The Amazing Instincts of Livestock Guardian Dogs

Reader Contribution by Sean Mitzel
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Livestock Guardian Dogs are renowned for their protective instincts. They have been bred over thousands of years to be aware, independent, and fierce against predators of all kinds: coyotes, bears, mountain lions and more. But do they also break up fights between quarreling livestock?

We decided to pursue LGDs due to predator pressure. Raccoons, mountain lions, coyotes, bear and even wolves are potential and real predators in our area; the increase in track sightings was leaving us a little unsettled. We also knew that LGDs worked best in pairs or more, depending on predator load. For us, a pair was a good place to start. We studied, searched and found a couple of LGDs that came from working parents (not from the same litter). Not show pets, but in-the-dirt working parents. In fact, the parents of our youngest (Honey) battle multiple packs of coyote that are constantly probing their homestead lines. Just a few months ago, mama gave her life in the line of duty.

Our young and biggest guardian, Bear, is a seven month old cross between Great Pyrenees and Ackbash. He has done amazing work since being hired to protect our herd of goats and flock of sheep. He sleeps with them, plays with them and most importantly protects them. As the sun starts to set he goes into a barking ritual, not incessant, but deep and intimidating just long enough to warn prospective predators to move along and look for easier prey – “Not on my watch,” he projects. Bear will spend time periodically through the night patrolling as a sentry on guard duty looking for anything that would threaten his charges. If he senses something, he will growl almost continuously, with intermittent barking letting the prey know, “it will not go well with you if you try and breech my defenses.” This is incredible to watch, especially for such a young dog (7 months old). Bear has a puppy partner, Honey…Honey, Bear, get it? But Honey, our very young Great Pyrennees, Anatolian cross is too young to contribute just yet. But for now Bear carries the burden with pride.

There is something else incredible about Bear: he cannot stand a squabble among his “people”. He constantly injects himself between head-banging goats, goats ramming sheep, sheep ramming goats, etc… Bear senses, however innocent, that something is wrong and that the peace must be kept. He even does this at the possible risk of injury to himself. Truly, the safety and well-being of his group is of paramount importance to him.

In picture 1 Bear is observing what seems to be a bit of pecking order problem occurring between our Soay Ram and our Nigerian Pygmy…the Nigerian Pygmy Doe being the instigator, of course.

In picture 2 Bear moves in closer as if to say, “knock it off.”

In picture 3 Bear steps directly between and says, “Stop!” No matter how much they try to move around him to get at each other, Bear expertly maneuvers between them until they lose interest and start browsing for food.

We feel very blessed to have found the two LGDs we did, they are both gentle, loving and totally protective. Watching them work is amazing. The answer to the question stated at the beginning: yes, he not only protects the livestock from predators but he also keep the peace inside the pasture.

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