The Livestock Guardian is an important addition to any herd. There are several choices if you are looking for a Livestock Guardian. Each one is very unique in their own way and every situation is different.
What are my options?
Livestock Guardian Dog
The LGD which can consists of several different breeds. These breeds include The Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, Akbash, Karakachan and Maremma. Each breed has a different personality and temperament which you will have to do research to fit your farm. I do like that they are a natural predator vs a prey animal.
Not all llamas are guard animals. Most llamas are alert and will often try to alarm you, chase, kick or run an intruder out of the field. They can be used with great success, my biggest problem is they are still a prey animal (and yes they do spit). I would suggest trying to adopt a llama from a rescue and specifically ask for a guard animal. A great rescue that I have experience with is Southeast Llama Rescue http://www.southeastllamarescue.org/
Miniature donkeys should not be used as a livestock guardians. They are not big enough and can be fatally damaged if attacked by a dog or coyote. I had a miniature donkey attacked by two pit bulls (random attack and never saw them again), he died 10 days later after extensive vet care. He was not used as a livestock guardian just a pet. The standard donkeys are used as guardians with many pictures out there of coyotes killed by donkeys. They can be used with great success, my biggest problem is they are still a prey animal.
Go to Eli's Page to view what a dog can do to a miniature donkey and potentially your goats. **Warning graphic images**
After much research and consideration we decided that a livestock guardian dog would be the best choice. I like the fact that they are fairly low maintenance and they were a good choice for my family. Again there are many choices and we felt like The Great Pyrenees was the best choice for us.
I love their rather gentle nature and the most important is they are also generally a very good family dog.
The Livestock Guardian Dog should be treated and cared for as any other dog or herd member.
My guys eat Purina Pro Plan, are vaccinated, on monthly Heartworm preventative, monthly flea and tick preventative, are brushed regularly and receive regular vet care.
So how do you choose and how do you raise them…
This was my biggest debate. I looked at adopting an adult or one with livestock experience, which I was hesitant about because I have small children. I decided to purchase two puppies that were raised as livestock guardians (be very careful on choosing a breeder). I choose two for companionship and watched several work as a team.
I had heard many different things about not socializing them because they won’t want to stay with the goats and several different things that I was worried about not having good protectors. Well, when I got my guys that all went out the window, first because they were 6 weeks old and it was cold. Second problem was that one became sick and was positive for Parvo! Again, I go back to choosing the correct breeder which I thought I had done.
My boys first few weeks with me were about getting them healthy and they had lots of socialization! They stayed at the vet for 10 days to treat for Parvo and with lots of supportive care they made it!
Well, I am not one to throw my puppies out into the field, but they were slowly introduced to the goats. I did not “bring them into the house” as a family dog, but I did have them inside and well cared for until the weather got better and they were bigger. I have two small children and they had to be socialized with them. They had and still have lots of hugs, love and play time with my kids. They LOVE the kids and respond very well to them. This again was one of the most important parts for my LGD.
I raised the puppies as much with the goats as possible and it seems that natural instinct just kicks in! They stay with the goats and really move with the herd, they will come running to me (along with the goats) and still want lots of love as soon as I go out. This is a good thing and I do not believe that they have to just go out with the goats and not be socialized as a family member.
They are four months old at this point and probably would not truly be helpful if something big came along. They would alert me to the problem and would continue to bark until I took care of it. They are BIG, people have to realize how big that these guys get. I have a Great Dane so their size was not an issue for me, but they grow to about 100-120 lbs and reach about 27-30 inches in height.
They are very intelligent animals and really seem to be bred to think for themselves. This said they are known to be slow to learn new commands, slow to obey and stubborn to train. They do not tend to be aggressive to their owners, but protect their area and family (including their herd). I find that they are very sweet and not overly receptive to commands. They are very food motivated and fight heavily between each other for food. I choose to feed mine separate from each other, but even with the fight for food they do not even growl at my family or the goats if anyone tries to “steal” their food.
Word of caution is that puppies are puppies, they get into a very playful age and must be taught that babies are not chew toys or things to chase! They may not mean to hurt them, but they still can!
So at four months old I am sitting here watching the two puppies playing out in the field with the herd. They are well socialized with the goats and family which makes it the perfect combination. I really love this breed and suggest it for anyone that has a family and still wants a protector!
Update: At 8 months old they are becoming wonderful protectors that have minimum barking (only really alert barking) and have become very valuable members of our herd. They are great with my children and the goats!
Update: The boys are amazing protectors, especially Aries. We added 2 girls into the bunch a while ago. We have lots of protection around here!