Somebody ought to write a song about livestock guard dogs! Yes I am enamored with these dogs and want to tell everyone, but maybe you already knew about them. Since we are relatively new to the whole farming thing we are still fascinated by what some people have known about for centuries. Working dogs in general are marvelous creatures but to actually be able to work with them is a special experience.
If you have read my past blogs you know that we lost many lambs to coyotes before we got these dogs and have enjoyed no losses since. It is very interesting that a domesticated canine can be trained to defend your property from its wild cousin. We are doing something a little different in the way of training though. We I first began to work with the dogs and did my research, I found mostly just books and articles from long ago. What more recent writings I found were still focused on dogs protecting flocks of sheep in vast areas of grasslands.
There is still some of this going on but for my purposes, and other farmers like us, we contain sheep on acres of fenced land, often with neighbors nearby. This is a very different environment. While the general job description is the same, the specifics are not and so some of what I was reading did not apply or was not going to work. But what I really wanted and needed was not addressed at all.
On a small farm like ours, close to the city, we have a lot of different things going on; diversity is not just a word here and neither is free range. Our dogs don’t just protect our sheep from coyotes, but they protect all that we produce from a variety of different predators. I had to make some significant changes to the traditional livestock guard dog training regiment but it has worked far better than I expected. So we now not only have no more losses of our sheep to predators, but we no longer lose chickens or turkeys or even plants! Yes I tell you, even the herons are denied the fish from our ponds and the hawks the ducklings on the ground. We have always had large losses of young birds so we had to steal the day olds from their mothers when she took then from the nest and put them in brooder boxes lest they disappear one by one. What a labor savings to be able to allow the mothers to raise their own young!
Here is one of our LGDs, his name is Doodle and he is watching over this sheep as she has her lambs right out in the open. She and her lambs are most vulnerable now but she (and me) need not worry; should something smell what is going on and decide to take advantage, Doodle will sound the alarm and the other dogs will quickly come to help.