Monday, October 19, 2015

Mastin Espanol: The Close Guarding King of Livestock Guardian Dogs

I have an LGD consulting service where I help people out with issues concerning their LGDs.  Its been fun and quite successful in that I've helped people resolve problems or better yet, stopped them from making mistakes.

Here are some redacted (to honor confidentiality) samples and stories of what I've fielded lately.  I wish in some of these cases I could say I was making them up…sadly, I didn't have to.  These are all too real:

"Thanks for helping get the word out that my LGDs were missing in Grass Valley (Nevada).  I finally found my Anatolian LGDs.  Trucker picked them up. They were 20 miles south, on the highway…"

"Reaching out to you for help, we switched over to Caucasians (sic) Shepherds (CAS) because our Great Pyrenees did not seem to be assertive enough in running off predators. I heard CAS were more aggressive.  Now, ____ and ____ are TOO aggressive….snapping at neighbors, pacing our fences day and night, and they seem to always be dissatisfied with something.  We are afraid of a lawsuit…."

"My neighbor has three Anatolians.  One of them is incredibly unstable and a dishonest dog.  It grabbed the senior Anatolian by the neck in a death grip the other day and tried to kill it."

"I'm hoping you can help me.  My farm in _____ raises _____ sheep.  Having a huge issue with my guardian dogs not staying on the farm. They are Akbash…. They don't seem to be able to or want to, stay put.  They also attack the sheep and chew on lambs after supposedly being raised on sheep."

"I love my Kangal, only problem is he easily clears our 6 ft. fence.  He is gone.  Again."

"Having issues with my Sarplaninac.  We heard the breed needed a lot of socialization.  So we did that.  But he is dangerously standoffish with strangers and we cannot turn our backs on him if someone is here to visit…. This is not acceptable behavior. We socialized this dog a lot as a pup. Help!"

"_______'s herder had to shoot eight Akbash.  They left our sheep band went into the cattle feedlot, and started killing calves…"


Notice the reoccurring theme here: the breed/breeds do not stay where they are supposed to, and/or exhibit excessive bloodlust and/or aggression.


As the ever-behind the curve USDA Wildlife Services continues to hype their latest excuse for buying round trip tickets to Eastern Europe and Turkey for some of their pet LGD breeders and "experts", under the guise of experimenting with exotic "new LGD breeds" in America, one thing consistently becomes clear: no one at the higher echelons of mostly self-appointed "LGD experts" out there, especially in our government, seems to know what the hell they are doing.

And you, the American sheepman, cattle rancher, homesteader and farmer, are the sap who pays for it.

Training of American farmer and rancher LGD owners is never spoken of in this country.  But then there's no free tickets to exotic locales involved with that mundane chore.  Too much work and effort.  So you are left on your own to cobble together information out of half-truth and Internet blather plastered all over Facebook groups by people with dubious backgrounds and no experience.

Instead of helping LGD owners with education, instead, exotic, usually Eastern Bloc or Turkish LGD breeds have been, and currently are, being pushed on the American farmer as being the "cure all" for his predator ills by the USDA.

Kangals.  Cao de Gado Transmontanos.  Akbash.  Komodors.  Sarplaninacs.  Bulgarian Karakachans.  Anatolians.  And the bogus fighting breed, "Boz Shepherds".

Promoters of these mostly Eastern Bloc and Turkish breeds are usually also front and center bashing a much more popular and over-all highly dependable, stable and gentle breed - the most popular LGD breed in America, the trusted Great Pyrenees.  Another breed they will often bash for being "too soft" is the Maremma.  Both the Maremma and the Pyrenees are frequently criticized by these people as being "not aggressive enough" or "insufficient" by those hyping Sarplaninacs, Caucasian Ovcharkas, Kangals and other "exotic"and more high strung, hyper and/or aggressive LGD breeds.


Ironically, in all my consulting, I only rarely get a query about an issue concerning Maremmas or Great Pyrenees, and I don't get any complaints from people about Spanish Mastiffs.

Spanish Mastiffs don't jump over six foot fences.

The well bred ones (like mine) are extremely stable, self-confident and trustworthy.

Spanish Mastiffs don't make a habit of killing other LGDs.

Spanish Mastiffs don't disappear and take 20 mile hikes when you turn your back.

They don't bark excessively.

They are a magnanimous breed that can exhibit mercy, a trait some LGD breeds wouldn't know about if it hit them over the head.

Spanish Mastiffs stay in and close to livestock, not five miles away chasing down imagined threats.

They exhibit, perhaps more than any other breed I've been around, unique discernment.  A regal presence.  An innate presence of self - of who they are - and they don't have to shout, snarl or kill something to prove it.

Spanish Mastiffs are incredibly stable. They lack blood thirst.  Although an adult male SM could easily kill most LGD breeds half its size, they exhibit mercy and discernment.

A customer of mine with two huge (200 pounds each) SM litter mates tells me of the occasion when a family member's Great Dane decided to take on one of her SM boys.  Although the Spanish Mastiff could have easily killed the Dane, it allowed it to pester and attack him.  It tolerated it.  Only at the end, did he finally grab the dog and flip it over and end the spat.  The owner was able to break them up.  No dog was hurt more than a few scratches.  A less merciful breed would have killed the Dane, or run up one hell of a vet bill.

Spanish Mastiffs seem to be above mere 'bloodlust'.   Above the indiscriminate actions of some other LGD breeds who will "blank out" and push things to the end in a blind frenzy.  Spanish Mastiffs don't do that.  And if they are cornered, and pressed, they will prevail usually, but they give "the other guy" the chance to back out.  Graciously.

In other words, much less risky than a less discerning breed of LGD with bloodlust.

Because the Spanish Mastiff has not been ruined (yet) by show ribbon breeders, psuedo-guardian dog breeders, or puppy mills, there exists a purity of guarding instinct within the breed.  Unlike some exotic Eastern Bloc country LGD breeds famous for being used by the military and police, the Spanish Mastiff has not been tainted by such use. Unlike some Turkish breeds that are heavily fought in dog fights in Turkey, the Spanish Mastiff has not been used for that.

The breed remains true to its original functionality.   They have not been corrupted and ruined from generations of bad breeding in Spain.

Excess aggression is not what is required to be a good livestock guardian dog. Brains, discernment, courage, heart, stability in temperament and a solid foundation and core are what matter the most.


When someone tells me that Sarplaninacs are noted sometimes for herding kids around, and when I get a consulting query about one such as referenced in the beginning of this post, that raises a big red flag.  It tells me that breed has prey drive in it.  And LGDs should not have prey drive.

Strike one.

Sheep?  What sheep?  A Sarplaninac being trained for the
Yugoslavian People's Army.  Depending on who's talking about them, either a mostly
military-trained and bred breed with an extremely 'iffy' temperament, or a bear eating flock protector.  Either way, you have to wonder if this breed is what the average American farmer can handle or really needs on most smaller farms with light predator loads.  They are quite small compared to a Spanish Mastiff, so what chance does one really stand against our larger variety of wolves…?

When I have a Kangal (and I did have several) who tries to kill one of my Great Pyrenees in a spat that was basically over nothing, I know I have a problem.  Strike two.

When I hear about a Kangal actually killing two Pyrenees in Canada, I know THEY have an even bigger problem than me.

Strike three.

The elegant and complex Kangal.  Been here, done this, don't do it anymore.
If you run livestock on open range, or on 100+ acres - great breed. On a 5-40 acre patch of grass?  
Forget it.  The Kangal is a tough, smart but somewhat fragile when it comes to its emotions, fighting and guardian breed, that can blow up into a nightmare when ill-bred, ill-reared or placed in the wrong hands.  Unfortunately too many snob show breeders in America are doing just that: ruining them.
So now they - and the closely related Anatolian - are getting dumped in rescues and shelters by the droves as hobby farmers realize too late, they got in over their heads.  More and more reports of "unstable" and "neurotic" Anatolians surface.  Inexperienced, junk breeders are to blame….

When I hear countless complaints about roaming Anatolians and Akbash who are mauling lambs and escaping every time a farmer turns his back, I know that this is another example of farmers using the wrong LGD breeds, and expecting the impossible out of breeds that were developed to work on much bigger, unfenced terrains than the average American farmer or rancher can provide for them.

Game over.

Meanwhile, the true purebred working Spanish Mastiff remains one of the best close guarding LGD breeds out there.  If not THE best.  I mean, mine are.  But of course, I'm slightly prejudiced.

Next, Close Guarding LGDs vs. Far Ranging LGDs: What Is Best for YOU?