There is nothing more comforting than knowing that your sweet, gentle alpacas are protected from predators while you are sleeping or away from the farm. Since the beginning of our venture into the world of our fuzzy friends, we knew that we needed Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) to protect our herd. We met one, early on, and fell in love with him. His name was Mac, and he was a Maremma-Abruzzese Sheepdog belonging to our neighbors. We were stunned, watching how this huge, white dog, who loved to play with us, would suddenly be gone from our game and “taking care of business.” When a guardian dog perceives any possibility of danger to his or her herd, it is “game over, human, I’m busy!” The next thing you know, the dog is at a fenceline, barking at the perceived intruder, after having gathered his charges and herded them into a “safe zone” of the dog’s choosing. It is amazing to watch!
We have been blessed with Great Pyrenees LGDs. Anton was our first of these magnificent dogs, joined by Nicki. They worked as a team, played together, and kept our alpacas and llamas safe, at all times. When we lost them both to bone cancer, our hearts were broken forever, because the Great Pyrenees is a unique breed, in that they are capable of bonding with both their humans AND their herd, rather than just the herd. We were crazy in love with these two white angels, and always will be. Now, our herd and our hearts are cared for by Duke and Chloe, whose personalities match those of Anton and Nicki. They are gorgeous, sweet, and lethal to any predator who thinks it might be a good idea to disturb our herd. They are up all night, working, and rest during the day. We adore them.
There are several breeds that qualify as Livestock Guardian Dogs, which are very different from “guard dogs.” A guardian must bond with the animals it is protecting and live among them, to be effective. They must be gentle and loving to their charges, as their job is to keep them safe from all harm, not just intrusion from predators. They take their jobs very seriously. There are several breeds that exist for this “job,” among them the Great Pyrenees, Maremma, Anatolian Shepherd, Kuvasz, Komondor, Akbash and more. For excellent information about these dogs, we highly recommend our favorite book on the subject, “LIVESTOCK PROTECTION DOGS, Selection, Care and Training,” by David E. Sims and Orysia Dawydiak (ISBN 0-940269-05-8).