Livestock guardian dogs, such as Great Pyrenees, can protect sheep and other livestock while keeping the herd comfortable and calm.
Sam, a 2-year-old Great Pyrenees, gets along well with both family and flock.
Photo by Carolyn Welch
We manage a flock of about 130 sheep. For a decade, we tolerated the occasional loss of a small or weak lamb to a coyote, figuring that the coyotes were here first and that they had a right to make their living off the land as well. About a year ago, however, they started hunting in a pack, digging large holes under our fences faster than we could block them, and picking off our lambs at a relentless rate — we lost 40 percent of our flock that spring.
We had no interest in shooting the coyotes, and the application of wolf urine to our property, which a friend recommended, didn’t work. Our next line of defense was a livestock guardian dog. We brought home a 2-year-old, 175-pound Great Pyrenees named Sam. The first thing that struck us was Sam’s body language around the sheep. We were accustomed to our Border Collies, who are constantly in motion and always hoping we’ll need them to move the herd. Sam, on the other hand, walked slowly, kept his eyes averted from the sheep, plodded along placidly, and did everything a dog could do to put a nervous herd at ease.
The first night after we brought Sam home, a coyote showed up at a dug-out place along the fence. Sam met him on the other side. For about two hours they had a standoff, with the coyote attempting to intimidate Sam, who firmly patrolled that section of fence, barking ferociously and blocking the coyote’s entrance. The coyotes kept trying for the next several nights, but eventually their attempts diminished. Within two months, we were completely sold — so much so that we decided to expand our dog patrol to two members. We found an 8-week-old Great Pyrenees puppy for Sam to train. We named him Saul, and since that day they’ve been inseparable buddies.
Five months later, more lambs were born. The herd looked and acted differently with their protectors nearby. The sheep were visibly more relaxed, and they spent more time spread out in the pasture and less time clumped up in a defensive mass. The ewes were much more willing to let their lambs run and play together, whereas before they had constantly called their babies back to their sides. Clearly, the flock now perceives itself to be relatively safe with its guardians on duty.
I wish we had taken this route ages ago. If you have good fences and find a reputable breeder, I’d absolutely recommend livestock guardian dogs for your flock. To read more of Sam and Saul’s adventures, read Livestock Guardian Dogs Protect a Kansas Flock.
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