use a livestock guardian dog?
are arguably an optimal and cost-effective method of predator control
because they reduce the need for other forms of labour. They also
lessen the need for night corralling. In addition, they make more
efficient use of pasture land and their flock's potential expansion.
They capably alert shepherds and farmers to any disturbances in
the flock. They expertly protect their owner's family and property.
US-based studies have noted that LGDs greatly reduce livestock depredation
by predators (see USA LGD evaluation). In particular, Green (1984)
reported that reducing predation was the greatest benefit of LGDs;
at the same time, 87 percent of LGD users also felt greater peace
of mind with their dogs present while 53 percent admitted to reducing
reliance on other forms of predator control and 47 percent had eliminated
night confinement of their livestock. Green concluded that a good
LSD yielded few limitations and maximum benefit.
use of LGDs has also played a historical role in animal conservation
in Europe. For example, Italian shepherds traditionally used LGDs
as their pivotal control in balancing the coexistence of both sheep
and wolves. Today, several similar conservation projects make use
of LGDs, as is the case of the Karakachan in Bulgaria.
behaviour can be separated into three basic components: trustworthiness,
attentiveness and protectiveness. The development of these qualities
is considered critical for competency as a livestock guardian dog.
Trustworthiness. Absence of predatory behaviour is the basis of
trustworthiness. Livestock-guardian dogs are selected who display
investigative and submissive behaviours that do not threaten sheep
or other livestock. An example of investigative behaviour involves
sniffing around the head or anal areas. Submissive behaviours include
approaching sheep with ears back and squinted eyes, avoiding direct
eye contact, and lying on one's back. These desirable behaviours
signify that a LGD has the right instincts and will working appropriately.
Attentiveness. The attraction of a guardian dog to a home site and
to act as a surrogate littermate are the bases of attentiveness.
Flock guardians are selected for their ability to follow other animals.
While uninformed people might not understand, a livestock guardian
dog that follows a moving flock and sleeps and loafs among the sheep
are signs of attentiveness to sheep. A dog that retreats to its
flock when a stranger approaches displays another positive sign
of a sheep-attentive dog. Researchers have shown a direct correlation
between attentiveness to livestock and a reduction in predation.
Success depends on training LGD pups to follow sheep.
Protectiveness. The basis of protectiveness is a dog's ability to
react to deviations from the normal routine. Flock guardians are
thus selected for their ability to bark at new or strange activities.
Typically, a young pup will respond to a new or strange situation
by rushing out and barking with its tail raised over its back. If
challenged, the pup may retreat to the flock or home site with its
tail between its legs. This behaviour is known as approach-withdrawal.
A predator, such as a coyote, usually avoids a guardian dog presenting
approach-withdrawal behaviour, understanding it to be a warning.
The dog rarely has to attack a predator that has learned to interpret
the dog's behaviour correctly. Interactions with potential predators
often involve complex behaviours that are more difficult to interpret.
Approach-withdrawal behaviour may quickly shift into an aggressive
display of dominance or a hasty retreat to the sheep, also depending
on the behaviour displayed by the predator. The dog's behaviour
might be magnified if defending food or exhibiting maternal-like
defence of a young lamb. The distance of the approach toward strange
activity increases as the dog matures. The distance a dog travels
varies with individuals but rarely extends beyond the boundaries
of the herd.