The overall goal of the LIFEstockProtect project is that farmers receive extensive know-how about how to effectively protect livestock and that livestock protection is implemented more actively in the project region. An imporant part of effective livestock protection are livestock guarding dogs. These particular dogs are socialized with “their herd”, get along well in any terrain and work independently in any weather, day and night – provided they have been well trained.
To ensure good training, LIFEstockProtect actiosn include the development of guidelines for the breeding and certification of livestock guarding dogs. These guidelines are tested together with breeders and authorized examiners and ultimately used to achieve uniform legislation for the use of livestock guarding dogs. Since dogs will ultimately work in different farms, the requirements of such will also be taken into account. Like this, animal welfare and access to potential subsidies for the use of livestock guarding dogs can be ensured. All of this, together with targeted training on the use of livestock guarding dogs, is intended to support farmers in using them correctly.
Please read: Austrian and Italian shepherds exchange experiences
Livestock gurading dog breeds are, amng others, the Maremma Abruzzese, Kangal Sheherd Dog, Great Pyrenean, Caucasian Ovtcharka or Kuvasz. They have been used by humans for thousands of years to protect their livestock from large carnivores like wolves. Their job and, thus, the existence of these breeds is closely related to the occurrence of wolves in many regions. The job of livestock protection dogs is extensive and already begins when they are born. In order to visualize this, we would like to share two documentaries with you. They impressively show how livestock guaringd dogs work with sheep and how puppies are selected for work, trained and certified after 2 years.
Livestock guarding dogs: Unequal brothers
In the central Italian region of Abruzzo, large herds of cattle, horses and sheep are roaming free during summer. A flock of 800 sheep is on the move 4-5 hours a day, together with the shepherd and around 16 Maremmano Abruzzese sheepdogs. Only in the late afternoon do they come back to an (electric) pen. The sheep spend the night in the fenced area. In the meanwhile, some of the dogs are in the herd and some of them are spread around the pen. They scan the environment continuously with eyes, nose and ears – even when the dogs seem to be dozing. If a wolf thinks it has found easy prey, the dogs will bark, and scare the wolf way by running towards them fast.
In the east of Germany on the Lausitz, a former military training area, a new valuable habitat without human influence currently develops. Wolves were absent in this area for 150 years, but since 2000 a few packs have come back. Here the sheep only graze in a very limited area, not like in Italy were they travel several kilometers each day. They are guarded by Pyrenean mountain dogs, which grow up among the sheep. Like this, they learn that sheep are part of their own pack. They consider sheep to be their kin and try to play with them, which, however, is not so welcomed by the sheep. Also here the dogs demostrate that to the wolf that they are in charge by barking and running.
To watch this documentary, please follow the intstructions to be redicrected to Youtube once you click on play.
Kangals – Bodyguards for sheep
A female Kangal shepherd dog that belongs to a couple from Niedersachsen in Germany, gave birth to 8 puppies. The documentary follows the development of one of the puppies because he is allowed to stay with the family. All others are directly given to other sheep or goat farmers. The puppies are even born among sheep so that they are immidiately familiar with them. The shepherd couple has a total of 800 sheep and goats, which are kept in 6 groups with 2 gurading dogs each. They are kept within a paddock secured with an electric fence.
The documentary shows vividly which disposition the puppies have to have and how they should be treated so that they become a reliable bodyguard. They learn how to handle the electric fence and how to treat the sheep with care. For this purpose, the couple has their own sheep training flock with particularly relaxed sheep that remain calm, even with new dogs, and actively participate in their upbringing. The puppies learn to accept herding dogs and that no aggression should be shown towards humans. After 2 years of training, the dogs are checked and certified by an experienced shepherd, whereby the test consists of different sections.