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Working Styles of Livestock Guardian Dogs

Working Styles of Livestock Guardian Dogs

imageLivestock guardian dogs come in numerous breeds, and as varied as their origins, their working styles are also varied. The working styles within breeds can be varied, but the working styles of certain breeds can be downright overwhelming  to a novice handler.


Most, I am sure, are aware of the Great Pyrenees, the big white fluff ball that is nurturing and protective. While the Pyrenees does a fantastic job, many view them as not human aggressive and probably the most nurturing of their charges. They are also commonly viewed as child friendly and a wonderful protector of their flocks.


Anatolians tend to be viewed by many as a bit sharper tempered than the Great Pyr, and more prone to going after non-predatory animals such as deer. The Anatolian can be equally as child friendly and nurturing with its flocks, much the same as the Pyrenees.


Central Asian Shepherds are beginning to become a popular LGD breed in the USA, and the CAS do seem to bond more strongly with their human counterparts, more so than with their livestock. The CAS is also a much sharper temperament dog and requires much socialization in order to be able to bring strangers onto your place.


IMG_0532Estrela Mountain Dogs are a breed that tend to bond with their stock and their humans, and while the temperament is more mellow, one should never discount their ability or willingness to protect what they deem as belonging to them. The EMD can be very social, yet tend to remain very aloof with strangers.  I have found them to be protective without the need to kill everything that does not belong in their territory. EMD are also a very nurturing dog, gentle with newborns and extremely protective of them.


The Akbash is another breed that is exceptionally attentive to their flock, protective and gentle in a beautiful package. I have found them to be less tolerant of strange dogs than some breeds, and quick to act when predators show up.


The Karakachan is another breed that is inclined to be nurturing and tends to be more human friendly and somewhat more tolerant of strangers than some other breeds. Even as a young pup, my Karakachan was loving, gentle and guardy of the newborn goats.


IMG_9946The Gampr dog is another breed that has a very strong temperament. I find them to be protective of their livestock and their humans,  and while they are great at guarding the livestock, mine has not bonded to the stock like some of the other breeds have. Socialization, as well as obedience training, is highly recommended for this breed and it is not for the novice owner who is not sure of themselves. My Gampr is wonderful with children, but will put a grown man on top of his truck in the blink of an eye.





The rare Tornjak is another breed that is very human friendly. They are gentle with their livestock and equally gentle with their humans.


When you are considering a livestock guardian dog, you need to consider not only the breed, but your ability to handle that breed. Your predator type should also play a huge part in your decision. Most all of the 40+ breeds of LGD will do the job, but you need to think about how close your neighbors are, how much property you have for the dog to cover, and again, the type of predators you have.


The Gamprs, Central Asians and some Anatolians and Akbash make great perimeter guards, meaning they will patrol the outer areas of your property, keeping watch and turning away potential threats. While the Estrela, Tornjak, Pyrenees and some Akbash and Karakachans make great flock guardians, staying with the flock, while the other breeds work away from the herd.


IMG_0504-1A combination of the two working styles is something to consider if you have large prey threats from mountain lions, wolves or packs of coyotes. I have found that when the big cat comes to my farm, part of my dogs go out to the threat while the rest of the pack stays with the herd. I feel comfortable with this working situation as my herd is never left alone, and yet, the predator never makes it onto the property because the perimeter guards turn it away before it can do any damage.


As we get into more blogs, I will cover other breeds and situations and go into more training steps and warning signs to watch for with a new dog. I will also talk on rescue dogs and their ability to work.


I am Robyn Poyner, of,  and I am looking forward to blogging for you about livestock guardian dogs from around the world and my experiences with them!

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