Livestock guardian dogs, not livestock cuddling dogs


Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are on the rise, and in more and more places. That is, on the rise in areas and cultures where no LGD history is present, or where the use of LGDs has decreased or even disappeared generations ago. The continuous presence and increase of LGDs is a direct result of the presence and increase of threats to livestock, in particular threats from (large) predators, such as wolves. It is nothing new and more or less a logical connection: predators and LGDs facilitate each other. They are friend and foe at the same time, but despite the fact that both types ultimately benefit from each other’s existence. 


If there are no predators, there are no good LGDs with the necessary instincts combined with intelligence and other traits, both physical and mental, generation after generation. In the absence of good LGDs, predator predation on livestock is a regular and recurring phenomenon: a good opportunity with a high chance of success, with little direct risks and little waste of energy. Indirectly, or rather at a later stage, predation on livestock has major consequences for predators: they will be hated (more), persecuted and maligned. Their right to live and their role in Nature is ignored and denied. LGDs and predators allow each other to successfully continue to exist in each other's proximity, without most people being aware of it. 


The advance of KBH of course also has disadvantages. Underestimation and overestimation by people and wrong promotion, in other words, painting the wrong picture, are perhaps the biggest problems now. One common picture that is sketched in many LGD forums is LGDs between the livestock, lying against it, used as a playground by goat kids, etc. We notice that for many people this is what a LGDs should be and display, but unfortunately that is not true. 


LGDs should be livestock guardian dogs, not ‘livestock cuddling dogs’. The ability to coexist with, read, understand and protect numerous livestock- and human species are only a part of being a LGD. The hundreds of different LGDs I have seen, master all of this, but most of them are not livestock ‘huggers’. Fortunately, because LGDs must be occupied with their security duties at all times, while the livestock and people involved do what they need to do. Good LGDs do not restrict, walk or stand in the way of the other species, but perform their task continuously, often unnoted. They are instinctively concerned with maintaining safety and overview. For this they choose tactical positions, save as much energy as possible where possible and allow themselves to be distracted as little as possible. 


The LGDs that we see in so many photos and videos; lying snugly and close to a sheep or that LGD that is used by goat kids as playground equipment melts the hearts of many people. However, LGDs who are busy with their work usually show a different picture. During the frequent study of working LGDs, I see the best qualities in the dogs that withdraw from cozy between and close with the livestock situations. These LGDs live day in, day out with and between their livestock, know the body language and behavior of their livestock and respect and protect their livestock. And precisely that protection is what it's all about: detecting threats early to minimize risk and prevent actual conflicts. Good LGDs do that and it looks very different from the so much promoted ‘livestock cuddling dogs’.