Define a Working LGD

by Catherine de la Cruz

LGD pup with ewe I see the job of our livestock guardian breeds as a continuum - on one end is the Family Pet, who is generally subservient to his people but will protect them when needed. That shades into the Family Farm Dog - one whose primary responsibility is the care of the livestock, but also has the run of the farm, plays with the kids, visits the house and announces visitors. The other end of the continuum is represented by the full-time Stockguard - this dog lives full time with the stock, has only minimal interaction with his own people and none at all with strangers.

All of these are necessary and valid uses of LGDs, but when we are speaking of "working dogs" we need to be very clear exactly what work we expect of them. It is entirely possible for one dog to be all three - pet, farm dog and stockguard - at various times of its life. My own Fancy was an example. Judy's Drew and Natasha share the space between farm dog and stockguard, moving between the obligations as need exists. Obviously, the dog that protects sheep on 900 acres is a stockguard; but it is not acreage alone that determines this. "Trouble" lived on ten fenced acres, but was a pure stockguard - he didn't come to the yard or house, but stayed with the sheep full time. "Shasta" Crane had 300 acres - when the sheep were in the high pasture, she was a stockguard; when they were at the barn for handling, she was a family farm dog, happily retreating to the porch for a day or two of R&R.

An owner's approach to each style of use will vary. The person who wants a stockguard isn't interested in theories of puppy development - he wants solid information on how to handle problems as they arise. The Family Farm dog has to be introduced to a variety of livestock - and children - at a young age and the introductions continue as the dog matures. While the Stockguard is expected to think for himself almost all of the time, the Family Farm dog has to know when to take his own initiative and when to defer to the Boss - and the Boss has to know the difference as well. The Pet owner may smile indulgently when the four-month old pup "kills" his socks - the Family Farm dog owner will react much differently knowing that could be a kitten or gosling in the dog's mind. The Stockguard owner might not notice such behavior, so long as it isn't directed toward a lamb or kid.

So in talking about "working" LGDs, let's also define the work we are expecting and/or describing. It will make for greater clarity of understanding of these wonderful dogs.

Livestock Guardian Dogs Library