Working dogs you might see on pastures

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Happy 2022 from LIFEstockProtect! As the project is moving towards training dog teams for work with our competence centres, we thought it would be useful to share some of the different types of working dogs you might encounter in the Alps. Although all of them generally work with livestock, they differ widely in their roles and several breeds exist.

First of all, you have livestock guarding dogs (LGDs). They help protect all types of livestock from predators by living with and guarding the animals all year round. Compared to other working dogs, they carry out their tasks without much human intervention and often work in teams. Because of this they mistrust strangers and typically act aggressively towards unknown people on the field, so take care when they are on duty! The Great Pyrenees is among the breeds of these confident and instinctive guardians.

Man’s (and herd’s) best friend

The other working dogs are all herding dogs, working together with farmers and following their commands. They include Koppelgebrauchshunde, helping livestock owners round up their animals to move to the next pasture. They can easily identify animals from a distance and herd them silently but swiftly. Koppelgebrauchshunde have a strong eye to stare down and put the herd in motion. The border collie, also a popular pet, is a breed that even vaguely resembles the wolf to intimidate livestock.

Hütehund und Schafe © European Wilderness Society

Some canines are bred to herd specific types of livestock. Sheepdogs herd large sheep flocks on open pasture; therefore, they must be able to defend them under a shepherd’s guidance. A particular skill they also learn is ambling up and down the edge of pasture to encourage even grazing. There are many breeds of sheepdogs: German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, Beuceron etc. Cattle dogs, as their name suggests, herd cattle, and include the Swiss mountain dogs like the Appenzeller Sennenhund. Cattle ranches often have fenced pathways for the herd and the movements are often repeated, so the dogs are able to learn their tasks fast and perform them independently.

Working dogs are incredibly diverse, and by guiding the herd they give invaluable support to livestock owners. They are a cornerstone of livestock protection.

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