How to Choose the Best Livestock Guardian Dog
When you're a farmer raising livestock, you need to be on guard for predators. Luckily, there are several dog breeds that can help you keep your animals safe from intruders.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the 8 best livestock guardian dogs and show you how to choose the best one for yourself!
How to find the best livestock guardian dog for your farm
1.Figure out what your needs are
What type of animals do you have on your farm? Are they free range or kept indoors? How much space do you need your livestock guardian dog to cover?
There are all important questions to ask when looking for a livestock guardian dog. Figuring out what your needs are will help you to look for a dog breed that matches those needs.
For example, you may need more than one guardian dog if you have multiple pastures of animals.
2. Prepare for your guardian dog’s needs
Another important thing to consider is where your livestock guardian dog will be living, and how you will care for them on a day-to-day basis.
Guardian dogs are different from house dogs because they often live outside or in a barn.
Who will take care of the dog? When, where, and what type of dog food will it be fed? Where will it be housed?
These are some more vital questions to ask yourself before looking for a specific livestock guardian dog.
3. Learn about different guardian dog breeds
Once you know what your needs and your dog’s need are, the next step to choosing the best livestock guardian dog is to learn about the dog breeds available.
See our guide to the top 8 livestock guardian breeds below!
4. Learn about each potential dog
After learning about each breed and selecting the right one for you, it’s time to look at individual dogs.
Learning about each dog or puppy is important during your search for the ideal guardian dog. This especially applies to dogs that are being re-homed or adopted.
Find out what the history of each dog is, if possible. If they have any previous training, that would be great to know, too.
If you choose to get a puppy, it’s a great idea to learn about dog trainers in the area.
If you’re looking at fully-grown dogs, see how well-behaved the dog is when interacting with humans and other animals in general; if there are any issues with aggression or dominance, they should be noted here as well.
See how trained the dog is overall by taking note of how much work you'll need to invest into training them before they can become a reliable protector for whatever livestock you want protected (i.e. cows).
If the dog has been trained in any capacity, that is a huge plus for you. The more training it has, the better off you'll be because this means that the dog will know how to react when something goes wrong.
5. Introduce the dog to your livestock
If possible, you’ll want to make sure that this dog is a good fit for your livestock by trying to get they involved in their lives as much as possible.
If they have been trained well enough, then they may be able to protect your animals without you having to be there at all times—which means that they will be able to take care of themselves when left alone.
If the dog is not trained at all, then you'll have to be around to train it, or you’ll have to invest in a dog trainer who works with livestock guardian dogs.
The Top 8 Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds
As we mentioned above, an important step in finding the right livestock guardian dog for your farm is to learn about the different dog breeds available.
Here are eight of the best livestock guardian dog breeds:
1. Anatolian Shepherds
The Anatolian Shepherd is an extremely intelligent, loyal and protective breed. They are great with children and other pets, as well as strangers. They are also very good around livestock.
Anatolians have minimal shedding and odor, so you don't have to worry about them making a mess of your house!
They do not bark much at all, which makes them suitable if you have neighbors living close by. If you want a dog who will be alert but not noisy, this could be the right puppy for you.
They tend to be naturally independent so they're less likely to require excessive attention from their owner - perfect if you're busy with work on the farm or other responsibilities all day long!
2. Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is a large dog that originates from the high country of France and Spain.
They're known for their shaggy white coats, fluffy tails, and regal demeanor. They're also famous for being excellent livestock guardians; they've been used to protect sheep since at least 1200 CE.
The most important thing to know about this breed is that it's prone to hip dysplasia (HD) — especially if the parents have HD or were bred from dogs with HD in their genes. If you want a healthy puppy, look for a breeder who screens his breeding dogs' hips before breeding them.
Komondors are large, muscular dogs with a thick, white coat.
They do not bark or howl like other guardian breeds and will not alert you if there is danger outside. Instead, they will aggressively protect your property by chasing away intruders or deterring them with sheer size alone.
Komondors are good with children and other pets, but they need lots of exercise to keep up with their energy levels.
They make wonderful family pets and livestock guardian dogs as long as you have an active lifestyle that includes plenty of playtime and walks outdoors on a daily basis.
4. Neva Masquerade
The Neva Masquerade is a large breed of dog that was bred in Russia to protect livestock from bears and wolves.
It is also known as the Russian Bear Dog, which makes sense considering its purpose in life.
A Neva Masquerade has excellent guarding instincts and is very territorial. This breed can take on any threat with confidence, making it an excellent choice for protecting your farm animals when you’re away at work all day.
5. Maremma Sheepdog
The Maremma Sheepdog is a large dog with a muscular body and thick white coat. It's known for being sweet and playful, but it's also a very protective breed that won't hesitate to attack if it perceives danger.
This makes it an ideal option for anyone who needs to protect livestock or other animals from predators like foxes or coyotes.
The Maremma Sheepdog is known as one of the best guardian dogs because of its devotion to its family and livestock.
Although they are naturally suspicious of strangers and will bark at strangers who come near their home, they quickly warm up once the visitor has been introduced properly by their owner.
They make good watchdogs because they're always alerting their owner when something unusual happens around the house by barking loudly enough so they can be heard even over long distances (upwards of two miles).
The Kuvasz is a large, strong dog that's protective of its family and loyal to them. It has been known to become emotionally attached to its home and owners, so if you're looking for an independent livestock guardian dog, this isn't the breed for you.
The Kuvasz is good with children and other dogs—so long as they don't challenge his position as leader! The Kuvasz will not tolerate overly aggressive behavior from other animals in his home.
7. Tosa Inu
Tosa Inu are large, powerful dogs. They can weigh up to 130 pounds and stand between 25 and 30 inches at the withers (the highest point of the dog). This is a significant size difference from many other guardian breeds, which often tops out at around 100 pounds. As you may expect from such a large dog, they don't need as much exercise as smaller guardians do; a daily walk will be sufficient for most Tosa owners.
The Tosa's size makes them appealing to owners who want an intimidating presence in their home without sacrificing cuteness. These dogs have an exceptionally high prey drive—they love playing with toys but also enjoy chasing squirrels through the yard or bringing down wild boar in the forest! Because of this strong instinctual desire for action, it is important that you provide plenty of opportunities for your Tosa to run off-leash or play fetch on your property so that he doesn't get bored or frustrated inside the house all day long. If kept outside with livestock, though, their energy has an outlet and these large dogs should do just fine. Unlike some other guardian breeds (like Mastiffs), these guys are not known for being aggressive towards strangers.
8. Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff, which can weigh as much as 160 pounds, is a large dog with a short coat. The tail is long and the muzzle is short. The head and ears are large. This livestock guardian breed requires moderate exercise and does well in colder climates because of its thick coat, but it’s also great for warmer climates because it has low energy requirements.The Tibetan Mastiff makes a great guard dog for your home, farm or ranch because it's very territorial about its surroundings and will protect you from intruders without being aggressive toward family members or other animals in the area when not on duty.
We hope that this article has helped you learn more about the top 8 livestock guardian dog breeds and how to choose the best dog for you.
Although we’ve covered some of the most common Livestock Guardian Dogs, but there are many more breeds out there.
Be sure to do your own research on your journey to finding the best livestock guardian dog for your farm!
Courtney Garrett is a freelance writer and editor traveling the world as a digital nomad. She earned her Bachelor of Animal Science with a specialization in Livestock Science and Management in 2019, and has worked with dairy cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, chickens, and more over the past 10 years. When not writing, she enjoys horseback riding, swimming, and taking walks with her Havanese puppy, Ella.