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 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.[citation needed]


The use of dogs in protecting livestock originated over 2000 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.
The Komondor´s ability to guard their herd is mainly instinctive

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[edit]

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[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Use(s) Image
Abruzzese Mastiff Pastore abruzzese &
Cane da Pecora
Italy Livestock guardian 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 Livestock guardian Aidi.jpg
Akbash dog Akbaş Çoban Köpeği Turkey Livestock guardian Akbash Dog male 2016.jpg
Aksaray Malaklisi Turkish mastiff &
Central Anatolian shepherd
Turkey Livestock guardian Aksaray malaklisi beto.jpg
Anatolian Shepherd Karabaş,
Anadolulu Karabaş
& Kangal
Turkey Livestock guardian Varish.jpg
Armenian Gampr Gampr Armenia Livestock guardian Gampr-armenian-wolfhound.jpg
Ashayeri Dog Iran Livestock guardian
Azawakh Burkina Faso,
Mali &
Livestock guardian Bistrita 2015 (22).jpg
Azerbaijani Shepherd Dog Azerbaijan Livestock guardian
Bakharwal dog India Livestock guardian &
guard dog
Bucovina Shepherd Bucovina Sheepdog &
Southeastern European Shepherd
Romania &
Livestock guardian Bucovina Sheepdog.jpg
Buryat-Mongolian Wolfhound Russia Livestock guardian
Cane di Mannara Italy Livestock guardian
Cão de Castro Laboreiro Dog of Castro Laboreiro,
Portuguese Cattle Dog &
Portuguese Watchdog
Portugal Livestock guardian Cao de Castro Laboreiro Ruede.jpg
Cão de Gado Transmontano Transmontano Mastiff &
Transmontano Cattle Dog
Portugal Livestock guardian
Carpathian Shepherd Dog Ciobănesc Românesc Carpatin,
Romanian Shepherd,
Romanian Carpathian Shepherd,
Câine Ciobănesc Carpatin,
Carpathian Sheepdog,
Carpatin &
Romanian Carpatin Herder
Romania Livestock guardian Carpatin.jpg
Caucasian Shepherd Dog Caucasian Mountain Dog &
Caucasian Ovcharka
Georgia &
Livestock guardian CaucasianOvcharka-Julius.jpg
Central Asian Shepherd Dog Alabai,
Central Asian Ovtcharka &
Uzbekistan &
Livestock guardian
& dog fighting
Среднеазиатская овчарка, молодой кобель.jpg
Estrela Mountain Dog Portuguese Shepherd &
Cão da Serra da Estrela
Portugal Livestock guardian
& guard dog
Estrela Mountain Dog 6 month old male.jpg
Georgian Shepherd Georgian Mountain Dog
& Nagazi
Georgia Livestock guardian
Georgia Shepherd.jpg
Ghadrejani dog Iran Livestock guardian
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 &
Livestock guardian Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.jpg
Greek Shepherd Greece Livestock guardian Greek shepherd male.jpg
Himalayan Sheepdog Himalayan Shepherd &
Himalayan Shepherd Dog
India &
Livestock guardian Himalayan sheep dog 1.jpg
Kangal Sivas Kangal &
Turkish Kangal
Turkey Livestock guardian Varish, Berger d'anatolie, Kangal.jpeg
Karakachan Karakachansko Kuche &
Karakachanska Ovcharka
Bulgaria Livestock guardian Karakatschan.jpg
Karst Shepherd Slovenia Livestock guardian Owczarek kraski 654.jpg
Komondor Hungarian Komondor,
Hungarian Sheepdog &
Mop Dog
Hungary Livestock guardian
Komondor delvin.jpg
Koyun dog Bayburt Kelpi Turkey Livestock guardian
Kuchi Sage Kuchi,
Sage Jangi,
De Kochyano Spai,
Jangi Spai &
Afghan Shepherd
Afghanistan Livestock guardian
Afghan Shepherd.jpg
Kumaon Mastiff Sipro Kukur India Livestock guardian
& guard dog
Kurdish Shepherd Dog Iran,
Iraq &
Livestock guardian
Kuvasz Hungarian Kuvasz Hungary Livestock guardian Kuvasz named Kan.jpg
Maremma Sheepdog Cane da Pastore Maremmano-Abruzzese,
Pastore Abruzzese,
Pastore Maremmano,
Abruzzo Sheepdog &
Abruzzese Sheepdog
Italy Livestock guardian Cane Pastore Abruzzese Abruzzo.jpg
Mazandrani dog Iran Livestock guardian
Mioritic Shepherd Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog,
Romanian Mioritic,
Ciobănesc Românesc Mioritic,
Romania Livestock Guardian -
Mongolian banhar Mongolia Livestock guardian
Persian Mastiff Sarabi Mastiff Iran Livestock guardian 1 4-طبیعت روستای صومعه ملکشاه سگ سراب.jpg
Polish Tatra Sheepdog Tatra Mountain Sheepdog,
Owczarek Tatrzański,
Owczarek Podhalański &
Polski Owczarek
Poland Livestock guardian Polski Owczarek Podhalanski.jpg
Pyrenean Mastiff Mastín del Pirineo &
Mostín d'o Pireneu
Spain Livestock guardian MasPiri-Puma-FIN.jpg
Rafeiro do Alentejo Alentejo Mastiff,
Portuguese Mastiff &
Mutt of Alentejo
Portugal Livestock guardian Rafeiro male.jpg
Romanian Raven Shepherd Dog Ciobanesc Romanesc Corb Romania Livestock guardian
Šarplaninac Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog Macedonia &
Serbia (Kosovo)
Livestock guardian
Shirak Sheepdog Iran Livestock guardian
Slovak Cuvac Slovak Chuvach,
Tatransky Cuvac &
Slovak tschuvatsch
Slovakia Livestock guardian Cuvac 1.jpg
Spanish Mastiff Mastín español de campo y trabajo,
Mastín ganadero,
Mastín Leonés &
Mastín Extremeño
Spain Livestock guardian
Mastify hiszpanskie.jpg
Tibetan kyi apso Apso Do-Kyi Tibet Livestock guardian
Tibetan Mastiff Tibet Livestock guardian Mastif tybetański 2009 pl3.jpg
Tobet Kazakhstan mountain dog Kazakhstan Livestock guardian
Torkuz Uzbekistan mountain dog
& Sarkangik
Uzbekistan Livestock guardian
& dog fighting
Tornjak Bosnian and Herzegovinian Shepherd Dog,
Bosnian Shepherd Dog,
Croatian Mountain Dog &
Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Shepherd Dog
Bosnia and Herzegovina &
Livestock guardian Bosniantornjak.jpg
Vikhan Sheepdog Chitral Watchdog &
Pakistani Vikhan Dog
Pakistan Livestock guardian

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.
  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 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

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]