Livestock Guardian Dog
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Livestock Guardian Dog
A Maremma Sheepdog LGD with its flock of sheep in Australia

A livestock guardian dog (LGD) is a type of pastoral dog bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators.

Livestock guardian dogs stay with the group of animals they protect as a full-time member of the flock or herd.[1] Their ability to guard their herd is mainly instinctive as the dog is bonded to the herd from an early age.[2] Unlike herding dogs which control the movement of livestock, LGDs blend in with them, watching for intruders within the flock. The mere presence of a guardian dog is usually enough to ward off some predators, and LGDs will confront predators by vocal intimidation, barking, and displaying very aggressive behavior. The dog may attack or fight with a predator if it is unable to drive away the predator.[3] Livestock guardians may actively look for predators within protected territory to catch and destroy them, and there are known cases of dogs luring coyotes to a source of food in order to hunt them.[]


The use of dogs in protecting livestock originated over 2,000 years ago,[4] with their use being recorded as early as 150 BC in Rome.[5] Both Aristotle's History of Animals and Virgil's Georgics mention the use of livestock guardian dogs by the Molossians in the ancient region of Epirus.[6][7]


A Great Pyrenees with a herd of goats.

The dogs are introduced to livestock as puppies so they "imprint" on the animals. Experts recommend that the pups begin living with the herd at 4 to 5 weeks of age.[1] This imprinting is thought to be largely olfactory and occurs between 3 and 16 weeks of age. There are many myths in the West regarding the training of livestock guardian dogs, particularly the very incorrect idea that human contact should be kept to a minimum. Training requires regular daily handling and management, preferably from birth. A guardian dog is not considered reliable until it is at least 2 years of age. Up until that time supervision, guidance and correction is needed to teach the dog the skill and rules it needs to do its job. Having older dogs that assist in training younger dogs streamlines this process considerably.

There are trials underway to protect penguins with livestock guardian dogs.[8]

A "wolf-collar", commonly used as a neck-protection by LGDs against predators.

In Namibia in Southwest Africa, Anatolians are used to guard goat herds from cheetahs, and are typically imprinted between seven and eight weeks of age. Before use of dogs was implemented, impoverished Namibian farmers often came into conflict with predatory cheetahs; now, Anatolians usually are able to drive off cheetahs with their barking and displays of aggression.[9]


Kazakh shepherd man: his horse and dogs' primary job is to guard the sheep from predators.

LGDs are generally large, independent and protective, which can make them less than ideal for urban or even suburban living. Nonetheless, despite their size, they can be gentle, make good companion dogs, and are often protective towards children. If introduced to a family as a pup, most LGDs are as protective of their family as a working guard dog is of its flock. In fact, in some communities where LGDs are a tradition, the runt of a litter would often be kept or given as a household pet or simply kept as a village dog without a single owner.

At least two dogs may be placed with a flock or herd, depending on its size, the type of predators, their number, and the intensity of predation. If predators are scarce, one dog may be adequate, though most operations usually require at least two dogs. Large operations (particularly range operations) and heavy predator loads will require more dogs. Both male and female LGDs have proved to be equally effective in protecting of livestock.

The three qualities most sought after in LGDs are trustworthiness, attentiveness and protectiveness--trustworthy in that they do not roam off and are not aggressive with the livestock, attentive in that they are situationally aware of threats by predators, and protective in that they will attempt to drive off predators. Dogs, being social creatures with differing personalities, will take on different roles with the herd and among themselves: most sticking close to the livestock, others tending to follow the shepherd or rancher when one is present, and some drifting farther from the livestock. These differing roles are often complementary in terms of protecting livestock, and experienced ranchers and shepherds sometimes encourage these differences by adjustments in socialization technique so as to increase the effectiveness of their group of dogs in meeting specific predator threats. LGDs that follow the livestock closest assure that a guard dog is on hand if a predator attacks, while LGDs that patrol at the edges of a flock or herd are in a position to keep would-be attackers at a safe distance from livestock. Those dogs that are more attentive tend to alert those that are more passive but perhaps also more trustworthy or less aggressive with the livestock.

While LGDs have been known to fight to the death with predators, in most cases predator attacks are prevented by a display of aggressiveness. LGDs are known to drive off predators that physically they would be no match for, such as bears and even lions. With the reintroduction of predators into natural habitats in Europe and North America, environmentalists have come to appreciate LGDs because they allow sheep and cattle farming to coexist with predators in the same or nearby habitats. Unlike trapping and poisoning, LGDs seldom kill predators; instead, their aggressive behaviors tend to condition predators to seek unguarded (thus, non-farm animal) prey. For instance, in Italy's Gran Sasso National Park, where LGDs and wolves have coexisted for centuries, older, more experienced wolves seem to "know" the LGDs and leave their flocks alone.

List of breeds

There are many breeds of LGDs, many of which are little known outside of the regions in which they are still worked. Nevertheless, some breeds are known to display traits advantageous to guarding livestock. Some specialist livestock guarding dog breeds include:

Extant breeds

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Image
Abruzzese Mastiff Pastore abruzzese &
Cane da Pecora
Italy Cane da pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese.jpg
Aidi Aïdi,
Atlas Mountain Dog,
Atlas Shepherd Dog,
Berber Dog,
Chien de l'Atlas &
Chien de Montagne de l'Atlas
Morocco Aidi.jpg
Akbash dog Akba? Çoban Köpe?i Turkey Akbash Dog male 2016.jpg
Aksaray Malaklisi Turkish mastiff &
Central Anatolian shepherd
Turkey Aksaray malaklisi beto.jpg
Anatolian Shepherd Karaba?,
Anadolulu Karaba?
& Kangal
Turkey Varish.jpg
Armenian Gampr Gampr Armenia LGampr-armenian-wolfhound.jpg
Ashayeri Dog - Iran -
Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog - Azerbaijan -
Bakharwal dog - India -
Bucovina Shepherd Bucovina Sheepdog &
Southeastern European Shepherd
Romania &
Bucovina Sheepdog.jpg
Buryat-Mongolian Wolfhound - Russia -
Cane di Mannara - Italy -
Cão de Castro Laboreiro Dog of Castro Laboreiro,
Portuguese Cattle Dog &
Portuguese Watchdog
Portugal Cao de Castro Laboreiro Ruede.jpg
Cão de Gado Transmontano Transmontano Mastiff &
Transmontano Cattle Dog
Carpathian Shepherd Dog Ciob?nesc Românesc Carpatin,
Romanian Shepherd,
Romanian Carpathian Shepherd,
Câine Ciob?nesc Carpatin,
Carpathian Sheepdog,
Carpatin &
Romanian Carpatin Herder
Romania Carpatin.jpg
Caucasian Shepherd Dog Caucasian Mountain Dog &
Caucasian Ovcharka
Georgia &
Central Asian Shepherd Dog Alabai,
Central Asian Ovtcharka &
Uzbekistan &
 ?, ? .jpg
Estrela Mountain Dog Portuguese Shepherd &
Cão da Serra da Estrela
Portugal Estrela Mountain Dog 6 month old male.jpg
Georgian Shepherd Georgian Mountain Dog
& Nagazi
Georgia Shepherd.jpg
Ghadrejani dog - Iran -
Great Pyrenees Pyrenean Mountain Dog,
Montañés del Pirineo,
Perro de Montaña de los Pirineos,
Can de Montaña de os Perinés,
Chien des Pyrénées &
Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées
France &
Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.jpg
Greek Shepherd - Greece Greek shepherd male.jpg
Himalayan Sheepdog Himalayan Shepherd &
Himalayan Shepherd Dog
India &
Himalayan sheep dog 1.jpg
Kangal Sivas Kangal &
Turkish Kangal
Turkey Varish, Berger d'anatolie, Kangal.jpeg
Karakachan Karakachansko Kuche &
Karakachanska Ovcharka
Bulgaria Karakatschan.jpg
Karst Shepherd - Slovenia Owczarek kraski 654.jpg
Komondor Hungarian Komondor,
Hungarian Sheepdog &
Mop Dog
Komondor delvin.jpg
Koyun dog Bayburt Kelpi Turkey -
Kuchi Sage Kuchi,
Sage Jangi,
De Kochyano Spai,
Jangi Spai &
Afghan Shepherd
Afghan Shepherd.jpg
Kumaon Mastiff Sipro Kukur India -
Kurdish Shepherd Dog - Iran,
Iraq &
Kuvasz Hungarian Kuvasz Hungary Kuvasz named Kan.jpg
Maremma Sheepdog Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese,
Pastore Abruzzese,
Pastore Maremmano,
Abruzzo Sheepdog &
Abruzzese Sheepdog
Italy Cane Pastore Abruzzese Abruzzo.jpg
Mazandrani dog - Iran -
Mioritic Shepherd Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog,
Romanian Mioritic,
Ciob?nesc Românesc Mioritic,
Romania -
Mongolian banhar - Mongolia -
Persian Mastiff Sarabi Mastiff Iran L1 4-     ?.jpg
Polish Tatra Sheepdog Tatra Mountain Sheepdog,
Owczarek Tatrza?ski,
Owczarek Podhala?ski &
Polski Owczarek
Poland Polski Owczarek Podhalanski.jpg
Pyrenean Mastiff Mastín del Pirineo &
Mostín d'o Pireneu
Spain MasPiri-Puma-FIN.jpg
Rafeiro do Alentejo Alentejo Mastiff,
Portuguese Mastiff &
Mutt of Alentejo
Portugal Rafeiro male.jpg
Romanian Raven Shepherd Dog Ciobanesc Romanesc Corb Romania -
?arplaninac Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Macedonia &
Serbia (Kosovo)
Shirak Sheepdog - Iran -
Slovak Cuvac Slovak Chuvach,
Tatransky Cuvac &
Slovak tschuvatsch
Slovakia Cuvac 1.jpg
Spanish Mastiff Mastín español de campo y trabajo,
Mastín ganadero,
Mastín Leonés &
Mastín Extremeño
Mastify hiszpanskie.jpg
Tibetan kyi apso Apso Do-Kyi Tibet -
Tibetan Mastiff - Tibet Mastif tybeta?ski 2009 pl3.jpg
Tobet Kazakhstan mountain dog Kazakhstan -
Torkuz Uzbekistan mountain dog
& Sarkangik
Uzbekistan -
Tornjak Bosnian and Herzegovinian Shepherd Dog,
Bosnian Shepherd Dog,
Croatian Mountain Dog &
Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog
Bosnia and Herzegovina &
Vikhan Sheepdog Chitral Watchdog &
Pakistani Vikhan Dog
Pakistan -

List of extinct breeds

Breed Alternate name(s) Country or region of origin Era Use Image
Alpine Mastiff -- Alps Before 5th century BC to 19th century AD Livestock guardian 1815 Alpine Mastiff.jpg
Molossus -- Southern Europe Classical antiquity War dogs, hunting, guard dogs & dog fighting

See also


  1. ^ a b Suzanne Asha Stone (2016). Livestock and Wolves: A Guide to Nonlethal Tools and Methods to Reduce Conflicts, 2nd Edition (PDF) (Report). Washington, DC: Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Barnes, Elizabeth (1998), "Working like a dog", Mother Earth News (168): 30
  3. ^ Green, Jeffrey S.; Woodruff, Roger A. (1993). Livestock Guarding Dogs: Protecting Sheep From Predators (Rev. Oct. 1993 ed.). U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. p. 26. hdl:2027/umn.31951d012181083.
  4. ^ Hansen, Inger; Staaland, Theresia; Ringsø, Aud (2002). "Patrolling with Livestock Guard Dogs: A Potential Method to Reduce Predation on Sheep". Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A. 52 (1): 43-48. doi:10.1080/09064700252806416.
  5. ^ Gehring, Thomas M.; VerCauteren, Kurt C.; Landry, Jean-Marc (2010). "Livestock Protection Dogs in the 21st Century: Is an Ancient Tool Relevant to Modern Conservation Challenges?". BioScience. 60 (4): 299-308. doi:10.1525/bio.2010.60.4.8. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Virgil, The Georgics, Book III line 404-413
  7. ^ Aristotle, History of Animals
  8. ^ Warrnambool City Council - Penguin numbers up after world-first maremma trial
  9. ^ About the cheetah

Further reading

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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