What is the Best Dog Breed for Homesteading?
by Goat Mama 12
I am writing this article to give people some ideas regarding using livestock guardian dogs for protection of livestock, property, and people. My husband and I moved to East Texas about 10 years ago to live my country dream. We acquired 25 acres for my horses and soon thereafter I started raising goats. It was love at first sight so to speak, of goats.
My long-suffering husband has had to put up with a lot of crazy ideas, with goats being one of those ideas. Anyway, we live out in the boonies and have a lot of coyotes and even a cougar that comes through the area occasionally.
I knew I had to figure out what I wanted to get in the way of a livestock guardian.
There are several options to choose from in the guardian category, everything from dogs, to llamas and donkeys. The idea is to have something that will keep your livestock from being killed by predators. Donkeys are used a lot as they normally do not like dogs or coyotes and will attack any that come in the pasture.
They usually need to be the only equine in the pasture as they can bond with other equines instead of the goats they are protecting. Llamas are another option. They are curious and can behave assertively towards trespassers in their pastures.
My understanding, since I don’t have llamas, is that they advance toward the predators which is not normally prey behavior. This can make the predators retreat. The downside to llamas is that they are just as vulnerable to predators if they are attacked by more than one. Other peoples experience or opinion may vary regarding the use of llamas or donkeys for predator control.
I did a lot of research about livestock guardians prior to deciding what I wanted. A factor to take into consideration is the threat level of the predators in your area. Are they very aggressive, have they killed your livestock or just looked?
Something that I read during my research stated, in relation to coyotes, if you don’t have a strong threat from a pack in your area, don’t try to eliminate the current pack. If you do, then you may get another pack that is more aggressive to fill the void.
Nature abhors a vacuum is how the saying goes I believe. I strongly feel this is true. If your current predators know your livestock is protected and leave them alone, why would you want to take a chance that a more aggressive pack could move in to take advantage of the buffet you have provided for them?
I decided to use livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). I had several reasons for choosing dogs. I have had dogs for over 30 years, was a veterinary technician for 12 years. I also trained and showed dogs for 20 years, mostly herding dogs.
I am very familiar with dogs and comfortable with them. Once I decided on LGDs then I had to decide what breed to get. Just an FYI here, herding dogs are not livestock guardians. They are bred to work with humans to guide and work a flock of animals.
They also have too much prey drive which means they will more likely chase the stock. Livestock guardians are bred to be independent thinkers and protect the flock. Some people confuse the two, thinking that herding dogs will work as LGDs.
There are several different breeds of LGDs with different traits, temperaments, and abilities. Before you decide on a breed, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Especially if you are not familiar with dogs or different breeds.
Talk to people, read books, search the web. There are several good books on LGDs available. A great website to look at is www.lgd.org. They have a good library of articles. I decided to get the Great Pyrenees for their personality traits.
I did not want a breed that was very people aggressive as I have great neighbors that visit often and I wanted to keep my neighbors happy. I obtained an adult Pyr from Texas Great Pyrenees rescue. By the way, check out LGD breed rescues. The people that run these are familiar with their breeds and can answer questions. My Pyr had lived with goats but had no human socialization.
He is a wonderful dog that knows his job and does it well. I also acquired a puppy at the same time. Thor (adult rescue) discovered the joy of having human interaction and having a dog buddy. He taught the pup, Odie, who has, in turn, trained my 2 younger dogs.
Anyway, since I knew what kind of threat level I had, I obtained dogs that are very capable of protecting my goats without being overly assertive.
Don’t underestimate them though, cause if push comes to shove, they will take care of the problem. There are breeds that are stronger, or more assertive, to predators and/or people. I have a friend with a large goat herd that has lost a lot of animals to coyotes. She has a very different threat level than I have.
She obtained llamas but they were not enough. I encouraged her to get some strong dogs to deal with her predators. You have to have an idea of what threats you are facing to make a decision on what is right for your situation.
I know this is getting longer than I intended but bear with me, I’m almost done! Part of my point is also about using LGDs not only to protect your livestock but also to protect your property and your family. I know about protection dogs such as German Shepherds, etc.
I have had Dobermans, which I love. However, if you are not sure about having a “protection” dog, I would recommend you consider a livestock guardian dog. They are not just for livestock.
They have been bred for centuries for their guarding instincts and believe me, watching their instinct kick in is wonderful. You don’t have to train them to do their job, they already know how.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have to do some training but the basics are already there. One other thing I should mention is LGDs are independent thinkers. They are bred to analyze the situation/threat and decide what to do about it.
That means that sometimes, ok a lot of times lol, they can/will ignore your request/directions/commands. If you can’t handle that, don’t get an LGD. However, I wouldn’t take anything for my LGDs. They are the sweetest, best dogs I have had. Challenging at times, but they keep my on my toes.
They love their people, livestock and property. My crew is Thor, Pyr; Odie my big teddy bear, Pyr; Alesta, Akbash (Turkish)/Maremma (Italian) LGD and her full sister Ellie, my sweet girls. They keep my goats safe and they keep me entertained.
Please keep in mind all this is my opinion and your mileage may vary. I hope this article has given you something to consider in choosing protection options for your livestock and family.