Livestock guardian dog

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A Maremma Sheepdog LGD with its flock of sheep in Australia

A livestock guardian dog (LGD) is a dog type 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 confront predators by vocal intimidation, barking, and displaying very aggressive behavior. The dog may attack or fight with a predator if it cannot drive it away.[3]


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. 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. Until that time, supervision, guidance, and correction are needed to teach the dog the skills and rules it needs to do its job. Having older dogs that assist in training younger dogs streamlines this process considerably.

Trials are underway to protect penguins with LGDs.[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 7 and 8 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.

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 attempt to drive off predators. Dogs, being social creatures with differing personalities, take on different roles with the herd and among themselves; most stick close to the livestock, others tend to follow the shepherd or rancher when one is present, and some drift away 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.

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 require more dogs. Male and female LGDs have proved to be equally effective in protecting of 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 for which physically they would be no match, 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, nonfarm 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.

As pets[edit]

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 often was kept or given as a household pet or simply kept as a village dog without a single owner.

List of breeds[edit]

Many breeds of LGDs are little known outside of the regions where they are still worked. Nevertheless, some breeds are known to display traits advantageous to guarding livestock. Some specialist LGD breeds include:

Extant breeds[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Image
Aidi[10] Aïdi,
Atlas Mountain Dog,
Atlas Shepherd Dog,
Berber Dog,
Chien de l'Atlas &
Chien de Montagne de l'Atlas
Akbash dog[11] Akbaş Çoban Köpeği Turkey
Akbash Dog male 2016.jpg
Aksaray Malaklisi Turkish mastiff &
Central Anatolian shepherd
Aksaray malaklisi beto.jpg
Armenian Gampr Gampr Armenia
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 Cane da pastore siciliano,
Mastino siciliano
Italy (Sicily)
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 Ciobănesc Românesc Carpatin,
Romanian Shepherd,
Romanian Carpathian Shepherd,
Câine Ciobănesc Carpatin,
Carpathian Sheepdog,
Carpatin &
Romanian Carpatin Herder
Caucasian Shepherd Dog[12] Caucasian Mountain Dog &
Central Asian Shepherd Dog[13] Alabai,
Central Asian Ovtcharka &
Uzbekistan &
Среднеазиатская овчарка, молодой кобель.jpg
Estrela Mountain Dog[14] Portuguese Shepherd &
Cão da Serra da Estrela
Estrela Mountain Dog 6 month old male.jpg
Georgian Shepherd Georgian Mountain Dog
& Nagazi
Georgia Shepherd.jpg
Ghadrejani dog Central Iranian Shepherd Iran
Great Pyrenees[15] 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
Varish, Berger d'anatolie, Kangal.jpeg
Karakachan Karakachansko Kuche &
Karakachanska Ovcharka
Kars Turkey
Karst Shepherd Slovenia
Owczarek kraski 654.jpg
Komondor[16] Hungarian Komondor,
Hungarian Sheepdog
Komondor delvin.jpg
Koyun dog Bayburt Kelpi Turkey
Kuchi Sage Kuchi,
Sage Jangi,
De Kochyano Spai,
Jangi Spai &
Afghan Shepherd
Afghan Shepherd.jpg
Kuvasz[17] Hungarian Kuvasz Hungary
Kuvasz named Kan.jpg
Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog[18] Maremma Sheepdog,
Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese,
Pastore Abruzzese,
Pastore Maremmano,
Abruzzo Sheepdog &
Abruzzese Sheepdog
Cane Pastore Abruzzese Abruzzo.jpg
Mazandrani dog Iran
Mioritic Shepherd Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog,
Romanian Mioritic,
Ciobănesc Românesc Mioritic,
Mongolian banhar Mongolia
Mucuchies[19] Venezuela
Mucuchies natural habitat.jpg
Persian Mastiff Sarabi Mastiff Iran
1 4-طبیعت روستای صومعه ملکشاه سگ سراب.jpg
Polish Tatra Sheepdog Tatra Mountain Sheepdog,
Owczarek Tatrzański,
Owczarek Podhalański &
Polski Owczarek
Polski Owczarek Podhalanski.jpg
Pshdar dog Kurdish Shepherd Dog,
Peshdar Dog,
Kurdish Dog &
Kurdish Mastiff
Iraq &
Pshdar Dog-Kurdish Dog-Kurd Mastiff.jpg
Pyrenean Mastiff[20] Mastín del Pirineo &
Mostín d'o Pireneu
Rafeiro do Alentejo Alentejo Mastiff,
Portuguese Mastiff &
Mutt of Alentejo
Rafeiro male.jpg
Romanian Raven Shepherd Dog Ciobanesc Romanesc Corb Romania
Sardinian Shepherd Dog Sardinian Shepherd Dog,
Fonni's dog,
Pastore fonnese,
Cane fonnesu,
Cani sardu antigu
Italy (Sardinia)
Sardinian Shepherd Dog.jpg
Šarplaninac Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog North Macedonia &
Serbia (Kosovo)
Shirak Sheepdog Iran
Slovak Cuvac[17] Slovak Chuvach,
Tatransky Cuvac &
Slovak tschuvatsch
Cuvac 1.jpg
Spanish Mastiff[21] Mastín español de campo y trabajo,
Mastín ganadero,
Mastín Leonés &
Mastín Extremeño
Mastify hiszpanskie.jpg
Tibetan kyi apso[22] Apso Do-Kyi Tibet
Tibetan Mastiff[22] Tibet
Mastif tybetański 2009 pl3.jpg
Tobet Kazakhstan mountain dog Kazakhstan
Torkuz[23] 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

List of extinct breeds[edit]

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[edit]



  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 2016-02-27.
  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. S2CID 85017206.
  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. S2CID 8806156. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  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
  10. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 353.
  11. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 351.
  12. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 350.
  13. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 349.
  14. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 324.
  15. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 347.
  16. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 316.
  17. ^ a b Fogle (2009), p. 317.
  18. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 332.
  19. ^ Morris (2001), p. 707.
  20. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 387.
  21. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 335.
  22. ^ a b Fogle (2009), p. 343.
  23. ^ Hancock (2014), p. 32.


Further reading[edit]

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