Friday, 28 February 2014

Job description

I love the fact that some comments and statements from Facebook get me thinking about many LGD related topics. I recently had an interchange with someone about Livestock Guardian Dogs that got me thinking.

So, let me throw out a few random thoughts:
Is it true that if you are a Kenyan, you are, therefore, a great long distance runner?
Are you a psychiatrist because you watch Dr. Phil?
Are you a shepherd if you live in the city, but have never had a sheep or goat before?


You see, in the dog world, we have breeds that are then placed in Groups. The Groups generally describe the similar functions shared by different breeds. For example, a Group of herding dogs would include the Border Collie, Rough Collie, Bearded Collie, Australian Shepherd, Kelpie, etc.

Now, just because your breed falls into a specific Group,
does not necessarily mean that your dog actually does this job.

A working sheepdog is, in my opinion, a herding dog working almost daily in its job of moving stock, penning them, and gathering them.
In other words, they work together with the handler to move livestock.

A “Border Collie” is in the Herding Dog Group, but it is not necessarily a working sheep dog. The same applies to the Rough Collie; it falls into the Group of Herding Dogs but, in all honesty, very few Rough Collies, today, are actually out working cattle and sheep.
Some simply, do not even have any instinct or desire to want to work livestock.
Just because it is placed into the box “Herding Dogs,” that does not mean that it is a herding, stock moving,
and therefore,
a working sheepdog.

Now, on to Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs).

Simply, because a breed falls into the “Sheepdog” Group,
that does not make it a sheepdog (the Saarloos Wolf Dog also falls in this group!).

  To me, LGD is a job description.
The job entails living 24/7/365 in with the livestock; its job is to protect the livestock from predators.

When I see ads for LGDs where the dog is lounging on the couch, living as a family pet, kenneled, or kept chained up (away from stock), it is not a LGD to me.
 It may be a Great Pyrenees, Maremma, Sarplaninac, or a Kangal, which are breeds…
but that still does not make it a LGD.

How can it be a Livestock Guardian Dog if it is not out living with the livestock?

Puppy buyers need to be aware that not all LGD breeds are actually Livestock Guardian Dogs.
In addition, cross breeding between LGDs and non-livestock guardian dog breeds (herding/hunting/retrieving/pets) could end in disaster for your stock.

Being a LGD is a job description performed by dogs of specific breeds.
Without this job, the dog is still a breed,
 just not a Livestock Guardian Dog.


  1. While I agree for the most part, I also fell there are exceptions, although perhaps rare (and/or lucky). Our dogs are great with the stock and in the 6 years we've had them, they've done their job and have house access due to, lets call it "neighborly necessity". Their mother was only half Pyr, but her mother was a large mixed breed. By luck she showed great behavior but was not originally raised with stock. we obtained her as a rescue/re-homing at just over a year of age. Taking a chance, and I knew it was, I bred her to a well established working Maremma resulting in 10 puppies.

    These pups were all originally raised with the livestock including goats, sheep, cattle and poultry. By 10 weeks of age I had pretty much determined that 2 of these would not make good LGDs and were removed from that potential future by going to non livestock homes. One to a veterinarian in a large town and one to a nearby farm as a family dog. One was borderline just from an attentiveness standpoint and I told her present owners that and they understood, but they had only a couple of beef cattle anyway and were planning to get rid of them and also only wanted a farm dog that would warn them of visitors and predators. The rest, 3 of which i kept, made very good LGDs. I wouldn't go so far as to say excellent. I prefer the idea of keeping them longer allowing a natural weaning and to allow more adult dog interaction before going of to new places.

    Now, all this being said, I feel I was extraordinarily lucky. It could have gone badly with a much wider expression of behavioral characteristics. I would not recommend outcrossing with non LGD breeds, but at the time we had very few options and we didn't have the connections in the world of LGDs we have now. I would not go that way again, but we have the dogs we have, so that's what I'll work with.

    I'm still in contact with all of the owners after 6 years and will always feel responsible for any puppies that have left our farm. One of my stipulations is that if ever there is a problem, that they can come back here and I'll deal with the issue in whatever way I can.

    I'm not sure if they come under your definition of LGD, but for us and a few other farms, these dogs are doing what we need them to do. I sort of look at it from the point of view of Italian mountain farmers from years ago that sought the traits they desired and bred towards "tightening" those kinds of behaviors, hopefully along with breeding for health and longevity. This was how many breeds were developed, so I'm not sure it's fair to place too many limits on careful experimental breeding, but certainly there should be some limits if the dogs are intended to be LGDs.

    I also, and to a greater degree experiment with breeding sheep and poultry, however the ones that don't turn out well are a liability from perhaps only an economic standpoint, unlike dogs that end up with an inappropriate expression of gene mixing that can be problematic in many ways. I feel very strongly that people like me who want to do any breeding of any kind with dogs, take life-long responsibility for the puppies.

    Good topic. Thanks

  2. I bred Siberian Huskies for many years. Not all Siberians were qualified to be on our team. When breeders are breeding for the traits that make a dog of a certain breed better qualified for the job it's breed description assigns it there is a greater chance that you will find a qualified pup in those litter. LGD, guarding, sled racing, vermin hunting, etc are jobs and certain breeds are being propagated to perform those jobs but not every pup will or can.


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