Hang around sheep people, or goat people, or Alpaca people (basically anything that tends to
be supper for coyotes, mountain lions, or other large predators) and you will hear the term
LGD. The first time I read the term LGD in an on-line thread, I thought – what the heck is this –
some exotic protection system? Or a neat infrared sighting device for seeing those darn
predators at night? Eventually, I read that was short for Livestock Guard Dog. Now, I grew up
on beef and dairy farm, and honestly, even though we had lots of coyotes in Southwest
Missouri, it was extremely rare that you lost a calf to one. I mean – come on – what coyote in
its right mind is going to mess with 1,000 pounds or more of live beef mamma cow that is
extremely protective of her baby calf!
Now sheep – that’s a different story. Let’s face it, as someone said, sheep are basically meals on
hoofs. I love my sheep – but these guys are not exactly the most aggressive animals. In fact, we
had an 80 pound ram that we lost to a pack of coyotes. Of course, he happened to be in the
only field where we didn’t have a LGD! We rely on Great Pyrenees (we have 3) and a Maremma
(very similar to Great Pyrenees) to guard our sheep.
These are amazing dogs! There is no doubt that they are protective of our flock. At up to 150
pounds, these guys can be pretty intimidating to any potential predator. Interestingly enough,
they are also protective of ‘their people’. Yes, once you become an owner of a Great Pyrenees
(or GP as the ‘in crowd’ calls them), you become one of their protectorates. My wife Terri has
had Samson, one of our GPs, get between her and our 300-pound ram when he thought the
ram was being aggressive (whether he was or not). So, they can actually kind of prioritize….
they protect us first, and the sheep second. The goats probably come after the sheep, and the
chickens, well the chickens are just kind of there as the GP’s go.
GP’s have an incredible amount of personality. Samson, our oldest and top male GP is kind of
the ‘wise old sage’. He acts very dignified – doesn’t bark at the little stuff, and seems to
generally be pretty mellow. However, he did see one of our daughters strike at one of the
female GP’s when she was attacking a small pet dog in order to get her off the smaller dog. Ever
since then, if he sees that daughter he will knock down the female GP, stand over her, and
growl fiercely at our daughter. Now our daughter would never intentionally hurt any of the
animals, but Samson has a long memory and he simply won’t let her near the other GP’s now!
Delilah is our oldest female and she is extremely affectionate. She desperately wants to be a
‘house’ dog (or thinks she does) and when we let her in the house, if my wife is laying on the
couch she will crawl on top of my wife and literally spread out and lay full length on her. Since
Delilah weights over 100 pounds, so it’s a little bit like a bear hug from a small bear – but an
extremely loveable one. Delilah is probably the most tuned to any potential threat, which
causes an immediate round of barking. The threat could be anything from a fox running across
the farm, to a leaf dropping from a tree! If it catches her off guard.. she is going to bark.. and
bark at it!
Moses is our Maremma and one of my wife’s favoriteHe is extremely dedicated to guarding the sheep and dairy goats, and he would rather sleep outside than in. He is always on the alert, but doesn’t bark excessively. He is, by far, the most mellow of our LGD’s. And that brings us to my personal favorite – Silas. Silas is still a puppy at 7 months and has a puppy’s enthusiasm and energy. Now, all that puppiness is packaged in a 100 pound plus body(yes, 7 months old and over 100 pounds) that is likely to grow into a 150 pound plus package.
This boy is huge. But man is he lovable. And actually, very gentle for such a big dog. Of course,
he likes to have chew toys (a good 5 or 6 foot branch that is four of five inches thick is just
about perfect for him)!
I really can’t say enough about these gentle giants. They are essential to our operation, and
while they can be maddingly independent (it’s a 50/50 chance of whether Samson will come
when I call him), they are loyal, protective, and have wonderful personalities!
Samson and Silas Joining Me (The Gentleman Farmer) for Breakfast Last Fall.