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About Livestock Guardian Dogs

Check out our ebook

"Raising and Training the Working 
Livestock Guardian Dog"

Author:  Vicki Hughes
A Possum Hollow Enterprises
E-Book publication.

Click Here to Order Your eBook

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What is a Livestock Guardian Dog...Exactly? 

Many people confuse the terms "guard" and "guardian" thinking that a guardian dog is an attack dog.  We define "Guard" dogs as dogs that are trained to protect a specified area or object.  Guard dogs are typically trained in this type of protection or are aggressive dogs by nature that have been placed in a situation encouraging their aggressiveness most often  for the purposes of protecting property.  These kinds of dogs include police dogs and military dogs on the one hand and personal or business property guard dogs on the other.  "Guardian" dogs are best defined as dogs whose primary purpose is to protect and care for a specified group of animalsGuardian dogs are not trained to respond to any protection oriented commands and are expected to make sensible and intelligent decisions regarding the safety of those in their charge without the assistance (or interference) of humans.  Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) are dogs bred specifically for the purpose of protecting and caring for livestock.  The livestock can include any animal to which the dog has bonded (including humans).

What Does a Good LGD Do? 

Good LGDs live in the pasture with the livestock all the time.  They are never removed from the livestock except for veterinary visits, and some require vets to visit them in the pasture as they don't want to leave their livestock behind.  They remain with the livestock under all conditions, regardless of storms, heat, cold, or anything else that might tempt them to leave the stock.  They watch over the stock and protect them from predators of all types (from snakes and predatory birds to coyotes, cougars, bear and humans.)  Whatever the predators may be, the good LGD should be willing to give its life to protect the livestock.  Good LGDs also care for the livestock.  

Why Have Protection for Livestock? 

Population numbers of predator species are increasing.  In areas where once there were no coyotes, now they are common.  Sightings of large predatory cats (mountain lions and bobcats) are becoming frequent.  Predatory birds such as owls, hawks and falcons are becoming less fearful of humans and attacking pets and even children in front yards.  The incidence of deaths of livestock due to predation is escalating rapidly.  An increase in the percentage of deaths even among adult cattle is up 100% or more in many states.  Farmers and ranchers simply cannot afford to be caught without protection anymore.

What is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog?

Anatolian Shepherd Dogs (ASDs) are a Turkish livestock guardian breed originating from the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey.  They are very large, powerful, and intelligent dogs.  They are bred to care for livestock and the family home (which can also include children, etc.).  They are not easily trained and you'll have a difficult time getting them to do anything they don't want to do.  Their job is to make decisions that will ensure the safety of the property and animals entrusted to them and they do this exceptionally well.  We breed Anatolians solely as livestock guardians although some have also become family and home guardians.  While PHF's guardian dogs are bred to have kind and gentle temperaments, they are still expected to maintain a sense of protection and care of the fowl, goats, sheep, cattle or other animals (including humans, cats, smaller dogs, etc.)   

Advantages of the Turkish LGD

ASD coats are just thick enough and yet short enough to handle any kind of environment.  Their coat also makes it considerably easier to keep them clean.  They are basically maintenance free in that they don't require shaving, don't get mattes in their fur, shed burrs easily and keep themselves clean quite well.  Their coats are thick in the winter keeping them warm in cold climates and then shed off in the spring.  They also endure well in hotter regions since they shed off to a shorter coat in summer.  We prefer the characteristic guardian behaviors of working ASDs as opposed to some other guardian breeds.  They are gentle when they need to be, are not afraid to stay with the stock under any conditions, and will fight to the death to protect their charges.  They are super intelligent and if raised properly can usually be trusted with visitors (once you introduce them) and are not overly aggressive with strangers unless they present a dangerous attitude. They are first "watchers" evaluating the danger.  Then if the need arises they will take action. A pair of ASDs will split their duties automatically allowing one dog to stay with the stock and the other to investigate the danger.  A male/female pair usually works best.   The ASD will not bark without cause.  They typically will not bark all night long unless there is some reason (hunters in the area, predators, etc.).  They are gentle with small children (children may be defined as someone smaller than the dog.)

What Anatolians Are Not

ASDs are not herding dogs.  They will not gather or move your livestock for you.  Some will however, allow themselves to be gathered and moved by herding dogs as long as they are familiar with the dog and its use.  While they are wonderful family dogs, they cannot be allowed to run loose -- they may kill your neighbors dogs, cats or livestock if they view them as not belonging wherever they happen to be.  They are territorial and will check out strangers entering their home area.  ASDs are not attack dogs.  They cannot be trained to attack on command.  They are bred to determine when aggression is needed and when it is not and they are quite good at making this decision if handled properly.  

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ASDs with Ducks, Chickens, and Other Poultry  

ASDs can be wonderful guardians with fowl species also.  They will guard against all the usual predators of fowl such as snakes, foxes, coyotes, dogs, bobcats, etc.  They will also guard against hawks, owls, and vultures as well as other birds of prey.  We start our pups with chickens at about 6 weeks.

ASDs with Sheep and Goats

ASDs are wonderful guardian dogs with sheep and goats.  Once your pup has bonded with your livestock, it will protect them from all manner of danger. Many ASDs will care for kids (goat) or lambs when they are born, cleaning them and the nanny or ewe following birthing and keeping them warm in cold weather.  They will clean up the afterbirth and dead babies so predators are not enticed into the area by the smell of birthing or decay. (So don't assume your pup killed a goat or sheep if you see it eating the remains.)  They will protect newborns from the rest of the flock while letting only the mother approach.   They view miniature cattle and miniature horses like they are goats and will care for them in much the same way. 


ASDs with Cattle, Horses and Llamas

ASDs will also guard cattle, horses, alpaca and llamas.  However, it is very important that these animals be conditioned to accept the dog first, as an angry mother cow or horse can hurt the dog since it may not try to protect itself from her.  Also consider the breed of cattle as some breeds are more prone to be dog-haters than others.  Our first stud dog, Moses, spent many hours guarding our weanling calves and the herd in general.  Our 1st bitch, Cass, also occasionally guarded a herd which includes bulls and heifers.  This same principle applies to guarding horses.  If you want to use your dog to guard cattle or horses, introduce the pup just like you would introduce an adult (see our ebook above) to prevent injury to your pup by your livestock.

Typical ASD Protection Behaviors  

ASDs are typically more forward in their approach to dangers than many other breeds.  Their responses to intruders are seen as a series of levels of aggression beginning with barking and increasing to attack if necessary.   If properly socialized they will be permissive of strangers and even strange dogs if the owner is present and appears to be willing to have the people and dogs there.  We have people and dogs coming and going all of the time at our farm.  Our dogs know the difference between someone who should be there and someone who shouldn't.  Some of them will allow themselves to be petted while others will simply ignore the strangers and remain aloof.  PHF dogs do not attack unless there is a real threat to their stock.  They allow the vet to work with sick animals and for routine vaccinations.  But, they make no secret of the fact that strangers are not always welcome like when our road was being paved and they stood at the fence line growling at the workers when they got off the road and came into the grass along the fence.  For more detailed information about the stages of guarding, please refer to our ebook offered at the top of this page.


ASDs and Children

ASDs are wonderful with children of all ages once they know them.  They are gentle giants.  As puppies they are not as intimidated by children wrestling or hugging or running with them.  However, like all puppies, they can be frightened if a child screams at them or hurts them.  They are tough but will squeal if they are hurt (step on a toe and you'll find this out quickly).  They will attach themselves to children and treat them in much the same way they would treat their flock of sheep.  They will stay with them most of the time and will protect them with their lives.  When your children are away from home your LGD may try harder to get out (to search for them) until they learn the child will return.  The adult LGD will not play with their children, but instead watch them as they play.  Chasing a ball is not ikely to happen.   An LGD that is expected to guard children must be very well socialized throughout its life.  Your LGD certainly will not allow other dogs to approach your children unless those dogs are also a part of your family.  

ASDs and Family Pets

If your ASD is raised with a family pet it will consider it a part of the family and will protect the pet just like everyone else.  Once the dog has reached 6-8 months an introductory period should  be used if a new adult pet is brought in.  Typically bringing in new puppies, new kittens, etc. will not be a problem as the dog will simply view these as helpless creatures that need care (assuming your LGD is accustomed to the species of animal being introduced).  However, just to be safe use the  introductory methods described below in Introducing Adult LGDs to Livestock.  However, be forewarned that, especially as pups, they love chewing on large things, like furniture, walls, door frames, etc. and should be placed in a crate when not actively monitored. 


Selecting an ASD Puppy for Livestock

At Possum Hollow we like puppies that are friendly at 6 weeks with everyone indicating an overall pleasant personality.  At 8 weeks old we want a pup that will be a little suspicious of strangers and then friendly when it sees someone it knows.  Usually our puppies are barking at strangers and strange noises at about 3-4 weeks and yet are very friendly as long as we are around to assure them that there is no danger.  We also like a pup that sits in the back and thinks about things they don't understand. We want a pup that will give ground and show submissive behavior to any kind of livestock, no matter how small.  We also prefer a pup that will submit to us as well.  We don't want a pup that will turn and bite if we try to catch it..  Puppies want to play.  Livestock guardian dogs of all breeds will play with whatever is available, including livestock.  Keep in mind that guardians, while appearing to be adults due to their size, are still puppies in their minds until they are about a year and a half to 2 years old and should be treated that way.  If you already have an adult guardian dog, then put your puppy into a pen beside the pasture until your adult guardian dog has accepted the puppy.  After that, allow your adult to train the puppy by putting the puppy into the pasture with the adult.  Do not stop your adult if it is disciplining your pup.  Keep a watchful eye for any play behavior towards the livestock and stop it immediately.  Take note if your adult does not take care of this problem because you will have to change your plans.  The age at which you introduce your puppy to your livestock/poultry depends on the type of livestock.  The puppy needs to learn the heirarchy of who's who in the pasture while it is still young and small enough to be dominated.  Do not take it out of the pasture for anything except the occasional visit to the vet.  Read the information below on training your guardian puppy.  PHF provides training options for guardian puppies on livestock.  

Obedience Training your puppy

If you want your puppy to be a livestock guardian dog, the best thing you can do is give it NO or MINIMAL OBEDIENCE TRAINING.  However, you will need to train it some very basic obedience (and we don't mean heel, sit, and stay!).   At about 4-5 months you will need to train your puppy to walk quietly on a leash, tie out quietly and jump into a crate or vehicle.  Do not wait until your puppy is too large to start this training.  Do your training sessions inside the pasture and keep them to a maximum of 15 minutes each day.  Keep in mind, however, that these dogs are not bred to obey.  They are bred to make their own decisions and that may include not listening to you.  Be prepared for your pup to buck and squeal when put on a leash or tied out.  Some pups will act like you are killing them and some will be totally fine with the whole thing.  When training to walk on the leash, simply allow the pup to buck and pull until it decides to rest.  Then pull it toward you just enough so you can allow the leash to slacken and therefore reduce the pressure on the pup.  If you are having your pup trained by an adult dog, you can be as free as you wish with praise during this work.  However if you are training the pup on livestock yourself, only provide minimal praise.  Do not over-train your dog.  It is our experience that the more you mess with your dog while it is learning to be a good guardian the less likely it is to learn what it needs to be a good guardian in the pasture, and after all, that is the most important thing. 

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Fencing and ASDs

Your ASD will need a very strong fence to keep it home and too keep other animals (including humans) out.  Invisible fencing may work to keep your ASD home under normal circumstances, but it will not keep it home if your ASD perceives a threat.  Invisible fencing will not keep other animals out and, if another animal enters the ASDs territory, normal guardian defensive tactics may occur (including attack).  The most effective fencing involves  woven wire with electric on top.   Some high tensile electric fences also work well.


What we do before you get your puppy.  You puppy is born in a barn or whelping stall.  When it is 4-6 weeks old the litter is moved to the poultry pen.  When each puppy is large enough it is introduced to sheep.  Any pup placed in a larger field is with an adult guardian dog for protection.  Pups are declared big enough to enter the pasture when they no longer can wiggle through the pasture fence.  This is usually between 10-15 weeks.   For more detailed information about training your pup, please refer to our ebook available above. 

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ASDs as Companion Dogs

ASDs are wonderful companion and family dogs, but new owners must be fully aware of the requirements for maintaining this type of dog.  They are not just large dogs (like St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Great Danes, etc.).  Their breeding incorporates a completely different set of instincts from most other large breeds.  Companion ASDs can and will go through normal fencing if they please.  They can rip chain link easily and are able to clear or climb over any height fence (even 6 ft).  They are accomplished diggers and can dig a little or a lot and then push the fence up as needed to escape.  Amazingly, a full grown dog  is able to squeeze under a board fence as low as 10 inches high without digging.  They will expand their territory if possible.  An ASD may not go along on a hike and stay right with you without a leash .  It will be happy to guard anything you have, including your other pets and children, to the best of its ability.  The owner must be the alpha member of the dog pack and this must be established when the pup is still very young.  If you want your dog to be comfortable around lots of people, take it everywhere as a puppy and encourage everyone you meet to pet it.  Never allow your puppy to climb into your lap, jump on you, or put its teeth on you.  Be aware that your dog may be dog aggressive (to non-family dogs) when it is in your yard, however we have not seen aggressive behavior when not on our property.  Be a responsible owner.

For more information, please call or text us at 8284296388, or purchase our ebook (see above).  We hope this information is helpful!

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