Best Protector dog breeds


In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2022
Does anyone have insight into which canine breeds make good predator protectors for the flock? I've been doing a lot research on how to introduce dogs to your flock, to act as guardians against predators. I'd also like to adopt a rescue from a local shelter. The question though, is that most shelters seem to have a lot of AmStafs or Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and not much else. And I'm wondering if their disposition will be compatible with the flock. Any insight of experience would be appreciated.
I think you need a legitimate LGD rather than a shelter dog. Nothing against shelter dogs or pits though, I have a rescue pit mix and he’s amazing, but I wouldn’t have trusted him alone with the chickens. He has a very high prey drive and was fine when I was there to stop him. He might’ve been fine with more work but he was also a puppy when I got him. Not sure I’d trust an unknown adult. I get wanting to rescue a dog but unless the dog is going to be more of a pet living inside with you and only outside while supervised then I really wouldn’t recommend anything other than a legitimate LGD. Those being like Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, etc. there’s several more but yeah. An American Bully might possibly work though? Less prey drive maybe? @Overo Mare might know more. But the big thing is if it will be expected to live outside with them 24/7 or if it’s more of just a farm dog/pet? That will be a big help in determining suitable breeds.
Any kind of terrier, which includes bully breeds, are not a good idea with poultry unsupervised. They’re bred to kill game, not fair to ask them to protect small animals. You should be looking at a ‘softer,’ stays closer to home LGD. See if you can find a Maremma sheepdog or a Great Pyrenees. Anatolians and Akbash dogs tend to range farther and more readily tackle predators. With a LGD for poultry you probably want a dog who stays close to your birds.
I like to suggest considering herding breeds, this is in their wheelhouse. Collies and Shelties fall into this category and are very "soft" and biddable besides making excellent family dogs and pets. Yet they are tough and sturdy enough for outdoor work. I have two Shelties and because of them my 20+ chickens can free range a good portion of every day. I have seen my older Sheltie run off three coyotes on her own - at the same time. We have coyotes in the area, but they don't come around here. She marks her territory and guards the perimeter.

The younger dog was 18 months when we got him - a rescue. We put him in the brooder pen for a couple of hours every day, adjacent to the chicken pen, gradually extending his time there. He could see, hear and smell the chickens but not contact them. Eventually he was spending most of the day out there, paying no attention to the chickens, in the same way we would integrate chicks to an older flock. When we finally opened the gates so he was sharing the same space with the chickens, it was no big deal. He had zero interest in them, they were just part of the scenery.

I don't know why this casual desensitizing wouldn't work on practically any dog. Keeping people and their reactions and emotional responses out of the picture is essential, however. Just make sure the dog actually can NOT get over, under or through the fence to the chickens and leave it alone until it realizes the chickens cannot be accessed; do this consistently for at least a month, or until the dog shows no interest in them, and all should be well.
... He had zero interest in them, they were just part of the scenery.

I don't know why this casual desensitizing wouldn't work on practically any dog. Keeping people and their reactions and emotional responses out of the picture is essential, however. ...
Because herders have just the instincts for the chase part of the hunting sequence emphasized - and the instincts for rest of the hunt sequence severely dampened. They can see small squeeky things without chasing them (unless they run), sometimes even without training or spending time with them. They can chase without pointing (sometimes), chase without snapping (sometimes), etc.

Other types don't have the rest of the hunt sequence bred down or out of them and many have other parts emphasized.

Possibly, it is as much integrating the chickens as integrating the dog. My collie would chase a cat only if the cat ran. Some cats learned not to run from her faster than other cats did.
I have a 11 yr old BLIND German Shepard raised with a cat in the house. She was 10 last year when I got the chooks. The chooks, the dog, and myself would all be in the yard together no barriers. Then I would leave them alone in the yard together. Adding small amounts of time. Last weekend was the first night they all spent together. I was finally able to leave them to roost. Penny the dog doesn't mind them one bit. Even when she can't see them, gets too close and they peck her on the nose.
I have 3 standard poodles. They are a little interested in the chickens, but it's usually that they want to share the scraps. They have done an outstanding job protecting the hens from predators. One of my standard poodles (the female) chased off a hawk. I feel very safe with the dogs outside with the chickens. None of the chase the chickens or are aggressive with them. Maybe look into a standard poodle?
I have a mixed (large, and part pit breed) from a shelter and while I’m not ready to trust her around the chickens when they are free range (even though she’s mostly interested in just eating their poop!) we are training her to watch our property (from inside) and alert us to predators passing through. If she spots one, she gets a big exciting run-around the yard as a treat. And it’s training the predators that she’s watching for them. :) Not the perfect solution, but it’s better than nothing.

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