Wednesday 30 December 2020

What does Bonding look like?


Both the livestock and the dogs are relaxed and comfortable in each others presence.  The puppy is learning to be social around the sheep and to accept that sheep belongs in its world.

What does Bonding look like?

©Louise Liebenberg (2020)

Written for The Shepherds Magazine

“What does a bonding look like for a livestock guardian dog (LGD)?” This question was posted in a Facebook group and I thought it was a particularly good question to address in an article. As with all things, nothing is really set in stone and individual dogs will show various degrees of behavior.

Bonding is for both the sheep and the LGD  being comfortable with each other. The sheep are not threatened and the dogs are happy to share their space and resources with each other.

Most traditional shepherds do not really talk in terms of bonding, the dogs are around and live with the sheep, that is what is expected from them. The term bonding is more a North American term, it explains that the dog and sheep form an “unusual” relationship with one another, that crosses specie lines.  The Webster dictionary describes the word bonding to mean “the formation of a close relationship (as between a mother and child or between a person and an animal) especially through frequent or constant association.”  In the case of LGD it is a relationship that is formed between two species and in this case between a predator and its prey.  Another key aspect to the word bond, is that is formed because of frequent or constant association. This is key in LGD. If they do not have frequent or in most cases constant contact with the livestock, the relationship between these two species can becomes weaker or not form at all.

These pups are socializing with the sheep and are in the critical age where they are learning to form a bond with other animals, people and situations.

 Another term more commonly used in the dog world is “socialization”.   Socialization is the process of getting the puppy to become accustomed to other people, animals, places, and activities so that the are calm and relaxed in these situations. Socialization usually begins at an early age, with the goal of having a well-adjusted dog that can handle new situations and experiences in a calm and confident manner.  For our LGD this is what we want, we want the dog to form a relationship with the livestock so they feel calm and confident being around them and also to ensure they come to regard the livestock as part of their world.  We socialize the LGD to their livestock and over time a bond develops. The critical part is that this socialization is somewhat time sensitive and is usually most effective when the pup is in the sensitive stage, the developmental stage where it is most receptive to forming bonds and learning new experiences. This phase is usually between 3 and 16 weeks old.  Of course, there will be some dogs who form this bond at a later age and some who never do, but as a rule of thumb this does seem to be the most ideal time for the pup to form these associations. In the pet dog world, this socialization and bonding happens to the family members, in LGD, we want them to create their primary bond to the livestock, hence the recommendation to place pups directly in with gentle livestock when the pup comes home.

In the eighties, most livestock keepers approached bonding by not handling their dogs at all, believing no human contact was the only way to force this bond to the livestock. This in turn created other issues, nervous and people shy dogs, dogs that could not be handled or given veterinary treatments and feral dogs. Feral dogs are often not confident in their ability to handle new situations and experiences. Finding the right balance between too much handling and enough time to bond to the livestock is a fine line. I like to handle my pups with the livestock. They live with the stock and the handling happens right there.

It was expected that the dog stayed tight with the sheep, and where totally human shy. Many ranchers felt that the dog always had to be close to the sheep, preferably right in the middle of the stock, and preferably avoid all human contact. As more people started to use LGD, and more breeds became accessible to livestock operations,  people noticed some breed differences, some breeds seemed to be “tighter bonding” to their livestock and other breeds tended to be more perimeter or patrolling dogs. Initially many ranchers wanted nothing to do with the patrolling types, as they felt these dogs were “not working”.  However, patrolling breeds can be as effective as tighter bonding breeds. There is not one “right” way. Effectiveness should be measured in how predation is controlled as opposed to the dog’s distance relative to the livestock. The caveat here is, if the dog is always far away or never at the sheep, then chances are he will also not be as effective if he is not around when predation takes place. The patrolling dog needs to still be contact with the sheep, go and patrol and come back and check with the sheep. The patrolling type dog may not lay right in with the sheep but does need to be in relative close proximity to the flock.

The LGD is being attentive to the sheep. The sheep were staring at something moving in the bush, the dog is attentive to the sheep and is focused on what is moving. The dog and the sheep are alert, but relaxed.

I will list some behaviors and actions that indicate that the dog is bonded to the livestock. This list is not all encompassing and not every dog will show all these behaviors. However, it does illustrate what a well bonded dog looks like to the observer. A pup will certainly not show all these behaviors and as the dog matures it will learn how to be around the livestock in a better way. It is not a static process. A mature dog will have learned how to keep the sheep calm, how to avoid conflicts, how to be more tolerant, to “read the sheep’s behavior” etc.
As bonding is not a one-sided relationship, the livestock are also good indicators of how the dog is doing. The livestock know if a dog is not trustworthy and it is the livestock that is often be the first indicator that the dog might be showing troubling behavior.  I will touch on some livestock behavior too, that will reflect how bonded the animals are to each other.

The dog is comfortable and relaxed around the livestock.

The dog is calm and moves through the livestock in a mindful way.

The dog is respectful of the livestock, does not sit on them, paw them, bump into them, chase them.

Is comfortable with the livestock being in their space, laying at a hay feeder together or sharing a water   trough.

Will give the stock space when needed, if a ewe is lambing the dog will walk around her, will avoid hard staring, will overt their eyes to keep the livestock calm, the dog will move around livestock that are walking towards him. If the animals get upset, the mature dog will naturally give them more space to keep them settled. This type of behavior does come with maturity and learned experiences.

The dog is attentive to the behavior of the stock. If sheep are nervous or running, dog is looking  for danger. He is attuned to the sheep and their reactions.

Follows the animals out to graze,  and is in the vicinity of where the flock is grazing.

The dog is content to be with the livestock, when you leave the dog is happy to return to the livestock.

Is trustworthy with the livestock ( no chewing, chasing, herding, leg nipping, wool pulling)

Feels the need to guard the livestock, barks and responds to predators or unusual situations. Is protective of the animals and the space they are in.

Greeting, the sheep, happy to see them.  Forms relationships with individual animals as well as the group.

“Boring. Delightfully, wonderfully, comfortingly boring.” – Susan Soeder

Good bonding does not require the dog to always be laying in with the sheep, being snuggled up to them or even having lambs or goat kids jumping up and down on them. The dog may be bonded without showing this level of tolerance.  Some dogs do prefer more personal space and that is okay.

The livestock will show indications that they trust the dog, are relaxed in the company of the dog (not flighty, chewing cud, walking close to the dog, sharing space, looking towards the dog when unsure, following the dog  into new grazing areas or back to the barn, relaxed, content and comfortable in the presence of the dog.

It certainly is a relationship the grows and some sheep attach more to certain dogs than others. My dogs recognize individual sheep and cows, and some of my sheep adore pups and will stand with them, nuzzle them, and even push other sheep away from the pup.  Some livestock can be more aloof and that is fine too.

I think what is key to remember, the livestock guardian dog’s job is two-fold; protect the livestock and do not eat them! Some people only want to see the warm and fuzzy part of LGDs bonding to their stock, and often forget their main job is to be protective. I would rather have a dog that is tolerant, but distant towards the livestock and “guardy” in his behavior, than all cuddles and snuggles, but ineffective toward predators.

Greetings and recognition of individual animals is another way that show some level of bonding.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Adding Livestock Guardian Dogs


Merely adding in extra dogs as a response to a predation event is not as simple as it seems. Having a well functioning pack, who like to work together is what will provide optimum protection to your livestock.

Adding Livestock Guardian Dogs 
©Louise Liebenberg (Aug 2020)
Written for The Shepherds Magazine

I  always question when people who have little to no experience working with Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) give advise on how to raise them, work them and how many dogs someone starting with LGD should get, particularly when they themselves are not always aware of the consequences of such advise or the possible ramifications this could have for the person, livestock or other dogs. I think, people who have worked with LGD in a professional way, and by this, I mean making a living from their livestock operation, understand there are always nuances and considerations that need to be taken into account. It is not a “one size fits all” situation. In this month’s article I am going to look at the feasibility of simply adding more dogs to a flock.

On many of the social media forums, people will ask questions regarding how many dogs they need, if the person who posts the question casually mentions they live in an area with large predators (even if no predation has taken place) most advisors jump at that, and suggest they need 5 or more dogs to handle large predators.  In my rather practical way of thinking, I always question how the advisor thinks that will work? It is not so simple to just add that many dogs. Is it even warranted for that situation, or where to even find all these dogs are often not considered? In some cases, these advisors recommend the poster get 2 dogs for a situation that does not even warrant a dog.

Most people recommend high number of dogs because they think that LGD and large predators are having fights daily, the reality is, physical engagement is relatively uncommon. In areas with high predator pressure, the producer will already have higher dog numbers and is probably implementing other methods to help keep the livestock safe. 
This advise to simply add in 5 or more dogs is easy to hand out and much harder to implement. If a producer has a confirmed kill from a mountain lion or bear, it generally does not work to suddenly add multiple new dogs, all at once, to the flock.   The problems with this advice are, many people do not understand that simply adding in so many extra dogs will destabilize the original LGD pack. It is not simple to integrate new adult dogs into an existing pack as it will often result in fighting.  The dogs are focussed on pack dynamics as opposed to the flock.  There is also a real challenge to find good, sound adult working LGD and most times the livestock are wary of new dogs initially. Although the advice may be legitimate, the reality is that it is near impossible to implement as an instant solution in response to a predation event.  I read on the various livestock guardian dogs forums comments like it takes multiple dogs to take down a mountain lion, yes, that might be true, but the work of a LGD is rarely “taking it down”, instead it is to disrupt the predators behaviour, making it harder to be able to kill, to act as a deterrent and establish a territory to push predators further back.  If you have a sheep killed today by a predator then you might need to resort to other methods of protecting your flock because finding 3 or 4 new dogs to add in directly, might not be an option. In this case, night corralling the sheep in a smaller area, or using hot wire, sound and light deterrents or shepherding might be the more appropriate “instant solution”. Integrating that many new dogs into a flock takes time, management, and resources. It is not an instant fix.

A cohesive pack means there is peace in the pack, all working together as a group.

What people do not realise is that there is an optimum number of dogs, too many dogs and you have whole new set of problems to deal with. It is about finding the right number of dogs, with the best pack cohesiveness for the job. To protect the livestock, multiple strategies might need to be implemented, no method to discourage predation is 100%, so when a kill happens, other forms of protection will need to be applied. If the area where you ranch, has a high predator load and there is a need more dogs, then it is pertinent to work towards higher number of dogs over time. Build that cohesive working pack of dogs who are and can be flexible with where they are placed. We switch our dogs around depending on where they are grazing or if the risk for the livestock is higher in a certain area. We rotate our dogs around various groups and will often add in or take our dogs from different groups out to ensure all the dogs know each other well enough, to be able to work together. This flexibility allows us to manage the dogs better and provide the best protection to the flock that needs it most.  A few years back we had wolves raising 7 pups on our ranch, this required us to move some of the dogs around, to ensure the sheep grazing closest to the wolf den were more protected.  This was possible as we usually have a few “extra dogs”, who can be switched around. We pulled some of the dogs from the sheep grazing close to the barn and added them in to the main ewe flock and to the calving cattle.  As our dogs know the livestock, the other dogs, and the terrain, it was relatively easy to do. This way, we can “instantly” up our numbers without causing too much disruption within the flock and dog pack.

What is key for most producers is to have a succession plan for their LGD.  Many people start off with 2 and then in 10 years time they have 2 old dogs with no new young dogs that are up and coming. I think it is important to plan where you want to be with your operation in a few years time, are you a growing operation, expanding land base, or possibly downsizing? Planning for the number of dogs you need or having a reliable source for finding your future LGD pups is important.   If you breed your own as replacements it is good to know when to plan a litter to ensure you have the next generation starting up, before you might really need them. The most cohesive pack of LGD includes dogs with a variety of ages and experiences within the pack. I personally like to keep back a pup at least every two years, so when the older dogs move into retirement, I have sufficient, experienced younger dogs to fill those rolls. If it looks like I am getting too many dogs, there is a market for well raised, stock bonded older dogs. I have multiple people calling me and telling me their dog got old and have had a coyote kill and are now needing a full trained dog, ready to go today. A little succession planning in the dogs goes a long way to ensure you have enough, integrated dogs to not have a “gap” or opportunity for predators to take advantage of. Managing the LGDs on a livestock operation is part of the whole “business plan”, and requires forethought and planning to have optimal use of the dogs.

Succession planning in LGD, requires planning a head to ensure you have a cohesive pack of dogs for the coming years to ensure sufficient protection for your livestock.

Monday 14 September 2020

Intact or Altered?


Intact or Altered?
©Louise Liebenberg
Written for The Shepherds Magazine 

An intact breeding pair of LGD. The male will only be focused on “guarding” this female while she is in heat. It certainly detracts from his guarding of the livestock during this time.

As veterinary knowledge expands many “standard” procedures are getting a new look. One of the areas that has come under greater scrutiny is what long term affects (health and behavioural) does spaying and neutering have on dogs.  For many years, the standard approach has been to recommend spaying a female prior to her first heat cycle and neutering a male under one year of age. In some areas and particularly with shelter dogs, many of these dogs are altered as juveniles, around 8-12 weeks old. With new research and looking into long term studies it has been found that early spay and neuter does carry increased health risks for the adult dog. This article will explore some of the options for livestock guardian dogs (LGD) and how to manage intact and altered dogs.

I could not find any direct studies that determined if an altered or intact LGD had a significant effect or their working ability to deter predators from the sheep flocks.  The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension publication states; “Either sex can be an effective LGD and spaying or neutering does not seem to decrease a guardian dog’s protectiveness.”
In the more traditional cultures in Europe, altering is not a standard procedure and many pastoralists do not have access to this type of medical intervention. In some regions it is frowned upon and many shepherds believe that neutering or spaying will render the dogs less effective.  Personally, I do believe that intact LGD might have a slight advantage when it comes to behaviours such as sent marking, displays of dominance, aggression and claiming of territories.  The degree of difference in effectiveness has not been measured (to my knowledge) and the question arises if that difference overrides the advantages of sexually altering a LGD?

The primary reasons for altering LGD is to prevent unwanted litters of pups, crosses between LGD and non LGD breeds, to keep the dogs focussed on their job rather than finding breeding partners and in some cases to reduce some behavioural problems such as aggression and roaming.

The advantages of intact dogs in regards to working ability is that a lot of information is transmitted through scent, intact dogs could have an advantage over altered dogs in this regard, intact dogs can be more dominant and show more aggression when it comes to pack dealings and the message it can portray to wild canids.  Of course, the option of breeding a good working dog is gone once a dog is altered.
Working with intact LGD adds another level of management that many ranchers do not want to deal with. Requires monitoring for in heat animals, avoiding breeding with non LGD males, kenneling for at least 3 weeks twice a year to avoid unwanted litters. Altering working dogs is a sound management decision for most ranchers.

In the vast majority of cases, I think altered LGD do make the best working dogs for most livestock operations and I personally do recommend spaying or neutering them. The next question however is when to do that? In most cases it is convenient for the rancher to do this when the pup is young, close to the ranch and before they become sexually mature. This is usually before 6 months for a female and under a year for a male. However, some recent research does suggest a correlation with long term health affects associated with early spaying and neutering which includes things such as joint diseases (including hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture, and elbow dysplasia) and cancers (such as lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma). Both which can seriously affect the working life of our LGD.  

In this July 2020 published research paper titled:  Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers, and Urinary Incontinence.  By Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart, Abigail P. Thigpen and Neil H. Willits. (
 It found: “In previous studies on the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd Dog, neutering before a year of age was associated with increased risks of one or more joint disorders, 2–4 times that of intact dogs. The increase was particularly seen with dogs neutered by 6 months of age. In female Golden Retrievers, there was an increase in one or more of the cancers followed, to about 2–4 times that of intact females with neutering at any age.” 

The breeds studied did not include any of the LGD breeds, but it is generally accepted that size and sex certainly does impact the affects of early spay and neutering. Looking at all the larger breeds in this study it can be concluded that for large breeds the recommendations for neutering varies from 11 months to over 2 years, and for spaying a female from 6 months to over 2 years. I think if your breed is prone to joint issues and cancers, it is prudent to allow them to mature before considering spaying or neutering. I think it is always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to pick the best age that suits your management and is most appropriate for your dog. I recommend to my pup buyers usually to alter their dogs after 18 months old. Allowing them sufficient time to mature, grow and develop.

So, this leads into the next issue on how to deal with intact dogs who could potentially breed, before they are altered. Both males and females can breed from about 6 months old and considering that most LGD breeds come into heat 2 x a year for 3 weeks at a time, it will require additional dog management to deal with an intact animal.

LGD are notorious for their ability and ingenuity to escape any enclosure, so this means when a female is in heat and needs to be locked away,  the encloser will need to be very substantial; jump, climb, crawl and dig proof. Dogs have been known to breed through diamond mesh fencing.  As most of my females tend to trigger each other and they tend to cycle together, it is often easier for me to lock away the male than lock away all the females. My advantage is that we live remotely and have no other neighbor dogs that could come in and potentially breed our LGD. My border collies are kenneled and do not just free roam, so that is usually not a problem.  

I have built a designated kennel for my LGD that needs to be in lock down, it is away from the sheep pastures, it is high, with coyote rollers over top. The bottom is fortified. If I have an incredibly determined dog, I am also able to tether the dog inside this pen if I am worried about it escaping. My next favorite place to contain my LGD is a stock trailer, providing the air openings are not spaced too far apart that the dog can slither through.   I think every working ranch should have at least one super good containment pen, this can be used for when males or females need to be kept separate during heat cycles but can also double as sick bay or even a time out place when the need arises.  This pen really does provide some peace of mind. If sheep are grazed out on the range, sometime taking the dog back to the home ranch might be an option, as many of the intact males might spend all their time hanging around the pen where the female is, as opposed to protecting the flock.

This is my lockdown kennel, complete with coyote rollers to dissuade any jumpers. This kennel is used for containing either an intact male or female when I do not want them to breed or at times when a dog is needing veterinary care.

Just a reminder, most female LGD pups have the first heat cycle between 6 and 8 months. Some can start as early as 4 months. Most females will cycle every 6 months.  I like to track who is in heat and when and this is noted down on a calendar. I will usually place a reminder to check a certain female in 6 months time for signs of being in heat. Some females show little signs of a heat, so this does require hypervigilance. Finally, I am a huge advocate that all LGD should be handled. Appropriate handling does not break the bond with sheep, it makes for easier management of the dogs. All LGD should be able to be leashed, caught, handled, vet inspected, de-wormed and be accustomed to tethering. The dogs should be comfortable with you handling their legs, head, ears, touching all over their body so that you can inspect them for signs of being in heat.  If you are unable to handle your LGD at all, then I would certainly recommend early spay and neutering, I believe dealing with unwanted litters is a greater issue.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Do they have "it" or not?


This dog has it all, attentive, protective, and trustworthy. He did require some corrections while in his adolescent years, and never missed an opportunity to make go and visit some of the other ranch dogs. Except for those minor flaws, and his intense dislike for strange cats, this dog had “it” all.

Do they have "it" or not?
©Louise Liebenberg  June 2020
Written for The Shepherds Magazine

My friend Jill, from Northern California, asked me if I thought that livestock guardian dogs either have “it” or not. It is of course an interesting question to ponder. Before, I can delve into this, I think “it” needs to be defined. I am assuming Jill means the traits, character, and ability to be successful Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) without much involvement of the shepherd (beyond the normal facilitation in raising and bonding). The “it” refers to the part that the dog brings to the “table”, both in traits and character.

I do believe that some dogs do just have it. These dogs are solid, reliable, and trustworthy with the livestock right off the bat, with little to no additional guidance from the shepherd.  I also know that other dogs can be reliable and trustworthy but may require some more time and input from the shepherd. Finally, there are other LGD who are never trustworthy and no matter how much time and effort the shepherd puts into them, they just do not have what it takes to do the job. Some dogs can even be partially good, reliable in some circumstances and not in others, or effective some of the time. Even just the presence of the dogs, whether they are actively guarding or not, still has some deterring effects on predators. 

 Most of the researchers still use the three pillars laid out by the Coppinger’s to assess the effectiveness of LGD, namely are they trustworthy, attentive, and protective of the livestock? In a study of LGD in Georgia by Robin Riggs, he interviewed shepherds and documented 525 dogs (adults and juveniles). Some interesting numbers roll out from these studies. Respondents rated their dogs as good (61%) and partially good (22%). To fully understand the partially good one needs to understand that a dog can be attentive to the livestock and highly trustworthy, but can lack protectiveness, therefore “partially good”. Or, it might be trustworthy and protective, but because they are inattentive; for example, the dog is not always around the livestock when predators attack, this dog might be rated as partially good. Shepherds rated their dogs as good when they were attentive to livestock (51%), aggressive to predators (12%) and unafraid of wolves (7%).  Partially good dogs were considered; not attentive enough (38%), insufficiently protective (33%), or attentive but afraid of predators (19%). 
Respondents were asked about their training regime, 40% claimed their dogs learnt to do their job by themselves, 31% were raised with the flock and 25% claimed the dogs learnt what to do from the other dogs. Only 2 respondents claimed to  engage in specific actions to encourage attentiveness in their dogs by encouraging the dogs to accompany the flock or by feeding the dogs close to the livestock.
Five farms claimed their dogs were not good citing lack of attentiveness, fear of wolves, poor breeding, or failure to train properly. (Rigg Robin; Goldthorpe Garth; Popiashvilli Teimuraz and Sillero-Zubiri Claudio, 2017)
It is interesting to note that some respondents specifically noted that their failure to correctly train the dogs was a reason for them being “not good”. This certainly implies that some effort and work on behalf of the shepherd is required, and that it is not just a matter of the dog having it or not. 

In the Georgian study no actual figures were laid out for what percentage of shepherds felt that the dogs failed in their job, if respondents claimed 61% were good and 22% partially good, can one assume that  17% were not good? (Rigg Robin; Goldthorpe Garth; Popiashvilli Teimuraz and Sillero-Zubiri Claudio, 2017)

In a study in Portugal the numbers are a lot more optimistic. In a personal communication with Silvia Ribeiro, who works with Grupo Lobo in helping to place LGD with shepherds. The dogs are monitored and scored based on their effectiveness, trustworthiness, and protectiveness. Data is kept on all the dogs in their program.  It was found that about 6.9 % of the dogs evaluated were found to be unsuited for LGD work by their (initial) owners, however some of these dogs were transferred to other farms and were successfully integrated back to work. Ultimately, only about 2.5% of the dog evaluated were excluded completely as LGD.  The reasons cited for this were mostly behavioral problems, and in 80% of the cases related with lack of attentiveness (44.4%), trustworthiness (44.4%), or protectiveness (11.1%).  In the other 20% the motives mentioned by owners were related with damages to neighbor's gardens, killing of chickens, chasing cars, aggressiveness to other dogs, and fear of aggressiveness to people.
(Ribeiro Silvia; Guerra Ana and Petrucci-Fonseca Francisco, 2017)

Statistics on failure rates in LGD seems to vary, and seems directly tied to how invested the shepherds are in working with their dogs. A certain number of dogs do fail, despite being given every opportunity to be successful. “Not all pups are capable of becoming good livestock guardians, regardless of how they are raised”. (Coppinger R, 2001)

“Almost all pups in the present study showed some obnoxious behaviour towards sheep. Even the best dogs vigorously chased sheep when they first accompanied flocks to pasture at five months old. How shepherds responded to such behaviour was of great importance. Most disruptive behaviour can be corrected, given sufficient patience and a degree of tolerance (Sims and Dawydiak 1990:45-80, Coppinger 1992a). According to these authors, LGD behaviour can change substantially as dogs mature and a seemingly unsuccessful adolescent may still prove to be a good guardian.” (Rigg, 2004)

So, it is clear that some troubling behaviour is to be expected, however what happens with this troubling behaviour and how it is dealt with is perhaps more determining for the successful outcome for the LGD.
As Ribeiro states “I believe in most cases, in the right context and with the right owner (experienced/patient), dogs can be recovered. It seems sometimes it is just a question of lack of maturity, and with time they can outgrow those undesirable behaviors, especially if not reinforced.” (Personal Communication, 2020)
Rigg also reported that during the study in Georgia they often found the dogs away from the flocks, and the dogs were often absent during a predatory attack.   This indicates a lack of attentiveness in the adult dogs.  He recommends better rearing practices and starting this with younger pups to help improve attentiveness in the LGD.

When the sheep are well protected, the shepherd certainly can rest a whole lot better.

So, coming full circle back to the question Jill asked about whether LGD simply have it or not, the numbers and research suggests it is always a combination of nature and nature. For the dogs to be successful it does appear that a certain amount of work and facilitation is required by the shepherd. The shepherds and owners need to be invested in their dogs to achieve good success rates.  The Grupo Lobo dogs are monitored, shepherds are taught how to work with their dogs. In other regions manuals on the most successful way to raise and bond LGD have been written to help improve the  (perceived) success rate of LGD. There does seem to be a common thread in how to manage these “failures”, and that will be a great topic for a future article.

I do think some dogs are simply not cut out to be LGD, they just do not possess the right combination of traits needed for the job, either due to poor breeding, lack of selection, poor character or lack of guidance by the owner.   This is of course not unique to LGD, not every border collie can work a full day or have the innate abilities to work well. Even some border collies are only “partially good” and some have no desire to work livestock. 
Some dogs who show poor behaviour can be worked with or perhaps as they hit maturity they can settle down and become effective. I think a lot also depends on circumstances, someone on a few acres and low predator threat might be sooner content with how the dog is working than someone dealing with heavy predation. I think owner perception of the job a dog needs to do, is also determining in an assessment of how successful they are. Some folks are content when a dog just hangs out at the feeder with the sheep and other people want to see active guarding and preferably killed predators. I believe a dog who is inattentive or lacks protectiveness can still be somewhat useful. I think the hardest trait to deal with are dogs who not trustworthy with the livestock, in some instances direct work,  supervision and maturity can resolve that issue, but when dogs have the opportunity to  continue bad behaviour, I believe it changes something in their brain. It ignites the predatory response and once that is triggered, it is hard to change that behaviour. It is such a fine line for a canine to live and interact with a prey species, it is easy to understand that some are simply not cut out for that job. 

I believe those shepherds who have dealt with many LGD, do see sooner which dogs might not make the grade, it could be a feeling, or how the livestock respond to the dog  or early recognition of troubling behaviour. I know, I have had dogs who I have always felt were just not attentive to the livestock and later, this changed into more troubling behaviour resulting in untrustworthiness.  The key is recognizing troubling behaviour or even the circumstances that can lead to troubling behaviour sooner, will increase the success rate of “problem” LGD.


Ribeiro,Silvia; Guerra,Ana and Petrucci-Fonseca,Francisco. (2017). The Use of Livestock Guardian Dogs in North-Eastern Portugal: The Importance of Keeping the Tradition. Carnivore Damage Prevention News(15), 9-18.

Coppinger R, a. C. (2001). Dogs; a stratling new understanding of canine origin, behaviour and evolution. New York, USA: Scribner.

Rigg, R. (2004). The extent of predation on livestock by large carnivores in Slowakia and mitigating carnivore- human conflict using livestock guardian dogs. UK: University of Aberdeen.

Rigg, Robin; Goldthorpe, Garth; Popiashvilli, Teimuraz and Sillero-Zubiri, Claudio. (2017). Livestock Guardian Dogs in Georgia: A tradition in need of saving? Canivore Damage Prevention News(15), 19-27.

Silvia Ribeiro, personal communication. 

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Wool pulling

Wool pulling by a LGD.
The ewe was fine.

Wool Pulling
©Louise Liebenberg (2020)
Written for the Shepherds Magazine 

“Hi,  Do you think a dog would pull the wool on a sheep to try and help it?
This morning I got up to one of my ewes, heavy with lambs, over on her side/back unable to get up with one of my dogs laying beside it and a bunch of its wool pulled out. We were wondering if the dog could have been trying to help it get up by pulling on the wool? When I approached them, the dog got up calmly walked away about 10 feet and laid down again. We got the ewe up and she staggered a bit and then slowly headed back to the flock. He walked beside her, about 15-20 feet away.  So, I am not sure if dog was exceptionally good or bad?  He is 18 months old he has been with these sheep since he was 9 months old. I do not know that it was him, as was he was laying beside her not touching her and I never saw him touch her, is it possible something else did this?”

Wool pulling by a young Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) occurs more frequently than what many people care to admit.  The reasons why a dog pulls wool are multiple, most often it occurs in younger, adolescent dogs who are playing and getting a bit rough with the sheep. It is a game of chase and grab, often, wool pulling is also combined with the dog nipping the legs of the sheep and some ear chewing.

In some instances, wool pulling also occurs under specific circumstances such as if a sheep is weaker, down, cast or caught with its head in a fence or feeder. The fact that the sheep is compromised, triggers a predatory type response in the dog where it will start to pull the wool of this animal. It is important to note that play behaviour in carnivores is often based on predatory learning behaviours. So, what might be play in a young dog can soon escalate to being predatory. Even though LGD are bred to have a low prey drive towards the livestock and combined with a lot of socialisation to the livestock, they are and remain dogs who can be triggered to react in a predacious way.

The answer to the question at the beginning of this article is no, the dog was not attempting to help the sheep into an upright position.  The dog found the sheep in a prone and compromised position and this triggered an inappropriate response in the dog.  I have seen older, exceptionally reliable dogs also pulling wool in sheep who have been caught with their heads in the fence or a feeder.  Once the sheep was freed, the dog was completely uninterested in that sheep. It was the specific situation that gave rise to a poor response from the dog.  Some LGD will pick out a weak, compromised, sickly animals (thin, old, high worm load) to “play with”, separate out, chew ears, pull wool etc.  In many cases the dog will continue to pick on the same animal unless it is removed. It is in the world of carnivores, a normal survival behaviour. Although undesirable in our LGD, we must remember that they are still dogs and predators.
The key to raising LGD is select for genetics with a low predatory drive and to socialise them sufficiently (bond) then to the livestock. The last part of this is to ensure that any unwanted and undesirable behaviour is immediately corrected and that the dog is not placed in situations where he can repeat his mistakes.

When a dog is pulling wool, the dog is sending the owner a clear message that he is not reliable to be left with smaller and potentially weaker animals, and that he needs supervision. A dog pulling wool should be monitored and corrected for this behaviour. The dog should not be put into a situation that it can continue to hurt the sheep or escalate its behaviour. In many cases the owners are often surprised at this behaviour and similarly to the lady who sent me the original message, she was questioning if the dog could do this. She was willing to give the dog the benefit of the doubt. This is a pivotal moment, as owners who have never seen an LGD display this type of behaviour might inadvertently “forgive” the dog, and the dog has no idea it has done something wrong. The owner might believe the dog was trying to help the sheep, so the dog was not corrected for this behaviour, possibly rewarded for the perceived good intentions of the young LGD and most times it is left alone with the sheep providing more opportunity to repeat its behaviour.
Although not a very clear photograph it does illustrate what sometimes happens when a LGD pulls wool. A young dog sitting next to an ewe whose wool was plucked. Although unwanted behaviour this does occur very often in LGD. This ewe survived and rejoined the flock.
Thank you to Laurie Mclaren for allowing me to use this photograph.

In some instances, wool pulling is a collective behaviour, two pups together might engage in this and yet, when separated from each other do not. It is clear to see that some pack mentality takes over at that point.

That a young dog might pull some wool does not mean that the dog is ruined for life  it does depend on the severity and frequency, the more the dog does this, the lower his chances are of becoming a successful LGD. Most first-time offenders can be corrected and still become very solid and reliable LGD. Most young dogs do not have to be “got rid of” but they do need more supervision and be placed in  a situation where they do not have the opportunity to repeat this behaviour. A young dog who is maybe a little too rough, might be better in with some big old rams or placed on a zipline when he cannot be monitored.   The key thing to remember is that wool pulling for a dog is fun, and when something is fun, the dog likes to repeat that behaviour, it becomes a self rewarding behaviour, he will keep doing it and escalate his behaviour each time. Self rewarding behaviours are hard to stop, the correction needs to override the reward and the opportunity to repeat that behaviour must be controlled.

I think the golden rule, no matter what the age of the dog is that the dog should simply never put his mouth or paws on a sheep. He should not be pulling wool, chewing ears, eating placentas out of ewes, dragging the sheep around, sitting on them, carrying lambs, nipping legs etc.  He may gently sniff them, some butt licking, or some face licking of the sheep is acceptable provided he is quiet, gentle, and not intrusive in doing so. Butt and face sniffing are generally a form of greeting, and that is permissible.

If an ewe is down or stuck, he may watch it, guard it, but not touch it.  If I see a young dog standing on a sheep, or over a sheep, or one using its teeth, it will receive an immediate verbal reprimand, it may also include me chasing the dog off a little way simply to emphasize that I am unhappy with him.   Being consistent with the dog provides a constant reminder of how he is expected to behave with the sheep. If I am aware that a young adolescent dog is maybe a little too excitable or is showing some naughty behaviour (chase or controlling behaviour) he will be removed from any flock or herd where he has access to smaller or weaker animals.  I can place the dog in with mature rams or bulls so that the opportunity to be naughty is removed. They are still in with the livestock, just with livestock that are not so vulnerable. It is also generally good livestock management to remove very weak or compromised animals from the flock.

Trustworthiness is one of the three cornerstones of good LGD behaviour, however few LGD are born that never make a mistake or do something naughty. It is the job of the shepherd to correct unwanted behaviour in most instances a timely correction, switching the dog to less vulnerable livestock or even a change of environment can be all the dog needs. Some of the more protective dogs who are harder in nature, might need more supervision than softer breeds. Bolder, more aggressive dogs towards predators are also often bolder and sometimes a bit more challenging to raise. 
Here are a few tips:
No touching livestock with teeth or paws.
Correct any signs of bad behaviour.
Remove an adolescent or naughty dog from weak, sickly or compromised animals.
Supervise, supervise but do not micromanage.
If the dog is doing naughty things, do not give him the benefit of the doubt until you are 100% sure he is reliable. Better to be cautious than allow bad behaviour to continue.
Watch for tell tale signs that the dog might be roughhousing the livestock (panting livestock,  individual animals separated, livestock huddled in a corner, nervous livestock around the dog, tufts of wool pulled out.

It is easy to think that a good LGD should never harm the livestock, but the reality is that they can and do. Not every LGD bred, becomes a successful LGD. No dog is faultless and a lot of the problem-solving lies with a diligent shepherd who will correct a dog showing poor behaviour!

A typical sign of an ewe where the wool has been pulled by an adolescent LGD.  The ewe was fine.
Photo by Laurie Mclaren.


Tuesday 16 June 2020

Innovative Uses for LGD

Innovative Uses for LGD
©Louise Liebenberg, 2020

Written for The Shepherd's Magazine

With the world-wide shutdown and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 virus, many people are faced with isolation in their homes, I hear plenty of rants, complaining and general feelings of frustration. This is somewhat unfamiliar to me and I am sure the effects of the stay-at-home order is not something many ranchers are struggling with; our way of life is one of self imposed isolation, alone time and we are accustomed to having our freezers full and general supplies (in bulk) at home. We are accustomed to life without too many restaurants, nail salons and shopping malls.  Life as we know it, might not changed much, ewes are lambing, cows are calving, and we are preparing for the upcoming growing season. We do, however feel the economic repercussions of this shut down, lamb and cattle prices here in Canada have dropped, as has demand. People are nervous and do not want to spend money on anything they feel is a luxury. We cannot simply shut our doors and stay on the couch, ranchers and farmers are deemed an essential service, we need to keep moving forward as lambs are coming, crops will need to be seeded and fences repaired.
In this article I am going to focus on some interesting developments in the use of livestock guardian dogs (LGD) around the globe. The use of LGD is constantly evolving and becoming more expansive. Traditionally their use was limited to shepherds in remote areas solely for the protection of their flocks. The dog’s roles were to primarily be a guard dog to the flocks from predators and sometimes as guard dogs to protect the villages, camps or caravans of the more nomadic people. The use of LGD was pretty much a “forgotten” tool due to the change in how sheep were being raised and to the extirpation of large predators from many regions of the world.  During the late 1970’s and early 80’s an interest for the use of these dogs in North America began to emerge. Researchers wanted to find better ways to manage coyote predation and started to explore how effective LGD could be in North America. 

In Western Europe, traditional shepherding made way for stationary, fenced in pasture systems and as the wolf had been extirpated from many of these countries, the need for LGD dwindled. In the past decade,  interest for these dogs has resurged as the wolf has made a comeback (due to the protected status of the wolf) and it is now moving/expanding back into countries that have not seen wolves in hundreds of years.  Obstacles livestock keepers face include, learning how to work effectively with these dogs,  how to integrate LGD into an urbanised, highly populated  agricultural landscape, keeping the public safe in places where the  LGD and the general public interact, shared land use, how to educate the public about these dogs, dealing with dog and human aggressiveness, traffic, fencing issues, nuisance complaints, litigation and welfare matters are all issues that need examination. These obstacles are generally non-issues in traditional shepherding countries.
With this resurgence in interest, it is not just the large sheep ranchers using LGD, interest from smaller homestead type operations has increased as well as demand for protecting non-traditional type of livestock such as poultry, horses and pigs, exotic animals such as llamas, alpacas and semi domesticated species such as reindeer. 

We sleep more peacefully knowing the dogs are on guard, and enjoy the companionship they provide during daily chores, flock moves and adventures in the woods.

It is interesting to watch this evolution of LGD use taking place, the next big shift has been utilizing LGD in conservation projects. From protecting farm animals to now protecting endangered wildlife!  One of the first, and best-known projects  is the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. The thought process is, if the ranchers would lose less livestock to cheetah, then the farmers would be less inclined to kill the cheetah, thus helping to save this endangered species. The positive part is that farmers are satisfied with the job these LGD are doing in reducing predation (including predation from other predators such as the jackal) and this results in fewer cheetahs being killed. A win-win situation. 

Another well known project where LGD are used for wildlife conservation is the Little Penguin project in Australia. In 2005 a project was started to bond Maremma sheepdogs to poultry with the goal of being placed on an island to protect Little Penguins from fox predation.   This small island was home to a colony of Little Penguins, the colony numbers were collapsing due to fox predation (at low tide the foxes could access the island and would damage the nests, eat eggs and kill the chicks) and human disturbance. This resulted in the decline of the colony almost to the point of no return, despite alternate measures to protect them.  Dave Williams was key to pioneering the project to use LGD on this island to help prevent fox predation. Although this project has had its fair share of challenges to overcome, the Little Penguins have increased in numbers and no birds were lost to foxes while the dogs were on duty. The obstacles the project faced with the LGD included things like the dogs leaving the island at low tide and some pups roughhousing/killing the Little Penguins. Each problem was perceived as a challenge and solutions were sought. E-fencing was used to keep the dogs on the island and more attention was given to the bonding and habituating process. Dogs were replaced or removed as needed.  Dave Williams reflects; “No one had done anything vaguely like it before. It’s an evolving project. We were constantly having discussions about how we could do things better.” This project garnered so much media attention, that in 2015 a film was made about this project, it was named after one of the Maremma dogs used in this project, his name was Oddball.
Dave Williams has since moved on from the Little Penguins and is now involved in a similar project where he supervises another LGD program for guarding Australasian Gannets, a large seabird. The Little Penguin project continues.
Other research projects that are being undertaken in Australia include investigating the effects of LGDs on foxes, and consequent survival of reintroduced eastern barred bandicoots. For those who do not know an eastern barred bandicoot is a small rabbit sized marsupial. It almost became extinct due to predation by foxes, cats, and land clearing practices. The conservation of this little animal depends solely on captive breeding and reintroductions back into the wild. LGD could play an important role in keeping foxes and cats out of the environment where these bandicoots are reintroduced, thus fostering the survival chances of the eastern barred bandicoot.

Another evolving use is investigating if LGD could play an integral role is in the restoration of habitats that are over pressured by herbivore grazing.  The researches in this new project intend to study things such as movement, browsing and foraging behaviour of deer and Eastern grey kangaroos, with the goal of restoration of grasslands, riparian areas, woodlands and wetlands.  The researches want to monitor what effects the LGD will have on these herbivore species, and how vegetation responds to changes in herbivore abundance and behaviour. The research will include exploring the effect that LGDs have on the distribution and numbers of grey kangaroos within an agricultural landscape. If LGD can keep fragile areas from being overgrazed by herbivores it could allow for more natural restoration of these habitats.
We know from research that LGD can also play a role in disease mitigation, studies have shown that LGD are effective at keeping deer away from cattle. Bovine tuberculosis (TB) occurs in wild white-tailed deer and have been implicated in transmitting the disease to cattle. With LGD keeping deer away from cattle and, indirectly away from cattle feed, the potential transmission of the disease is reduced as the deer and the cattle did not have direct contact. LGD could also provide a viable biosecurity tool for smaller cattle operations within this context.

Not only do LGD protect livestock, they are also exhibit strong territorial behaviour, LGD have been very effective on our own operation in keeping elk away from our winter feed. The Alberta government has programs and subsidies in place to help ranchers build fences to protect their hay from elk and deer predation. Our LGD have been effective in chasing elk away from our hay bales and ensuring that the elk and deer are kept away from our plastic covered silage pits. Deer and elk walking over the plastic, causing damage results in spoilage to the feed. This is serious economic loss for our operation.  Having the dogs out in the pastures and around the feed yards, has meant we have not had to invest in 8-foot-high elk fences to protect our winter feed. I have heard of programs where bee keepers are  using LGD in bee yards to deter bears and a friend of mine uses LGD to protect her chained up racing sled dogs from predators and other large wildlife.

The primary work our LGD do is protect the sheep, but a great added perk is they also keep the elk and deer off our pastures and away from our winter stock piled feed.

Finally, as the use of LGD evolves  and becomes redefined in some areas,  the biggest, singular positive advantage to using LGD is the mental peace of mind we have. We can sleep a bit easier knowing our livestock are safe. We feel personally protected having our dogs on the ranch, they accompany us when we head into the bush where wolves, bears and cougars live. We feel safer knowing they are an early warning system and help reduce the chance of us bumping into a bear or moose.  Having the LGDs on the ranch provides us with a sense of security from 2 and 4 legged intruders.  The gentle nudge of their head in my hand and companionship during the daily rounds is perhaps the greatest perk of them all!
 LGD are increasingly being tested and utilised in wildlife conservation and (potentially) in the restoration of habitats.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Lambing time and Livestock Guardian Dogs

This is IMO the best LGD behaviour for a LGD around lambing. The dog is not intruding, allows the ewe to do her job, is fully aware that the ewe is lambing. 
Lambing time and Livestock Guardian Dogs
©Louise Liebenberg, March 2020

As we slowly roll into spring, most sheep operations are preparing for the upcoming lambing season. For most ranches, this once a year event is a big one, as it marks the start of the new cycle. It is often met with excitement to see what new rams throw, watching lots of lambs running together in a mob and the joy of all this new life. It is also a time of concern, worries about weather, health and predators weigh on the sheep ranchers’ mind. With sleepless nights and long days, it is not a good time to have to worry about the livestock guardian dog (LGD).

Even though lambing time is when most producers need a trusted LGD, introducing a new adult at this point, might be a little too late. A new adult dog requires a settling in time, if sheep are not used to LGD then they may become quite stressed about the dog, if the shepherd does not know this dog, it will need supervision and guidance during the first few weeks to months, this all takes time and generally lambing time is not conducive to this. It is better to be prepared and have your new LGD in place a long time before lambing starts, so that you know the dog is trustworthy and your stock accepting of this dog.

Lambing time is, however, a great time to have pups aged 8 to 16-week-old around. Very few LGD pups cause trouble at this age, they are still too young and easily impressed by a protective ewe. The pup can really learn from this experience, build bonds and understand that ewes need to be respected. Lambs are not fearful and will happily go and lay with a young LGD pup. This is an ideal time for a pup to learn about sheep without the shepherd needing to fear that the pup might harm a lamb. This is what people call bonding, it is the time when the pup is impressionable and can come to see the sheep and lambs as part of his world. 
Having young pups around the lambs is a great way to help them learn that lambs and sheep are a part of their world. This is an ideal age for pups to bond with the ewes and lambs, as the pups get older more supervision will be needed.
After about 4 to 5 months of age, is when some issues can creep in. A 5month old pup is much stronger than the lambs, the pup wants to play all day and playing for a pup is wrestling, playfighting, mouthing and chasing.  The pup is in a stage of its development where it wants to push some boundaries and one can expect some naughty chase and nipping behaviour. Lambs can not discipline a rowdy pre-teen and it will require the owner to guide these interactions and ensure that the pup does not get into some bad habits or hurt the lambs.

The bonding process for this litter is so natural, the pups are raised in the barn with the sheep and lambs.  We spend time with the pups to ensure they are socialised with people, but this all happens in the barn  and with the sheep.

A pup in adolescence (between 8 and 18 months) can be a handful, as it can show a whole range of “bad” behaviors towards lambing ewes, these can include; stealing lambs, chasing the ewes away from her lambs, carrying lambs around in its mouth, running down/chasing lambs, attacking the ewe when she tries to protect her lambs, ear and face biting, holding lambs down with their paws, pulling afterbirths out of the ewe before she is done lambing, killing and eating the lambs and wool pulling. All highly undesirable behaviors if allowed to continue, escalate very quickly to killing and seriously maiming the livestock. When any of these behaviors are seen or even suspected, it is essential that the dog is contained and only allowed to be with the ewes while under human supervision. Just removing the dog temporarily does not teach it anything, this dog needs to be told in very clear terms that none of this behavior is acceptable. The good thing is, if you see these behaviors, the dog is telling you very clearly that it is not ready to be trusted around young and birthing stock. If it can escalate, then you have failed to take note of this behavior and have not taken the appropriate steps to stop it.  If you do not see the dog displaying this behavior but you find “evidence” of bad behavior ( sheep in a corner, panting livestock, tufts of wool, bloodied ears, a dead lamb  or half chewed lamb) then always suspect the LGD first, if you give it the "benefit of the doubt”, you might be allowing it to reinforce its own (bad) behavior. It is better to act immediately and supervise the dog, than let bad behavior escalate.  It is better to err on the side of caution than allow bad behavior to continue.  There is nothing wrong with a bit more supervision and guidance, and it is always preferable to trying to correct a dog that has got into a habit of chasing ewes away from their lambs, or killing newborns.

It is also good to remember that not every dog is equally good in all aspects of livestock guardian work. Some dogs might never be 100% reliable with newborns and yet they can still be very functional and excellent guardians with older stock. I think it is  good to remember that on a small operation, an LGD might only ever experience a handful of births. This is not enough for an LGD to become super reliable with birthing if it only experiences a few births, once a year. A dog on a large operation might experience a few thousand births per year and by the time it is 10 years old might have experienced tens of thousands of births. In behavioral language this is called “flooding”, where the dog is exposed to so much stimuli that it does not really react to it anymore.  A young LGD on a large operation will eat so many afterbirths that it truly will not find this a novel or  an exciting experience anymore. It will have met up with so many belligerent ewes that it will know to make a nice wide berth around these ewes.

The experiences for an LGD on a small versus large operation are just not comparable. Similarly, an operation that lambs indoors, will also not give the LGD the opportunity to experience lambing ewes and newborn lambs. One day the LGD  might be surprised when his ewes who are suddenly accompanied by small little bouncy things. This can certainly excite a young LGD enough that it might do some naughty things like chase those new creatures around. Watching the dog when lambs and ewes are first turned out, is always a good policy.

Some people promote this idea that two is the magic age when suddenly, LGDs become reliable and before then, they are not trustworthy. I am going to suggest, all LGD who shows any signs of not being trustworthy, at any age, requires supervision, whether they are 9 months old or 10 years old. If the dog only experiences a few births ever, he might need supervision all his life. Some dogs are trustworthy right from the start, but many do make mistakes and it is the job of the shepherds to teach them what is acceptable behavior and what is not. There are no hard and fast rules to this, and the key is “reading your stock” and paying attention to the dog.

I know a lot of people have a nice, warm fuzzy feeling when they see their LGD licking off a newborn and certainly in the case of an experienced and trustworthy adult  LGD this might be okay. I prefer my LGD to watch at a distance and do not want them to interfere with the birth process. The ewe has her job, and that is to care for her lamb, lick it dry, feed it and bond with it. The dog’s job is to watch for predators and be ready to spring into action if one appears. Some dogs can be very intrusive and push the ewe away from her lamb, or the dog wants to lick the lamb clean and the ewe might reject that lamb. Some skittish yearlings will drop the lamb and if the dog comes too close, she will run away and never think of her lamb again. I want my dog to do his job, and my ewes to do theirs.

So, what does good lambing behavior look like for an LGD? I like my dogs to be watchful, at a comfortable distance from a lambing ewe. The dog must not intrude on her space or disrupt her in anyway. I want them to walk very calmly past and through the ewes and lambs, I want them to walk with their head low, avoid hard eye contact and to move around the ewes without disturbing them. If an ewe feels uncomfortable, then I want the dog to give her more space and quietly walk away or further around. I want the dog to be tolerant of the lambs without getting excited when they run and play. If the dog is not comfortable with the lambs, then it is the dog who should get up and move away. If an ewe charges the dog he does not need to retaliate, but just move away so that the ewe does not feel the need to charge the dog.  He may eat the afterbirths once the ewe has finished lambing. He needs to alert, vigilant and protective to predators, watchful and calm around the sheep.  I like my dogs to do a regular walk by an ewe who as lambed or lay calmly at a distance close to the ewe and her newborns.
The LGD watching a ewe giving birth at a nice respectable distance, the ewe is unconcerned about the dog.

The same dog does a walk by, just checking it out, eyes are averted, head low and her demeanor is calm. You can see the ewe is completely relaxed.
The dog has her back to the ewe; she is calm watchful and not intrusive. She is not trying to lick the lamb or grab an afterbirth and she is certainly not pushing the ewe away from her lamb.

A dog who is disruptive or excitable needs to spend more time with the sheep, it must be supervised or possibly tethered on a zipline. Removing the dog entirely will not help calm the dog down. I have a young female that was getting excited when the sheep ran, or the yearling ewes would jump and play. She spent the winter in our barn with the ewes who were lambing. She got to watch lambs run around all day and she is now not “triggered” by their movements.
Lambing time is a wonderful time for young pups to learn, it is also an important time for the adolescent dog but requires more supervision and guidance from the shepherd to ensure he does not get too excited or learns bad habits.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...