Livestock Protection Dogs: Selection, Care and Training


This is a complete revision of the very popular original edition of this book. Includes:
  • What a livestock protection dog can do
  • Selecting a puppy
  • Caring for your dog
  • Behavioral problems and solutions
  • Preparations for a family companion
  • ...
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This is a complete revision of the very popular original edition of this book. Includes:
  • What a livestock protection dog can do
  • Selecting a puppy
  • Caring for your dog
  • Behavioral problems and solutions
  • Preparations for a family companion
  • Guarding unusual stock
  • Plus much more!!!
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Editorial Reviews

Dog & Kennel
With nearly $180 million worth of livestock lost to predators each year, the use of livestock protection dogs is growing in popularity. Owners of small livestock, poultry, and pets have difficulty keeping their animals safe from predators for a variety of reasons...Livestock Protection Dogs, provides the answers ranchers, farmers, suburban livestock owners, and dog lovers need concerning these unusual canines.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577790624
  • Publisher: Alpine Blue Ribbon Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/2004
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 825,974
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

In Old World countries where livestock protection dogs have been traditionally used, lifestyles and farming practices are different than those we know in North America. Throughout Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin, full-time shepherds are common. Sheep owners in a village often form communal flocks of sheep during the summer months when high country pastures can be used for grazing. Shepherds and livestock protection dogs accompany large bands of sheep to mountain meadows. During these times when many protection dogs are present, older dogs help to discipline and train younger ones. With one or more shepherds always on duty, undesirable behaviors can be spotted and corrected immediately. In this setting many stimuli act on a protection dog, including social interactions with other dogs. Boredom is unlikely to occur. If attacked or threatened by a predator, a protection dog can reasonably expect to be backed up by his fellow pack members. He can also expect that a shepherd will be somewhere nearby, if not always in sight. In all, a rather non-mechanized, leisurely environment exists in which protection dogs coexist with humans and livestock, to their collective benefit.

Most North American farms would not fit into the scenario described above. Farms here have fenced pastures in lieu of open mountain rangelands. Livestock are moved abruptly from pasture to pasture, sometimes by truck. There are few full-time shepherds, goat herders, or cattle tenders. Protection dogs are often required to work alone without aid or training from an experienced pack of peer dogs. Many protection dogs are initially placed with livestock that have learned to fear dogs. A significant part of the task of protection is having the confidence of the animals to be guarded. North American guard dogs may be expected to develop their self-confidence with livestock that will run away from them or even show hostility. After a protection dog has gained the confidence of the flock or herd and has matured into a successful guardian, he is almost always left alone to perform what can be a very boring duty.

When such factors are considered, you may wonder why protection dogs transplanted from the tranquil mountains of Europe and Asia are able to work at all in the United States and Canada. Yet they do! The reason for their success is not so much the training techniques that are described in the succeeding chapters, but rather the highly evolved instincts of the dogs. If you have purchased a healthy protection breed puppy with an established guarding pedigree, he will probably become a good livestock guardian, in spite of any errors you, the owner/trainer, might commit. In fact, you will never actually “train” your protection dog to protect. You will instead attempt to create an environment in which the dog is able to develop and express his inherited talents.


A mature, confident livestock protection dog is rarely out of sight or hearing of his flock. (“Sheep” and “flock” will be used frequently in this text, because most readers will be interested in the use of protection dogs for sheep operations. However, these words are not used to exclude other livestock; protection dogs perform very well in defense of cattle, goats, horses, poultry, equipment, and even human families.) The protection dog is a calm animal that moves slowly to avoid disturbing the livestock. We have observed protection dogs walk carefully around, rather than near or between, ewes with newborn lambs, as if to avoid interfering with the lamb-ewe bonding. They appear to sense a different attitude from these ewes, who change their behavior when they have newborn lambs near them. A good protection dog possesses better than average senses of hearing, sight and smell. He will often become curious and defensive whenever something out of the ordinary occurs. The following example illustrates some of these traits. When we were living in Oregon, during the winter months a neighbor regularly filled a hay manger for his cattle at around 6:00 a.m. His manger was near the edge of two of our fields, where we kept sheep and protection dogs. The dogs watched him arrive and perform his chores. Occasionally they barked, but usually they just watched and his activities became part of their regular routine. One day, the neighbor sent a hired hand in his place. The assistant performed the chores in a different manner and had a distinctive voice. His mannerisms made the cattle nervous and upset the routine for our dogs. The protection dogs in the fields did nothing more than bark during this incident. However, a bitch happened to be nursing a litter at the time, and had stronger than usual protection instincts. (Protecting, unlike the aggressive form of police dog work or livestock herding, is an extension of maternal and paternal instincts. Livestock protection dogs protect objects that have been included in their “family” of possessions. Since our bitch had a litter with her at the time, she was more protective than usual.) Upon hearing the sounds of the upset cattle, the hired hand and the barking of the other dogs, she rushed out to the fence separating our properties. She found a weak spot in the fence and charged through, forcing the man to remain in his truck until the bitch finally left. Our neighbor reported the incident to us later that week, more amused than concerned. We repaired the fence and moved the bitch to another area-our neighbor moved his manger farther from our fence line.

Several lessons may be elicited from this incident. First, the dogs were responding to an upset in their routine. A good protection dog loves an orderly, predictable world. Second, a responsible dog owner will have to be considerate of his neighbors, usually by ensuring that the dogs remain on their owner’s property. Third, dogs may choose to “protect” objects, livestock or territory that the owner does not have in mind. Our dogs had chosen to include the nearby cattle as part of their “domain” (although another bitch subsequently chose to stand between the neighbors’ cattle and our new lamb crop, as if to protect the lambs from the curious cattle). Our dogs exercised their protective instincts without regard for human constraints such as property lines or fences. This tendency can be heartwarming and useful, but can also be a problem if neighbors do not appreciate the dogs’ actions.

Thus far, a good livestock protection dog has been defined as one that is calm, loves order, is healthy, protective and sensitive to the moods of the livestock, and possesses superior senses of sight, smell and hearing. Are there any other desirable traits? Most people do not want an overprotective dog that will bite any stranger entering the field-a sociability factor must be considered. A dog that does not eat too much food is also an economic benefit. This is a rather subjective consideration, but fits in well with the need for a calm animal. Calm animals often have lower rates of metabolism-they eat less and expend less energy.

The good livestock protection dog will look forward to interactions with his master, but will not be too fawning or dependent on the master for love and affection. In other words, a good protection dog will be self-confident and capable of making independent decisions. Many dog breeds today seem to exist only to please their masters. These breeds are not very likely to be good livestock protection dogs.

The independent nature of livestock protection breeds can be illustrated by an anecdote from central Turkey. An elderly shepherd died while pasturing his flock in the high mountains one summer. When the shepherd and his flock did not return to the village that fall, other shepherds went up to search for him. They found the flock safely grazing in the highlands, accompanied by the dogs and a litter of pups. The dogs had managed to feed themselves by hunting for small game, while guarding the flock and training the younger dogs. This demonstrates not only the independence and trustworthiness of these dogs, but the strong survival instincts they possess.

The ideal protection dog will react toward strange humans in the manner desired by the master. Some situations will call for a decidedly unfriendly response to strangers. In most cases, though, the owner will want his dog to be neutral or friendly toward other people. The way a dog responds to strange humans is primarily determined by the owner, although there is also a genetic component to a dog’s temperament. This is one aspect of the dog’s behavior that can be influenced more by training than by instinct.

There is one other factor that should be considered. In the hierarchy of canine dominance, large size is usually desirable. A larger dog will usually enjoy a higher position in the pecking order. Therefore, large protection dogs will probably be challenged less often by marauding dogs, wolves or coyotes. This is not to say that the largest breed of protection dog is necessarily the best, or the largest dog in a pack will be the most dominant. Size is just one more variable to be considered. On the other hand, larger protection dogs have been known to give owners a more difficult time. A handler’s size and ability to command respect from the dog will affect the development of a bond between dog and owner. Larger dogs-and these tend to be males-are more likely to challenge the authority of their owners. Smaller, gentler owners may back away the first time a 100-pound youngster challenges authority. Therefore, even if a larger dog will tend to have less trouble with predators, the control factor may, in some situations, be more important. Larger dogs are not always best.

We have discussed the qualities that predispose a good guardian. A dog possessing these traits will probably develop a protection routine of his own. He may regularly patrol his domain. Most males and many females mark their territorial perimeter with urine, which acts as a chemical message to other canids that the area is off limits. Although the dog may occasionally sleep with the livestock, more usually he will remain a short distance from them. The dog will, with experience, learn which upsets of the routine are significant and which can be ignored. He will spend a lot of time resting near the livestock or slowly patrolling the pasture. Many protection dogs will display nocturnal behavior, patrolling more actively at night than during the day. Companion dog owners may find this a problem if their dog is left outdoors and barks at night.

There have been reports of protection dogs herding livestock. In many of these situations, coyotes or dog packs were either in the field or in the vicinity. Some protection dogs may herd livestock together at night or in times of danger but will otherwise leave them alone. These are, however, exceptional instances. Livestock protection dogs are not herding dogs in the usual sense of the phrase and would not be good candidates for herding dog training. Certain breeds show an inclination to herd under the direction of a shepherd (see Chapter Two); however, the style is completely different from typical herding dogs such as Border Collies.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition . vi
Preface to the Original Edition . ix
Acknowledgments . xi
What is a Livestock Protection Dog ? .1
What does a Good Livestock Protection Dog Do? What Not to Expect from a Livestock Protection Dog The Effectiveness of Livestock Protection Dogs
The Breeds 11
Specific Breeds The Past and Future of Livestock Protection Breeds
Selecting a Puppy 53
Cost Guarantees Locating a Breeder Selecting Your Puppy
The Puppy Arrives 69
Introducing and Bonding Your Puppy to Livestock Boundary Training The
New Puppy and Other Dogs Chewing Feeding Your Puppy Basic Training
The Adolescent Dog 87
Overactive Dogs and Escape Artists Socialization Posting Signs Sexual Development Physical Problems Continued Training Your Dog’s Safety
The Mature Dog 99
Caring for Your Dog Handling Aggressive Dogs Diet for the Mature Dog
Changing the Dog’s Routine Lambing Time Continuing Education
Specific Behavioral Problems and Solutions 107
Escaping Aggression Toward Livestock Aggression Towards Other
Livestock Protection Dogs Aggression Toward Herding Dogs Aggression Toward People The Livestock Protection Dog that Won’t Protect Use of
an Electric Collar for Serious Problems
Puppy Testing and Selection 127
What is Aptitude Testing? How to Conduct the Puppy Aptitude Test
Scoring the Puppy Aptitude Test The Puppy Aptitude Test and the Livestock Guardian The Barrier Test The Livestock Test Keep Testing in
The Family Companion 143
The Myth of Dual Purpose Breeds The Ideal Companion Home Preparations: Start with a Good Fence Setting the Right Tone Establishing the Hierarchy
Leadership Exercises Basic Obedience Training Equipment House-
Training Chewing Barking Dogs that Jump Up or Beg Obedience Training-Beyond Basic Commands Children and Dogs Multiple Dogs,
Other Species The Versatile Protection Dog
Diet and Its Many Influences 171
Determining Optimum Body Condition A Sensible Approach to Feeding
How to Select the Best Foods for Your Dog The Dog that Won’t Eat The Dental Checkup
Health Problems 183
Canine Bloat Hip Dysplasia Osteochondrosis Panosteitis Cruciate Ligament Injuries Chiropractic Adjustments Echinococcus Coat and
Skin Problems Anesthesia Problems with Eyes and Eyelids
Special Considerations for Unusual Livestock 199
Poultry Ratites-Ostriches, Emus and Rheas Llamas and Alpacas
Breeding 209
Breeding Stock Managing Breeding Dogs The Bred Bitch and Whelping
The Litter The First Few Weeks Matching Puppies and New Owners
Concerns for the Future The Cycle Continues
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