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Livestock Guardian Dogs – to sleep or not to sleep?

Livestock Guardian Dogs – to sleep or not to sleep?

When you see just about any LGD in a field with its charges, the one thing you will notice right away is that it looks like they are sleeping. Or at least not appearing that alert for danger. However, these dogs have a high sense of smell and hearing, and Anatolians are extremely fast on their feet too.

 

When I watched my dogs interact with our 100+ goats it was very interesting. We had several high spots in our ten acres and three dogs. The dominant male, Bernie, would take the highest spot and then Cloe and Marcus would take the next highest spot. At both of these areas they could see all the goats while they browsed.

 

When we would let the goats out in the morning, before they went into the main pasture area, the dogs would walk the whole fence line and then kind of zig zag across the field.  The males would mark their territory and when they were done with this inspection, somehow they signaled the goats it was alright to enter.  And it happened the same way for ten years. The goats then would go out and start grazing. The dogs would go lay down in some spot that gave them the best view, and it seemed all was well. They would stay at these points for most of several hours. But should a car drive up our road, before you could see the car or even hear the car, the dogs would all be up and down at the fence corner. When the car would come around the corner, the dogs would race it all the way up to the house; it was about half a mile. The dogs ran at about 30mph. If the car came up to the house the dogs were in the barn where they were the closest to the house, so they could check out the intruder. There was never any growling or teeth showing. All you would see was the hair on their back standing straight up and them standing at attention, watching.

 

I don’t think they were so much after the people, as they were watching for a dog to step onto their property. After the inspection was deemed to their satisfaction, they would go back out with the goats and lay down again.

 

One time my daughters were babysitting for the neighbors and had decided to take the four boys for a walk up to the farm to see the goats. There were no goats in the field, they were up in the barn. When the kids reached our fence and were just turning the corner, an adult male pit bull ran up to them and was showing attack mode. The girls brought the boys close to them and just stood there. This dog was growling and smelling our oldest daughter’s arm. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, came Bernie. He ran at the fence and growled at the pit bull and then ran in the opposite direction of the girls. The pit bull lunged at Bernie (we have New Zealand Fencing – hot wired), but couldn’t get through the fencing and so he then chased Bernie. This gave the girls time to walk back to the house they were babysitting at, which was closer than our house. The girls said that Bernie came from the barn area running at full speed. Now, for one thing, we never knew Bernie was watching out for the girls as well as the goats. The girls didn’t scream when that pit bull came at them. So how did Bernie know something was wrong? Like I said, these dogs are not asleep, they are watching everything, all the time. When I got home and heard the story of Bernie saving the day, it put a value on that dog that was way above what I had thought was. He was the king and guardian of our farm.

 

It always amazes me at how fast and limber these dogs are. We have never had one jump our fences, though another story comes to mind about Cloe, our only female. There was a neighbor dog that had been harassing our goats for about five years. The dog never went into the field, mainly because Bernie was there.  But Cloe was just under two years old and we decided to put her in with the bucks so that they might teach her some respect. She was still chasing the goats, and a trainer had told us the bucks wouldn’t put up with her games. So she spent about four months in with the boys; they charged her when she would try and chase them. In all it looked like the bucks were teaching her the lesson that was planned. But during this time the neighbor dog was doing his thing, he would wait for the bucks to get up to the fence and be eating and he would then come out of nowhere and charge the goats, making them run to the other side of the field. Cloe would growl and stand ground, protecting her boys. I guess this dog didn’t understand Anatolian very well, and one day Cloe climbed the hog panel fence and attacked that dog on the neighbor’s porch. This was not a good thing in the State of Washington. We had the police call us and tell us if Cloe did this again they would come and get her and put her down. Well, we paid the vet bill for the dog to get sewn up, apologized to the neighbors and then put a cable across the buck pen and put Cloe on a run. I tried to explain to the police that she wasn’t an aggressive dog, but was doing what her job was, protect the herd of goats.  They didn’t care and again told me if she did this again she would be put down. Poor Cloe was on that run for a year, as I was afraid to turn her loose with the Bernie for fear she would get out again. We did eventually turn her loose in the big pasture and she never got out again. But she was always in fencing that had a hot wire.

 

Sleeping, not a chance – reserving their energy, most likely. These dogs are amazing, faithful and very attentive to their charges.

 

Rhonda Rider

Blue Rose Dairy, WA

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  1. by sgreenfield
    Comment made on: March 18 2014

    Would like to hear from others with LGDs about dogs determining alpha status with growling. I have two, a male (16 months old) and female, and the female though younger is trying to gain alpha status. Perhaps when she comes in heat things will change. She is 14 months old and hasn’t shown sign of heat yet – another concern I have. The male is trustworthy with the goats and the female is just about there.



  2. by baegs
    Comment made on: March 23 2014

    This story touched my heart, as we owned a Great Pyrenees cross (that looked and acted like a purebred GP), who was put down in 2008 at the age of 14 yrs. This article captures the true spirit of these faithful dogs. Our dog, Barney, was part of the family, and though I did not have goats at that time, he adopted my children as his ‘flock’. I never worried where they were or what they were doing as long as Barney was with them.

    One story, out of many great memories of this “sleeping” guardian, jumps out at me in particular. I homeschool my children, but one year they had to attend the public school. The first day of school I drove them in the morning and when the bus roared into the yard that afternoon, Barney looked up in interest, but paid no particular attention. But the next morning when the bus roared into the yard again and his ‘flock’ began to pile on board, he was visibly upset. He prowled around the bus, looking everything over and trying to find a way to get in to his charges; but the door was already closed and I was worried he might get run over since he would not leave the bus alone until it was out of the yard and out of sight.

    However, the morning after that he was ready; and as the bus again rolled into the driveway, he was at the children’s heels as they began to board. When the last one stepped onto the bus, he grabbed her pant leg with his teeth and tugged. Hard. She had all she could do to finally shake him off and climb aboard. Well, Barney must have thought ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ and he followed her on board the bus. When his ‘flock’ was in view, he lay down in the aisle of the bus and prepared to go along with them. Needless to say the children were in an uproar and had a difficult time pushing him back out the door. But this display only served to endear our faithful dog even more in our hearts. We miss him still.

    As I stated, this is only one of many touching stories that illustrate the faithfulness of these wonderful dogs. I would have another of these magnificent animals in a heartbeat. Thanks for the story, it was most enjoyable and jogged some great memories for my family.


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