Livestock Guard Dogs

As part of our services from FMG, we offer on-farm photography services. In our travels, we meet lots of pets in addition to the livestock we picture and video.

Usually, we meet cattle dogs of the usual sorts — corgis, aussies, heelers, etc. — and sometimes, a lap dog who thinks they’re a herding dog. Every once in a while, we meet dogs who serve another purpose on the farm or ranch — a livestock guard dog (LGD).

These dogs have a different personality. They are bred to be calm and indifferent, but ready to attack if their herd or flock is in danger. Ultimately, they should be very attentive toward their charges … the sheep, goats, cattle or poultry they are protecting. Usually large and rugged, these animals are bred to withstand cold temperatures in the mountains, and are usually light colored to blend in with the herd. Other characteristics include a long thick coat of hair to protect against the weather, parasites as well as fend off predators. [Information from: Flock Livestock Guard Dogs by Catherine Marien de Luca]

Popular breeds include Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor, Kuvasz and Shar Planinetz. For more information, click here.

If you’re looking for someone or something to keep an eye on your livestock while you can’t … a LGD may be right for you. We even found this information from a new LGD owner, Lindsey Proctor on the GNOWFGLINS blog. While Lindsey doesn’t claim to be a LGD professional, she shares her experiences about Mindy, a dog she is training to protect her family’s goats.

Recently in our travels, we met Branka a Shar Planinetz. Branks is in charge of the flock at Impact Hamps in Shullsburg, WI.

While picturing and videoing, Branka kept trying to get in the pen to make sure nothing was wrong with her beloved sheep. We finally let her in, and she just laid down beside the video camera. She was happy when her sheep were happy!

One article featured in Rangelands in 1993 entitled, Guarding Sheep: It’s a Dog’s World by Jean Belodeaux outlines a few herders’ success, including Pam Iveson, using dogs like Branka.

Iveson, near Cedarville, lost 15 head in a week to coyotes. With her Shar Planinetz the losses are down to two of three a year. She states her Shar will bring back baby lambs if they get separated form their mothers. They single out a sick sheep and bring it to the barn or herder. And even guard a dead sheep from predators. One day one of her Shars brought a coyote back to the house. When Iveson went outside the coyote made a move in her direction. The Shar interpreted the move as a potential attack, jumped in and killed the coyote. Her Shars patrol about 1,000 acres around her place.”

While we don’t claim to know much about LGDs, we do think they are a valuable resource for many farms and ranches. If you have any experience with a LGD of your own, please feel free to share in the comment section below.