More Questions To Ask Yourself Before Selecting a Livestock Guard Dog

| 2/25/2014 11:06:00 AM

Shepherd and goatIn our last few posts, we’ve been looking at the various breeds of livestock guard dogs. This is an important consideration since dogs can vary in size, temperament, cost, availability, and style of working; as well as their suitability to their possible roles as a full-time guardian, a farm guardian, or a family companion. Different breeds do have very different strengths and tendencies. But before you start looking at advertisements or litters of puppies, there are a few more questions for you to ask yourself. They are centered on two broad issues – your predator problems and your farm or homestead.

Do you have an immediate predator problem or are you facing potential or increasing problems? What kinds of predators do you have? Do you need one dog - or two or more to combat serious predator pressure? Are you looking for a puppy or an adult? Are you committed and prepared to raise and train a pup for a couple of years before they are ready to be a guardian? What is your dog handling and training experience? Are you considering a rescue dog for financial or other reasons?

What is your farm or ranch’s physical situation? Consider your climate, your style of husbandry, and what kinds of animals you need to protect. How many animals do you need to protect? How large and rugged are your pastures? How well fenced are those pastures or other areas the dog will use? Do you leave your stock out 24/7 or bring them into barns or paddocks at night? Will your dog work as a full-time livestock guardian or as a general farm guardian? Do neighbors, customers or other people regularly visit your property?

When to Choose an Adult or Adolescent Dog

If you have an immediate protection from predators, an adult or late-adolescent dog is your best choice. This is also the most difficult dog to find. A good working LGD is highly valued by his owner. Occasionally these dogs become available when owners sell off their stock or farm. Be ware that some dogs are so closely bonded to their stock or territory that change can be difficult. The most successful moves are between similar situations and stock. A few breeders keep adolescent pups in training with stock and experienced dogs and then offer them for sale.

Sometimes a good dog can be found in a rescue situation, but you need to be aware that most rescue dogs have no livestock experience or may have working problems that caused them to be given up by their owners. If you prefer a rescue dog and are inexperienced with LGDs, try to choose one that has been evaluated or rehabilitated by an experienced LGD owner or LGD organization. You will still need to closely supervise adult dogs and, perhaps, re-train him. If you are inexperienced with LGDs or very large dogs, please take the time to meet the rescue or adult dog and assure yourself that you can handle him safely and confidently. In all cases, you will need a safe and secure area to keep the dog while adjusts to his new home.  Both stock and dog need time to become accustomed to each other as well. 

Guard Dog Puppies

Do not expect a puppy to be a reliable guardian until it is 18-24 months old, or longer. LGD puppies grow rapidly and look like adults before they are a year old and so their owners expect far too much from them. LGD adolescents are truly like teenagers. This is also the age when most dogs are turned in to rescue or abandoned by their owners, because of adolescent problems. They can play roughly with stock, causing injuries or death if they are unsupervised. They are filled with tremendous amounts of restless energy or boredom, which also leads to problems. Adolescent dogs should never be left alone and unsupervised unless an older, completely trustworthy, and experienced dog mentors them. Choosing the stock your young dog is raised with is also important. A very small group of older, reliable animals can be excellent mentors to young dogs.

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