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Livestock Guardian Dogs vs Mutts

 
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I am potentially on the market for a livestock guardian dog or two. It is five acres, fenced, with chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep inside. Potentially someday I will get a cow, and I may try to breed meat rabbits in there too. In ten years there has been one black bear sighting in my area, a bobcat comes by every two or three years, and I occasionally hear (but have never seen) a coyote. The main predators that are here on a regular basis are foxes, racoons, possums and skunks, who eat chickens, and rabbits. Neighbor dogs occasionally get loose too, but I think the fence will keep them out, and they are friendly, and I know the neighbors (and get along with them).

Is a purebred LGD necessary? I generally hear that Pyrenees and Colorado mountain dogs are the best, but these dogs are expensive and huge, and they eat a lot, and I don't know how much better they would be at the job that a generic mutt or two, as long as they were decent sized mutts. (Assuming I can train them not to eat the livestock, but that training would be necessary no matter what).

Has anyone tried this? Or do I really need to spend $1 or $2 thousand dollars?









 
pollinator
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Well I know my small ranch owing buddy drove across half the US to get a special "goat protecting dog" because he was losing goats to wild animals (mountain lions, bobcats, probably bears...). But the catch for this enormous expense was that he doesn't live on the ranch. No one does. So a really well bred dog was pretty important. He said the dog is kicking ass out there, partnered with a guard donkey.

If you live right near your animals I would assume a couple good mutts would be plenty. Disclaimer: I know nothing.
 
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We got our akbash x maremma from the SPCA for $140. He's definitely not a prime specimen temperament-wise and was just kept as a pet, never trained for working. He's still the best dog I've ever had.  He chases off coyotes, but never too far, so they're not going to lead him away from the house and then ambush him. We used to get bears through regularly, but I haven't seen a single one since we got him.

He learned the perimeter of the area I wanted him to stay within very quickly and pretty much sticks to it. If he goes outside of it, it's for a reason and he comes right back. He's not just wandering. I know a few people with Pyrenees crosses and they all have problems with them wandering, sometimes many kilometres away. If you've got a huge property, maybe that doesn't matter.

We also have a lab x border collie. She's the dumbest, spazziest, most neurotic dog I've ever encountered, so there's no point in comparing them. I did want to mention that my akbash is at least 45lbs heavier than her, but I feed them the same amount of food and they're both a healthy, lean weight for their sizes.
 
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TS.. it comes down to genetic predisposition and training. I have three Caucasian Shepherds, who joined me at about six months of age.. late for the bonding and training necessary to be top notch LGD’s. Only one has the natural instinct to stay with the animals, and protect them. I had a fourth dog that I had to shoot recently for killing and eating my newest baby goat. He had killed too many other animals, but was given a “pass” for reasons. But this was the final straw. Maybe a non LGD mutt could do the job, but I’d say it’s a crap shoot. They are called Livestock Guard Dogs for a reason..
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You won’t be able to keep a Pyrenees in your fence with 5acres most likely. They normally patrol big areas. I think any dog would do on that size property as long as it doesn’t have a big prey drive. Just a dog peeing around the fence would likely deter quite a bit.

 
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In australia they use a kelpie dog as a working dog mostly for sheep.
Sorry if i spelt the breed wrong.
Some of the working dogs that go to auction can cost a farmer a pretty penny with one that sold a few months ago for just over 40,000aud.
I have heard that alpaca's can make good guard animals as well.
 
Ted Abbey
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Andrew Tailby wrote:In australia they use a kelpie dog as a working dog mostly for sheep.
Sorry if i spelt the breed wrong.
Some of the working dogs that go to auction can cost a farmer a pretty penny with one that sold a few months ago for just over 40,000aud.
I have heard that alpaca's can make good guard animals as well.



It is llamas that make good guardians.. many times for flocks of alpaca. Donkeys are pretty good guardians, as well.. but nothing beats a good dog!
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I have a friend that breeds Caucasians. She has them on her property to guard for Grizzly bears.
They live in Fairfield Mt. Let me know and I’ll have them contact you. My email is:evlaw1@gmail.com
 
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Hi T,

I had an LGD, a Komondor, I got her as a pup she lived 12 years and broke my heart when she died. I have had other dogs Papillons and such. Now I have a Belgian Malinois. She is a great dog but there is quite a contrast between a guardian dog and a herding dog or a mutt. In the guardian dogs the impulse to run after and chase has been bred out over thousands(?) of generations.  My Komondor would never play fetch. Maybe other LGD owners will chime in here, but what I want to say is if a dog likes playing fetch they are going to have a hard time giving up the excitement of the chase, because that’s the natural state.

I’ve known other people’s LGDs.  They are a diverse lot, and they don’t have to be pure breds or pedigreed.  They just need to come from working lines, rather than show lines.

My impression is that they are “love” personified.  They bond to their place and their group, and they will not tolerate threat to their group.

They are bred to be very intelligent and to make decisions.  So, sometimes their opinion differs from their human companions.  I am SURE they don’t consider us owners or masters, and are not obsessed with the human take on dominance and alpha etc.  My Rags would humor me sometimes, and totally ignore me at other times (probably a predator near by type of situation).

I always thought her thought process was along the lines of “yes I hear you, and I know exactly what you want me to do, but frankly, you have an incomplete grasp of the situation.”

If they wander, it’s because they have a different idea of their territory than the people do.  LGDs patrol, they go check on things.  Then they lie down in a location that allows them to keep track of things, and they do it more by smell than sight.

I found it fascinating to observe her over the years.  She was about 4 years old when I got goats.  She adjusted to their presence and took them into her community.  

About the feed…. as was already mentioned, they don’t eat as much as I had expected.  She ate plenty of the best I could provide while growing, but as adults, they just lie around a lot.  And under all that hair, many breeds are built more like a greyhound than a lab or golden retriever.  I don’t think I have ever met an overweight LGD.  With Rags, she had access to food at all times, and did not over eat.

LGDs are wonderful, and they are specialists.  It’s not like getting a regular dog.  The challenges of having one or a few are many.  You can’t lose your temper or you’ll hurt their feelings.  A neighbor may decide to “train” your dog.  They aren’t just independent thinkers, their independence and intelligence makes them independent stinkers.  They wander, depending on the individual, they are aware of and suspicious of strangers,  a person may well have come to rob you, and your LGD may intercept him before their intent has been demonstrated.  Then the would be thief may have grounds for a lawsuit, the insurance guy may say the dog goes….  None of this happened to me or anyone I know, but the potential exists.  LGDs  aren’t for everybody!  I sometimes think it’s the people who need to be exposed to the LGDs at an early age🤣!

I don’t think any old mutt could provide what an LGD provides, but maybe you just need a dog to bark when things aren’t right outside.  Maybe separating the mutts from the livestock would provide what you need.

If you come up with more questions, specific questions, post them!  I’m sure I am not the only one who’ll answer.

Good luck to you!  You will never know how wonderful LGDs are unless you have one.  I miss mine, and am considering getting another, now that the sharpest grief has passed.

 
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LGDs make guarding their job like retrievers make getting you to play fetch their job. They love to sit and watch the perimeter--love it! Each breed has its own technique. Pyrenees like to case a large area surrounding where their flock is bedded down for the night, then let off an hour or two of warning barks. They don't do well in smaller enclosures, in general--but there is so much variation between dogs. Other breeds do tend to do better on smaller lots. They are huge and eat a ton, but do well on small livestock fed raw, and can be trained to know that they have to guard the live rabbits and quail, but they get to eat the dead ones you give them. It is more important to get a good dog out of a litter than it is to get a dog from a good pairing, but working parents are better than a puppy mill. Mutts can work great, better than sappy clingy runt LGDs or over-aggro LGDs or whatever other undesirable possibilities, but it is more of a gamble. They may not have the guarding instinct. With only the occasional black bear you might look into a general farm dog. I've heard collies are very attentive to their yard, and two of them could scare off a coyote. We have an LGD because we have lions, wolves, black bears and an occasional grizzly, and a collie would be more of a draw than a deterrent. If we lived further out we would have at least two LGDs, because a team of dogs is more powerful than their combined weight. I would definitely ask around to see what your long-term neighbors do for dogs. It can be really local, too, like "the coyotes don't hunt seriously north of that highway, but south of it you had better have your game on."
 
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We happened into an Anatolian puppy at the pound.  While asses were demanding $400.00 and more for cool looking dogs, he was neglected. Maybe because people looked them up and didn't want to go broke feeding them. We left, after our whim hunt, and came back in two weeks. I told my wife, if he was still there, he was supposed to be with us. We took him home that day.

He's an impressive character. To bad the people training him weren't smarter and better able to take advantage of his full abilities.

I fenced our upper yard to give him a, roughly, two thousand square foot romping area. Then I knocked a hole in our 3/4 wrap around deck and built stairs down into it.  

Anatolians are watchers and are used to deter big cats. One, recently took out a pack of wolves vying for his flock. It didn't go well for him, but he survived, and it went worse for the wolves.

They will sit and watch for threats for hours, then move to a new location. Leopards are kept at bay thanks to them, and the leopards don't have to be killed, because they know not to tangle with them.

Ours has a buddy now. A mastiff-mouse mix (he can fit through a six inch hole, so he has a collar and it activates off a fence parimeter. He's really mellow, by loyal to his brother and seems to like us a lot too. The Mastiff mix showed up when I was walking the white pup [with eye liner]. That was a story. Short version is, he stunk of nasty orchard spray, so I brought him in an bathed him, out of fear he'd die, otherwise. He's been our house dog ever since, when he's not backing up his more aggressive brother on the 2nd story deck or the fenced run.

The two dogs are night and day. The mastiff is mellow and will sleep his day away. The Anatolian will spend his day monitoring, and correcting the neighborhood.  However, he loves company and making new friends, though their nature normally says they must be monitored for their inclination towards protecting their turf.

In the end, we wouldn't trade our mutt mixes for "the real thing" any time soon.
 
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This may not be helpful at all as it is only 1 dog  but i have a great Pyr. He showed up looking an awful mess in a rainstorm when he was just a little cotton ball looking pup. I didn't realize he was looking for work.
I never trained him. I wouldn't know how. He made us and the chickens and whatever else we bring home his clan and he guards us with his whole being. Pigs, lions, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, raccoons, they have just started staying away. We now have a rather large flock of free range birds and there is no way we could do this without him.
He eats but he supliments what we give him with gophers or the like. We raise the extra stock for him. He only eats a hen when its already gone and given to him. He is well well worth his keep.
His coat is amazing. He gets in the nasty mud and is snow white in an hour. Sprayed by a skunk? Can't smell it the next day. He needs brushing as the weather turns but this is my great pleasure.
He adores my son. If a car comes down the driveway he places himself between the car and my son and barks. I believe he would take on the car if it came to that. He is also so kind and gentle to all of us. He is a member of our family but like the rest of us he earns his keep on the homestead. We will get another one soon for him to train. I guess they don't live long and that already hurts my feelings but its also life on the homestead. Fluffy has been the single best addition to our homestead since we started.
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Kelly Craig
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Like your family member, Anatolians are known for taking care of themselves. Once of age, the shepards quit feeding them, but they thrive off gophers and such.

Dogs are just amazing. Our old Collie was a rattler killing fool, when we were anywhere in the area, so in danger.  She had no qualms about sinking her teeth in a butt to pull it back from that danger, then she'd go end it.

My youth was of an era a dog was just a dog, though I cried at the passing of more than one. In spite of how he was raised, my dad would bring ours in when the weather was mean.  Other times, she had warm places to stay that included a light bulb and four sides and a door. In short, he valued them as much as the transportation he had, as a kid (horses) and he tried to care for them at least as well as he would his horse.
 
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Lots of good info here. I wanted to add two things…you say you have a relationship with your neighbor. That’s great.
If you add a LGD on a small area like 5 acres your neighbor is also going to be listening to them bark (whoever wrote that the Pyrenees will settle in then bark for two hours above is exactly right). So consider this before you get one (I think some are better than others? But in many cases barking is part of how they keep predators at bay).

Second please don’t get two puppies at once. There’s something called littermate syndrome and it’s real (ask me how I know!!). And if you want a working LGD buy one from a working farm where you see the parents in action.
 
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I've had LGD's for most of the last 45 years.  They are wonderful dogs.  All I want to add to the comments already made is that in our area there is almost always a litter from working parents posted on Craigslist.  They might go as high as $400 each, but are usually $150-$250 per puppy.  All of the LGD's are prolific, having large litters, so the supply is pretty good (though it's true that they don't live as long as smaller breeds, unfortunately).  Countering that a bit, my current Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd didn't come in heat until she was almost three years old!  (Bred her to a friend's Karakachan, and have eleven beautiful puppies just starting to get their eyes open - Maggie will be spayed as soon as the pups are weaned, as I don't want another litter).  I like having two LGD's, as one will protect one side of the place, while the other takes care of the other side.  Or, one will move their charges away from the threat while the other goes after the threat.  They work as a team.  It's not a good idea to get two puppies at the same time.  Rather, get one dog trained, and full-grown, then add a second puppy for the older dog to train.
 
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TS,

Not sure where you are located but here in MO pure bred LGD are going for 400 - 600 each, a few may be a little more. If you look on Craigslist you can often find mixed LGD that are just farm bred with maybe not the purest genetics but they still do the job and save you a few bucks. Anyone with sheep, goats or chickens have them around here as the coyotes are pretty think and we have our share of bobcats, now mountain lions are making their reappearance too. However, I will concur with most everyone else on this post, are pure bred is going to be best. We had a Great Pyr that we got from a puppy and he did an awesome job guarding our chickens and ducks. When we moved last year he went to stay with our friends who were having problems with racoons getting their chickens. They loved him so much we left him stay and we're hoping to get a puppy from him for our new homestead.

All that being said it doesn't mean that other dogs can't do the job, there just isn't a guaranty. I have a mixed breed dog we got from a shelter as a puppy (Lab/hound mix maybe?) can't tell for sure. Anyhow she is a great companion, rodent dog and even helps herd at times, but she doesn't have the same characteristics as the GP, and she'll get cold on a snowy night and needs to be brought in when the GP will happily just lay out in the snow.

Hope this helps.
 
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Lots of great info here! We have about 5 acres, with about half it fenced off for our rotational pastures for goats and chickens. We got two brother/sister great pyr from a neighbor. Think they were $150 each. Ours aren't registered, but we weren't looking for a papered dog.

We trained them to the goats and barn as young puppies, like 6 weeks of age.

Our fence keeps them from wandering off. They do like to roam and they do love to bark. They totally respect the fence. Sometimes we move the portable electric fence to a unique area and the male dog refuses to go out the gate to the new pastures.

Before them, we had a lost several chickens. We haven't lost any to predation since. We keep about 50 layers. Our neighbor has lost several birds to bobcats.

We have bears, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and possums. Having the dogs has been very helpful. They stay with the animals full time.

It would really depend on the mutt's temperament. Some dogs are just more trainable than others.

For food, they get 2cups in the morning and evening. Plus some extras stuff, scraps as we have it. It can be pricey to feed, but they are invaluable to us.
 
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T, let's cut to the chase: how much would it cost you if you lost your animals? That should be your gage in how much you wanna spend on a good lgd. And I understand the frustration at the cost; my husband hadn't bought a dog since the mid 90's, when several years ago we bought a lgd for our animals. $100 was a big deal for him- and then we realized that was on the cheap side😬.

Getting a Pyrenees where we're at isn't expensive at all- but most of them these days are being bred to be pets and are pretty much junk dogs. I'm sure there are a few who aren't, but get a good, strong breed that is ALREADY a working dog before it reaches your property.

I've found mastiff lgds are more prone to stay in their boundaries and we were very close to buying a central Asian shepherd. It's up to you, but there is a lot of good advice here on this thread.

Oh, and you want to be sure the breed is a livestock guardian breed. I'm sure you probably already know that, but some breeds guard, some herd... And some hunt. Be sure you know what is in that dog. One day they may be sweet with your chickens the next they are half gone, with a leg in their mouth.

When you go to meet a litter, bring a tennis ball with you, throw it, and see who runs after it. The ones that don't, are going to be your choice. You don't want a dog that thinks a chicken or lamb is a play toy. They won't have super playful instincts if they are an lgd. Puppies do play, but you don't want fetch dogs guarding your small animals. Hope that helps!
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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One more comment -- people are mentioning crossbred dogs.  You absolutely DO NOT want a lgd breed crossed with a non-lgd breed.  Great Pyrenees crossed with Australian Shepherd or Labrador Retriever may make a pretty dog and a good pet, but you have no way of knowing whether the guarding instincts are going to come out in a puppy from that litter, or the herding dog instincts, or the hunting instincts.  What IS okay, is two lgd breeds crossed together.  I've had two lgd crosses now -- one Maremma X Akbash, and my current GP X Anatolian.  Both have been wonderful lgd's, and -- a huge plus -- neither were, or are, excessive barkers.  Even Maggie, who is more GP than Anatolian, doesn't just bark to mark territory.  She only barks when there's a threat (if I can hear her barking, I can almost always hear coyotes yapping).  

Do some research on lgd breeds, and make sure your new dog is either a purebred, or a cross of only lgd breeds.  

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Thekla McDaniels
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I don’t remember my Komondor barking excessively.  She did bark, but I thought it was part of her job.  We lived across the street from 1000 foot high sandstone cliffs of a national park.  Lions, coyotes bobcats lived up in the wilderness there.  They did come down to visit our neighborhood.  We saw and heard them.

A dog’s bark communicates her size as well as her presence.  LGDs have big deep barks, not high pitched annoying yappy barks.

I would think about the predators in the park listening to her.   They knew what was going on below in our neighborhood, where domestic  animals large and small lived.  They know their home range as well as LGDs know their territories.  In listening to my dog bark, it seemed to me that a predator would likely avoid a place where it would have to deal with a large adversary, when it could seek out a wild animal, or go down the street and pick off an unguarded domestic animal.  

The property sizes were 1 to 20 acres.  In that density of human settlement, I never received complaints about my barking dog.
 
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Check out Old Time Scotch Collies. The original Lassies. Amazing homestead dogs. I first heard about them from a Countryside Magazine article claiming they were multi purpose dogs. So glad I read that article, as these dogs are very special.  
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Cathe' Fish wrote:Check out Old Time Scotch Collies. The original Lassies. Amazing homestead dogs. I first heard about them from a Countryside Magazine article claiming they were multi purpose dogs. So glad I read that article, as these dogs are very special.  



These are similar to the American Working Farmcollies and English Shepherds, which are also good all-purpose dogs for a small property.  I've had two, and considered getting another one before I got Maggie (my lgd at that time was almost nine years old, so it was high time we started a replacement).  There are strengths and weaknesses in this type of dog, as well as in the lgd breeds.  I like both types, just slightly favoring the lgd's.  

 
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Jan White wrote:We also have a lab x border collie. She's the dumbest, spazziest, most neurotic dog I've ever encountered, .



They need something important to do and then some of that high strung is relaxed. It is absolutely amazing how they know what to do without ever even having worked with their elders. I got a gifted border collie, maybe 8 months old. She was shy even with me. Took her in the tractor the next day with me to set a new bale for the bulls. I left her in the tractor seeing as how she was young.

I set the bale on the ground and went out to put the feeder over the bale. When I set a new bale the bulls of course come and start eating and this was always okay by me as they were all gentle. I was cutting off the strings and the pup comes flying out of the tractor, chased all the bulls off and wouldn't let them come back nearer than she figured was an okay distance until I had finished and got back in the tractor.

She did none of this in a frenetic manner, it was all just with looks or her rising up as needed from a layed down position and maybe a step or two towards the "offender".

I called her and she came, jumped in the tractor and from that point on she was like I had owned her since forever. I gave her the job she was made for and she knew how  a partnership worked and we were partners. Never an ounce of "training" did she get. She trained me.  

She knew when I wanted cows moved and where. She never moved the calves, she knew intuitively that they came with mom. Sometimes a cow would wander too far out of the V drive profile and all I had to do was say "hep hep" and off she went to bring the cow back into the proper range. I didn't point, or do anything more than say "hep hep" and she knew which cow was the "offender".

What was so cool was that she would streak out and when she got near the cow, on the run, she would leap up and grab the tail in her mouth, do a swing to the outside, drop to the ground and without losing a step, turn and push the cow back gently into the herd V.

She must have read a Temple Grandin book somewheres because she knew that the trick to moving cattle fast is to do it slow.

I have had some fabulous dogs, actually they all were, but she was the best of 'em all. Get a rescue/pound dog and be willing to work with them. Don't be bossy, realize that they certainly know way more than you do about their duties [HTH it comes to be be hereditary, I'll never know].

One other way cool thing was with the calves. When we, the whole herd, were settin' in the shade by the water, the calves would come over to play with her as she was always so good to them. One calf, there is always a really bright, confident one or more, would, after my dog moved in front of her nose at a right angle to the calf, the calf would put its head/nose under her belly and give her a little flip/ boost. The dog would fly a few feet land on her feet and run back to be flipped again.
 
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The link I received in the email list mentions mixed breed and mutt dogs as a possibility. I was going to suggest adopting a sato dog from Puerto Rico, but they tend to range on the small to medium size range of dogs unless they have admixture from a larger breed. The genetics and temperament of the Puerto Rican landrace are widely varied, so there is a high risk you may end up with a dog unsuited for the role as a livestock guardian dog unless you spend some time to get to know the animal.
 
pollinator
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I have a Great Pyrenees-Akbash (white anatolian), Wilson, and he is just the best! He has been the key to every successful garden and livestock project I have done, keeping out predators, deer, and most of all people I don't want around (he senses good people vs the rare human paraquat). I love dogs in general, and endorse rescuing ones in need, but LGDs are very different than the average dogs and are much more likely to help your homestead. Pyrenees are a landrace that resulted from 12,000yrs+ of cohabitation with Basque herders in their eponymous mountains in the northern Iberian peninsula. I would bet other true LGDs also have had very long coevolution with the people they cohabitated with, rather than the intensive inbreeding (and puppy culling) that created modern breeds. This latter process is a big reason why mutts are often better than purebreds for pets and health reasons, and why looking into the breeder of an LGD is important. We don’t just want the biggest dog, which is unfortunately what many American breeders of LGDs have gravitated towards apparently.  We are really looking for the instincts and bond, and any tough, athletic dog over 75lbs or so could be plenty effective if they have that, and ideally one or two similar buddies to help. Kinda like how a heavyweight boxer with the right mentality, technique and toughness has all the punching power they need at 200lbs, they really do not need to be huge dogs to be effective. It helps that Pyrs can puff up their coat and look much bigger than they are to scare things off, but if we are thinking they are gonna fight off grizzlies, an extra 50lbs wont make a difference so the health downsides of that weight are usually not worth it.

I have seen and read many times that Pyrenees eat much less than one would think for such a large dog. Wilson is about 125lbs, and he eats about the same amount as our 85lb doberman female. He got 4.5cups a day at peak growth around a year old, and is down to 3-4c/day now at 8yrs old. He is the least food driven dog I have ever seen, and will pass on food that lacks bone broth. While he could reach anything we can at 7ft long, he has also only ever nabbed food of the highest quality and temptation, like our roasted homegrown duck, or a quail I cooked after it hit our window. We can even let him pick off meat from a bone that we are holding as he ever so gently works around our fingers (we have definitely spoiled him but he still does his job instictively). He also never hurt a bird even as a pup, and when he intervened in a duck fight all he’d do is pin a wing and lick their head.

Part of their lower food intake relative to their size is because LGDs conserve their energy instinctively (gotta save some for work). While he can explode with an amazing display of athleticism as he bolts through thick woods after a fox, Wilson does not waste energy on trivial things like coming back to us when he damn well knows we are walking on the trail up to him.

All that said (I love talking about how awesome Wilson is!), I would look for and consider traveling a ways for a good LGD pup with working parents and a good person selling them. We got Wilson for 300$ from a working goat ranch that also rescued/fostered other mutts that were kept separate from the livestock because they could not be trusted and would not fare well if Willie’s sire Zeus caught them hurting a goat.  Given the work and expenses for a fully vaccinated healthy LGD pup’s breeder, and the health risks of breeding to the parents, 300$ was a real bargain and I would not expect to pay any less. I would also ask questions and ideally see how the parents are treated to ensure they are not overbreeding the mom. Still, if you actually want livestock protection, your best chance by far is an LGD breed or the mix of multiple LGD breeds. Then you might consider rescuing other dogs if they can be kept separate from livestock or prove themselves harmless to them (though testing that could risk their safety in the presence of a good LGD). We are considering getting a Jack Russell or some other small ratter when our 16yr old cat stops hunting, as I’d prefer puppy pee/poop for month or two over two decades of cleaning cat shit. Without an LGD to watch over them, this small a dog would otherwise be unsafe in our wilderness boundary property with every predator common to the lower 48 but grizzlies around us.

If anyone has a female LGD they would like to breed and would like a trip to the Redwoods in beautiful NW California as part of the process, Wilson would happily accommodate!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Just look at this thread!  One after another we sing the praises of the LGD. Is it possible our admiration, love, respect, devotion and gratitude itself is a reflection on these wonderful creatures?

While they are not for everyone, (100 pound opinionated killer!) when the person is a good match, and the dog is a good individual, it couldn’t be better.

I got two pups when I got my Rags, paid a lot and traveled a fair distance.  I loved Mopsie, but her temperament was very different from Rags, who I described earlier.  I had a dog pen with a 5 foot high fence.  At night I put the dogs in the pen.  Mopsie would go over the top, (out and back in as suited her).  She barked outside the windows on the other side of the house, so I knew she was out.  When  I went out to see what was happening, she hid.  If I did manage to get her back into the pen, she hopped back out.

I had heirloom turkeys I was raising.  I had a hoop house shaped pen with chicken wire and a secure door.  Mopsie (at night, on walk about from the pen she shared with Rags) would go under the bottom pipe that was the bottom part of the frame.  Once inside, she would have some kind of wild time, and turkeys did not survive.

Mopsie was a sneak, she was deceitful and aggressive.  She did not use that big brain of hers for the good.  I think if she had been part of a large herd with accompanying pack of LGDs, the other dogs would have killed her.

I am still a great fan of LGDs, but since this thread is so thoroughly discussing every aspect of LGDs, it needs to be said.  Just like with humans, there are definitely some bad apples.  Even from working parents, you can get the odd “wrong” pup.  I think as long as the breed retains the independent decision making qualities we value, once in awhile, there will be a “wrong” pup.
 
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Awwwww!  

Ted Abbey wrote:

Andrew Tailby wrote:In australia they use a kelpie dog as a working dog mostly for sheep.
Sorry if i spelt the breed wrong.
Some of the working dogs that go to auction can cost a farmer a pretty penny with one that sold a few months ago for just over 40,000aud.
I have heard that alpaca's can make good guard animals as well.



It is llamas that make good guardians.. many times for flocks of alpaca. Donkeys are pretty good guardians, as well.. but nothing beats a good dog!

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Haven't read the whole thread, but we have a gampr, and it's been a real mixdd blessing.  He's family and we love him, but it may have been overkill, he still likes to destroy anything plastic he can get his jaws on.  Pluses--he NEVER crosses fence, he's like a demon in the movies with the line of salt, even if he could walk over a sagging net with no effort he respects it %100.  For that I sometimes think we got our money's worth and all that breeding.  On the minus, it made getting started from 0 real-world experience on a homestead waaaaaaay more complicated, and you're supposed to bring a gampr inside with you to bond.  The breeders are very industrious people who favor lots of work; I had wanted the dog you just throw out in the field and works on instinct from day 1, but I'm not sure how frequently that happens.  Sugar Mountain Farm's dog story is worth looking up (Walter in Vermont).  

The other factor is what you can do for others in your locale.  Someday transportation of animals may be impossible or extremely difficult.  Having brought an excellent breed into your area is an investment in future generations' wellbeing, potentially (and can also allow you to recoup your monetary investment).  Just a few thoughts.
 
Jan White
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Terry Byrne wrote:

Jan White wrote:We also have a lab x border collie. She's the dumbest, spazziest, most neurotic dog I've ever encountered, .



They need something important to do



I was really hoping this would be true for her. My grandma had many border collies over the years, so I'm familiar with the breed, and she shows none of the good characteristics and all of the bad. My in-laws often have the neighbour's cattle in their fields, and she's shown absolutely no herding instincts. It's pretty hilarious how awul she is, actually.

This dog started life out pretty rough. She was ignored and left loose, becoming a chicken killing machine. When her original owner got sick of paying the neighbours for the killed chickens, the dog was tied on a meter long chain, with a leashed walk around the yard twice a day. Oh, and given a shock collar to stop her inevitable barking. So she's got some issues.

My akbash had a rough start to life, too. One thing for the OP to consider, and it has been brought up, is that LGDs can be aggressive with strangers. It sounds like every time my akbash started to bond to his new family, he'd get more protective of them and more aggressive with strangers. This would freak out the new family and they'd start tieing him up or keeping him on a leash, bathing him in their anxious energy every time he met someone new, which would only make him react even more aggressively. Then he'd be back to the SPCA. This happened a few times before we got him.

So, unless you can provide a safe space for a dog that could very well bite a human, make sure you socialize your dog really well when they're young! Take them places and have people come to your home, so they get used to strangers in all different settings.
 
pollinator
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This has been an excellent thread  Only chiming in here to say that in permaculture, we generally seek to match an action or item to a list of multiple needs (stacking functions). Why should choosing a dog be any different? Bringing in an unknown quantity, that being a mixed breed with unknown or wildly varying genetics, doesn't really make sense when you're dealing with complex and interconnected systems like we do.

A silly and maybe overly hyperbolic example would be answering a craigslist ad selling a "flock of mixed birds", only to find out it includes various pigeons, ostrich and a couple hawks...then trying to put them all in a chicken tractor. Dog breeds, though they're all at least the same species, are THAT varied. If you need the behaviors of chickens as part of a system, you generally go for chickens. Likewise, if you want the behaviors of a livestock guardian dog, you should go for a breed that has that behavior.

And just like there are hens that will eat eggs, aggressively bully other birds to death, or otherwise become too much of a problem to NOT graduate to freezer camp, some LGDs have "divergent" behavior as well. That's the exception and unlikely to happen, especially if you raise the dog around the animals it's meant to protect.

Yes, a mixed breed dog off craigslist or from the pound would probably help with skunks and possums, raccoons and even foxes, but the wrong breed of dog, or wrong mix of breeds, is FAR more likely to become a "problem" itself for small livestock. Dogs are innately hunters, born with a prey drive, and I'd much rather have that thousands of years of breeding behind a decision to bring a dog onto a property with livestock than some training combined with "luck of the draw". In my book, stories should have the best chance at a happy ending as we can give them

Oh, and $1k to $2k for an LGD is a bit much. There's definitely been a trend toward being greedy out there, but that's pretty steep. It's hard to find dogs up here where I am, as well, and I've had to resort to trying to purchase from people in other parts of the country as my Penny ages out to pasture. $1k is the upper limit WITH a flight for delivery - generally speaking, for the dog alone $300 is reasonable, $700 is pretty high. Anyone charging beyond that is trying to take caribbean cruise on your dime, and that says more about the quality of the breeder than we sometimes like to admit.
penny-1.JPG
Penny - Great Pyrenees / Anatolian Shepard
Penny - Great Pyrenees / Anatolian Shepard
 
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Read several, but not all the posts so...if this has already been mentioned...sorry.  There a probably several breeds of dogs, even mutts, that could be LGDs.  One of the main keys to having a good one is to make SURE that it bonds with whatever it is to be protecting, and that is best done no later than when they are weaned.  Typical LGD breeds like Great Pyrenees, Anatolian, Maremma, Kommondore, crosses thereof, etc. really shine for several reasons like size to deal with most predators and their haircoat actually serves as armor.  They do eat a lot, but if you have a predator problem a good LGD will more than pay for itself.  Numbers you quote for purchase seem high.  
 
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Wow there is a lot of information here! When we lived in NYC and we’re ready to set out to our new farm, I learned about the existence of LGDs and I didn’t find much information here. I’m amazed how much there is now!

A number of months after moving to our new property we did bring home a Pyrenees puppy since we were losing chickens left and right. Mostly to hawks and to foxes… the foxes were bold enough to run up and grab our chickens right in front of us during daylight! We also often have coyotes, bobcat, black bear, fisher cats, raccoons and more.

Our first pup has had amazing instincts from day 1. We waited until he had his deep bark to let him patrol at night. We learned the hard way that teaching the perimeter was not enough. I don’t think the word wandering is quite accurate though. He considered all the neighbors within a couple of miles his to protect. He would walk women home and go check on the unprotected goats down the road etc. I have heard that a Pyr will consider 570 square miles their territory. We have small acreage and wanted to keep him on our own property and have success with a woven wire goat fence about 4 feet tall with electric top and bottom to prevent climbing/jumping and digging.

Since him we have raised 6 other Pyrenees, some purchased and some from our own litters. The fence works for all of them as long as it is on. And he was so tired working alone. I think an LGD alone can run themself into the ground. Another thing to consider is that there are 3 personality types within LGDs - the alpha, the scout and the nursemaid. Each will have different roles and complement each other in providing full protection. The scout is the most challenging on a small property in my opinion.

Another thought on breeding & pricing… in my research I noticed that many of the dogs being bred are moving away from the standard. The standard helps us make sure these dogs continue to have the characteristics we desire for many generations to come. And this applies to both personality and physical traits. Look up the fox trials (in Russia I think it was) and you might be shocked to learn just how interconnected they are. We are personally working on (very slowly) breeding a line that is paying attention to the standard while also working to undo the damage of generations of unnatural diet, lifestyle, unnecessary medical interventions etc. We have sold our puppies a little under $1,000 but it has still been a loss overall. I think the vast majority of dog breeders I know are not at all greedy but passionate about their breed and trying to do what they think is best for the dogs.

Edited for typos.
 
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Tristan Vitali wrote:
Oh, and $1k to $2k for an LGD is a bit much. There's definitely been a trend toward being greedy out there, but that's pretty steep. It's hard to find dogs up here where I am, as well, and I've had to resort to trying to purchase from people in other parts of the country as my Penny ages out to pasture. $1k is the upper limit WITH a flight for delivery - generally speaking, for the dog alone $300 is reasonable, $700 is pretty high. Anyone charging beyond that is trying to take caribbean cruise on your dime, and that says more about the quality of the breeder than we sometimes like to admit.



I disagree with broad sweeping generalizations like this.  The breeder I got my dog from imported them from pure, old world working lines in Russia.  She is from an area of Russia that still uses these dogs as they were originally intended, and she wanted to bring those lines with her to the US.  The dogs from that area tend to be more aggressive than those generally found here. Importing dogs from another country is expensive, and her puppy prices reflect that.  I know her quite well and she isn't making enough money to go on cruises, I can assure you.  She works full time and doesn't earn a living from her dogs.  I would be surprised if you could find fault with "the quality of the breeder".  None of that means you can't get a great working LGD for less money.  But there are a lot of really great breeders that spend a lot of money on veterinary care, infrastructure, top quality food, and training.  They also offer health guarantees and replace dogs that have issues like hip dysplasia, which is sadly pretty common among dogs of this size.  Maybe don't be so quick to judge everyone simply by the price they charge.
 
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I've have not yet carefully read all the replies so sorry if this repeats.

I love mutts--but as pets. I think mutts really do make the best pets. But instincts have been bred into dogs. I currently have two mutts in my household. One is truly a Heinz 57 I have no idea what genes he might have in him, and about 10 years old. He spent his first 5 years on the street before coming to live with us and has honed his reading people skills extremely well, and couldn't careless about almost all other animals. He has some dog friends, but ignores cats, goats, cows, etc.
My other Mutt is just about 1 year old. He's 50% german Shepard and his mother--a mutt who looks really spaniel-y.  His hunting instincts are way stronger than his sheparding instincts. He pounces on everything that moves and we are having a hard time keeping him from chasing the chickens. I don't think he wants to eat the chickens but he definitely wants to play with them.
My experience with mutts would lead me to look for a breed--not necessarily with papers, If I wanted a working dog rather than a companion dog. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to spend a lot of money-There are rescue groups that specialize in rehoming certain breeds.  
For example https://australianshepherd.rescueme.org/
 
Sarah Milcetic
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Trace Oswald wrote: But there are a lot of really great breeders that spend a lot of money on veterinary care, infrastructure, top quality food, and training.  They also offer health guarantees and replace dogs that have issues like hip dysplasia, which is sadly pretty common among dogs of this size.  Maybe don't be so quick to judge everyone simply by the price they charge.



This is a huge part of the work I am trying to do! Hip dysplasia should NOT be common. It is primarily a nutrition deficit from improper feeding of carnivores! Not picking on you personally at all because this is widely misunderstood. I had no idea and I only found better information because I refused to accept this as normal and kept pursuing more information. My mentor Dr. Jeannie Thomason passed almost a year ago and there are several of us working to continue her legacy. There is another way!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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There are multiple theories about the origins of hip dysplasia, which is a consideration when discussing LGDs.

I am sure genetics play an important role.  IMO, irresponsible breeders whether puppy mills or backyard breeders who focus on registries and or sales and production are largely responsible for the hip dysplasia and many other genetic problems canines face.  The heartbreaking part of this to me, is that a breed’s gene pool is a treasure wherein the potential and the future of the breed reside.  Irresponsible breeding increases the prevalence of genes that develop into painful conditions, and ill health.


Two other contributors to the development of hip dysplasia in an individual dog that surprised me are age at spay-neuter.  Gonads produce hormones important in bone development.  Remove the gonads, you remove the hormones, healthy bone development becomes difficult to impossible.

The second is too much exercise too young.  Pups aren’t built to run miles and miles, nor should they be on pavement for miles and miles.  Their musculoskeletal system isn’t mature when they reach adult size and stature.

I really don’t know what the solution is, because it will require a group effort to address the situation.  I would enjoy sharing in the discussion if there’s a thread or organization somewhere, someone can direct me to.  And I don’t want to take this thread astray!
 
Trace Oswald
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Sarah Milcetic wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote: But there are a lot of really great breeders that spend a lot of money on veterinary care, infrastructure, top quality food, and training.  They also offer health guarantees and replace dogs that have issues like hip dysplasia, which is sadly pretty common among dogs of this size.  Maybe don't be so quick to judge everyone simply by the price they charge.



This is a huge part of the work I am trying to do! Hip dysplasia should NOT be common. It is primarily a nutrition deficit from improper feeding of carnivores! Not picking on you personally at all because this is widely misunderstood. I had no idea and I only found better information because I refused to accept this as normal and kept pursuing more information. My mentor Dr. Jeannie Thomason passed almost a year ago and there are several of us working to continue her legacy. There is another way!



I don't disagree with you but I believe there is a large genetic component as well.  Dysplasia is a complicated issue.  There was a large study done not long ago that showed severely restricting movement completely erased hip dysplasia.  Obviously this is a terrible solution and no one is recommending it, but if diet were the only factor, restricting the dogs' movement to strict minimums wouldn't affect it.  Neither would only breeding dogs that have really good hips, but we know that affects it to a large degree too.  I applaud anyone's attempts to eradicate this terrible disease, but I'm not certain any one factor can account for it.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Trace Oswald wrote: But there are a lot of really great breeders that spend a lot of money on veterinary care, infrastructure, top quality food, and training.  They also offer health guarantees and replace dogs that have issues like hip dysplasia, which is sadly pretty common among dogs of this size.  Maybe don't be so quick to judge everyone simply by the price they charge.



There ARE great breeders.  The trouble is in finding one.  The breeder I bought my two pups from said if they didn’t work out, she would take them back.  When Mopsie didn’t work out I contacted her.  I thought the hardest part was over, the heartbreak of loving this pup who was not a good match for my place.  That’s actually a very difficult decision to make for many people, and I am one.

When I contacted the breeder, she said essentially “what do you want me to do about it “

She was moving to Hawaii, had a new baby, a new partner and so forth.  She didn’t even participate in the process of rehoming the dog.  

So much for promises.  

How to find the GOOD breeders is a challenge.
 
Sarah Milcetic
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Thekla McDaniels wrote: I would enjoy sharing in the discussion if there’s a thread or organization somewhere, someone can direct me to.  And I don’t want to take this thread astray!



I was thinking the same thing when I brought it up. I started a new topic here: https://permies.com/t/209143/Hip-dysplasia-LGDs
 
Trace Oswald
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote: But there are a lot of really great breeders that spend a lot of money on veterinary care, infrastructure, top quality food, and training.  They also offer health guarantees and replace dogs that have issues like hip dysplasia, which is sadly pretty common among dogs of this size.  Maybe don't be so quick to judge everyone simply by the price they charge.



There ARE great breeders.  The trouble is in finding one.  The breeder I bought my two pups from said if they didn’t work out, she would take them back.  When Mopsie didn’t work out I contacted her.  I thought the hardest part was over, the heartbreak of loving this pup who was not a good match for my place.  That’s actually a very difficult decision to make for many people, and I am one.

When I contacted the breeder, she said essentially “what do you want me to do about it “

She was moving to Hawaii, had a new baby, a new partner and so forth.  She didn’t even participate in the process of rehoming the dog.  

So much for promises.  

How to find the GOOD breeders is a challenge.



No question about it.  I researched for almost two years before buying my LGD.  It's a challenge for sure.
 
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