I hobnob with our livestock guardian dogs every day, for a significant part of the day. I refer to them as my “buds.” They seem like “big mushes” to me. It’s easy to forget that livestock guardian dogs protect people as well as the animals.
Beside the undignified poses, there are other reasons I might forget that they would protect me. For one thing, I almost only see their tender side. Though I see them chase some animals away from the premises, most of the time they’re just happily mixing with our animals. Their entire body language expresses contentment. When we interact I mainly see that they simply adore me.
Because of our relationship, I usually see only their tender side.
As I interact with them I almost only see love. They love it when I pet them, and they love it when I feed them. They love to be with me! I don’t often see the stern side of their nature because rarely does that need arise while I’m active and outdoors. Still, LGDs have a stern and fearsome side to them. I can easily forget that livestock guardian dogs protect people as well as livestock.
One can easily forget that livestock guardian dogs protect people because the need is rare. However…
Every once in a while there is such a need. Our daughter Emily worked nights for a couple of years. She got off work at 2:00 AM and generally pulled into the driveway by 2:30 AM. There were a couple of months that our town’s authorities had to deal with thieves who used tailgating as a way to force cars off the road. If they pulled over, they would rob the occupants. We were all concerned. One night as Emily headed home, someone pulled up on her bumper and began harassing her. She was determined not to pull over, and instead drove, white knuckled, to our home.
When Emily pulled into our driveway, the other car also pulled in…
Emily was terrified. She jumped out of her car and ran to our back door, finding it locked. She wasn’t sure she could unlock it before here pursuers caught up with her. They opened their car doors and got out. As they turned toward Emily…
They learned that livestock guardian dogs protect people!
Bravo and Guerrero were out in the pasture, but they heard the unfamiliar car pull into the driveway and came running. Just as the pursuers focused on Emily approximately 220 pounds of dog flesh came roaring over the fence and into the driveway. The pursuers dove back into their car and burned rubber on their way out! Through familiarity we to forget just how large these dogs are, but a stranger’s first impression is that they are huge, and their roar is terrifying.
Interestingly, from that day until Emily switched to working days, the dogs would take up posts in the driveway from 2:00 AM until she pulled in. They would greet her and escort her to the house. She found a lot of comfort knowing that livestock guardian dogs would protect her. This behavior reflects how LGDs developed over thousands of years. They were part of the shepherds’ families, caring for both livestock and people.
Recent teaching in North America has neglected this aspect of the LGD.
Some of the earliest American promoters of livestock guardian dogs emphasized that they work autonomously, caring for their charges. They did not explore the more traditional method of raising sheep, in which shepherds were actually with the sheep (and dogs). Hence they did not see this aspect of the livestock guardian dog’s nature. Some of those early researches concluded that these dogs only work well apart from human relationship. But that is not true. They actually thrive on human relationship, doing their job even better when partnering with a beloved human. When in such relationship, livestock guardian dogs also protect their humans.