Livestock Guardian Dogs
In the early 1990s, my family began using livestock guardian dogs to slow the relentless predation issues we were dealing with. The first dog we tried did not work out. It was more pet than guardian dog. Luckily, a friend-of-a-friend had some puppies and we tried again.
Two freshly weaned guardian dog puppies were put with a few young sheep and goats in a pen behind the hunters’ cabin, which was a half-mile from the house. We (my mother and siblings) were given clear instructions to not pet or show any affection to the dogs. The dogs were supposed to stay in the pen for 6 months but they escaped from the pen after about 6 weeks. I don’t recall if I let them out or not, but I did have a reputation for not properly closing gates, so odds are it was my fault.
The dogs and livestock that escaped from the pen joined up with another group of animals in a nearby pasture. Because things were going well, we did not bother to put them back in the pen, plus we couldn’t catch them. After a couple months, lambing and kidding started, but the ewes and nannies were not in the same pasture. Fortunately for us, the two dogs split up and provided protection for both groups of newborns.
These two dogs lived long and productive lives. At first they were wild and difficult to catch. But over the years they became quite friendly. They were the most important part of the sheep and goat operation because without them, predation would have prevented us from staying in business.
Looking back we were very fortunate, because things don’t always work out that well. This experience had a major impact on me. It made me 100 percent convinced that livestock guardian dogs are very effective at deterring predation.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service in San Angelo have made a commitment to improve the industry’s knowledge of how livestock guardian dogs work and how to manage them. Plus, we are working to better our understanding of how they work with research and demonstration projects. Some of these projects are on our website: http://sanangelo.tamu.edu
We are hosting a Livestock Guardian Dog Workshop on March 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center on U.S. Highway 87 north of San Angelo. This workshop will focus on raising a successful livestock guardian dog; covering the basics needed to get through the first year. For more information and to register, call 325-653-4576.
To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, contact me at email@example.com or 325-653-4576.