Getting a Livestock Guardian Dog
Livestock Guardian Dogs are dogs that are specially bred and trained for the protection of farm animals. They help to defend a herd or flock against predators, keeping a constant eye on their charges.
We decided to add a LGD to our farm almost immediately, realizing that ducks, geese, chickens, and goats couldn’t be left alone in the open fields without serious risk. Keeping constant vigilance was impractical, and setting up fencing around the property would be a huge expense that might not keep all predators out. The idea of a guardian dog quickly won in our list of options to protect our flock.
After some research, we settled on the Maremma sheepdog for our farm. One of the first reasons we liked Maremmas was because of their reputation as excellent guards for flocks of poultry. Not all dogs can be trusted around a flock of chickens, but a well trained Maremma will be a diligent companion to them. Huge and covered in thick white fur, Maremmas can defend against larger predators and won’t have any trouble with the cold Maine winters. Unlike some breeds of LGD that have become popular with families looking for pets, Maremmas are fairly uncommon and their breeding stock are almost all dogs currently used actively for guarding.
There are plenty of other dogs to consider if you’re thinking about a LGD. The most common is the Great Pyrenees, but there are also lesser known breeds such as the elegant Akbash, the unique Komodor, and the massive Tibetan Mastiff. Researching your breed will help you find the dog that’s right for you: not all dogs are capable of the full time responsibilities of guarding, as the task doesn’t just require attention and size. The personality of an LGD is critical, you don’t want to be fighting with your dog all the time and you do not want a house pet. You do want an animal you can trust with kids (goats or humans), chicks, and goslings.
Maremma sheepdogs are native to the Tuscan region of Italy. Bear-like and dignified, Maremmas can be up to 100lbs when fully grown and have sober, loyal personalities. The dogs we met when visiting our breeder were some of the kindest and calmest creatures I’d ever met, not barking unless they saw movement at the parameter of their sheep’s fencing. Especially affective against wolves, Maremmas are normally collared with studded metal collars to prevent an attacker biting their necks.
We were fortunate enough to find a Maremma breeder in Maine, and are looking forward to a puppy arriving mid-summer. This will be perfect timing to coincide with the arrival our trio of goats, and take up residence in our growing farmyard.