When dreaming about the future of our little farm, something I often do, I wanted to improve the longevity of our livestock. We've lost a few chickens here and there and have since decided to keep them protected in an enclosed run. Next Spring, we have hopeful plans for baby goats to be running a muck in our pasture, a new flock of turkeys to raise and if I can convince Dylan, maybe a few more baby chicks... so we knew we needed a strong security system. We decided to add a livestock guardian dog to our farm after we heard news of a cougar sighting about a mile down the road. Although we live in a relatively predator-free area, I wanted the assurance of knowing that our livestock would be safe even through the night.
Livestock guardian dogs are different from others breeds for several reasons: They spend their days and nights watching, roaming and patrolling. They deliberately mark their territory and give bark warnings to potential intruders. They are large, strong and powerful (and sometimes they don’t know just how powerful!). They are typically gentle and peaceful unless provoked by intruders, to which they would fight to the death the protect their herd. Livestock guardian dogs are not like typical farm dogs, such as herding or cattle dogs. They can learn basic commands like “sit” and “off, but they will override human commands should they feel that they need to protect or defend their livestock. Herding dogs are trained to move livestock whereas the goal for a livestock guardian dogs is to keep them safe from harm.
If you’re curious about the best breeds for Livestock guardian dogs, check out what the Modern Farmer has to say HERE! There are clear differences between breeds and it’s so important to make sure that you get the right breed for your family and your farm.
We got Goliath from the same family who gave us our ducks. Goliath is half St. Bernard, half Great Pyrenees, 2 ½ years old and weighs between 150-175 lbs. His previous family had a farm on land similar in size to ours. They were relocating and decided to let go of the farm life. Goliath protected their farm of goats, alpacas and various poultry so he was already used to guarding the kind of animals we have.
Some of you have asked if he will move inside for the winter and as much as it might sound cruel, he will not. Goliath is a working dog, meaning that he is wherever our livestock is. We’ve built a strong shelter that is plenty big enough for him and the livestock to hunker down in the wintertime. It blocks the wind from the north, and we will add extra straw for insulation when the temperature drops. Thanks to his long, thick double coat, he thrives in colder environments.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your homework when looking for a livestock guardian dog to bring to your farm. We asked all the questions from temperament to feeding schedule to his preferred basic commands. When we met Goliath and it was love at first sight, for everyone! He warmed right up to Dylan (he’s very much a “man is master” kind of dog) and was happy to accept me as his Mama as well (the regular feeding and tasty treats probably help with that factor). We’ve had Goliath for about a month now and he has adjusted quite well to our farm, not bothered by the goats nor interested in the turkeys. He knows his job and he’s quite good at it. We live in a rural area, out of city limits, however he’s gotten used to the common faces that walk our street daily (i.e our neighbors). An important thing to remember is that a livestock guardian dog is not a family pet. We have our other two dogs who interact with humans, but Goliath is a working dog, meaning he doesn't leave the pasture to go on doggy play dates or interact with visitors. I've done the research and learned that it can be hard for working dogs to change their mindset so keeping a clear boundary of roles can be very helpful! Dylan and I go in the pasture with the animals and Goliath knows we are his people, but other than that, it's important to let him have his space to do his job.
He knows his job, and I must say, I truly believe that he loves his job. And we love him. And that is all.
-The Happy Egg