Livestock Guardian Dogs
WHAT IS A LIVESTOCK GUARD DOG
Livestock guardian dogs are one of a variety of tools that farmers can utilise to reduce stock losses from predators. Livestock guardian dogs, also known as stock protection dogs, are used alone or in combination with other controls to keep predators out of flocks and herds. Unlike methods such as hunting and baiting that are employed after predation occurs, guardian dogs prevent stock losses by deterring predation from occurring. In Australia, livestock guardian dogs are used primarily with domestic livestock that have high rates of predation – namely sheep and goats, and increasingly free range poultry – to provide protection against foxes, wild dogs, feral cats, and birds of prey.
Success of the working livestock guardian dog, is dependent on the inborn abilities of the dog, and the human committment to provide the dog with proper training.
The training process depends on human supervision to prevent bad habits from developing, and human intervention on establishing limits of acceptable behaviour that are compatible with the farm operation. For example, training may include specific goals that blend with the farm activities: the dog may need to adjust to rotational grazing, or electric boundaries, or avoid confrontation with the farm’s herding dogs. Deciding where the dog is to work, and which stock the dog will protect, are other factors in developing a successful training program.
Training a livestock guardian dog is essentially a matter of raising the dog with the stock - to establish a social bond or acceptance between them. Forming a social bond is a two way process, and consists of forming an alliance between the young dog, and the animals whom the dog will protect as it matures.