Meet Scout!  Scout is my Livestock Guardian Dog.  She is an Anatolian Shepherd and was raised with goats from the time she was a tiny puppy.  She watched and learned from her parents as they spent their days and nights guarding the goats in her original herd.  LGDs (Livestock Guardian Dogs) are an important part of owning goats.  The coyotes are thick here and there is always the danger of a roaming dog.

She was taught as a puppy to be submissive to the goats, but her instincts still make her a protector. 

It's very interesting to watch how the goats respond to having a "predator" in their midst.  They don't really seem to "like" her around but none are afraid of her like they would be if another dog came in the pasture.  BUT, when she is on guard and gives a warning bark, they all know to run to the safety of the barn because their protector has seen or smelled something she doesn't like.


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Suzanne W. Gasparotto

Wherever you live and raise goats, your livestock needs protection from predators. Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) have been bred for hundreds and even thousands of years to provide this necessary function. From bears in the northwest USA to coyotes in Texas to packs of roaming domestic dogs in suburban and urban areas, Livestock Guardian Dogs are the best predator protection available. Other types of livestock guardian animals cannot see as well at night and don't seek out predators with their sense of smell like livestock guardian dogs do.

There are many breeds and sub-breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs. Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Komandor, Maremma, Ovtcharka, Karst, Tatra, and Kuvasz are a few of the most recognizable LGD's in this country. All breeds perform their jobs similarly, with subtle differences between them. Some mature faster intelligence-wise, others have long coats adapted for comfort in very cold climates, while some breeds are more even-tempered. This writer prefers the Anatolian Shepherd because of its short hair (perfect for hot, dry, thorn-infested West Texas), its sunny disposition, and its early mental maturity. Anatolians are smarter than most people you'll ever meet.

The Livestock Guardian Dog is stubborn, single-minded, and focused solely on its herd and its protection. We Texans call this characteristic "hard-headedness." Livestock Guardian Dogs are often not especially social animals, tending instead to stay with the goat herd. Although some folks manage to make pets and companion animals of them, their "alpha" nature does not particularly suit them for this role. They should never be left unsupervised with children, pets, or livestock other than those which they are guarding.

It is critical that you work with the dog and socialize it to you so that it is manageable. If you have dogs, cats, poultry, or other livestock, you must be careful with the introduction of the LGD to these animals. Unless the Livestock Guardian Dog is taught otherwise, all other animals, even other Livestock Guardian Dogs, are enemies to its livestock. A LGD puppy raised with your pets and other livestock generally provides the best opportunity to have them all get along. There are drawbacks to beginning with a puppy, particularly if predators are a current problem. A puppy isn't ready to handle predators on its own and won't be until it is about eighteen (18) months old.

LGD's work best in pairs. A male-female pair, at least one of which has been neutered or spayed, works well together. An older dog works well with a younger, less-experienced animal, teaching the pup how to refine its instincts. Do not run two unspayed females or two intact males together. When one of them comes into heat, fights will occur. It is dangerous to physically get between two fighting LGD's. To separate two fighting dogs, use the strong spray from a water hose. Do not put yourself between them or you will need medical attention. In most instances, running littermates together is not successful because sibling rivalry arises.

Livestock Guardian Dogs are sensitive animals -- the ability to sense what is happening makes them good at their jobs. Don't shout at them and never strike them with any object, including your hand. Speak calmly and slowly when instructing or correcting the actions of the LGD. You must at all times be the 'alpha' -- the dominant one -- in the relationship. Take a misbehaving LGD by the scruff of the neck and turn it upsidedown on the ground to indicate to the dog that you are in control. Ninety-nine percent of the dog's activities will be the result of instinct bred into it. That other 1% can make or break its effectiveness, and that is where the 'alpha' human's role is critical.

LGD's are big animals. They grow fast, often achieving weights of over 100 pounds in 12 months or less. Their bodies mature faster than their minds, so remember that you will have a very large puppy on your hands for some time. Livestock Guardian Dogs under eighteen months of age should work in tandem with an older LGD. Don't be alarmed when the adult Livestock Guardian Dog goes up to each goat in its newly-acquired herd and licks or gently paws its face. This is normal get-acquainted behavior. Newly-acquired weaned puppies should be put in a pen separate from but adjacent to goats before being introduced into a goat herd. After several weeks of this arrangement, carefully introduce the young LGD into a small group of goats in a location where the producer can monitor all activities. Don't put pups in with juveniles under a year of age, kids, pregnant does, or does that are nursing kids. Don't put multiple puppies in with the same group of goats; their rough-housing will wind up hurting some goats. Put a pup with an older experienced LGD who is assigned to a herd of mature bucks or does. The pup needs to get banged around a bit by the bigger goats for him to learn his place in the pecking order.

The biggest challenge facing most LGD owners is making sure that the dogs get properly fed. The Livestock Guardian Dog thinks of itself as one of the goats in the herd. In fact, the dog will assume a subservient place in the herd and will sometimes give up its food to its goats. Some Livestock Guardian Dogs will eat goat food at the trough with the goats it is guarding and will even try to eat hay. Obviously, this nutritional level is much too low for a canine. Establish a location where the dog can eat undisturbed by the livestock, and feed the dog at the same time that the goats are fed. Don't be surprised if the LGD eats one day, then skips eating for several days. Some Livestock Guardian Dogs tend to eat like wolves . . . gorging when food is plentiful to hold them over until the next meal is available. This is instinct-in-action.

Some LDG's (Anatolian Shepherd comes to mind) have a body build similar to that of a Greyhound . . . long and lanky. It always looks like it needs to gain weight. Any animal which can run 35 to 40 miles per hour has to be lithe of build.

The Livestock Guardian Dog often looks like it is doing nothing. Don't be fooled. The LGD is always on watch. During the daylight hours, the dog will be hard to find and, if located, will appear to be sleeping. In fact, it is resting and watching everything. Two or three dogs working together will be spread out around the pasture at strategic points and inconspicious to all but those who know how to look for them. Introduce a strange animal, person, or object into that pasture and watch what happens. A huge ruckus ensues as the dogs make their presence known by calling out to the intruders and to each other. This writer has observed one of her LGD's become suddenly upset by the presence of a spider underneath a board in the back of the goat shelter. The spider was hard to find and barely visible, but the dog saw it and didn't like its being there.

Nighttime is when the Livestock Guardian Dog becomes active, vocal, and really goes to work. As dusk approaches, the dogs begin to call out to each other and to predators. The LGD has sounds for each situation; when predators are around, it makes a distinctly recognizable bark that is quite different from the sounds made when the goat producer comes with feed or when a goat is down. Specific sounds are vital for protecting the herd from predators. LGD's are barking machines. If the sounds of dogs barking all night bothers you or your neighbors, then Livestock Guardian Dogs are not for you. Some LGD's are guarders and some are patrollers; the goat producer won't know the difference until he observes the mature dog at work. Remember that the dog will likely be 18 months of age before it is a successful working animal. A patroller does not become a guarder easily -- if at all. Patrollers need acreage over which to roam. Patrollers don't know your goats from your neighbors' goats -- they are all goats in need of his protection.

Livestock Guardian Dogs are independent and self-sufficient. They can survive for days in pasture conditions with their goats. They will catch and eat rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals -- but it is always necessary to provide dog food for them. LGD's should be vaccinated against rabies, parvo, distemper, and other serious diseases annually since their exposure to these diseases is high. They seldom sleep under shelter. Indeed, Livestock Guardian Dogs do not need us. It is WE that need THEM.