Big Fluffy Dog, Llama, Donkey or Technology?

Legamin

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I have been building a herd of Leicester Longwool sheep and contrary to my original hopes of a small cottage farm with a ‘gentleman’s ranch’ type arrangement….my usual disregard for good judgement has expanded our farm into a multi flock breeding operation with most of my retirement out walking around on four hooves with wiggly little tails Looking like a well quaffed cotton ball with hay bits dangling from the corner of their maws.
The need for a guardian has begun to plague me at night as I try to sleep and hear the night song of hundreds of local coyote that come down from the hills and wander the edges of the surrounding farms looking for a hole in the fence or a gate left open. When I say ‘hundreds’ I don’t mean to exaggerate so what I really mean is that by the literal deafening noise of yipping when I step outside with my whistle, shotgun and high powered flood light I really mean that it could be THOUSANDS. We have heavily wooded forest mountains all surrounding the farm valley for miles in every direction. We are fairly isolated and because of the low traffic of people in the area they are not intimidated much at all. We have spent….well….a lot on welded steel fence panels around the entire perimeter of our 10 acres and added an electric perimeter, motion sensors and flood lights, motion sensor alarms and alert sensors that flash warnings and pictures of anything bigger than a house fly that makes it through any part of the outer perimeter. Inside the barns is video monitoring with alert warnings at the house. Two of the four barns are near the house but the other two are about four city blocks from the house and half mile respectively so it’s not easy to run out and check things in the middle of the night if a flash warning goes off.
But I digress….. I have mentioned this to neighbors and friends and found that everyone has a very strong opinion of the ‘very best’ guard animal for my sheep…most of them don’t have sheep…. The consensus is big fluffy dog as a a guardian animal. There are a lot of pluses to this method of protection as I know dogs, have always had dogs, love dogs and inherently trust dogs to be able to conduct themselves in an honest and upright manner if I get them as puppy and let them grow up in the sheep barn with the sheep. I get dogs. But many of my shepherd friends are telling me that the “ABSOLUTE ONLY WAY TO GO” is a guard Llama. Llamas I DONT know. I’ve never seen one outside a zoo or my neighbor’s front yard…(kind of the same thing)… A llama would be a whole different breed, a different size of animal, different health needs, require a different shearer for JUST ONE animal….I am hesitant to add a new level of complication to my already busy life. A perfect stranger to me who overheard a conversation chimed in and insisted that a DONKEY/Mule would be the answer to my prayers. AND…if I didn’t Mind taking a bit longer doing my work I could use them to plow the fields, harvest the hay…oh what a conversation we had that seemed a lot like taking a time machine back to 1820 and working 20 hours per day just for the privilege of having a guard animal for my flock.
Of course the temptation is to just continue adding technological doo dads and bits and bobs interspersed with whistling whirlygigs along the perimeter to electrocute, startle, blast with siren and photograph for posterity every movement of every beast and insect that dares to perpetrate a criminal action within 25 cm of any part of the outer fence. Of course there are the recommended flood lights and drones with alarms and national headline alerts, intersecting radio towers and call signs for every sheep to check in at least every hour on the hour….”Technology is your FRIEND!” So the salesman on my front porch insisted earnestly as he hovered his drone over the rose beds.
I am still not settled. Any animal means more work, more infrastructure, more poop, more maintenance and more vet bills. Technology, on the other hand, means endless upgrades, software contracts, low voltage wiring electricians, hardware to carry hanging from my already much stressed suspenders and something called “firmware upgrades and security management” that sounds suspiciously like my new tractor starting itself and driving into the lake before I even get to drive it home from the dealership next year…there seems to be something that needs to be done urgently every other week and equipment upgrades annually and maintenance contracts with on site ‘tech teams’ that will all tape hundreds of hours of video every day that I can watch in all my spare time after 12-18 hours of hard work among the wooly and the unwashed. Choices, choices, choices. I leaned heavily towards ‘dog’…it just seems so natural….but I already have two. One is a hound that never learned to hunt except in her dreams where she howls, runs, barks, yips and farts mostly all at the same time and for about a half hour every night. She went hunting with me once and got lost for two days…I didn’t want to hunt that year anyways. The other is (according to the breeder) a “VERY special dog!” She is a beautiful Border Collie, the most obedient dog I have ever owned, evidently plated in 24 Carrot Gold on the inside if I try to justify the price and she only has one fault that I didn’t find out until I took her from the training field into the pasture to work….she is TERRIFIED of SHEEP! She seems to want to get close to the sheep but not to herd them or move them in any way but rather she clearly wants companionship from them! She is literally trying to be part of the herd! The clear problem, as far as the sheep are concerned, is that she is not a sheep and seems to make them very nervous when she walks up an tries to do sheep things and gain their acceptance. She is clearly flabbergasted that the ewes have the temerity to stamp their feet at her and charge her until she runs away! ’Soda’ (yep…that‘s the name she came with…REALLY!) sulks back to the house three feet behind me utterly silent and absolutely dejected that her new hoped for relationship with ‘the big fluffy dogs’ not only failed but backfired with disasterously dangerous consequences. Everyday we practice the commands and she runs her routine flawlessly… Everyday we go out to the pasture and she trots up and tries to make nice with the sheep and they stamp several times before charging at her and chasing her out of the pasture. Everyday…..she reminds me EVERYDAY that thirty five hundred dollars is now costing me a bowl of dog food twice per day and nuzzling me every time she wants another crack at her love/hate relationship with the ’big fluffy dogs’…she is the smartest most obedient stupid dog I have ever owned and she serves no purpose. None.
So if you are still reading and you have a suggestion as to the ‘BEST’ flock guardian for a mid sized herd. I’m willing to listen…but the wallet stays closed until I’m REALLY convinced!
thanks all, I know you will give your best advice!
 

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Baymule

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Anatolians.

Llamas and donkeys are PREY animals. In the face of an apex predator, all they have to do is run faster than the sheep. That point was illustrated for me several years when a cougar wiped out a flock of Boer goats about 2 miles away. And the guard donkeys? Still there and reproducing. Worthless. The cougar circled our farm on several occasions, screaming, probably in frustration, wishing for Guard Donkeys instead of the Anatolians and Great Pyrenees we have. Our dogs were freaking nuts, barking and snarling. Come on cougar! The FIGHT will be on! Cougar never breached the fence.

I'm no LGD expert. I have only had them for 13 years. 2 Great Pyrenees and now 2 Anatolians. My female GP was put down a few months ago, due to old age, arthritis and pain. No way I'd trust my flock to a llama or donkey. We have packs of coyotes here too, can hear them all around. BUT-they don't come HERE.

@Ridgetop care to expound on the virtues of Anatolians?

LGDs are a different dog. They should be their own species. I never want to be without them. My Anatolians stay with their flock. My GP male is outside the fence as I type this. :he:somad:rant How do I know? Because Carson, the big black Great Dane/Labrador cross came up on the porch and told me so. I can't keep him in. GP's roam. If their feet are on it, it is theirs. If they see it, it is theirs-and they want to go visit their kingdom. Trip can clear almost any fence. My female could squeeze through a hole that a rat could. Amazing how she could disjoint her whole body and escape through a hole that repelled water. But they are generally friendlier than Anatolians and not as stubborn.
 

Alaskan

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Anatolians.

Llamas and donkeys are PREY animals. In the face of an apex predator, all they have to do is run faster than the sheep. That point was illustrated for me several years when a cougar wiped out a flock of Boer goats about 2 miles away. And the guard donkeys? Still there and reproducing. Worthless. The cougar circled our farm on several occasions, screaming, probably in frustration, wishing for Guard Donkeys instead of the Anatolians and Great Pyrenees we have. Our dogs were freaking nuts, barking and snarling. Come on cougar! The FIGHT will be on! Cougar never breached the fence.

I'm no LGD expert. I have only had them for 13 years. 2 Great Pyrenees and now 2 Anatolians. My female GP was put down a few months ago, due to old age, arthritis and pain. No way I'd trust my flock to a llama or donkey. We have packs of coyotes here too, can hear them all around. BUT-they don't come HERE.

@Ridgetop care to expound on the virtues of Anatolians?

LGDs are a different dog. They should be their own species. I never want to be without them. My Anatolians stay with their flock. My GP male is outside the fence as I type this. :he:somad:rant How do I know? Because Carson, the big black Great Dane/Labrador cross came up on the porch and told me so. I can't keep him in. GP's roam. If their feet are on it, it is theirs. If they see it, it is theirs-and they want to go visit their kingdom. Trip can clear almost any fence. My female could squeeze through a hole that a rat could. Amazing how she could disjoint her whole body and escape through a hole that repelled water. But they are generally friendlier than Anatolians and not as stubborn.
X2
 

Legamin

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Anatolians.

Llamas and donkeys are PREY animals. In the face of an apex predator, all they have to do is run faster than the sheep. That point was illustrated for me several years when a cougar wiped out a flock of Boer goats about 2 miles away. And the guard donkeys? Still there and reproducing. Worthless. The cougar circled our farm on several occasions, screaming, probably in frustration, wishing for Guard Donkeys instead of the Anatolians and Great Pyrenees we have. Our dogs were freaking nuts, barking and snarling. Come on cougar! The FIGHT will be on! Cougar never breached the fence.

I'm no LGD expert. I have only had them for 13 years. 2 Great Pyrenees and now 2 Anatolians. My female GP was put down a few months ago, due to old age, arthritis and pain. No way I'd trust my flock to a llama or donkey. We have packs of coyotes here too, can hear them all around. BUT-they don't come HERE.

@Ridgetop care to expound on the virtues of Anatolians?

LGDs are a different dog. They should be their own species. I never want to be without them. My Anatolians stay with their flock. My GP male is outside the fence as I type this. :he:somad:rant How do I know? Because Carson, the big black Great Dane/Labrador cross came up on the porch and told me so. I can't keep him in. GP's roam. If their feet are on it, it is theirs. If they see it, it is theirs-and they want to go visit their kingdom. Trip can clear almost any fence. My female could squeeze through a hole that a rat could. Amazing how she could disjoint her whole body and escape through a hole that repelled water. But they are generally friendlier than Anatolians and not as stubborn.
All good information. I have looked at Anatolians in the past and they are very impressive. I am not interested in one more non-functional animal that just eats food! In a past visit to Indonesia I had the opportunity to dine on ‘airwai’ - which could best be described as a ‘Teryaki Dog on a Bed of Rice’….(It was delicious!). Seriously..I don’t like useless animals that are not helpful pets and SHOULD be out working so whatever Guardian I get I will get as a puppy and it will grow up with the flock and learn that their sole existence is to protect their flock. The Anatolian seems to be the best fit for that use. As I get older I get more practical. Everything on the farm either has a use or it is for sale….or dinner….
Thanks for the insights, very useful!
 

Ridgetop

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We have had two breeds of LGDs, guardian llamas, and a mule over the past 35 years of livestock raising. Here is our experience. First let's talk about LGDs.

We currently have Anatolians. We switched from Pyrs 7 years ago due to their roaming behavior. Our neighborhood has changed from rural to suburban. I have a peeve about roaming dogs and it constantly bothered me that my own dogs were roaming! Since keeping our Pyrs inside our boundary fences on our 6 acres had proved impossible, we switched to Anatolians 7 years ago. Anatolians are a wonderful breed, depending on your lifestyle. If you have countless friends, schoolchildren, farm tours, etc. wandering through your property forget Anatolians. They love their families and those they recognize as family, but others are not welcome on the property. We did not start with Anatolians because at that time we had small children who brought friends home, were 4-H leaders who held meetings at our house, in the barn, and entertained al fresco constantly in the summer. We started with Pyrs because the Idaho Sheep Station had found their temperaments to be the best in their LGD breed trials.

Anatolians 30 years ago were much more aggressive. They had a reputation for viciousness. This was partly due to the prevailing belief then that proper LGD training was to dump the dog in the pasture and never pet or socialize it. Some Anatolian ranchers who did this with large flocks found that the dogs would not allow them near their own sheep. Apparently LGDs can't read brands, ear tags, or transport documents, and don't recognize people who show up claiming ownership of the flock. Several ranchers suffered severe attacks from their own dogs when they tried to enter their pastures. Anatolians are one of the more aggressive breeds of LGDs, but a lot of progress has been made in breeding softer temperaments. This can be either good or bad. An LGD with too gentle a temperament is less likely to defend the flock against greater odds, too aggressive and the dog may not always make the correct decision over who to drive away.

Our children are grown now. Our fences are high and the fences and gates bordering the road are wrought iron with dead bolts. We have a very high predator load of coyotes, with the occasional stray dog packs and cougar. Along with the rest of the country our slightly secluded neighborhood is seeing an unprecedented rise in crime. We no longer have any house dogs. Our Anatolians keep the flock and ourselves safe. A word of warning though, Anatolians are the most dominant of the LGD breeds.

If you need a good natured LGD who will allow strangers onto your property, then Pyrs are probably the most common and easily obtained. Be warned that Pyrs have been witnessed climbing 6' chain link fences. Whether their extra toes have anything to do with this gift is debatable. I myself have seen a full grown Pyr squeeze through a piece of stock panel missing one horizontal wire. They are like cats and can compress their bodies. Or maybe it is some magical skill. "Beam me up Scotty." Whatever it is they are escape artists and roamers.

This is because Pyrs have a different guarding style to Anatolians. Where the Anatolian is most happy in close proximity to their sheep, the Pyr sets up their own safety perimeter in their minds. In our case with all 5 of our Pyrs over 25 years, this perimeter included the 100 acres of open land behind us, the half mile of private road, and all the neighbors' properties. During lambing time they stayed close to the barn until the smell of afterbirth dissipated then they were on far patrol again. While we didn't lose any stock, the occasional call to retrieve our dogs from as far away as 2 miles was annoying. And if they were patrolling that far what would happen when a predator snuck in behind them?! Our male Pyr got out and patrolled several miles in each direction in the small hours. He was in the yard in the morning so we thought we finally had a Pyr that remained on the property. This belief was shattered when we received a call from the police one night. Bravo had been hit by a car and killed. The officers said they usually saw him every night walking along the road in the same location.

This difference in guarding style might arise from the original use of these dogs when they followed their masters and flocks over vast distances from grazing location to grazing location. Since the dogs were continually on the move with the flocks, they had to develop a style of guarding that would drive predators out of the advance route of the flock and keep them away as the flock passed through their territory. Once you understand the original lifestyle of the early shepherds that bred these dogs it is easier to understand the guarding styles of the various breeds. The guardian dog will need annual vaccinations, protection from fleas and ticks, and if one of the heavy coated breeds annual grooming when it throws its winter coat.

LLamas have also been touted as good guardians. It is true that they don't like canids and will try to kill them. At one point many years ago, our valley suffered an influx of cougars. No fewer than 5 different cats were identified by Fish and Game coming out if the hills surrounding our valley which measures 30 miles by 15 miles. We decided that we needed other assistance in protecting our herd of dairy goats. A llama rescue was advertising guardian llamas for adoption. We were eager to experience this fascinating animal and adopted 2 llamas. One was a gelded male who had been a 4-H project. The other was a dark brown ungelded male. The 4-H llama was approachable while the other had to be herded into a stall to be caught and haltered. Once haltered they were both tractable. These were to be our cougar protection along with one Pyr and a Pyr puppy.

There were good points and bad points to the llamas. Their coats were in bad shape and I had to hire someone to shear them. They both hated dogs and tried to kill our new LGD puppy by stomping her to death. Our other dogs learned to keep well away from them. LLamas have long sharp claws on their feet - think raptor claws from Jurassic Park. Males also have large canine fangs. Most breeders pull these fangs when the crias are young. If you get a llama make sure this has been done since llamas will also use these fangs when they attack. Llamas also spit nasty smelling cud as a warning. This stuff can be as disgusting and pervading as skunk. LLamas' way of fighting is to rear up and slash with those feet at anything or anyone they don't like. Luckily, they seemed to like us. However, DH's cousin in Kansas who raised exotics for game farms was severely injured when his male llama attacked him. This was odd since he had raised him from a cria.

Another thing we learned several months after bringing our new cougar guardians home was that although they hated dogs and coyotes, llamas are the favored prey of cougar in their native land. Oh good, instead of adding protection to our property we had introduced cougar bait! The final problem to keeping an unaltered llama appeared when the unaltered llama tried to breed the goats. Luckily, I was in the barn and was able to drive him away from the doe he was attacking before she was seriously injured but this was unacceptable. I immediately caught and loaded him into the trailer for the trip to the vet to be neutered. Other than the attempted rape,I never noticed our llamas bonding with the sheep and goats. They kept a solitary lifestyle away from the flock. Eventually, the friendly 4-H llama died of old age and the younger one had no buddy so I rehomed him to a large ranch. If you go the llama route make sure your guardian is gelded and his canines have been removed. Llamas will need vaccinations, annual shearing and occasional claw trims.

Guardian donkeys have been discussed in these forums before. Donkeys do not like dogs or dog like creatures such as coyotes and wolves. Donkeys have a history of doing well with a flock of adult sheep and goats, but also have many disturbing stories of attacking and killing newborn lambs in the field. Whether this is because they don't recognize them as flock members is unclear. The type, size, and number of predators you have will determine the size and number of donkeys you will need. The cute little mini donkeys may not be large enough. You may need something the size of a small horse. Donkeys will also need vaccinations and regular hoof trims although not as often as horses.

We currently have a mule. She is a big mule, 16.3 h.h. and does not like dogs. Our Anatolians have learned to keep an eye on her in the field. When she was younger, she used to try to sneak up in them and bite them while they slept. Watching a large mule tip toe (tip hoof?) up to its quarry was amusing. We stopped keeping our horses in corrals and just tuned them onto our field years ago. Why shovel manure from stalls when the animals would spread it themselves! Josie had a strange cross species platonic love affair with our big ram. The horses had rejected her, but he was content to hang out with her. When the ewes first appeared on the field with their tiny lambs Josie the Mule did try to grab them. We promptly put the ewes back in the barn pen until the lambs were older. Later, when a couple little lambs escaped and ended up on the field Josie again went after them. This time the big ram positioned himself between the lambs and Josie. She tried to get past to grab a lamb, but Rambo kept getting in front of her. Finally, as she continued to go after the lambs Rambo hauled off and butted her in the chest. Surprised, Josie backed up and surveyed the situation. Decidng it must have been a love tap from her buddy she tried again to get past him. This time he was ready for her and having backed up really let her have it. We could hear the thud across the field. Mules are very smart. Josie decided he must mean that the lambs were off limits. She and Rambo turned and strolled away. Since then, Josie has accepted the presence of lambs on the field. I do want to emphasize that we do not let our ewes pasture lamb though so her exposure to lambs younger than 6-8 weeks is minimal.

Hope this helps.
 

farmerjan

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We have had llamas run with our sheep and the females did exceptionally well.... our biggest problem here is coyotes and neighbor dogs. Had a gelded male llama in the pasture with some cattle and the free range hens... I was hoping he would help with the chickens but he was very content to babysit the baby calves and stayed with the cattle. We have had some donkeys... a couple did good, one also hated the little lambs but was fine with the older ones.
We do not have the fences for LGD's. Had one for a short period of time but had to deal with nosy interfering neighbors that thought we were being so cruel to make them stay out with the sheep... and fed them and tempted them out of the fenced area... and being a GP then went to roaming... we had to send him back from the farm we had gotten him from... they had sold out of the sheep... and they found him another sheep farm...

One guy who I farm sat for had Maremma's.. very nice dispositioned dogs... but he knew nothing and thought if he just put the dogs out there, as little puppies, that they would grow up knowing what to do....one would go after the sheep and killed the lambs... but he really didn't have a clue what he was doing and I felt sorry for him. They also roamed but there were only 4 sheep and they got bored and the fences were not dog proof either.

If you could find a trained adult, that really might be the best way to go and then if you decided to add one, the older one will help greatly in training. But you can't just stick a young one out there as a pup and expect them to just know what to do. Yes they have instincts,,, but they have to be taught what is acceptable and what is not.

Your border collie looks an awful lot like a blue merle australian sheperd. I didn't know that border collies were any color than black and white. Aussies are great dogs, but some just won't work.... my DS has one and he had her at a trainers... she would do everything he would work with her on, until it was time to go out in the field. She would start out great, then come back to DS and lay down and look at him... like okay, I'm here.... and just doesn't get that she is supposed to bring the sheep or the cows back with her... She is his pet anyway, so that is that. He just thought it would be nice if she could help as well as be a companion. I have had dairy farmers that had border collies that would go out and bring back the milking herd from pasture, to the barn, when sent out before milking.... but borders' are also a bit tricky. So many are on the verge of killing they are so keen on going after the sheep. They have a high prey drive.

I am NOT an electronic person so all the gadgets don't impress me and all the constant updates would be the death of anything like that. Electric fencing works for me but that is about as far as I go.... and it drives me nuts sometimes.
 

Ridgetop

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I am NOT an electronic person so all the gadgets don't impress me and all the constant updates would be the death of anything like that. Electric fencing works for me but that is about as far as I go.... and it drives me nuts sometimes.
Same here. Our electric fencing used to go dead in the middle of the night (battery powered) and we would wake up to horses on the patio at 2 am. Probably the little pony encouraged them to simply walk over the wire - he was a naughty little devil! Lights and loud alarms that went on in the middle of the night would probably give us lethal heart attacks. The motion sensor lights we installed drove us crazy - until we realized that every time our flag waved in the wind they would go on!

With the right fencing, LGDs are great.
 

LisaManahan

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We rescued a 3yr old Australian Cattle dog. She works really well with our goats. Google this breed. You'll be amazed on the history of the breeding that created this breed. And they were bred for herding. Good luck to you!
I have been building a herd of Leicester Longwool sheep and contrary to my original hopes of a small cottage farm with a ‘gentleman’s ranch’ type arrangement….my usual disregard for good judgement has expanded our farm into a multi flock breeding operation with most of my retirement out walking around on four hooves with wiggly little tails Looking like a well quaffed cotton ball with hay bits dangling from the corner of their maws.
The need for a guardian has begun to plague me at night as I try to sleep and hear the night song of hundreds of local coyote that come down from the hills and wander the edges of the surrounding farms looking for a hole in the fence or a gate left open. When I say ‘hundreds’ I don’t mean to exaggerate so what I really mean is that by the literal deafening noise of yipping when I step outside with my whistle, shotgun and high powered flood light I really mean that it could be THOUSANDS. We have heavily wooded forest mountains all surrounding the farm valley for miles in every direction. We are fairly isolated and because of the low traffic of people in the area they are not intimidated much at all. We have spent….well….a lot on welded steel fence panels around the entire perimeter of our 10 acres and added an electric perimeter, motion sensors and flood lights, motion sensor alarms and alert sensors that flash warnings and pictures of anything bigger than a house fly that makes it through any part of the outer perimeter. Inside the barns is video monitoring with alert warnings at the house. Two of the four barns are near the house but the other two are about four city blocks from the house and half mile respectively so it’s not easy to run out and check things in the middle of the night if a flash warning goes off.
But I digress….. I have mentioned this to neighbors and friends and found that everyone has a very strong opinion of the ‘very best’ guard animal for my sheep…most of them don’t have sheep…. The consensus is big fluffy dog as a a guardian animal. There are a lot of pluses to this method of protection as I know dogs, have always had dogs, love dogs and inherently trust dogs to be able to conduct themselves in an honest and upright manner if I get them as puppy and let them grow up in the sheep barn with the sheep. I get dogs. But many of my shepherd friends are telling me that the “ABSOLUTE ONLY WAY TO GO” is a guard Llama. Llamas I DONT know. I’ve never seen one outside a zoo or my neighbor’s front yard…(kind of the same thing)… A llama would be a whole different breed, a different size of animal, different health needs, require a different shearer for JUST ONE animal….I am hesitant to add a new level of complication to my already busy life. A perfect stranger to me who overheard a conversation chimed in and insisted that a DONKEY/Mule would be the answer to my prayers. AND…if I didn’t Mind taking a bit longer doing my work I could use them to plow the fields, harvest the hay…oh what a conversation we had that seemed a lot like taking a time machine back to 1820 and working 20 hours per day just for the privilege of having a guard animal for my flock.
Of course the temptation is to just continue adding technological doo dads and bits and bobs interspersed with whistling whirlygigs along the perimeter to electrocute, startle, blast with siren and photograph for posterity every movement of every beast and insect that dares to perpetrate a criminal action within 25 cm of any part of the outer fence. Of course there are the recommended flood lights and drones with alarms and national headline alerts, intersecting radio towers and call signs for every sheep to check in at least every hour on the hour….”Technology is your FRIEND!” So the salesman on my front porch insisted earnestly as he hovered his drone over the rose beds.
I am still not settled. Any animal means more work, more infrastructure, more poop, more maintenance and more vet bills. Technology, on the other hand, means endless upgrades, software contracts, low voltage wiring electricians, hardware to carry hanging from my already much stressed suspenders and something called “firmware upgrades and security management” that sounds suspiciously like my new tractor starting itself and driving into the lake before I even get to drive it home from the dealership next year…there seems to be something that needs to be done urgently every other week and equipment upgrades annually and maintenance contracts with on site ‘tech teams’ that will all tape hundreds of hours of video every day that I can watch in all my spare time after 12-18 hours of hard work among the wooly and the unwashed. Choices, choices, choices. I leaned heavily towards ‘dog’…it just seems so natural….but I already have two. One is a hound that never learned to hunt except in her dreams where she howls, runs, barks, yips and farts mostly all at the same time and for about a half hour every night. She went hunting with me once and got lost for two days…I didn’t want to hunt that year anyways. The other is (according to the breeder) a “VERY special dog!” She is a beautiful Border Collie, the most obedient dog I have ever owned, evidently plated in 24 Carrot Gold on the inside if I try to justify the price and she only has one fault that I didn’t find out until I took her from the training field into the pasture to work….she is TERRIFIED of SHEEP! She seems to want to get close to the sheep but not to herd them or move them in any way but rather she clearly wants companionship from them! She is literally trying to be part of the herd! The clear problem, as far as the sheep are concerned, is that she is not a sheep and seems to make them very nervous when she walks up an tries to do sheep things and gain their acceptance. She is clearly flabbergasted that the ewes have the temerity to stamp their feet at her and charge her until she runs away! ’Soda’ (yep…that‘s the name she came with…REALLY!) sulks back to the house three feet behind me utterly silent and absolutely dejected that her new hoped for relationship with ‘the big fluffy dogs’ not only failed but backfired with disasterously dangerous consequences. Everyday we practice the commands and she runs her routine flawlessly… Everyday we go out to the pasture and she trots up and tries to make nice with the sheep and they stamp several times before charging at her and chasing her out of the pasture. Everyday…..she reminds me EVERYDAY that thirty five hundred dollars is now costing me a bowl of dog food twice per day and nuzzling me every time she wants another crack at her love/hate relationship with the ’big fluffy dogs’…she is the smartest most obedient stupid dog I have ever owned and she serves no purpose. None.
So if you are still reading and you have a suggestion as to the ‘BEST’ flock guardian for a mid sized herd. I’m willing to listen…but the wallet stays closed until I’m REALLY convinced!
thanks all, I know you will give your best advice!
 

Ridgetop

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@Legamin wants a GUARDIAN ANIMAL, not a herding animal. He or she has a trained herding dog (even though she does not herd).

First problem is that herding dogs are
not livestock guardian dogs. They will drive off predators if they happen to be with the sheep and shepherd at the time. However their approach to the flock is more like a predator than an LGD. A good herding dog will run up to the flock, pausing a certain distance away, then look to the shepherd for instructions. These instructions are given with a whistle, hand, or voice command. When rounding up sheep or cutting out certain individuals the herding dog approaches low to the ground much like a hunting coyote. The sheep retreat before this approach BECAUSE it is predator like. When sheep that have been separated from the flock try to rejoin it, the herding dog drives them back and holds them in a tight group for the shepherd, or herds them toa gate. Putting the sheep through a narrow gate is one of the tests in herding trials. The herding dog is able to hold the sheep in a tight corner by cutting off the escape of any sheep that tries to leave the selected group. This is done by a dash and occasional nip at the deserter. When driving the flock, the herding dog follows behind the sheep, running from side to side to cut off strays that try to escape. They keep the flock moving by lunges at the rear of any lagging member and nipping when necessary. Sheep and cattle dogs are slightly in that a good sheep herder will be gentle with ewes and lambs, more aggressive with wethers. Cattle dogs on the other hand have been bred to be much more aggressive when working cattle. Cattle will charge on occasion and a good cattle dog must be willing to stop the charge and bite hard to work cattle.

The approach to the sheep of an LGD completely different. The LGD's actions around the flock are slow and cautious. The LGD does not run up to the sheep (young untrained pups excepted). The LGD walks calmly and slowly around and through the flock. Running through the flock is reserved for those times when danger threatens, and it is the fastest way to get to the predators. Some breeds of LGD will also round up the flock and move them to a safe place away from danger ON THEIR OWN. My Anatolians do not do this by running at and nipping at the sheep. Instead, they get their attention by running around the flock with their tails straight up. Once the flock sees the dog with tail straight in the air, they recognize danger and will follow the dog where it leads them. LGDs do not drive the flock, the sheep follow them. This is LGD behavior I have witnessed on numerous occasions.

With respect to Legamin's herding dog - not only does the dog need to learn its commands (which she has done) but the sheep need to be trained to follow those actions by the dog. It is probable that Legamin's sheep have never been trained to follow the actions of a herding dog. Hoof stamping when approached by a threat is normal for sheep. Thus, it is obvious that they see the dog as a threat which is appropriate. If they do not see the herding dog as a threat, sheep will not move in response to her approaches or actions.

Instead of taking Soda to the entire flock, I suggest Legamin bring in a small group of about 5 wethers or younger ewes to a separate corral. The corral cannot be too large, because you don't want the sheep to get too far away. If you can set up an area of about 100 x 100'. If that is too large, start with 50 x 50. Then work with the dog on those few sheep at first. If 5 are too many, use 3 until the dog is actually following your commands with regard to the sheep and the sheep are obeying the dog's herding actions. Soda's perceived attempts to be friends may actually be puzzlement at the sheep's refusing to move away from her as she approaches.

A good herding dog is never allowed unsupervised access to sheep. Nor does the shepherd allow the dog to approach the sheep without a specific command. The good herding dog should remain at heel or in a down stay until a specific command by the shepherd has been given.

Some excellent trained herding dogs, bought and allowed to run with the flock, have actually gone out and worked the sheep on their own. This was not discovered until the sheep had dropped considerable weight through the dog's constant moving of the flock not allowing them to graze. Early in our goat and sheep keeping days we wanted a trained herding dog and a former trial champion who was too old to compete was offered to us. A friend who was a trainer and herding judge advised us not to accept because of our pasture setup. Unless we were willing to kennel the dog except when we were working her, we were cautioned that she would be bored and would find her own work i.e., herding the sheep from place to place on her own.
 
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