Livestock Guardian Dogs
Have you ever had the opportunity to watch your livestock
guardian dogs (LGDs) at work? We are always fascinated
We have, at the present time, three LGDs – Dixie,
a pureblood Great Pyrenees whom we've had since she
was 9 weeks old; Dale
Dell, a 1/2 Great Pyrenees and 1/2 sheepdog (who
we bought as a "long-haired Pyrenees") who
also came to live with us as a young pup; and DeeDee,
a female we kept from Dixie's first litter. Dale Dell
was neutered and DeeDee spayed. Dixie is bred to a
Great Pyrenees and continues to produce marvelous
Before we bought Dixie, we listened to our friends
and neighbors who had LGDs; we read books and articles
about the Great Pyrenees breed; and we learned:
1. You should get your puppy when he/she is very,
very young so he/she will bond with your goats. (The
people we bought Dixie from were selling the puppies
at 5 weeks old. We paid extra for them to keep Dixie
another month because our fences were not completed
and we didn't have our goats yet.)
2. When you bring the new puppy into your herd, you
should refrain from petting him/her. Your only job
is to feed the dog. You shouldn't even talk to the
puppy. The dog's only friends must be the goats so
he/she will bond with the goats.
3. LGDs will never leave their charges.
Unfortunately, Dixie didn't listen to our friends
and neighbors nor did she read very well. Almost immediately
she started to dig out of the pen she shared with
three young goats and three kittens. So much for the
myth a LGD will never leave her goats. Over the years
we've also learned a puppy of 5 weeks is not mature
enough to protect himself, much less other animals.
We've also learned the petting rule only applies for
about three weeks; if you don't socialize with the
LGD to some extent you will have trouble catching
him for medicine and shots.
Dale Dell lives with the bucks. He doesn't seem to
mind the odor and enjoys the challenge of keeping
the boys in shape. Several times a day he will play
a short game of chase-the-goat, alternating which
buck/buckling he wants to exercise. He never bites
or nips a goat; his size is intimidating enough that
when Dale Dell chases, they sprint. Dale Dell has
a very deep, ferocious bark and keen hearing. Dale
Dell never digs underneath the fence, but he does
go over when an emergency arises. We put an electric
fence around the top of the field fence, and for the
most part that keeps him inside his area. But during
true emergencies – at least what Dale Dell perceives
to be emergencies – the electric fence doesn't
slow him down....he's up and over and out!
We have long since given up trying to keep Dixie and
DeeDee confined to any area. Oh, if we put electric
fencing around the bottom of all our fences, they
won't dig under. And they don't go over. But we have
determined that cramps their guarding style; and since
we have the space and the neighbors don't complain
too much, we allow them to go where they think they
need to be to do their job.
We highly recommend goat farms have a minimum of two
LGDs. They seem to work best as a team. One of the
dogs will detect something that doesn't seem right
and bark. We have learned that different barks apparently
mean different things to different animals. When Dale
Dell barks his deep, non-stop bark, the other two
dogs will perk up; but the goats totally ignore him.
When DeeDee barks, the goats stop where they are and
listen; but they don't seem unusually alarmed. Dixie
apparently has two barks – one to call all the
goats to her and one to send the goats to the barn.
When a strange animal appears on our farm –
dog, opossum, cow, coyote, human – one of the
dogs sounds the alarm, and the other dogs become instantly
alert. It doesn't matter if they are out in the pasture
with the goats, sleeping on the creek bank, or visiting
with someone at the barn; if the alarm is sounded,
it's time to go to work!
Dale Dell will run up and down the fence line of his
pen, barking. DeeDee will take off in a hard run,
barking every breath she takes. She will go under
fences, around fences, or into the creek if she has
to, never taking her eyes off her target. Dixie will
run to the goats (or call them to her); get them in
a circle around her; then position herself between
the goats and the danger. The terrified goats will
stay as close to Dixie as she will allow them. If
DeeDee's barking pitch changes, and Dixie believes
DeeDee needs help, she will direct the goats to the
barn then dash off to DeeDee's assistance.
When we first turn the goats out into the hay field
or day pasture, Dixie and DeeDee patrol the area –
running all along the area the goats are allowed into.
Once they determine the area is safe, they may wander
off to the old house on another part of the farm or
wander up to check on any goats we may have in quarantine
or check on the babies in a different field. They
patrol roughly 1,000 acres belonging to various relatives,
leaving their scent in the different pastures and
fields. Prior to getting the LGDs, our immediate neighbors
used to lose at least one or two calves every year
to coyotes. Since Dixie and DeeDee started making
the rounds on their patrols, the calves have been
safe. But somehow the LGDs realize the goats are their
DeeDee will not let the cows next door get too close
to her goat friends – at least not while we're
at the barn. Sometimes we think they perform their
guard routine for our benefit in their attempt to
convince us they are necessary. And they succeed!
The LGDs at work is an impressive sight to behold.
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