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Guardian animals

Guard dogs protecting livestock

Guardian dog protecting livestock

Livestock guardian dogs are increasingly being used to protect livestock from wild dogs and foxes; particularly to protect valuable goats on small-scale enterprises, though they are now being used on large sheep-grazing properties in western Queensland.

Dog breeds such as the maremma, Anatolian shepherd, central Asian shepherd, kangal and the great pyrenees, are being used throughout Australia to protect sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, cattle, alpacas and even native wildlife. These breeds have been bred to protect flocks from bears and wolves throughout Europe and Asia for thousands of years, so they have strong flock guardian instincts. When purchasing one of these animals, you should verify the breed stock you are purchasing from to ensure you are getting a well-bred animal with plenty of instinctive ability.

When bonded with livestock at a very young age and managed well, most dogs will become excellent flock guardians. However, some will not. Young dogs that have been brought up with and bonded with livestock can be purchased, which can make it a lot easier for a first-time livestock guardian dog owner.

Success is strongly related to the bonding, training and management of these dogs. In some cases, they have reduced predation by more than 80%. Desexing of these dogs is necessary to prevent the potential for cross-breeding with wild dogs.

An American study of livestock guardian dogs found 'no significant differences between the rate of success of intact versus neutered dogs'. It also found that neutering reduced the wandering of both sexes and prevented predators being attracted to in-heat females.

Other species, such as alpacas, llamas and jenny donkeys, have similarly been used to protect stock from predators.

Advantages of using guardian dogs

  • They are considered humane.
  • Unlike other control methods, reinvasion of predators is low while guard animal working and occupying a territory.

Disadvantages of using guardian dogs

  • High cost of purchase.
  • Care and attention required.
  • Training required.
  • Not instantly useful - can be 12 months or more before the animal is working well.
  • Badly managed dogs can cause problems by:
    • breeding with wild dogs if they haven't been desexed
    • killing livestock.

Further information

Last updated 01 July 2016