Working with dogs is hard work, but recommended and worthwhile for grazing in the middle of wolf areas, especially with larger herds. Guarding dogs are socialised with livestock. They are characterised by certain traits that set them apart from other dog breeds. If kept with sheep from a young age, they will develop a strong bond to the flock. They are also very sensible, work at least in pairs and always pay attention to what goes on around the herd. For their role as livestock guarding dogs, they act on instinct and natural born defensive behaviours rather than orders from shepherdesses or shepherds.
Benefits of using livestock guarding dogs
- They are strong and sturdy, so can defend themselves.
- They work in a team and are very attentive.
- Their presence is alarming to large carnivores.
- They don’t need extensive training. They protect the herd instinctively and independently, thanks to their socialisation with the livestock.
- They are prepared to carry out their work in difficult terrain and weather conditions.
Dogs and tourism
Signs can and should inform hikers, joggers and mountain bikers that livestock protection with dogs is taking place and give the nature lovers tips on the best way to behave.
Encountering a livestock guarding dog
Upon approaching a herd with livestock guarding dogs, people with little experience of nature or animals, especially dogs, will realise that the dogs will usually start barking and run forwards to put themselves between the herd and intruder. For the person, this means avoiding nervous or sudden movements, because this will scare the herd as well as the dogs. So it’s best to dismount your mountain bike or lower your jogging pace to a walk, stay calm and respect the dog, so that it can continue its work instinctively. Through these actions, the guarding dog can determine that you pose no threat to its herd. Livestock guarding dogs are particularly reactive to strange dogs.
Tip: Many shepherdesses and shepherds have guest beds on their farms, and should make their visitors aware of the working behaviour and effect that large livestock guarding dogs can have on people, as well as put up information signs in surrounding hiking areas and explain how to act in areas with guided grazing and livestock protection within hiking guides.