Friday, February 20, 2009

Livestock Guardian Dogs

We have 3 livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) to watch over our farm and our flock. By using LGDs we avoid conflict with local predators -- they walk around our farm in their trek through the neighborhood.

Our first Great Pyranees, Missy, is the most wonderful animal. Her instict is to patrol the perimeter of her territory -- a radius of about 1/3rd km around our barns and home. She barks if she senses a predator in the area and will boldly run toward a predator -- bear, coyote, cougar -- keeping just out of reach, as she worries them away from those she loves.

She is a devoted companion to our family and would rather be talked to and petted than eat. She also dotes on the goats and sheep and will guard any young one that is weak or away from its mother. We have known her to guard wild fawns and their mothers if she finds the young deer within her territory - much to the dismay of the resident gardener. Missy is a spade female.

Her companion, Donder, also a pb Great Pyranees, has the secondary guarding position. She will sit by the animals in the paddock and watch the perimeter unless a predator comes out of the woods. Then she is ferocious, barking and backing up Missy. Last summer she killed a large ferret, that had killed one of our chickens and continued to hang around. Donder is lying down in the background of the picture.

Our LDGs love people and are the first to greet human visitors when they visit. They've never been aggressive toward any of our farm guests. They are especially fond of little people.

Our male LDG is a pb Maremma, Gelato -- in the foreground of this picture. His nature is different than the two girls. He is shy of people preferring to be with his flock. He has his favorites and checks on their well being several times a day. At meal times he jumps over the fence and comes for his meal. Then he goes back over the fence to stay with the flock. He only barks if something is amiss -- coyotes are in the distance or a weasel is in the yard.

A few times a day he goes for a long walk around the perimeter of his territory -- a larger territory than the girls-- marking, and then he jumps the fence, back in with his flock. He isn't the kind of boy that wants to be a companion of humans but he does his job well.

In the winter the animals live in the barn at night so the dogs are in the barn, too. In the summer the dogs guard all night to keep the bears away. Last year a bear attacked two of our llamas during the night -- we had put the dogs in the barn with the flock but left the llamas out. The llamas healed from their injuries. The dogs are now on duty during the short summer nights.

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