups can certainly possess the traits of the non-LGD parent. Yes, many breeds make great all round farm dogs, but they should not be trusted or expected to live reliably with stock 24 hours a day.

momof4
8/13/2020 11:33:04 AM

Great article; someone finally explained the real difference between dogs and LGDs. Our Great Pyrenees is like an Angel hovering over his flock of sheep, always vigilant and never bored with his job. He's equally protective of his human family, shepherding us through gates, always waiting for us to go through before he does, walking velcroed to our leg as we traverse woods and pasture. (The Pyr doesn't have to be aggressive to guard -- their mere massive presence is off-putting to most predators of the human or animal variety). Sits quietly awaiting his daily beef bone, lets you put it in his mouth and never "takes" it from you. Best dog ever. We never taught him ANY of these behaviors! Angel dog, ready made! Keeps us all safe, haven't lost a lamb or even a chicken to predators since we got Big Sam 6 years ago. Be careful that you buy a pup from a farm and not a show or pet breeder who is breeding for small size, easier-to-keep thin coat or appearance. We bought one from a show kennel who had high prey drive (she'd fetch balls and frisbees, chickens, ducks and newborn lambs-- not good in an LGD. These guys are made to lie amongst the sheep, masquerading as one until the predators arrive, at which time they bark and show themselves to deter the predators. A 150 pound LGD possessed of a very deep bark and a commanding presence sends coyotes and even big cats packing. The drawback is the breed is semi-nocturnal, annoying humans nearby with what can seem like incessant nighttime barking, and giving the impression that all they do is lie around and sleep all day. All that watching, barking, chasing at night takes it out of them!


thepestguru
8/2/2017 9:59:50 AM

Please add Turkish Boz Shepherd which is a super Kangal






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