It was an early fall morning when I was getting ready for the day. Suddenly my husband walked into our home with a very solemn look on his face.
He said, “Something ate our best boy rabbit.”
And that was the harsh wake-up call that we weren’t just raising a bunch of pets; we are running a homestead. Things attack our way of life, and they often come on four legs.
Now, I don’t live on a large enough piece of property to justify having an LGD (Livestock Guard Dog.) But if you live on a large amount of acreage, you might want to consider getting one or a couple of farm dogs.
So I’m going to introduce you to some of the best LGD breeds.
Let’s get started—
Why Do I Need an LGD?
You may decide that you want a livestock guardian dog if you live on a large amount of acreage. They are great for protecting a large variety of livestock.
So if you raise goats, sheep, cattle, or even chickens, an LGD will protect them for you. They are also a great benefit because they stay with your livestock 24 hours a day.
Therefore, your livestock can stay out in the field overnight and not have to worry about begin threatened.
Plus, these dogs are self-thinkers which means they evaluate the situation themselves to know whether a threat is upon them. You don’t have to be there to tell them to attack. They are also great at protecting your livestock from almost any predator whether they come by air or on the ground.
However, as aggressive as they are towards predators, most breeds are known to be very gentle with small livestock and newborn livestock.
But as many great things as there are to say about LGDs, there are still a few things you should take into consideration before getting one.
Things to Consider Before Investing in an LGD
The main reason why I say if you live on a smaller acreage you might not want an LGD is because these dogs are very independent.
But with their independence comes challenges.
First, they need good fencing. These dogs were bred by nomadic farmers. Therefore, it is engrained in them to watch large areas of land. Even if you have a great fence, they may feel like their territory is beyond that fence.
If so, then don’t be surprised if they try to burrow or slide through the fencing.
Second, these dogs are independent thinkers. This means they must be trained and socialized thoroughly or you will have a stubborn and out of control dog on your hands. Even with training, they still sometimes ignore commands because of a threat they feel is imminent.
Which is a good thing when on a larger area of land and protecting a lot of livestock.
However, if they are on a smaller piece of land with neighbors, this could lead to trouble.
Third, these dogs bark a lot. It is their job.
So if you live in close proximity to other people, they may not appreciate that fact about them very much.
However, it should be mentioned that these dogs determine themselves who or what is a threat. Which means, if you live near people that they may not be familiar with they could potentially show signs of aggression towards them when mistaking them as a threat.
Finally, these dogs are extremely valuable. They could literally be the difference between you losing livestock or not.
And don’t think for a second that the people that breed them don’t know that. So that means that they come with a high price tag.
I urge you to strongly consider the pros and cons to these dogs before investing in one. As valuable as they are, if you don’t put them in the right setting and give them the proper training and attention it could be a bad situation.
So just understand what you are going into and be willing to invest before you sign on for an LGD.
The Top LGDs
Kangals have only recently been added to the list of top LGDs, but don’t let that deter you. They are not particularly great for herding animals though they are still a good selection for simply guarding your livestock.
Plus, these dogs are supposed to be great with children and other pets. They are known for their loyalty and how gentle they are. They are also very agile dogs and quite speedy too, which is great because when they need to sprint after a predator they are capable of doing so.
Komanders are fighters. They are not afraid of predators and will fight to protect livestock. Though they will fight, these dogs have a keen sense about them. So they won’t fight until absolutely necessary.
However, they have a lot of special character traits that should really be considered prior to deciding to bring them onto your homestead. First, these dogs bark a lot and are very loud. Second, they are considered overprotective. Which leads us to number three, because these dogs can be over protective, they would be at risk of attacking a stranger. So you will definitely want to keep these things in mind.
3. Great Pyrenees
When I think of an LGD, my mind immediately goes to the Great Pyrenees. They have been used as LGDs for centuries. Though these dogs can be very aggressive towards predators, they are still considered trustworthy.
So this means that the breed has proven to still be gentle with younger livestock, smaller livestock, and even the helpless livestock. Plus, these dogs have a nocturnal sleeping pattern which means they will interact with your livestock all night so you can leave them out to pasture.
The Kuvasz is a very intelligent dog, but they are actually better known for their sense of humor. They are just extremely funny dogs that do funny things. Who says you can’t have an LGD with a great personality?
Though they are class clowns, these dogs also are very loyal, they act with instruction, are very noisy yet independent dogs, and they are also great at evaluating their own surroundings. This is great because even when you aren’t around and if these dogs notice there is something changing in their surroundings, they know to be proactive for the sake of the livestock.
5. Anatolian Shepherd
These dogs are known for their keen sense of sight and hearing. They are very agile dogs and can be speedy if they need to get to a predator quickly. Anatolian Shepherds are also what you would consider an independent dog which sometimes leads to them being stubborn. This means that their way of thinking might overrule your commands at times.
However, the upside to that is they don’t need human instruction in order to protect the livestock. And because they are so intelligent it makes them a much easier breed to train. So their personality traits are definitely something you’ll want to weigh out before you invest.
6. Tibetan Mastiff
Do you live in a place with a lot of heat? What about a lot of cold? Well, if so then a Tibetan Mastiff might be a good breed for your homestead. They are known to be very hearty dogs that withstand harsh environmental elements well. They are also another breed that has nocturnal habits which means you can leave your livestock out to pasture at night with them.
Plus, these dogs will also take on any size predator. So you needn’t fear if you have predators of the sky, coyotes, or even a bear. However, these dogs are another breed that are known for their stubbornness. This means they will need a lot of training to overcome this.
7. Pyrenean Mastiff
This is a very loyal breed. They are known for how good they are with livestock, pets, and people that they are familiar with. This breed will literally lay down its life to protect you. But this also means that this dog will need extensive training because it is what I consider a ‘pack’ breed. If you are in its pack, then you are good. If not, then you are in trouble.
So it might bulldoze a passive owner if not trained properly in instances when (for safety) the dog needs to obey. And these dogs must be socialized so they know how to handle strangers. However, this dog doesn’t need regular exercise which is an added bonus. They could make great LGDs and even a farm companion if the effort is put into their training.
If you have a lot of visitors around your homestead, then this breed might be one that you’d want to consider. I say this because unlike some other breeds mentioned, this breed only becomes hostile when challenged (if trained properly.)
Plus, they are also great with small livestock including baby livestock. They also can detect unusual changes and sounds in their environment in order to be proactive with predators when guarding their livestock.
9. Polish Tatra Sheepdog
These dogs are great for working with sheep. Herding and guarding them is kind of their specialty. Yet, because of their loyal and protective personality, they are great for keeping as personal protection too. And if you the thought of having a big, drooling dog doesn’t sound appealing to you then you’ll love this breed because they don’t drool.
However, these dogs are very active and very intelligent. They are very loud barkers, but (with proper training) won’t attack unless absolutely necessary. So they have a lot of very positive qualities that could fit in with some homesteads.
10. Maremma Sheepdog
Do you like to let your animals free range? If you have the land, why not? Well, then you might really be interested in this breed of LGD. They are known for protecting free range animals from predators that come by air or on the ground.
However, they are also known for being extremely friendly towards livestock. That is a great characteristic to have in any dog, but is an absolute must in an LGD. They are also very intelligent dogs that are surprisingly calm.
Well, I hope this information in regards to LGDs helps you in your search for better protecting your livestock. It is also good to remember that LGDs work better in pairs so having a fixed male and female pair could be good for your livestock.
However, also remember, these are big dogs that need a lot of room. So if you live on a smaller, urban farm you might want to consider other means of protection against predators beyond these dogs. They are no joke. They are large animals that require a lot of training for the safety of everyone around them.
But I’d love to hear from you. Do you have an LGD? What breed did you choose? Why? And are there any other breeds or characteristics of breeds mentioned that people considering an LGD should consider?