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Livestock Guardian Dogs

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I am very interested how many of us on here use Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD). I don't have any yet but I do have predictors, fox, coyotes, and the other usually but we are going to be moving to about 150 acres and will encounter larger predictors such as black bear and mountain lions. Still in an area that gets pretty darn hot and humid but can be very chilly in winter for the three months we have winter. What breed of dogs do you all have? Did you start with puppies or adult? Any luck with rescues? My animals are of course poultry - chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and swans, also have Pygmy goats. How did you introduce LGD's to your farm animals. I live in High Point, NC and would love to meet locals who would be willing to converse with me and let me visit and see working dogs, give me pointers.
post #2 of 21

It is not always about breed for starters.  Mine have almost always been hunting dogs and never was one considered a full compliment.  My dogs have usually been welped near future charges but I have also acquired pups from other people.  I have also started with older dogs and killing a bird or two is not end of world.  It takes 18 to 24 months to get dog into working shape and many require an additional year or two to hit prime.

 

 

Our black and tans would love to have a go at your black bears and cougars but such will not be your most important concerns,  Foxes, raccoons, opossums and sometimes raptors will be your most important predators.

 

It is not just about dogs and predators, it is also about landscape and your management system.

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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post #3 of 21

I would recommend one.  I also live in an area with coyote, fox, bobcat and we even have a bear around.  However, my biggest losses every year were to other peoples dogs that roam around.  I live in a semi rural area that is populated but also has wildlife.  So after three years of losing half my flock every year I decided to get a LGD.  After research I chose a Pyrennes because they are the least aggressive of the LGDs.  Since I have neighbors and people occasionally walk and bike ride around here, I didn't want an overly aggressive dog.  I also wanted one that got along with my cats. 

 

She has done a great job.  I have had her five years and can only recall losing two chickens to predators since having her.  I got her at 12 weeks old and kept her near the chicken pen but leashed for the first two weeks.  Every day I would take her in the pens with me but on a short leash.  Her being a puppy, she wanted to play.  However, at 12 weeks she was already 35 pounds and all leg and paws and could seriously injure the birds even at play.  Anyway, that's how I introduced her to the chicks.  I corrected any behaviour, even her playfulness, that I didn't like.  By the time the young chickens were ready to be turned out, she was quite use to them and never bothered them.  For a while I used to wonder whether she was guarding the chickens or me and the chickens just benefited from her presence.  That question was answered after I lost my first chicken to a neighbors dog.  My dog was still not full grown when this incident happened.  She had been doing well with possum and such, but she was never tested with other dogs.  Well, after that incident and a firm dressing down from me with the dead chicken between us, she must have got the message.  A few days later the dog returned and she chased him all over the yard.  Now every time she sees him, she is on his tail.  Another dog came by one day and went for the chickens and she chased him down the road.  Pyrenees like to bark on occasion to announce their presence, so I think that keeps the other predators like coyote and such away.  I guess I am lucky because my dog doesn't roam like so many other people have said theirs do.  I don't know if its because I spayed her or because when I got her I kept her leashed for two weeks and walked her around our property area twice a day.  Our property isn't fenced but she stays put and usually doesn't go any farther than the field across the road or the woods behind the house.  One note on these dogs, their coat requires attention especially before summer sets in.  They have an awful lot of hair and a very thick undercoat.  You have to use a shedding rake several times a week for weeks before hot weather sets in or you need to shave them or something.  They get hot.  Winter is no problem for them.  Despite their size, they don't eat alot once full grown.  They just don't move around and expend alot of energy so you don't want to overfeed them.  They are very gentle and mine loves the grandkids and my kitties.  Nothing looks so amusing as watching that big ole dog trying to play with the old tom cat and watching the tom cat box her face.

 

There are other breeds that I'm sure would work just as well and maybe have less hair.  All LGD need firm hands in training. Consistancy is likely key.  I would start with a puppy unless you know the animal has already worked with whatever livestock you have.  Even then, I would guess it would still need time to be imprinted with it's new surroundings and livestock.  That might be the drawback with grown dogs.  They may just up and leave.  Then again the drawback with puppies, Pyrenees anyway, they don't guard really good until they are about a year and a half or two years old.  That's what I heard and it was about 18 months before mine was sure of herself.  Anyway, it is a joy to be able to turn the chickens loose every day to freerange and not come home to half the flock laying slaughtered in my yard!

 

Here's my girl!

 


Edited by MrsBachbach - 7/2/13 at 10:08pm
post #4 of 21

I have two livestock guardian dogs, both were adult rescue dogs.

 

Leia is our newest dog. She is a 4 year old White German Shepherd.  She's huge. We got her from the county animal shelter. Introducing her to the flock was a simple process, we just kept her on a short lead and corrected any chasing behavior she exhibited. She quickly got the message and was working within the week. She's never attacked a bird and never lost one.

 

Chewy is our other LGD. He's only got one eye, but he keeps it on the birds.  He's a 9 year old Golden Shepherd (Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix). He was a rescue as well.  His transition to LGD was identical to Leia's, but he caught on the very first day.  Again, never harmed a bird, never lost one.  He shows genuine affection for his charges and one of our lone goslings imprinted on him.

 

Chewy was always very careful not to step on him.  His gosling is all grown up now and is a big 20lb Embden gander. They do patrols together on the range. It's adorable.

 

Chewy barks at everything that comes anywhere near the flock while Leia won't engage until the threat is more immediate. They keep the raptors away and have chased off many smaller predators. I haven't seen anymore signs of digging around the pens since the dogs started working.

 

I think the adult dogs work out very well since they don't want to "play" with the birds the way puppies do.  

 

These two rescues worked out great, but that may have alot to do with the German Shepherd lineage. 

 

Based on my experience I would highly recommend an older adult rescue dog from a breed known for it's loyalty and guarding characteristics. You can also foster a rescue dog temporarily so you can try it out before adopting it. You'll be helping out a worthy cause while also making sure the animal works out for you.

Buzzard Farm, Georgetown, TX

Ducks, Geese, and Turkeys

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Buzzard Farm, Georgetown, TX

Ducks, Geese, and Turkeys

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post #5 of 21

 

This is my LGD. Bernese Mountain Dog X Border Collie. The Berner slows the border down just right!

He is only a part time employee. lol. I have a fenced yard and predator proofed coop and duck pens. But he does work hard just the same. His favorite task is hawk watching/chasing but the crows do an excellent job at that also. We have dogs in the area that roam once in a while so its nice to be able to see what's up if pooch is barking. He's also a good frisbee player. Except for the fact that he gets irritated if you don't throw it well enough that he can catch it in the air. He'll play all day if you throw it right. Three or four grounders/rollers and he takes the frisbee and walks away!


Edited by tdgill - 7/2/13 at 8:13am

18 Hens, 5 Roosters uggh lol, 2 Dogs, 9 now 2 pond fish. thanks alot you not so great blue heron!!,  9 Ducks, 2 cats black and white and not related.(Plus 3 strays that the neighbors feed but they hang out in my front yard...ALL BLACK AND WHITE colored!)

 

"KES" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOB8cwxSh-w&feature=relmfu A MUST SEE MOVIE. You will never forget little Billy Casper.

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18 Hens, 5 Roosters uggh lol, 2 Dogs, 9 now 2 pond fish. thanks alot you not so great blue heron!!,  9 Ducks, 2 cats black and white and not related.(Plus 3 strays that the neighbors feed but they hang out in my front yard...ALL BLACK AND WHITE colored!)

 

"KES" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOB8cwxSh-w&feature=relmfu A MUST SEE MOVIE. You will never forget little Billy Casper.

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post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you all very much, you have given me such valuable information
post #7 of 21
"LGD" refers to specific BREEDS of dogs. It's not just any cross-bred mutt that you think is "protecting" your animals. Most people heve no real need of a true LGD, and they are really best at protecting sheep or goats in a CONFINED pasture situation
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear Foot Farm View Post

"LGD" refers to specific BREEDS of dogs. It's not just any cross-bred mutt that you think is "protecting" your animals. Most people heve no real need of a true LGD, and they are really best at protecting sheep or goats in a CONFINED pasture situation

 

Nice. My teenage son would probably say "You mad, bro?" lau.gif

 

I think on a forum about CHICKENS, we realize true LGD breeds are not needed. We're talking about dogs that keep predators away from our flock, and just saying "LGD" is easier than "dog that keeps preds out of the yard but also won't kill our birds".

 

Thanks for the info, anyway, it helped the topic clap.gif

Buzzard Farm, Georgetown, TX

Ducks, Geese, and Turkeys

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Buzzard Farm, Georgetown, TX

Ducks, Geese, and Turkeys

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post #9 of 21

At some point the acronym PGD (Poultry Guarding Dog) may prove more accurate than LGD (Livestock Guarding Dog).  I agree the requirements for guarding poultry flock(s) are very different from guarding sheep / goats and this differences are particularly relevant when small homestead or backyard poultry keeping is compared to larger scale sheep and goat production. The latter have much larger areas that can be covered and if like in Europe and Asia there is often effectively no containment of herds.  Some larger producers in US have herds under conditions that are also effectively free-range from perspective of what dogs must do.

 

With some poultry producers using free-range or chicken tractor methods the typical LGD is clearly best option but they are more expensive despite the assertions feed bills are lower than dog's size would indicate.  Instances where I see typical LGD's being superior always involve larger flocks (to justify higher dog cost) and predators are of the type that will stand up and fight dog.  For most of us on this forum the most common stand up and fight threat are dogs.  A few people in western and northern areas must deal with gray wolves and gray wolf x coyote hybrids where threat is wild.  Some may even have to tangle with bears and / or cougars.  Most folks are like me where dogs are the only stand up and fight guys and they can be managed with fencing.

 

 

Most poultry folks here have such small poultry flocks that upkeep of dog used to guard them exceeds cost of upkeeping flock.  With respect to keeping out dogs long-term, fencing is often more cost effective.  Fencing in itself is usually not effective against wildlife of any sort.  If you are like me then dogs are most effective option for controlling losses to wildlife.  Wildlife I deal with is not the stand up and fight types.  Closest to that I have are coyotes but they seldom exceed 40 lbs and do not operate as packs.  Once you get into situation where stand up and fight threats are eliminated, then dog size can be five precedence to greater speed and smarts.  Typical LGD's are not bred for operating in complex environments or for interacting with humans.  Both attributes can be helpful with poultry where flocks are managed with other species or not as a single big flock like generally used for sheep and goat herds.  Finally, PGD's have greater potential for multipurpose use which can include pets.  Our pet dogs we kept growing up did not come into house nor where they confined.  Such dogs slept in barn and spent bulk of day in barnyard.  The would attack anything that came in that was not us or stock.  Some were also used for hunting and had to switch mind sets quickly for that to work.  They were still regarded as pets.

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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post #10 of 21

Any dog may do in some situations, but it didn't do in mine.  I had a german shepard/mix prior to getting my Pyrenees.  I had to train her to leave the birds alone.  She did, but she also could care less if they got attacked.  My Pyrenees considers everything on my property her charge and she protects them.  She has proven that on at least three occasions that I know of.  Most fencing around here consists of barbwire because fencing acres is not practical.

I think the OP mentioned a move to a rural area, thus looking for a LGD.  Maybe she plans on having other livestock or her birds are more important to her than the eggs.  In my case, I breed a specific bird and replacements are EXPENSIVE.  So a dog that doesn't eat more than a lab would is no extra cost to me.  Especially if you find them at a discount as I did.

All I can say is , I'm impressed.

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