Livestock Guardian Dogs

Jessica is a homesteading and homeschooling mother of seven living in northwest Ohio.  She has a passion for encouraging other mothers to grow and preserve nutritious food for their families.

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Just a week ago my dog, Leela, gave birth to an adorable litter of puppies.  It’s been an exciting and exhausting experience as first-time breeders.  Since canines are occupying a lot of my thought-space right now I thought that this month I would share about the importance of livestock guardians.
Every homestead needs a good dog (or two) to guard the property and protect the animals and children from predators.  But it isn’t as simple as just going to the animal shelter and picking out a pet.  A working dog, like a livestock guardian, needs to possess a specific temperament and skill set that make it perfect for this job.
There are many breeds of livestock guardians, including but not limited to:

  • Great Pyrenees
  • Komondor
  • The Mastiff Breeds – Tibetan, Spanish, Pyrenean
  • The Turkish Shepherd Breeds – Akbash, Anatolian, Kangal, Boz
  • Central Asian Shepherd Dog
  • Kuvasz
  • Karakachan

These dogs have the correct nature to remain alert to threats and to make the noise necessary to deter them, as well as the size and determination to defend against predator attacks. While some dogs from breeds not classified as livestock guardians can possibly be trained to do these things over time, the breeds mentioned above are born ready to do the work.  Typically they only need a little training in property boundaries and, in my experience, to not view smaller livestock like chickens as toys.
The main job of these animals is to keep predators from getting near the livestock.  A common complaint with livestock guardians is how they bark ALL NIGHT LONG.  While it can be annoying, this is a necessary part of their job.  Dogs have better hearing than us.  All throughout the night they detect the coyotes in the distance and sound the alarm with their loud, protective barks, letting those predators know not to come near unless they want a fight.  This is the primary mode of protection.  If predators are desperate and willing to engage in a fight, then the guardian dog will be ready to defend, even to the death.  They know their job and will do anything to protect their livestock and people. Some breeds, like the turkish shepherd dogs, have been known to be able to single-handedly take down a wolf.
But one dog can’t handle a pack of wolves, and this is one of the reasons livestock guardians work best in pairs.  Double the protection means they can back each other up in larger fights.  I also find that my two livestock guardians take turns resting and working.  Since guarding is a full-time job, someone needs to be on alert while the other sleeps.  It is amazing to watch the sleeping dog instantly jump into action when they recognize the warning bark of their partner.
Raising any animal is a huge investment.  If you’ve been homesteading long enough, you know the damage a single predator can do to your animals.  I will never forget the year before we got our dogs, walking out to my chicken coop to find half of my flock destroyed by a fox.  Since getting the guardians we have never seen another fox on our property.
So, if you have been wanting to get a dog for your homestead and don’t know what breed to get, I would highly recommend looking into one of the many loyal and hard-working guardian breeds.  There is peace of mind in knowing that your livestock are in good hands day and night with your dogs on patrol!


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