The 5 Best Livestock Guard Dogs for Sheep, Goats, and Other Herds - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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The 5 Best Livestock Guard Dogs for Sheep, Goats, and Other Herds

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Great Pyrenees are one of the best livestock guard dogs.

Great Pyrenees are one of the best livestock guard dogs.

Anyone not in the business of raising sheep and goats cannot understand how hard it is to lose a new lamb or kid. Even small farms with only a few livestock will benefit from keeping a livestock guard dog who can prevent the occasional loss.

These five breeds are the most popular livestock guard dogs, and each of them has several great characteristics. See if one (or more—if you have more than one dog, they are more effective in guarding your livestock) is right for you.

A Great Pyrenees puppy.

A Great Pyrenees puppy.

1. Great Pyrenees

This is one of the best-known livestock guard dogs. According to the AKC, their popularity has been decreasing the past few years, but they still are purchased as companion dogs, are a great dog for backyard farms, and are one of the most popular guard dog breeds.

They look fantastic, which is why so many families buy one as a companion dog. They are mostly white, with a thick double coat, a thick mane to keep the wolves off, and black eyes and a button of a nose. They also have double dew claws on their hind legs, an unusual feature.

The Great Pyrenees are originally from the Pyrenees mountain region of northern Spain, like their names suggests, and have been guarding sheep in that region for hundreds of years. They bark a lot at night when doing their job, can be difficult to train, and even their fanciers admit that they are not good with strangers.

Like most livestock dogs, this breed is said to be good with kids, however. The dogs' aggression is mainly to those he feels a threat to his flock: foxes, feral dogs, and coyotes. Despite their size (males get to be over 50 kilos and stand about 70 centimeters), they are not tough enough to handle bears or wolves.

Breeders and fanciers usually say that the Great Pyrenees is healthy, but they can develop hip dysplasia or bloat like any large breed, and some are prone to patellar luxation (a trick knee). If they don't have any problems, Great Pyrenees usually live about 10 or 11 years, a good life span for such a large dog.

An Akbash.

An Akbash.

2. Akbash

These white Turkish dogs are still mostly livestock guard dogs and are not kept much as pets. They are even larger than the Great Pyrenees (males may be over 60 kilograms and stand 85 centimeters) and usually have the same dark eyes and nose. Their legs are usually longer, and their tail is a little larger.

Since they are usually working dogs and not companion animals, obedience training is not an issue, which is probably a good thing since they are not into chasing balls like some of the “intelligent” breeds. (If you do purchase one of these dogs just as a companion, he may develop behavioral problems like excessive digging or escaping.) They will get along with most other species if introduced early, and they are usually satisfied when lying in a field watching their charges, whether sheep or goats.

Akbash fanciers appreciate that the dog has low energy and does well spending the day quietly. They report that the dog is athletic when it needs to be, but it is not hostile and is able to think independently.

Akbash are hardy, like all livestock guard dogs, and do not have a lot of health problems. They can have big dog health issues but normally live problem-free to about 10 or 11 years old.

An Anatolian Shepherd.

An Anatolian Shepherd.

3. Anatolian Shepherd

Like the names suggests, this dog was originally developed in Anatolia. They are a strong mountain dog bred in an area of Asia where dogs were expected to protect sheep from wolves, jackals, and bears. They will be able to handle foxes, coyotes, and feral dogs easily.

The Anatolian shepherd looks different than most of the other livestock guard dogs. This dog is not pure white, sometimes has a black mask, and has a thicker neck and broader head than some dogs. They are big, up to about 70 kilograms, and look even bigger because of their thick mane.

Like the Akbash, this dog is not recommended as only a companion dog. They are bred to work, will probably escape and roam if kept without a flock or herd, and unless socialized will be unlikely to accept strangers.

Even if they are kept as a pet, they will probably not want to fetch. They can be obedience trained, but it may be difficult to work with them at times.

Health problems are few, but they have been reported to have hip dysplasia, like most big dogs, eyelid problems (entropion, where the eyelid rolls in and the lashes rub against the eyeball), and a few other unusual problems. They live about 10 or 11 years.

A Komondor.

A Komondor.

4. Komondor

The Komondor has a thick corded coat that looks different than most dogs, so even people that are not familiar with livestock guard dogs have seen these dogs in shows or photos. Few are aware of their personality, however.

The thick coat is supposed to protect the dog from wolves when he is guarding his sheep. The Komondor is white, like most livestock guard dogs, taller than most (about 80 centimeters at the withers) and heavy (50–60 kilograms), but not as heavy as some giant breeds.

Komondors are said to have the same temperament as most of the livestock guard dogs, but the individuals I have known have been more volatile. This may have been due to lack of socialization and training. They are said to be good with family and children, but like all the livestock guard dogs, they will be happier with a job to do.

Confining these dogs to a life in the city or a suburb is not acceptable.

Komondors are susceptible to the health problems of big breeds, hip dysplasia and bloat. External parasites (like fleas and ticks) are also more of a concern when the dog has that thick corded coat.

A Kuvasz.

A Kuvasz.

5. Kuvasz

This white or light-colored livestock guard dog is also originally from Hungary, like the Komondor. The dog breed may even have been around before coming to that country, though, and some fanciers think it is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence.

The Kuvasz looks similar to the other livestock guard dogs. The eyes are black, they weigh about 50–75 kilograms, but they are not as heavily built as some of the livestock guard dog breeds. The main difference is personality.

If this dog is to be kept as a companion animal, they should have early socialization and good obedience training. They might be more playful than other livestock guard dogs but are also serious about their work and quite independent. The Kuvasz is known to be good with kids, good around other animals, and protective of their family and owner. They are not known for performing tricks or obeying commands off leash.

Kuvasz are usually healthy, but hip dysplasia can be a problem in any big dog. If fed correctly (to avoid excessive calories and rapid growth), the dogs can live about 12 years.

If you are interested in this breed of dog, there is another author, Suhail, that keeps one and is knowledgeable on the Kuvasz and other livestock guard dogs. You can search for his great article about his experience with the breed.

A Fila brasileiro at work.

A Fila brasileiro at work.

I am a big fan of the Fila Brasileiro since they are good guard dogs and also a great livestock guard dog for cattle. They are not popular, however, and since some of the popular websites on the internet claim they are “Brazilian Fighting Dogs”, they probably never will be. The UK has already foolishly put them on their Dangerous Dogs List, and they are also banned in some other countries.

What About Small Dogs, Like Corgis?

The other part of this list that is a little different than other lists is its lack of any small dogs. If you look at the list for Low Maintenance Dog Breeds, you will see the Welsh Corgi. Corgis have been suggested as a livestock guard dog but are not one of the most popular because they are small and unable to handle the larger predators.

Corgis are, however, one of the few livestock guard dogs great with geese. When my geese were small, my Pit Bull cross guarded them effectively. Now that they are larger, a fox or average-sized dog would not mess with them. A large dog could still attack them, however, and a Corgi would do little to stop that.

They might be classed more as livestock herding dogs, since they have more of a tendency to move their charges around the yard.

Which One Is Best?

But which one of the five most popular livestock guard dogs is best? It really depends on what you need the dog for. If your predator problem is mainly with small animals like foxes, a Great Pyrenees is most likely to be available and will do a great job. If you live in northern Minnesota or other areas in which wolves are a problem, an Anatolian Shepherd would be a better choice.

If you have livestock, they should be protected. Most of these dogs need to get out and work and will not be happy as companion animals, but they will do the job and keep your herd safe.

Does she look like she needs a Corgi to protect her?

Does she look like she needs a Corgi to protect her?

Comments

Jim on October 10, 2018:

Do you remember back in school - the cute little blonde girl who could throw a fit, kick, scream and be horrible and everyone thought it was cute. Meanwhile, the big strong kid, who would grow to be 6'6'' and 250, would be sent to the principals office for the slightest infraction. Why? Because the big kid could have leveled any guy in the class with one punch so he had to be well behaved. The little girl throwing a fit was just that.

As for dog breeds, a little dog can go nuts, bark like crazy, and bite pant legs and ankles and people tolerate it. A big dog with strong jaws that growls at strangers can easily be labeled dangerous. A big strong dog with strong dogs in the hands of bad, abusive, irresponsible owners can be a disaster.

Point is, don't blame the breed - blame the owner for not properly managing the dog.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 09, 2018:

The only one I have worked withis the Kangal. the Sarabi looks impressive and I would like to know more about the breed.

Sarabi.dog on January 09, 2018:

Sorry what you think doctor you know better than me which one is better kangal or sarabi or ghahdeirjani?realy i dont know the answer.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 09, 2018:

Thanks for that comment. The Sarabi sounds like a great dog but I have not had any experience with them. Like the Caucasian Ovcharka, it might be the best in some situations.

Sarabi.dog on January 09, 2018:

Hi please put something about sarabi dog or ghahderjan dog they are from iran and they are really good for this work and one of the best in the world ofcourse my country dont pay attention to them but you shoud serch abou them they are amazing and better than these dogs.

Thans doctor please answer to me

cacarr on June 11, 2017:

The Anatolian description is a bit off, I think.

First, they are known for being especially long-lived for such a large dog. More like 12-14 years, rather than 10-11.

And while I generally agree with discouraging people from casually getting one as a home companion or guardian -- shh, don't tell anyone -- they can make excellent home companions *if* they are constantly socialized with your neighbors and their dogs for the first few years of their life.

But yes, this task is not for those inexperienced with large, dominant dogs. Also, they have a very independent sort of intelligence, more like a wolf than a golden retriever. I don't think you conveyed just how smart they are.

In the city or suburb, they are maybe best for retired people or people who work from home. Left alone in the back yard day in and day out, they will get bored and either tear a hole through your fence or dig a hole underneath it. They need to sleep near their people at night. Raised up properly, which takes considerable effort, they can be content with guarding your house (or your children, or cats, or other dogs) rather than goats, and if it comes down to it, they will convince a human intruder to go elsewhere -- their warning bark is terrifying and they are very athletic for their size, with man-stopping power. And they tend to be quite gentle with kids (but as pups, they will knock small kids down without meaning to, and they are pups until almost 3).

Sunnyacres on October 28, 2016:

I've had my Akbash for 10 yrs and he is amazing. Only barks when there is a predator around, day or night. He is very nocturnal, patrolling my property all night. He solved my problems with coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, even chasing one mountain lion away one day trying to get one of my chickens. He is so gentle, he allows the chickens to go into his igloo and sleep with him, protects all his flock which is llamas, sheep, chickens, my herding dogs. Akbash has an amazing, magical coat, he can be mud & poo all over him and it magically cleans off by itself within an hour. Love these LGD's but hard to find them. I'm looking for a replacement at present since he is so old now.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 18, 2013:

When I lived in North Africa I had a Moroccan livestock guard dog but have never worked with the Italian breed. They sound interesting.

Adrienne Farricelli on February 18, 2013:

In Italy we see a lot of Maremma sheepdogs. These livestock guardian dogs are raised from puppy hood with sheep and their coat and color is effective in making them camouflage with them. Voted up and interesting!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 18, 2013:

They certainly are impressive looking dogs! I can just see pulling over just to take a look.

Bob Bamberg on February 18, 2013:

I had a customer who breeds Great Pyrenees and almost always brought one or two of them to the store with him. They always created quite a stir and were good with people. He would leave them in the truck, but would allow people to pet them.

Cars parked in our front lot were less than 20 feet from passing traffic on a busy street, so the dogs were quite visible. Very often cars would pull into our parking lot just to see the dogs. I love their black eye liner! Voted up, useful and interesting.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 17, 2013:

Thanks for the vote! I really enjoyed that video too--I think I need one of the ducks picking on my Pit Bull to show people that they can be wrong about these dogs, just like with the Filas.

Mary Craig from New York on February 17, 2013:

Very informative hub. We sometimes see these big dogs but no so little about them. Temperament is so important when choosing a family dog!

The pit bull is going through the same problem as the Fila here in the states. Bad training and bad owners have given it a bad name.

The Great Pyrenees with the Alpine goats reminds me of a big dog with a baby crawling all over him. Shows an even temper with his charge.

Voted up useful, and interesting.

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 17, 2013:

You've got an impressive memory!

I hadn't thought of the fact that other countries would take our lead and look to get rid of dogs already in residence. That is unfair.

If you film your geese I might even watch that - I've got a soft spot for domestic geese.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 17, 2013:

The problem with considering the Fila a "dangerous dog" in the UK is that others look to that country and follow its lead, and sometimes use more draconian measures,such as taking dogs away and killing them. I agree that it is unfortunate when idiots get a hold of Filas, Tosas, and other breeds and misuse the dogs, but we cannot blame the dogs for that.

Thanks for stopping by! I remember your answer (months ago) when you said you usually didn't look at the videos, so I am glad you took the time to look at this GP and goat video. All I need now is an excuse to make a video of my geese!!!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 17, 2013:

That was very interesting and I have to say that the Pyrenean with the goat kids is an absolute saint!

I think the UK was sensible to but the Fila Brasileiro on the banned list - purely to protect the dog from idiots who given its (unfair) rep would certainly have misused it.