Livestock protection dogs
Going to the dogs
There are two types of dogs used on sheep farms: herding dogs
and guardian dogs. Herding dogs are used to manage sheep. Guardian
dogs are used to protect sheep from predators. Herding dogs need
to show dominance, whereas the guardian dog needs to be more submissive
in his behavior.
Learn about herding dogs =>
Livestock protection dog breeds were probably among the first dogs
to be domesticated. They originate in Europe and Asia, where they
have been used for centuries to protect livestock from predators.
Some of the more common breeds used in the U.S. include Great
Pyrenees (France), Akbash and Anatolian Shepherd (Turkey), Komondor
and Kuvasz (Hungary), Maremma (Italy), Polish Tatra (Poland),
and Tibetan Mastiff (Tibet). Many of the breeds are related.
Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog)
The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed and has been used for millennia
by the shepherds which includes Basque people, who inhabit parts
of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern
France and northern Spain. They are descended from the Hungarian
Kuvasz and Maremmano-Abruzzese and are considered an arisocratic
relative of the St. Bernard and Newfoundland.
The Anatolian Shepherd originates from Turkey and is probably
more than 6,000 years old. They are a muscular breed,with thick
necks, broad heads, and sturdy bodies. Many Turkish breeders believe
that the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a cross of the Kangal dog and
the Akbash dog.
King of the Hungarian guarding dogs, the Komondor is a heavy-coated
white dog descended from a Russian dog of the steppes called Aftscharka.
It has a white corded coat that give a unique appearance.
The Hungarian Kuvasz has the Turkish word for "protector"
as its name and its country of origin is most likely Tibet. It
is a large dog with a dense coat which is usually white in color
and can range from wavy to straight in texture.
Akbash comes from the Hungarian word for "white bread."
The Akbash dog is found today in rural Turkey, and as far as can
be determined, has been serving as a livestock protection dog
in Turkey for millenia.
The Maremma is directly descended from the first flock guardians
that migrated for the Middle East, probably across the Adriatic
from Greece. The Maremma has a solid, muscular build, thick white
coat, large head, black nose, and typically weighs between 65
to 110 pounds.
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a breed of dog introduced into the
Tatra Mountain region of Southern Poland by Wallachian shepherds,
probably in the 14th Century, and used to guard and herd sheep.
The Tatras are large white dogs with heavy dense fur, similar
in appearance to the Hungarian Kuvasz.
The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed, descended from very early
large Tibetan dogs from which most of today's Mastiff dogs descend.
It is among the largest breeds and is found in a heavier mastiff
type and a moderately sized mountain type. Its double coat is
long and found in a wide variety of colors from solid black to
tri-color with the rarest being white.
The National Wildlife Research Center in Utah has imported several new breeds of livestock guardian dogs to see if they are more effective at deterring predation from "bigger" predators such as grizzly bears and wolves. The new breeds are larger and more aggressive, yet still people-friendly. One of these newer breeds is the Kangal from Turkey.
Rearing guardian dog pups with sheep creates an attachment or
bond between the dog and the sheep. As the dog matures, it spends
much of its time near the sheep and repels other animals that
enter its personal space. Its aggressiveness is limited by a decrease
tendancy to chase, a product of generations of selection for dogs
that do not chase. Even if the dog chases an intruding coyote
away, it soons stops the chase and returns to the flock.
Most livestock guardian dogs are large and imposing, weighing
75 to over 100 pounds. They are large enough to startle or intimidate
Livestock guardian dogs should be taught basic commands, such
as come, sit, and stay, and should learn to walk on a leash. However,
the should not be allowed the privileges of a pet. Their job is
to bond with the sheep, not the shepherd.
There is a theory that shepherds tried to match the color of their
dogs to the color of the wool of their sheep. This would allow
them to blend in, offer less of a scare or threat to the sheep,
and make identification by predators more difficult.
Growing pups will exhibit guardian instincts as early as four
to five months of age, but they will not become reliable protectors
until they mature sometime after a year of age. Guardian dog pups
are often raised with lambs to encourage bonding. It is also beneficial for them to be "trained" by an older guardian dog.
Raising and Training a Livestock-guarding dog =>