LGD - livestock guarding dogs

At the end of 2017 Swiss Hunting and Fishing Department (the Bündner Wildhut) officially reported that in the area of the Calanda mountain range (600-2800hm), very close to the city Chur in Switzerland, a wolf pack helps to naturally control the population of red deer.[1] Calanda report was the first one clearly mentioning the positive effect exerted by a wolf pack on wildlife regulation. Its results were based on a specific situation of two hunting regions located on the Calanda massif (Chur Rhine Valley and Graubünden) where wolves actively reside helping out human hunters with regulating red deer population and being more successive in picking up old and sick ungulates. According to Georg Brosi (head of the Hunting and Fishing Department), the number of red deer decreased to a third of their original size, since the first Swiss wolf pack settled in the Calanda region in 2011. It should also be noted that this decrease is not threatening the deer population, but their numbers are now regulated naturally to acceptable levels for the forests to thrive, with less involvement of the hunters.
The wolf species has never been extinct in Europe as a continent. After complete extermination locally in Switzerland (19th century), the first Canis lupus reappeared there in 1995. In 2012, researchers confirmed a first wolf pack exactly in the Calanda region. Currently, 30-35 individuals live in entire Switzerland, mostly dispersed, roaming on the large areas. Some of them have been living there in packs for several years, the rest are European migrants - crossing Alps, migrating from neighobour countries (Austria, Germany, Italy, France) moving through wildlife passages in Poland. The most studied Calanda wolf pack consists of 7-10 pack members of which the leading pair (M30 and F7) has been raising their cubs every year since 2012. 2nd pack (the East of Bellinzona) and 3rd one (the Upper Valais) were detected in 2015 i 2016.[2]
Switzerland is a pioneer and leader in herd management experiments since 1999, which mean using passive non-lethal methods to protect livestock against predators like fladry or fences as an example, and active non-lethal methods like shepherds (herding dogs) and sheepdogs (livestock-guarding dogs) supporting correspondingly - herder (by cooperation) and shepherder (independently). A social guard dog is selected for its character, to bond with other animals. Therefore the dog must be a social animal, that is surrounded by other social animals. This is the reason why the dog cares for the sheep, as they satisfy their need for companionship. - KORA describes predestined livestock-guarding dog (LGD) in 1999.

Swiss LGD Calanda LGD - warning a suspected intruder /source: European Wilderness Society/

  • socialized with livestock / cattle / other herded animals

Socialization (then habituation) is important - if not the most important - aspect of Canis behavior, creating a base for developmental offspring management - a critical period when socialization process is finalized permanently. To initiate it correctly, Polish Tatra Sheepdog puppies are placed directly in the sheepfold or on the grazing land, in safe kennels (preventing potential inventory attacks) where they sleep, eat and drink water. Their kennels are moved from time to time, to provide familiarity with the entire herd and complete socialization before the young sheepdog will be released into open area (starting as a company of the shepherder). The whole training process is finished after circa 20 months. According to Association for Nature “WOLF”, dog efficiency in preventing potential losses, results directly from how much time it spent with livestock. A dog which is able to abandon a herd or becomes distant when predator’s approaching, is not being a good guardian dog.

  • limited in contact with humans

Canis familiaris evolved by inheriting predispositions toward humans in the natural way (interspecific cooperation) or by human intervention (selective breeding).. Touching and playing together builds dog-human relation in a sensitive period (developmental puppy management), making that bond more and more attractive. During LGD training/socialization process itself a dog-human contact (including limited petting within a target environment) is advised to stay reduced to owner and family (feeding, watering, care and livestock inspection), then to being a shepherder’s independent companion. Touching or playing together, especially at home, is not permitted unless the pasture is located nearby a household where dog-human contact is unavoidable. The consequence of not abiding to the rules is a dog abandoning a herd because a human companion is preferred.

  • not aggressive towards guarded animals

Adult livestock-guarding dog accepted by guarded animals, can work standalone, without humans supervision. It’s a dog which reacts permissively or submissively being sniffed by them, avoid their eye contact, can put ears back and tail down. Owner’s/breeder’s/trainer’s role is to spot in time deviating behaviors (instinctive puppy playing, prey drive, partial predatory sequence simulation) yet while the young guardian dog is trained, and do not strengthen them or motivate repetitive attempts. Otherwise, the dog should be not allowed to guard livestock.

Tulip LGD socialization trained LGD Maremma Sheepdog behavior - being introducted into the herd /photo credit: Ken Ramirez, KPCT Ranch/

  • independent and fearless

Owners of Polish Tatra Sheepdogs living as companion animals (at home, in towns) report that their dogs are inclined to watch over their family by patrolling regularly every room, looking after children and the rest of pets. Livestock-guarding dogs work independently. Seemingly lethargic during the day, they revive during the night - reacting to every suspect noise or movement, barking loudly and bass, bravely looking straight into intruder’s eyes. Every factor depends on danger rate. Immediate reaction on potential intruder’s approaching (predator, unknown person) is essential. The perfect way to train/educate/socialize selected youngster is introducing it into a LGD work familiar herd in company of working parents (optionally other experienced adults).
Livestock guarding dogs are territorial, and they are protective of what they believe is theirs. The “resource-guarding” that we find so unacceptable in most dogs is exactly what we desire in a guardian dog. - Ken Ramirez says, a professional dog trainer in Karen Pryor Clicker Training Academy (KPCT), who took care of a 2-years-old female Maremma sheepdog, trained LGD for his Ranch protection because of coyotes’ appearing - LGD are reinforced by seeing outsiders and predators leave when they bark. Ranchers who are instructed to let the dogs “feel that they are in charge” are less likely to discipline nuisance behaviors and lower the dogs’ confidence. A confident dog bred for territorial aggression will claim more territory than an insecure dog. Ranchers who are instructed to let the dogs “feel that the herd is theirs” will have the dogs sleep with the herd, establishing the dogs’ territory.[3]

Tulip LGD independent work trained LGD Maremma Sheepdog behavior - independent herd guarding /photo credit: Ken Ramirez, KPCT Ranch/

Domestic dog accompanied in sheperding through ages what - as a consequence - was the reason to shape almost 100 multiple pastoral breeds all over the world. Typical guard dog should be heavy (up to 75kg) and large (up to 70cm). In action, guarding with a tail held up, barking and staying determinate to attack the source of menace, it causes an intruder to back off in order to avoid confrontation or by decision that the risk is not adequate to uncertain benefits. European livestock-guarding dogs are especially popularized in mountain regions (as exemplary mountain dogs) where sheep herding is historically utilized and still most intensive, specifically breed to be familiar with a surrounding area, its topography and climatic conditions. For example: Slovak Cuvac, Hungarian Kuvasz, Romanian Carpathian Shepherd Dog - were primarily dedicated to Carpathian Mountains; Caucasian Shepherd Dog guarded in Caucasus Mountains; Polish Tatra Sheepdog was specified to guard sheep in Tatra Mountains (cross-border central part of Western Carpathians). Swiss shepherders use omnipresent border collie as herding dogs and LGD breeds - Patou (Pyrennees sheep dog, coming from France/Spain regions, related with some Carpathian LGD breeds), Kangal (coming from Turkey, related to Central Asian Shepherd Dog, same by breed destined to protect against wolves) and Maremma (Italian Maremma Sheepdog, dedicated to Apennine Mountains, also by breed destined to protect against wolves). Effectivity of LGD work is determined by its individual characteristic, education and performed training. LGD collective work is influenced by herding area span and topography in pair with herd dispersion and quantity. Number of guardian dogs should be adapted to the number of guarded herd - approximately, 2-3 LGD on 100 animals.
Astrid, a professional shepherdess from South Tyrol (certified by Swiss Sheep Owner Association) specialized in herd management in the presence of wolves, was hired to herd 420 sheep on the Ramus Alp (in summary around 130 hectares, 80 hectares grazed by the sheep), exactly in the Calanda Wolfpack territory. The Alp area was divided into 10 grazing sectors - fenced with Flexinet (electrical fences, 90cm high) and with natural borders where it’s possible - between which sheep were herded daily during the week. From the beginning, herding dogs (border collie) were used to assist during the day - by keeping the herd in a tight flock together while the guard dogs rested. Since 2013, the Alp was protected by LGD (specially trained and raised Pyrenees Patou). Two of them were kept within the fenced area where sheep were locked in a paddock (moved every 3-4 nights), another five patrolled up 20km every night along the perimeter (GPS monitored). It was evident that wolves regularly approached the paddock in the night. From LGD and sheep unison warning each other of their presence, the tone and pitch of the barking dogs was recognizable when they worked solo or in pair, initiating an attack on potential intruder while the rest stayed with herd. Their morning routine was also to race ahead for checking up the area when night paddock was opening. Not a single sheep was lost to the Calanda Wolfpack - same in 2016 as in 2017, the frequency of wolf visits to the herd decreased yearly.[4]

[1] via European Wilderness Society Nov 10th, 2017
[2] KORA, the Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management society of Switzerland
[3] Tulip Joins the Ranch
[4] via European Wilderness Society Mar 27th, 2018
obligatory source:
“Poradnik ochrony zwierząt hodowlanych przed wilkami” [ang. “livestock protection against wolves guide”] by Stowarzyszenie dla Natury “Wilk” /Polish only/.