Today, if you raise livestock and/or have a farm, you know all too well that predators are still an imminent danger to your herd. And with all the hard work that goes with farming or raising animals, you can certainly benefit from all the help you can get in protecting your stock. Thus, having the best livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) to help you take care of your herds is a decision worth making.

Humans have long realised the vital role of LGDs in raising and caring for their sheep, goat, geese and other livestock. They are special breeds who can survive in some of the harshest conditions and be independent most of the time. They are known to be very hardworking and willing to give up their own lives for the protection of their herd.

There are several theories on the history of guardian dogs, but the most common belief is that the evolution of these breeds happened at about the same time humans started domesticating sheep, goats, and other animals.

As civilizations began migrating to find more or better land for themselves and their herds, they relied on LGDs to protect their livestock from predators and to keep the group of animals together as they moved from place to place.

At present, this is still considered as their primary role, but it is not the only one anymore. Some fanciers are breeding and taking care of LGDs for companionship or competitions. Because of this, it is important to find guardian dogs who come from a lineage that has been raised and trained specifically to become working LGDs.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Guardian Dogs

Livestock guardian dogs have a unique role in ensuring your animals are protected. They have a set of skills, physical aspects, and personality traits that make them ideal for guarding herds.

  • Siccaro Have a strong instinct and drive to protect and defend their stock no matter what, and will even fight to the death if necessary
  • Siccaro Spend their days and nights patrolling, watching, and roaming
  • Siccaro Can live outdoors all year round
  • Siccaro Do not harass or kill livestock even when they are hungry
  • Siccaro Possess a highly developed sensitivity to understanding livestock behaviour
  • Siccaro Generally peaceful and gentle unless provoked by potential predators or intruders
  • Siccaro Bark to give warning to potential predators or intruders
  • Siccaro Can systematically respond to perceived danger and possible threats, usually using deterrents at first then attacking as a last resort
  • Siccaro Mark the perimeters of their territory deliberately
  • Siccaro Are large, strong, and powerful dogs
  • Siccaro Possess an acute sense of smell, vision, and hearing
  • Siccaro Have independent mindsets, have great instincts, and can multitask
  • Siccaro Are true work animals who can’t double as pets if they are expected to do their jobs
anatolian shepherd

An Anatolian Shepherd, one of the most popular livestock guardian dog breeds

Just like how there are ideal dog types for companionship, hunting, herding, and other roles, you must also carefully select the best breed of LGDs. So, when you do a livestock guardian dog breed comparison, you must consider several factors.

  • Siccaro What animals are you raising? There are certain guardian dogs who interact better with certain stock.
  • Siccaro What is your local climate like?
  • Siccaro Do you need a more child-friendly breed?
  • Siccaro What sort of terrain do you have and how big is your land?
  • Siccaro What type of predators are common in your area?
  • Siccaro How big is your herd? (How many guardian dogs will you need?)

Experts advise getting puppies from parents who have worked with the same species your pups are going to guard. This can make it easier for them to bond with your herd and for you to train them.

Raising and Training LGDs the Right Way

Livestock guardian dogs require a different kind of training, rearing, and care from other breeds. For example, while they are still around eight to sixteen weeks old, they should already be placed with the herd they will grow up to protect. This is the primary period for the puppies to bond with the stock.

In addition, you have to make it clear early on what is expected of them and to train them to follow commands. For instance, if they tend to follow you home or stray from the flock, you must consistently teach them to go back to their sheep.

Aside from teaching the pups to become more independent and grow into their roles as protectors, you should also expose them to experiences and humans that they will eventually encounter. These include everyone helping or living with you on your property and farm equipment and buildings, as well as being leashed or tethered regularly when it’s grooming time.

 

DO YOU HAVE TO GROOM YOUR LIVESTOCK GUARDIAN DOGS?

Even if they live outdoors with their herd, LGDs should be groomed every month according to www.lgd.org. Not only will this allow you to get rid of the mud, dirt, or snow your dogs collect while performing their duties, it also lets you check on their health.

Grooming should be a meticulous and careful process. Most LGD breeds have long hair and two layers of fur (a double coat). Brushing, checking for ticks and wounds, and washing their whole body can take some time, so make sure you and your dogs are prepared for the task.

Since they have a double layer of fur, drying them after a bath can take more time. Slipping them into a Siccaro Supreme Pro WetDog robe can speed up the process because it removes 80-90% of the water on your wet guardian dogs within 15 minutes. The secret lies in the special textile technology we developed for our Siccaro products called Wet2Dry.

As a farm or livestock owner, there are so many tasks to manage and so many things to take care of that time-saving products and tools are essential. We at Siccaro understand your concerns as livestock guardian dog owners, thus, we created robes like the Supreme Pro WetDog to make bathing and grooming time much easier and quicker.

 
Kuvasz

A Kuvasz livestock guardian dog enjoys a swim

 

Taking Care of Guardian Dogs in Extreme Weather

Most LGD breeds were bred in certain regions in Asia and western Europe. Therefore, you should consider selecting a breed that originates from an area with a fairly similar climate. This gives your dogs a better chance to survive any extreme weather you get in your locality.

Guardian dogs are known to live outdoors with their herd all year round, even when it’s snowing or extremely hot outside. They become accustomed to harsh elements. You may not have to build them a doghouse, but they do require extra care in winter or summer.

In Winter

They may require more feed or a special diet with more fat and energy content during extremely cold temperatures because their metabolism can increase when responding to severe weather. However, make sure not to overfeed them as well. Regularly check if they are maintaining a healthy weight as overweight livestock guardian dogs are prone to health problems.

Make sure to also let your LGDs go out into the winter with brushed out and healthy coats. Their double layer of fur gives them the ability to repel water and stay warm. In case they get wet, take them to a dry place and wrap them in a Siccaro Spirit WetDog Coat. This allows them to get dry and warm quickly thanks to the drying coat’s super absorbent fabric and protective outer layer.

dog

An Anatolian Shepherd, one of the most popular livestock guardian dog breeds

In Summer

It is essential to prepare your livestock guardian dogs for very hot weather or they could end up overheated and miserable. They won’t be able to focus on guarding the flock when they are too busy finding ways to cool down.

Make sure to provide them and your herds with enough water so they stay hydrated. Also, provide adequate shade so they can get some respite from the heat. As for their diet, consult with your veterinarian on what types of food are ideal for the warmer climates.

It’s important to also not shave off your guardian dogs’ hair. As spring settles in, they begin to shed their undercoats. The long hairs that remain are what keep them protected from the sun burning their skin and from overheating. A trim is okay, but shaving should be avoided, especially on the dogs’ topside.

Caring for Your Ageing Livestock Guardian Dogs

Working LGDs who are overworked and who receive little or no care and veterinary attention tend to age faster. But those who are better taken care of and are well treated tend to live much longer, some even up to their teens.

As your guardian dogs get older, their needs will change. Make sure you are vigilant to their changing care requirements and do your best to make them feel comfortable and appreciated for all the hard work they have done.

Don’t expect your ageing LGDs to perform their tasks as efficiently as they could before. They may also not be as tolerant to harsh elements anymore and may require staying nearer to the house, pens, or barn. Since their bodies are also ageing, they may require a special diet and medications for certain health conditions they may have.

LGD breeds are some of the most hardworking dogs. Providing them with some extra comforts, such as a Siccaro FlexDog Mat where they can lie down and rest after a bath or a swim, is a great way to reward them.

Reassure them and talk to them kindly when they show symptoms of dementia. Showing them compassion and patience to make them feel more loved and appreciated during their sunset years is a wonderful way for owners to repay them for their loyal service.

 
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