Jan Dohner

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since Nov 28, 2014
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Recent posts by Jan Dohner

No, we don't generally recommend using an invisible fence with a LGD. LGDs are self thinkers who will respond to threats even if means taking a hit from a collar. Invisible fence can be useful to reinforce a visual fence where the dog is digging out or climbing over. The other problem with invisible fence is that predators, children or other people, or wandering dogs can enter your LGDs area. Again, your dog may view them as a threat.

Some folks in more remote areas do have success with powerful radio fences but these tend to be more range situations.
6 years ago
I really believe strongly that if someone wants a livestock guard dog that will bond with stock and be willing to take on all predators, small and large, you really have to use one of the true LGD breeds. Herding dogs and hunting dogs, as well, have been selected to be especially good at their jobs, and so are LGDs. This is what is crucially important to remember – the livestock guard dog breeds have been selected for a very low or non-existent prey drive, a longer period of social bonding than many other breeds, and a physical appearance that suggests “friend.” They have also been selected for the essential traits of attentiveness, trustworthiness, and protection of their stock. LGDs are exceptionally nurturing and tolerant of their charges. LGDs also possess instinctual responses to first warn off threats rather than immediately attack. Successful owners take these natural LGD behaviors and carefully monitor and encourage them as their pup grows. These inborn traits can be so strong that some adult LGDs, who were never socialized with stock as puppies, will still make outstanding guardians – because of the strong and correct instinctual behaviors they possess.

The inherited LGD traits are the reason why you can’t take a Lab or a Border collie or another non-LGD breed and easily train and trust it to behave properly as a livestock guard. The prey or chase drives in many breeds are just too high to make them reliable guardians. Some breeds are excellent watchdogs but lack the nurturing instincts a LGD exhibits towards its charges. Other breeds lack the protective coat to work outside in difficult weather. Still others do not possess the size, agility, or sense of responsibility to take on serious predators. These are also the reasons why crosses with a LGD and a non-LGD breed are just not reliable as working livestock guardians. The pups can certainly possess the traits of the non-LGD parent. Yes, many breeds make great all round farm dogs, but they should not be trusted or expected to live reliably with stock 24 hours a day.

Folks I've known with Catalouha dogs have reported that they are indeed very active hard working hunting dogs who were used to round up hard headed cattle. LGDs are low energy dogs that don't chase and drive animals like that. They have hardy weather repellent coats and the size to take on packs of coyotes, etc. While a Catalouha can make a general purpose farm dog they are not really suited to 24/7/365 live with stock.

Most of the LGD breeds are not recognized by the AKC and are not bred for show. Some, like the Akbash, have some of the lowest rates of hip problems because they need to be bred to be healthy dogs suited for a long working life. If tou prefer a shorter coat, like the Catahoula, some Anatolians and Akbash have short coats, as well as all Kangal dogs. If you've never looked closely at them, give it some study.

Here is an article I wrote that lists the LGD breeds.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/is-this-breed-a-livestock-guard-dog-zbcz1408.aspx#ixzz3Kwbs9hOO
6 years ago
Hi Jimmy

Since you are surrounded by housing I would stick with the breeds from Western Europe rather than Easter Europe and Central Asia. In general, the LGD breeds become more reactive - which means they respond quicker and harder to perceived threats - as you move from west to east. Western breeds are dogs like the Great Pyrenees and the Italian Maremma and others. They will do a great job with warning off strange dogs and guarding your critters, without the increased liability of a more aggressive dog. I will say, all LGDs are big barkers, especially at night, which can be a problem with neighbors.
6 years ago
Finally, here's another article that explains the different roles your LGD can play on the farm - full time guardian, farm guardian, or family companion, The first step in selecting a LGD, is determining what role you expect him to perform. This decision can determine which puppy you choose from a litter. It is also essential in correctly providing his earliest experiences and training. Individual dogs from the livestock guard dog breeds perform all these roles, but some breeds are better suited to one job over another.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/livestock-guardian-and-family-companion-zbcz1402.aspx#ixzz3KqNlzz00
6 years ago
This might be useful - it's an article I wrote about how LGDs work and how they are different from other breeds of dog.

6 years ago
Hi David

Since you are in France, I can't imagine recommending any LGD breed besides the Great Pyrenees. Besides working as full time guardians with sheep, Pyrs have long been country estate dogs - working as a general farm and watch dog.

You can choose to raise a puppy of course. LGD puppies are lovable balls of fluff. At times, folks can rescue a dog that was raised in a more urban environment by owners who came to realize that their dog was not really suited to city life. Dogs like this can be very people oriented and yet they find great happiness by moving to the country where they have room and a job to do. While some can't make the transition to full time guardian, many do very well as general farm dogs.

As to the question of "small" livestock guard dog breeds - these dogs are large because their role was to deal with large predators. Maremmas, from nearby Italy, are generally somewhat smaller than Pyrs.
6 years ago
Feeding a dog remotely is less desirable than feeding your dog every day because it reduces your opportunities to monitor your dog, give him some attention, and protect his food from weather and insects. Some dogs may also overeat. You also may not be aware of problems such as dog not eating. If you choose to self feed, you still need to check your dog for signs of illness, injury, or poisoning. Asking LGDs to live alone for long periods is not typical of their roles in their homelands, where they worked with shepherds. Even ranchers who use open range grazing usually check on their dogs every day or so, if they are not out on the range with them. Some dogs and some breeds are not content with living more remotely and with less human interaction.

However, in some cases self feeders are necessary and teaching your dog to use one can be helpful if you need to be away from home at times. Your can buy steel feeders, which is preferable to plastic due to chewing damage. The feeder needs to be secured away from stock. Some folks use livestock panels to construct a feeding pen that the dog can also use as a retreat. A porthole, jump gate, or dog door can let the dog in while excluding the stock. The feeder should be sheltered from rain, prevailing winds, snow, etc. The feeder can certainly attract rodents, wildlife, and insects.

If you are using raw food, you need to be cautious about leaving large amounts which may attract scavengers or predators.
6 years ago
So I thought that I had heard everything in 35 years of using LGDs, but the idea that dogs can live on a couple cups of kibble and sheep feces is, pardon me, a load of "crap." I have heard people say that LGDs can hunt and kill enough small prey animals to feed themselves. Also bunk.

Of course, dogs may eat feces and afterbirth in the field. They may also eat small animals such as rabbits they catch, a dead animal, or a deer carcass. They need to be checked for parasites and wormed if necessary.

All hard working dogs living outside, especially in winter, deserve good quality food. My Kangals eat about a 2 qt scoop of kibble a day, occasional raw food, and they are supplemented with fats and animal protein in winter (I live in Michigan). They weigh 120-150 pounds. Working dogs also need shelter from heat and cold. I don't feed raw food exclusively but there are good guidelines available.

I do have one recommendation. If you butcher at home, remove your guardian dog when the animal is killed and butchered or do it away from their line of sight. They may indeed hold a grudge against someone who harms their animals and many dogs find it distressing. After the animal is butchered, they absolutely can eat it and they do not associate it with their former charge. I wouldn't give them the skin on or off the carcass because it will smell like their former charge.

Sometimes a LGD will guard, bury, or even try to eat at dead stock animal. Just like they may eat afterbirth, they are trying to dispose of it so it will not attract a predator. At times it can be confusing to determine whether the animal died or was killed by a predator, not your dog.
6 years ago
Absolutely Dan, fencing serves the purpose of keeping your critters in and unwanted critters out. The best predator control combines several methods - fencing, guardians, good husbandry (removing dead animals, using small paddocks close to barns at night, etc), lighting, noise, and good housing.
6 years ago