Thursday, July 20, 2017

Raising Trustworthy Goat Guardians: Starting Right with Young Livestock Guardian Dogs

Raising Trustworthy Goat Guardians:
Starting Right with Young Livestock Guardian Dogs

Brenda M. Negri
© 2017
Published in Dairy Goat Journal
July/August 2017 Vol. 95 No. 4

Livestock Guardian Dog (“LGD”) breeds have been bred for centuries in “The Old Country” to guard flocks of sheep, goats and cattle from predators.  It is an instinct they are born with, and quality bred LGDs will naturally show a deep affection and gentle way with livestock.

But even with this inherent nurturing instinct, as youngsters they need guidance, correction, support and praise from their human owner. Raising a Livestock Guardian Dog up to be a stable, trustworthy guardian of your goats can been successfully done with an owner who is committed to doing their best to understand and respect these incredible dogs.

Starting Off Right

Begin by choosing a quality LGD pup or pups that are legitimate LGD breeds or a combination of LGD breeds.  Always buy from a reputable breeder raising healthy working dogs, with good references, and who offers health guarantees and breeder support.  Pups should have been handled by the breeder and socialized.  They should have several puppy vaccinations and de-wormings and a veterinarian check up before leaving their mother at the age of at least 8 weeks or older.

Here is a partial list of recognized LGD breeds:

LGD Breeds
Great Pyrenees
Anatolian Shepherd
Spanish Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiff
Pyrenean Mastiff
Turkish Kangal
Polish Tatra Sheepdog

The Owner as Parent and Partner

LGDs need to form a bond with their owners – not just their owner’s goats.  The owner becomes the new parent for an LGD pup once it leaves it’s mother and littermates.  Noted European dog behaviorist and trainer Turid Rugaas says in her book, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals:

“Remember that wolves bringing up wolf cubs get perfect wolves out of them, and dogs bringing up puppies get perfect dogs out of them.  When we humans bring up puppies, we get problems.  It is about time we looked at leadership as a myth we do not need.  We need to be parents, good parents, the way dogs are good parents.”

By being a good parent to their LGD the owner also forms a partnership with their LGD.  Good parenting and a good partnership with an LGD is built on the following:

Patience do not expect too much, too soon and give the pup time to mature
Compassiondo not use harsh or cruel training methods or gadgets
Respect respect shown to your dog will be returned
Trustallow the pup to show you what he is capable of doing
Consistencydogs, like people, appreciate a routine and a level of predictability

In the Old Country where LGDs originated they worked side by side with their shepherds and flocks.  In America, many hobby farmers work a job in town and are often gone during the day.  Their time in their livestock is often minimal.  This often is the root of many problems because the LGD is alone, and he knows it.  He sees that the owner is not participating as much as he should.  As much time as possible should be spent with your LGD pup in the stock.  This sets the tone and the pup realizes you are not only his parent, but his partner as well.  This gives the pup added confidence and a sense of purpose and mission, and that can mean the difference between a mediocre LGD and a great one.


LGD pups mature slowly, some breeds more so than others.  It can take a pup over up to two years to fully outgrow his adolescent puppy stage where he has ups and downs with his progress as a guardian.  Too many owners do not give the pup the time he needs to develop and mature, and often give up when the pup is still in a stage of physical and psychological growth.  Understand that this is a process that takes months, not days.  Do not expect a three or five month old puppy to be doing an adult’s job.  Don’t put it out alone in high predator load country, because a young puppy is incapable of protecting himself at that tender age.  Likewise, when the pup is young expect that there will be good days and bad days.  What matters most is that you are consistently giving the pup praise when deserved and correction when needed. 

Example of Patience: 

John has successfully gotten his two sibling Maremma pups through the stages of over-playing with his Nubian goat kids by using proactive measures.  First, he bought a sibling pair of pups.  Instead of taking out their energy and normal puppy curiosity and playfulness on his goat kids, his pups have each other to tussle and play with.  Second, he does not pen them up in a tiny lot permanently, but takes them out of his goat pen several times a day for perimeter walks and time with his family because he understands they need the physical and mental stimulation in order to progress and grow.  Third, he allows them time to play, romp, explore and be puppies.  Finally, John spends time seated on a bench inside the kidding area each day, while the pups chew on soup bones.  His presence tells them he is invested in this process.  The soup bones positively reinforce his pup’s good behavior.  His pups feel appreciated and know they are not alone and their focus is where it should be.


By understanding a dog’s body language and using calming signals and body language of your own facilitates better communication with your dog.  By this you can avoid having to use cruel or harsh methods to correct or train your LGD.  Never resort to shock or electric collars or cumbersome gadget type “yokes” around a dog’s neck.  These only hurt and confuse the dog and the undesired behavior will only happen again later. 

Positive feedback is a must with LGD pups.  When the pup is quietly lying with goats, praise him.  Give him a soup bone to chew on in the goats to give positive reinforcement for what he is doing.  Grooming and brushing is a way to calm and show your LGD affection, and lets him know he is needed, loved and safe.  This in turn develops his confidence, and a confident LGD is always a better guardian than a shy, confused and mistreated LGD.  When you pet your LGD pup, do not pat him hard on the head.  Patting a dog on his head can send conflicting signals and many dogs consider it an act of aggression instead of kindness.  Instead use slow, soft massaging strokes on the side of the dog’s face and ears and neck.  Speak calmly in low tones and avoid making sudden or exaggerated gestures. 

Example of Compassion:  Sue’s Akbash adolescent pup has been scaling her fence and escaping her 30’ x 30’ goat pen.  The pup has water, shade and yet still wants to escape.  Sue does not resort to using a cruel and ridiculous contraption placed around the dog’s neck that would hinder it.  Instead she realizes the dog is expressing frustration because she is not being given enough room to stretch out her legs, and is bored.  Sue also discovers the goats have been eating the pup’s food.  Instead of punishing the pup for escaping, Sue enlarges the area by opening a gate, giving the goats and the pup access to three acres.  She also constructs a feeding station for her pup’s food bowl that enables the pup to access her kibble, safely and sheltered, yet keeps the goats out.  The pup immediately stops escaping and is content to remain with the goats.


Too many Americans use LGDs merely as tools to get a job done and treat them as if they were a disposable hammer or saw.  Dogs are thinking, feeling creatures, capable of many emotions, capable of grace, of forgiveness, of pity and so many more emotions.  Dogs know when they are loved, and they know when they are bing ignored, disrespected and taken for granted.  To understand the depth of intelligence animals have, and their emotions, Carl Safina’s book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel is a book I recommend reading.

Example of Respect:  Over the hot Labor Day weekend Dan has family and friends over to his registered Alpine goat farm for barbecue.  Dan’s three Great Pyrenees have been up all night in the back acreage fending off a coyote pack that’s been pressing on the fence line.  The dogs are tired and resting under a tree.  Dan’s visitors want to see the dogs.  He instructs them to each bring a lawn chair and sit down inside the pasture under the tree where the dogs rest a few yards away.  Because Dan respects the fact that his dogs are tired, and need to sleep in the heat of the day, he instructs guests to not approach the dogs but instead let them come to the guests.  Because the people are seated, the LGDs see this as a calming signal.  They see Dan is calm and relaxed which says to them that the visitors pose no threat.  The Great Pyrenees get up, casually sniff everyone, let themselves be stroked – because Dan wisely bought socialized, handled pups who were not afraid of people – and then go back to rest.  A win – win situation: the guests got to meet the dogs and the dogs were shown respect and not stressed or overly disturbed.


One of the most common errors LGD owners make is not trusting their LGD.  They attempt to control or micromanage every move of the dog, not trusting them to think and act on their own.  LGDs are highly intelligent and independent.  Often, their reaction to a situation is appropriate and the human does not understand it until after the dog’s action.  Learn to trust your LGD’s instincts.  A dog can hear and see far better than his owner.  Allow the dog to show you what they can do on their own before you hastily intervene or try to stop them.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what they can show you.

Example of Trust:  Sitting in my office yesterday I heard my yearling Spanish Mastiff Yessi begin to bark aggressively.  She came out of the trees and headed towards my fenced acre front yard where my ewes were grazing.  I went outside to see what the commotion was about.  Yessi had heard my ewe’s bells ringing on their collars and knew they were on the move.  Sure enough, when I stepped outside the ewes were about to go through the open gate and out of the yard.  Yessi had stopped them and turned them back into the front yard where they belonged.  She knew they were not supposed to leave the area and took care of the problem on her own. So Yessi knew that I was pleased with her reaction, I praised her profusely and stood there for a few minutes as she checked the ewes and licked them to show affection.  By trusting her, I allowed her to do the right thing on her own.


Just like humans, dogs enjoy and appreciate predictability in their lives and a routine.  Examples of consistency in a dog’s life can be as simple as feeding the dog at or around the same time each day, taking a pup out to the goats at the same times each day, light grooming every day, etc.  The pup will grow to expect these at the prescribed time.  When they happen, this gives the pup confidence and a feeling of security, similar to the consistency he enjoyed at his mother’s side when he knew he could count on her being there for his needed sustenance, grooming and love.  A good owner steps in as a pup’s parent and fills those requirements in many ways.

Example of Consistency:

Elayne runs a large herd of goats that graze many acres.  When her new Spanish Mastiff pup Hercules arrives from Spain, she begins working on consistency.  She allows him time in her house to bond with her and the family, then begins a daily routine that includes feeding and goat checks and perimeter walks.  Hercules bonds to her quickly and soon follows her around.  Elayne has become his new mentor and parent figure.  Because she consistently performs the same chores each day, Hercules knows he can count on certain things happening at certain times and this gives him confidence in the security of his new home.  He matures into an infallible guardian who can barely stand to leave his goats.


With desire to better understand and work with young LGDs, an owner can have an incredible, satisfying relationship with a magnificent dog that is worth its weight in gold who matures into a great guardian of their goat herd.

Recommended Reading

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publications
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina, Henry Holt
The Truth About Wolves and Dogs by Toni Shelbourne, Hubble & Hattie

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Calming Solutions For Your LGD - Livestock Guardian Dog During Fourth of July Fireworks

Symptoms displayed by dogs with canine noise aversion

Canine Noise Aversion: Calming Solutions For Your
Livestock Guardian Dog 
During Fourth of July Fireworks

Brenda M. Negri
© 2017 All Rights Reserved

Independence Day is just around the corner.  Many Livestock Guardian Dog owners fret and dread it's approach.  Why?  Fireworks!  Does your LGD fear loud noises such as firecrackers, gun shots, thunder, construction racket, etc.?  Some of mine do and it is always traumatic.  They exhibit many of the symptoms in the illustration above.  Does your LGD do any of these, too?

"The fear and anxiety associated with noise is commonly called noise sensitivity, anxiety or phobia, depending upon the types and severity of clinical signs. Noise aversion is a term used to encompass the spectrum of degrees of fear and anxiety associated with noise." -- Zoetis US

What is canine noise aversion?  This excellent page will get you up to speed on that subject!

My wonderful and trusted vet Dr. Katie Estill at Desert Trails Vet Services in Winnemucca, Nevada prescribes using SILEO to help calm dogs who are exposed to stressful noise events.

SILEO helps to alleviate signs of noise aversion by:

  • Calming without sedating, so that the dog remains fully functional to interact normally with the family

  • Reducing the dog’s suffering and distress and, subsequently, the pet owner’s stress, helping to preserve the human-animal bond

More information about Sileo is here.  What else can the LGD owner do besides using Sileo?

💟Remove your working guardian dog from livestock and if possible, bring your LGD into the barn, house or an enclosed area during the Fourth of July fireworks.  Many LGDs run away never to return because owners leave them out in stock, assuming the dog will "tough it out" or "be okay".  In the morning, they are shocked to find their LGD has disappeared - usually for good.  Escaped LGDs are often hit by traffic and killed on a road while trying to escape from fireworks noise.

💟If possible stay with them.  Stroke them softly and speak in a calming, soft tone.
💟Offer a juicy meat bone or their favorite chew toy if they have one.  Make sure water is available.  Do they have a favorite blanket?  Let them lay on it.

💟If you can't stay with the dog at least check on him throughout the noisy part of the evening to make sure he is not trying to escape or dig out.  Your presence will help calm him.

💟Once the noise is over, make sure your LGD is settled and calm before putting him back in with livestock.  It's advisable to wait until morning.

💟Some people use or advocate "thunder shirts" which are fabric "coats" that can be fastened around the dog's torso to aid in calming him. carries many calming remedies in addition to the shirts.  Revival Animal sells other items as well that can assist in calming dogs, including one specifically to be used the day before ("July 3rd").  

Help make your LGD's Independence Day a "Yankee Doodle Dandy" - instead of a nightmare - by looking into calming remedies to help him if he has noise aversion!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Successful LGD Ownership & Use: Livestock Guardian Dog Training Basics

Patience, Compassion, Respect, Trust and Consistency
are the Foundations of a Successful Relationship between the Shepherd and his LGDs

©2017 Brenda M. Negri

Patience do not expect too much, too soon and give the pup time to mature

Compassiondo not use harsh or cruel training methods or gadgets 

Respect respect shown to your dog will be returned

Trustallow the pup to show you what he is capable of doing

Consistencydogs, like people, appreciate a routine and a level of predictability

In an article I wrote for Dairy Goat Journal I go into detail and give examples of the above-referenced five "rules" I have set for successfully understanding, training, living with and using Livestock Guardian Dogs.

I am routinely bashed and badmouthed by many jealous people in the Livestock Guardian Dog community on the Internet.  Do you want to know why?  I can tell you.  These are people who resent the fact that someone without a Ph.D has come along and managed to succeed if not excel (if not surpass them) in successfully training, understanding and using these dogs, without all the "socially accepted bells and whistles".  How dare I, a "nobody" former buckaroo in Nevada, be articulate and intelligent when speaking about these dogs, and succeed without belonging to their little "politically correct LGD cabals"?  The funny part is over several years I've even caught some of these people plagiarizing my work.  You don't say?! No surprises there, really. To add insult to injury I am someone who has furthermore, trained many other people in how they too, can succeed with their LGDs.  Why, the nerve of me!

The training and way I promote runs so counter to what others promote in America (and in some instances, other countries as well), that it stands out like a sore thumb.  I'm accustomed to the bad mouthing, the jealousy and the "haters", and shrug it off.  I really don't care what they say or think about me - all I care about are the dogs, and helping people understand them better and use them with respect and compassion.

Let's Look at Compassion

The regular use of cruel contraptions and gizmos such as hurtful shock collars, "E" collars, "yokes", chaining a dog to a huge, heavy tire, lack of socialization, and more, has increased in America no thanks to bad advice being shelled out by people who are more or less, incompetent as dog trainers and afraid of their dogs - and fit my description of a lazy shepherd.

Fear of the loss of control and the unknown, drives people to use cruel and stupid "quick fix" solutions instead of patient, compassionate training over a longer period of time.  It seems asking for compassion for LGDs is too much for some people, which boggles my mind.  What is wrong with them?

When I see self-touting American LGD "experts" prescribing to running feral LGDs, not speaking out against someone who allows his female dog to whelp out in the wilderness, promoting high risk and bad rearing practices, or stuffing two tiny underaged LGD pups into one airline crate to suffer on a long flight out of the country into the USA, and more, it makes me very sad, and very angry.  Thankfully I am not alone. Many people are afraid to speak out against this kind of foolery but often privately contact me via E mail to tell me I'm not the only one fed up with this kind of cruel and unfeeling rearing of these great dogs. Others "dare" to say it publicly:

I think there are more people on your side than you would think, they just do not find it the right moment to speak I guess. I know clearly I can be beaten for what I write here, but what the heck, I'm to old to care. --Facebook post on my Cinco Deseos Ranch page

And...ha - this just in via E-mail:  

Hi, I just read your latest blog post and the five "rules".  I confess.  I'm one of your silent supporters.  I don't dare utter your name and praise you in the same sentence on the two LGD groups I lurk in on FacebookI'd be crucified.  But I live for your blog posts.  Once again, you hit the nail on the head!  
--LGD loving goat owner fan,  "JKS"
The bottom line?  What does it take to treat a dog kindly, folks?  And when did it become socially acceptable to mistreat these great working dogs so much in America?  What does it say about the people practicing these cruel methods?  Not much that is kind.

Let's Look at Trust

Many people are afraid of their LGDs.  How a person can tell this is by the amount of control they exert, or want to exert, over the dog's every move and thought.  Why is this?  It is simple.  It is because they are afraid to trust their dogs.  

A relationship with an LGD without trust is an exercise in futility and a recipe for eventual disaster.  These dogs are smart.  They can sense fear in a human, and they can sense when they are not trusted.  When I see a misguided "LGD trainer" micromanaging every move her LGD makes going through a gate in a video, I know, here is another control freak, a person who is afraid to trust her dog.

What is so hard to let a dog show you what they are capable of on their own?  I only need to raise my palm out to my pack of dogs at my front gate and make my "Mr. Miyagi grunt" to them, and they stop, and go no further.  They know what that means because they have been taught it from puppyhood.   Likewise, I don't panic if my 200 pound male Spanish Mastiff pushes ahead of me through a gate before I go through.  He is passing from the known into the unknown and wants to be first to ensure there is no threat in front of me, or him. What is so difficult about understanding that?  Or looking at it that way?  Apparently for many, it's next to impossible!

Let's Look at Patience

Rome was not built in a day but you'd never know it with many LGD owners who expect miracles from tiny puppies, then toss hands in air when they don't get them.  People need to slow down with LGDs.  Sadly in our culture we get everything instantly and expect the same from the dogs.  It does not work that way. If you cannot be patient, consider building a wall to keep predators out or using other means instead of an LGD, and don't ruin a dog's life.

Let's Look at Consistency

Life is full of surprises but we all appreciate some predictability in our lives.  Dogs are the same.   My LGDs thrive on a routine and although it varies some, there is a consistency to it that promotes a calm knowing in my pack that "all is well".  It can be as simple as a feeding schedule or a routine grooming, foot and nail check.  Tossing a wrench into a dog's life everyday only fosters confusion and distrust.  Exercising consistency in training methods, feeding, scheduling pasture changes or relocations, etc., can foster trust and promote a happier pack of LGDs.  Before you scoff, try it.

Let's Look at Respect

Is it respectful to toss a dog out in stock and walk off with no time spent helping the dog to adjust to his new livestock and surroundings?  Of course it is not.  Is it respectful smacking a dog across it's face to reprimand it?  Definitely not.  Does an owner show respect to his LGD by causing it to go hungry by underfeeding it or not setting up a shelter or feeding station so the dog can have protected access to food instead of having goats or sheep gobble it all up?  No he does not.


It does not take much effort to exercise or show any of these five "rules" of mine to having a great, meaningful and successful relationship with your LGD.  Give it a try for a change, and enjoy the results.  Your secret is safe with me.  I won't tell anyone you dared to use "Brenda Negri's way" instead of the other people's ways!    ;) 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LGD YOKES: Say NO to the Use of Cruel Contraptions on Livestock Guardian Dogs

Enough is Enough: Where's the outrage, people?
It's time to publicly shame lazy shepherds, academics and researchers who are using and advocating the use of these and other cruel devices on Livestock Guardian Dogs.

© Brenda M. Negri 2017

 Mother Earth News blogger Jan Dohner regularly uses photos by this woman and promotes her.  But you won't find her posting this photo on her blog because she would rather you didn't see it.  It kind of blows a huge hole in her credibility - and that of the woman who took the photo and uses 
these on her dogs in Canada.

I can't be alone in my cryptic observation: with the increased popularity of LGDs and their use has come a huge increase in lazy shepherds looking for the easy way out, and the use of yokes, such as the sickening contraption pictured above and below, is on the rise.  Have you noticed it, too? People who expect Livestock Guardian Dogs to be a quick fix-all for their predator problems, with minimal or next to no input or work on their end.  They don't "have the time" to try to understand these dogs, they just want a quick plug in solution to any problem or issue that arises using them.

Pandemic, it crosses all national boundaries. USA, Canada, Europe, and more.  Is it a product of the times we live in?  Do we blame it on the new generation of hobby farmers and trust funded baby pseudo ranchers with silver spoons sticking out of their mouths?  Since when did it become popular to torture and abuse a dog?  Since when did all these morally bereft, lazy people enter the agriculture, farming and ranching community?  

And just as disturbing: since when did the rest of us, i.e., the general public lose it's "cajones" to call these kind of people out on the carpet and publicly shame them for what they are doing?

Where is the outrage on Facebook LGD groups and Internet forums? There is none, because many of these yoke-promoting  people are part of the online, often Facebook-fueled, unprofessional, corny "Stepford Wives LGD Mafia" that lives online.  They are mostly made up of women, endlessly pontificating about how much they think they know, and stroking and promoting their fellow female members in amateurish mini-films and You Tubes filled with ill mannered screaming toddlers, obnoxious music, incredibly bad training advice, inarticulate presentations and photo bombing chickens.  A group of know it alls who are legends in their own minds and perpetually running online interference for each other against any criticisms or attacks.  I'm proud to say I never belonged to their goofy and amateurish "cabal." I even catch some of their "Mafia" members trolling on my website.  Guess who this one is?: 

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Do I want to run with people like these predator bashing and hating, LGD abuse promoting women?  

No thank you!

I prefer to reach out to and teach the serious, sincere, compassionate LGD user, the thinking farmer and rancher, who is not basing their efforts on public accolades and a popularity rating, who want to really understand these dogs and develop a relationship with them - not just use them like a hammer or a saw.  

The people advocating the use of "yokes" do not seem to realize that an LGD cannot defend itself, let alone it's flock or herd, against a pack of coyotes, feral dogs, wolves, a bear or a mountain lion, wearing one of these constraining, ridiculous contraptions.  But maybe they simply do not care?

The advocacy of yokes amongst the lazy has become so bad that even the recent Texas A&M LGD research and study advocated the use of yokes in the manual they produced (which is about what I would expect from this poor caliber of a study that was an exercise in how not to use LGDs - not the hyped success they want you to believe it was): 

Why do people do this?  Because they want a quick fix.  Why do you see people on forums complaining about an aggressive dog they have muzzled, shock collared and crated for years into a psychotic hot mess?  Because they are ignorant.  Because they are lazy.  Because they are detached from their dogs.  Because they have no intention of trying to understand their dogs, and only want a gadget that will save them from any effort or work.

LGDs are not a quick fix to anything.  And yokes, and this kind of result from putting a dog in those yokes, is unacceptable.  Period.

Liebenberg yoke on one of her dogs.

Aftermath of a Liebenberg dog getting trapped in a fence.

Shame on you, Louise Liebenberg!
"About Liebenberg, I can say one thing, she was last year in Europe doing some "lgd seminars", a friend of mine was going to one of those seminars and one moment she stated that she selected her puppies by chosing the most food aggressive ones and rejecting the others because those food aggressive ones behave later as the best flock me a very simple and silly way of doing aside of that wooden stick martyr collar and other stupidities." - European LGD owner

All above: NOT the solution, NOT the right way to train and use LGDs.

The compassionate, thinking shepherd's alternative: Good, strong fences.  Hands-on, regular check ups on stock and attentive shepherding by owners who participate, not procrastinate.  Daily - not every two weeks! - checks on sheep, goats, cattle and working LGDs.  Training that is patient, long term, consistent and recognition that there are no fast remedies to anything.  Proactive and vigorous use of other predator deterrents, such as fladry, range riders, noise makers, hot wire fencing, etc., in addition to LGDs.  Proactive measures and compassionate approaches that spare LGDs misery, and promote non-lethal predator control and deterrents.  These are the hallmarks of a responsible, good rancher, farmer, shepherd, and LGD owner/operator.  Please endeavor to be one.