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Farm Dogs: Livestock Guardian Dogs

I was approached this week by an individual that owns a livestock guardian dog (LGD) that was supposed to keep the goats safe on her farm. The problem that she has been experiencing is, the dog that has been entrusted with the goats has now been killing and eating their stock.

She has had the dog since it was a puppy; there were two dogs but she felt the other dog was worse than the one she kept back. She said that she didn’t know what she had done to cause this issue. My answer was, “It’s not what you did but what you didn’t do.”

Many times on social media we take bad advice from individuals that don’t have any real experience in a certain field but just from their positive experience(s) and people take it as “gospel”. They think, “If they have had a good experience with LGD’s then.. I will too!”

One piece of bad advice that I read a lot is, “You need two LGD’s, because they’ll get lonely”, that’s not quite true. It can turn out to be double the trouble like this situation. More than one dog really depends on the amount of acreage you have and the amount of animals you need to protect. The rule of thumb is 1 dog per 50-100 animals. If you have this many animals you should have 100+ acres to accommodate the animals for foraging purposes. We have one LGD to very few sheep on 50 acres. He has turned out to be invaluable, and he prefers to stay in the fenced in paddock, close to very few sheep. However, he still can see the other sheep that are a distance from where he is.

I read a post once where a woman had 4 dogs on a 10 acre plot, and was confused why her dogs were killing her stock and barking 24/7. She was needing advice, but included in her post, “No haters please!” I wasn't mean but she didn't like my answer.

Getting back to this problem. One thing I believe happened is this owner just threw the dogs in with the goats and didn’t teach them to respect the goats. When very young, the dogs oftentimes will play rough with their charges. They are not misbehaving but they’re being puppies, and they see these strange “dogs,” as toys. They can’t be left unsupervised for a few months or longer. Some dogs catch on quicker than others so you have to use common sense.

She then asked, “Can I trust my dog to be left alone with the goats?” I asked, “Was this dog part of the killing of the stock?” and she answered, “Yes,” I responded with, “Then probably not, not without proper training but I can’t guarantee results.” This is a very serious problem. Usually, at this point the person seeking advice becomes silent, and then I see the all too common look on their face, “Nope, too much trouble.”

I’ll end with this: You can’t just expect a dog that has the genetics to hunt, herd, protect, etc. to succeed without proper training. All you are doing is setting it up for failure, and to be a statistic. For those of you that like to humanize your animals, here’s an example: I’m a Spanish Jew (Sephardic), and I didn’t know how to speak English for a very long time. I was taught by a language teacher, and I didn’t know how to cook Jewish/Spanish fare (food) until I was much older even though I grew up eating it. I had to learn from my mother and older, more experienced people. So why do we keep expecting our animals to just KNOW how to take care of us, if we haven’t trained them?


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