Livestock guardian dogs (a.k.a. LGDs) are relatively new to North America. Before their arrival predator control was much more difficult. Those who raised livestock generally had to trap, poison or hunt predators which attacked their stock. Sometimes this involved great expense, as they had to invest in materials and/or pay someone to do this work. Sometimes the government even placed bounties on the heads of certain predators, meaning the tax payer footed part of the bill for predator control.
Before the advent of Livestock Guardian Dogs, almost all predator control involved killing the predator.
This solution was not the best. For one thing, some predators, such as coyote, reproduce so rapidly, that control by hunting was often analogous to trying to dig a hole in a pool of water. As fast as they were killed, new ones would take their place. In other cases, this approach contributed to the dwindling of populations of endangered species. At the very least, predator control without a LGD translated into MUCH MORE WORK for the rancher, shepherd or homesteader.
At the very least, predator control without a LGD meant a lot more work!
Before we had livestock guardian dogs I was often roused around 2 am by the screams of our poultry. Hastily I’d have to dress and run out there with a gun to deal with the predator. If I had to shoot, that woke up the entire family. One time I stood in the doorway of our chicken coup and had a coon run right between my legs in order to make its escape! Usually, no matter how quickly I made my way to the coop, I would lose at least one chicken before I could stop the pillage. This nearly stopped when we got our first livestock guardian dog. He dealt with the predators while we slept. We learned to love the sound of his “on duty barking,” which told us that our animals were safe.
LGDs are better for the predators too.
One might wonder how a huge dog with massive jaws makes life better for the predators. Here’s how:
- LGDs always elect to use the least force necessary to protect their charges. They don’t want to fight, and won’t if anything else will work. Usually it is enough for the predator to hear them and smell their presence. It decides to pick up dinner somewhere else.
- By not annihilating the latest generation of coyote (or other predator) the LGD leaves older, wiser animals in place, to teach the newer generation to stay away from ones homestead. Especially with coyote, the worst ones are often the “teenagers” who don’t know any better.
- LGDs often howl, indicating their own territory using the same communication used by wolves and coyotes. This tells the predators “stay away, this place is taken.”
- LGDs will even mark (with urine) their territory, telling the predators in “their own language” to stay away.
Essentially, the LGD slips into Nature’s order and serves as a benevolent place marker.
Without LGDs predators consider the animal husbandman’s territory to be “available.” LGDs hang an “occupied sign” on the “door.”
Night time on our homestead is alive with the sound of predators, yet, I have never seen our dogs kill a coyote. They probably have, but it is not the norm. On the other hand, they often kill raccoon and some of the smaller predators which prey on our poultry. Still, I’m positive that many more stay away on account of the sound, scent and presence of our dogs.