|A bold coyote watches the flock from the top of a bale. This is a good moment to add in additional guardian dogs.|
A successful LGD should have a balance between these two primary behaviours, the dogs need to be trustworthy towards the livestock and protective against predators.
If the dogs are only nurturing types, then they are likely to be a bit milder in nature and perhaps a little less effective in protecting the livestock should predators come calling. To stand up to large predators, the dog needs to be bold and brave, and willing to confront a predator if that is required. Many highly nurturing types will often stand and bark at a distance, but few are willing to be combative. The ideal LGD will have a balance of this traits, however not every LGD has that perfect 50-50 mix. Some are more nurturing, and others are more protective. Some are closer bonding and other LGD like to be more proactive when dealing with predators.
Habituation is a subtle process, it can be defined as “a decrease in responsiveness upon repeated exposure to a stimulus”. The LGD shows a decrease in response towards the regular presence of the coyote. Without the coyotes behaving in a predatory manner, the stock and the dog learns to disregard the presence of the coyotes. The dog may have initially barked at, or chased off the coyote, however over time the dog got a little tired, and accustomed to the presence of the coyotes. Gradually, the dog started reacting less and less to the presence of the coyotes, allowing them closer and closer. Some people may feel that this dog is responding with appropriate force, as no predation was occurring.
I have seen similar behaviour with the coyotes on our ranch. They regularly check out what we are doing, if we move the stock or change our patterns, the coyotes come and see what has happened and changed. A few years ago, I noticed a coyote coming around at various times of the day, staying beyond the fence. Within several days, I found the same coyote laying on a hay bale in a field closer to the sheep watching what was going on. A few days later, the same coyote was laying on a bale in the same pasture where the sheep were grazing. At this point, I had two dogs with the flock on a large pasture containing both open areas and bush. There was a progression in the coyote's behaviour and his boldness. I realized that I needed to “up the ante” and increase the number of LGD working in this pasture to ensure that the coyote did not become even bolder. Thankfully, I have some "spare" LGD and could re-group them and increase the number of dogs in this big and difficult to work pasture.
|Two of the guardian dogs lead the flock back to the night corral after a day of grazing.|
I have read that LGD who chase predators with determination and over a greater distance, will deter predators for a longer period, than when the dog only barks and chases for a short distance. The key is, that the dogs need to work with conviction and determination so that the predator feels his life may be in jeopardy when it approaches the flock. These types of dogs are often higher on the protective side, and more proactive in their guardian duties. It surprises me how many ranchers feel that the only good LGD is one who is close and tight with the sheep. I think both types play an important role in providing protection for the flock.
I do not like to define close bonding types or perimeter types as something that is a breed specific trait as I have seen both traits within one breed. We run one breed of LGD (the Sarplaninac), when I am asked if our dogs are tight bonding or more perimeter types, I am never sure what to say, as our dogs do both tasks, they are often sleeping tight in with the sheep but are certainly quite willing to go out and patrol too. Defining a breed by these two labels (perimeter or close bonding) is too generalized and static, it negates the fluidity and adaptability that each dog has within the pack. A perimeter type is not less effective than a close bonding type, each have an important role in keeping the flock safe. Too often, a dog that is not bonded to livestock or one that roams, is described as a “perimeter” type, and that is part of the problem when we use such generalized labels.
|The roles our LGD have are not static, depending on a certain situation they could be described as close bonding types and at other times, very willing to be out patrolling pushing predators further back.|
A good livestock guardian dog ensures the livestock are safe, and that predators are happy to avoid the area the flock grazes in.