Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LGD Breed Notes



Having a large flock affords the opportunity to raise different guardian dogs and through the years of highs and lows become a bit wiser for all the experiences. 

Different breeds of guardian dogs certainly have distinct working styles but explaining them is a bit like explaining why Kelpies and Border Collies are different because so much about the two working breeds is also very similar.

One leg up that the guardian dogs have is that they are still largely bred for a working purpose only (there are no guardian dog competitions to encourage otherwise); and crossbred dogs are the norm with guardians rather than the scandal, which I think has done some harm to the dogs working ability but overall has done much further good.


The difference between the work styles of guardian dog breeds has something to do with the level of prey drive and certainly there are some breeds who lean toward having more of that. After that it comes down to the individual dog.

So if we put individuals aside for the moment and talk breeds in general than yes, the Anatolian Shepherds I know have a higher level of prey drive than my white dogs. And more recently I think the trend has been to breed for this - maybe to the detriment of the breed.

Anatolians are a lot of dog and they are very alert watchers. They pick strategic places to look out from and they watch for movement. They tend to be quieter workers, not usually first to sound the alarm but if warranted put up a sound that would make anything think twice. They move off silently too, much like a predatory hunter.


At rest they are always near the flock or right amongst the ewes but they do not show much coddling behaviour toward individuals. They take their position, lie down and the sheep graze around them. Period. I find the Akbash to be a bit like this as well.  With its sighthound tendencies the Akbash are very alert to movement on the horizon and the Akbash have a strong willingness to pursue trouble for a long time.


On the other hand the Great Pyrenees and Maremma’s tend to have less prey drive. They also tend to be the more vocal alarm sounders. They’re equally alert but I think alarm more to sound and scent first, and sight later (I have no definitive proof of this but these are my hunches from watching the few dogs I have). 

These guys also tend to be more cozy with the sheep and will have conversations with them and move through the flock ‘talking’ to individual/favorite ewes. The lower level of prey drive factors into this bonding behaviour. The lower level of prey drive also equates to dogs that stay with the flock rather than patrol endless miles of territory.

Dogs with higher prey drive are likely to wander away from the flock and when they pursue a predator they stay on it - going beyond perimeters to do so.


No matter what the breed though, when these dogs rest, and they do have to rest, they can’t go 24/7, they all sleep very soundly (relatively speaking - we are talking about dogs here). I always thought they would be such light sleepers.


9 comments:

  1. More interesting stuff. Thanks.

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    1. You're welcome. Always enjoy writing about the dogs.

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  2. I really enjoyed this Arlette. From what you said, I think my Kuvasz had the lesser prey drive. She would lay near the heifers, often on her back and sleep. But if they got out of the fence, she moved quickly to herd them back inside until we fixed the break. She would lie there by the new opening, calmly, and the heifers did not try to escape again. She was very quiet, and finally took down a big Lab mix who kept walking the fence line. She would raise her head and look at him, then stand up, but he kept coming back, so one day I guess she had enough. She came after him, and caught him by the neck and tossed him to the ground. She held him there a few minutes, then let him up. After that, she came back and laid by the heifers again and went back to sleep. He never came back. She was always a gentle dog and calmly handled trouble. I miss her so much.

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    1. I would agree; sounds like she was a great dog.

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  3. Wow....extremely helpful. We've pretty much settled on GP for our local and now, thanks to you, I know it is the best choice. Really appreciate your time filling us in on great observations and some history of the breeds.

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    1. Glad it helped, I enjoy sharing notes about the dogs.

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  4. I too thought the dogs would be light sleepers, but many times visitors will walk right past Poppy, sound asleep with her belly up and legs in the air, without her noticing. She always leaps up with big barks when they leave though, the sound of the gate having alerted her to exiting people :-)

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  5. Nice read - thank you. I found that interesting regarding the Anatolian Shepherds staying on their prey and traveling well beyond their perimeter even more so than say the GP. I find the GP to still wander, a great deal, put not necessarily in pursuit of their prey, lol. Sounds like the Anatolian have more of a mission in mind.

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