A Dog and His Sheep

Mando with his sheep, Livestock guardian dog with his sheep, lgd with his sheep, favorite species, preferred species LGD

In our experience many livestock guardian dogs have a favorite species to protect. They will protect almost any number of species, but they have a favorite and gravitate to it.

Most Livestock Guardian Dogs Seem to Have a Favorite Species.

Guardian, our first, definitely gravitated to cattle. He protected our sheep, goats and chickens; but he wanted to chum around with the steer. At the time, we only had one steer. The two of them were little at the same time. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it: one time I came up on Guardi and T-Bone snuggled together. T-Bone, the calf, only recently weened, was sucking on Guardi’s ear. Guardi, in turn, was licking and grooming the calf. The two often even played together. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the fact was, Guardi gravitated toward cattle for his whole life.

Guardi had a favorite species to protect: cattle.

A day or two after T-Bone went to the butcher Guardi went missing. I went looking for him.  He was not far away, sitting on a rise, watching over about 20 of of our neighbor’s cattle! Soon, we replaced T-Bone. Guardi really wanted at least one calf.

Read more about Guardi the Pyre

On the other hand, if Bravo had a favorite species it was human, especially me. When I went out into the woods to cut firewood I could usually catch glimpses of him, slipping between the trees, just in sight. He was keeping an eye on me. If there’d have been any problem, he’d have been by my side immediately! Of all our livestock guardian dogs, only Bravo has ever bothered to follow me into the woods.

Read a bit more on Bravo here

I remember the day I picked Mando up, as a puppy. I had to wade through a flock of sheep to get to him. Guess what his favorite species is. We, too, had sheep, though not as many as the farm where he was born. Then, when he was about a year old we sold our sheep. We didn’t think anything of it, least of all about Mando and his sheep. After all, he seemed quite at home with all the other animals. Yet, about a month after we sold the sheep Mando started disappearing, sometimes for a couple days at a time. Finally, one damp and drizzly morning in January, I stepped outside to do chores and found Mando cradling a newborn lamb between his front legs. In fact, he was curled up around it, apparently keeping it warm.

One morning we discovered that Mando brought home a… lamb!

 

lamb, small lamb with Mando's head in the photo, LGD and lamb, favorite species, preferred species
Here’s that lamb, some weeks later.

It took three days to figure out where that lamb came from, and, we learned that Mando had carried it a mile through the woods, on a rainy night, to bring it home. We had to bottle raise it and the owner asked us to keep it, as he didn’t want to be bothered with bottle raising a lamb. But there was a problem, Mando now knew where to find sheep. He kept going back, to the delight of the neighbor, and guarding his sheep! So…

We purchased a couple more sheep to make Mando happy.

Well, actually, we missed sheep too. Once we had a couple sheep on the place Mando showed no inclination to visit the other farm. He cares for all our animals, but he LOVES sheep. We might not have noticed if we hadn’t sold our sheep.

So, what difference does this make for LGD owners?

First of all, I’d say that it’s impossible to tell what a LGD’s favorite species might be before having it for a while. Also, even if one has a preferred species, chances are that it will care for other animals as well. We don’t know how they settle on what species they prefer. It might be environmentally affected, but then, there might be something in the genes. But if you get a livestock guardian dog, be observant. A “favorite species” might explain a quirk in the dog’s behavior and, it might be possible to work together on it.

Bucky the lamb with his kid friends, lamb and kids
Bucky was a little ram. We purchased two ewe lambs and everyone was happy!

Previous post about this lamb

In our case, we missed our sheep, and Mando helped convince us to get a few more. We just switched from wool sheep to hair sheep, which are less work. Finally, keep in mind that every LGD is an individual. We must get to know them to best work with them, and in most cases, it’s best to have more than one.

LGDs as Surrogate Top Predators

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