Livestock Guardian Dogs

Hi John,

I have a working spayed alpha Maremma. She had a history of being a “social” dog until her guarding instincts forced her to look for another line of work and at 4 years of age I adopted her. As you know Maremmas are intelligent. After two long years of training she does her job well. I have her in my fields and she watches over my alpacas. The fences between the fields are a joke to her as she goes under them in a wink of an eye. To date she has chosen not to go under the perimeter fences. I want to keep it that way. Is there any way I can reinforce her choice not to go under these perimeter fences? I foresee a problem in that my one and only neighbour has been caught lunging aggressively towards her, on my property at the fence line. – Sue M.

Hi Sue,

This is one of those breeds that is very cool but very wrong for anybody that doesn’t have a pile of sheep, alpaca, goats etc. to protect from coyotes, wolves, cougars, bears and goof ball neighbours. You don’t train them. You bond them with the livestock pretty much from birth. They’re supposed to protect their wards and expect humans to get and stay out of the way. Yes they’re very smart but not sit, down, stay smart. They’re smart enough to know they don’t need a human being hanging around telling them how to do their job.

They are one of a handful of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD). They are bonded with and then left alone for days at a time with a flock in the mountain meadows. They are used by ranchers in areas where coyotes and wolves are a problem and the stock would otherwise be without protection. They’ve been used in Africa to protect the goats of villages from being eaten by cheetahs, when they were trying to build the cheetah population up. Otherwise the villagers kept killing the cheetahs as the villagers figured, a goat in the hand beats a cheetah in the bush.

They’re darn good at it and make poor pets for most people as once they hit adulthood if there is no flock to herd then it’s you and the kids that are going to be protected and I’ll tell you I’d rather face a ticked off German Shepherd then a LGD thinking it needs to protect its family. A German Shepherd, is regular military, a LGD is special forces.

Your dog’s perception of the perimeter fence as the protection ‘boundary’ is likely a byproduct of her genetics and it’s possible crossing that line in her mind means abandoning her flock which may be why for the last two years she’s restricted fence scooting to inside the property. I think there’s not much of a chance she’d cross it no matter what the goof ball does. He’d have to come over the fence and threaten the Alpacas and then his tombstone will read, ‘May He Rest in Pieces’. Wolves and coyotes try that trick as well. One baits and when the dog is suckered across the line it gets to meet the rest of the pack. Breeds like Maremmas don’t fall for that often. Maybe if the fence went down and one of the alpaca’s made a run for it? She might cross it then.

– John Wade the Dog Trainer

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