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Livestock Guardian Dogs:  Hard workers or Family Pets

Livestock Guardian Dogs:  Hard workers or Family PetsLivestock Guardian Dogs: Hard workers or Family Pets

From ancient times, shepherds needed help guarding their flocks from wolves, bears, big cats and other roaming dogs. 

Enter, the livestock guardian dog, a fluffy overgrown puppy with curly tails and thick coats that grow to medium length or longer. 

Don’t let appearances sway you, though, these dogs are strong, powerful and independent thinkers.

What's in a Name

Livestock Guardian Dogs GraphicLivestock Guardian Dogs

Are they called Livestock Guardian Dogs or Livestock Protection Dogs? 

Organizations and people normally prefer one name over the other, but both names refer to the same group of dogs that help farmers and ranchers protect their livestock and their farms from predators and even humans.

You will also see different names used in their official breed name.

They have gone by different names from sheepdog and shepherd to mastiff and Ovcharka (the Russian word for “shepherd dog.”)

If you are looking to make one of these dogs a companion, it is possible, but it also takes hard work.  Traditionally, they were never meant to be a family pet. 

They won’t do well in an apartment and city living is likely to put undue stress on them.  They are at their best in rural areas, on farms and ranches where they have plenty of room to roam, exercise and patrol.

Good fences are a must when owning livestock guardian dogs and a sign that is visible stating, “Livestock Guard Dog at Work.”  Is extremely helpful.

Characteristics of Livestock Guardian Dogs

  • Independent
  • Aloof with Strangers
  • Dominant
  • Low prey drive
  • Highly protective
  • Barkers:  They bark and patrol and can be a nuisance
  • Prefer to roam or wander
  • Slow to mature (many do not reach adulthood until age 2 or older)
  • Most share certain health problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia, osteosarcoma and other cancers, bloat, and eye problems
  • Many have white coats

What Livestock Guardian Dogs Are Not


There is sometimes a misconception about the role these dogs perform. 

To see the human shepherd moving his flocks and the livestock guardian dogs walking along side or at the rear, one could make the assumption that they are also herding the flocks. 

While a LGD may put himself between a predator and his flock, he is actually guarding them, not herding them. 

Livestock actually trust LGDs more so than they would put trust in herding dogs because they know that the LDG is protecting them and herding breeds work by nipping, biting, and even jumping on the livestock.

What does it take to own one of these dogs?

  • Experience with working and training strong minded dogs.  These dogs are not good for first time dog owners.
  • Socialization to people and other pets
  • Preferably a rural setting

LGD as a Farm Dog?

If he is to be a farm dog,there are a couple of additional recommendations. 

Find a secure place in a barn or shelter near his future charges – he should be fine outdoors;  Provide toys and chews.  Take him with you while doing chores. 

Supervise him around the livestock.  Get him used to people and car rides (he will need to be taken to the vet periodically).  Keep him in a securely fenced area.

LDG as Companion?

If he is to be a Companion:  Treat him as you would any other dog.  You can crate train him and leave him for short periods of time, but if they are left for long periods, they can become destructive. 

You will need a securely fenced yard for him to run and exercise.  Remember they will need exercise, training, and socialization.  Puppy classes are good options for these dogs. 

As a slow to mature dog, he will need lots of supervision and training over a long period of time.

Who are the Livestock Guardian Dogs?

Akbash Dog

Country of Origin:  Turkey

Color:  White, cream or biscuit

Size:  Males:  90-130 pounds, Females 75-100 pounds

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Anatolian Shepherd Dog (also called Anatolian, ASD, Coban Kopegi, Toli)

Country of Origin:  Turkey

Color:  All colors, some with black masks

Size:  Males:  110-145 pounds,  Females:  85-120 pounds

Anatolian Shepherd Dog (also called Anatolian, ASD, Coban Kopegi, Toli)Anatolian Shepherd Dog (also called Anatolian, ASD, Coban Kopegi, Toli)

Armenian Gampr

Country of Origin:  Armenia

Color:  Any color or pattern

Size:  Males:  Up to 120 pounds,  Females:  Up to 110 pounds

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Armenian GamprArmenian Gampr

Caucasian Ovcharka (also called Caucasian Mountain Dog or Caucasian Shepherd Dog)

Country of Origin:  Russia

Color:  Any color except black, blue or liver brown

Size:  Both Females and Males:  100-150 pounds

Caucasian Ovcharka (also called Caucasian Mountain Dog or Caucasian Shepherd Dog)Caucasian Ovcharka (also called Caucasian Mountain Dog or Caucasian Shepherd Dog)

Central Asian Shepherd (also called Central Asian Ovcharka, Sredneasiatskaia Ovcharka, Middle Asian Ovcharka)

Country of Origin:  Central Asia

Color:  Any color except blue or brown

Size:  Males:  110-145 pounds,  Females 88 to 125 pounds

Central Asian Shepherd (also called Central Asian Ovcharka, Sredneasiatskaia Ovcharka, Middle Asian Ovcharka)Central Asian Shepherd (also called Central Asian Ovcharka, Sredneasiatskaia Ovcharka, Middle Asian Ovcharka)

Estrela Mountain Dog (also called Cão da Serra da Estrela, Estrela, EMD)

Country of Origin:  Portugal

Color:  Fawn, yellow, wolf gray, white markings or black shading

Size:  Males:  80-115 pounds, Females: 80-95 pounds

Estrela Mountain Dog (also called Cão da Serra da Estrela, Estrela, EMD)Estrela Mountain Dog (also called Cão da Serra da Estrela, Estrela, EMD)

Great Pyrenes (also called Pyr, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, PMD, Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees)

Country of Origin:  France

Color:  White, with or without markings of badger, gray, tan

Size:  Males:  100-140 pounds,  Females:  85-110 pounds

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Kangal Dog (also called Kangal Kopegi, Sivas Kangal)

Country of Origin:  Turkey

Color:  Shades of Gray with black muzzle, mask and ears

Size:  Males:  110-145 pounds  Females:  90-120 pounds

Kangal Dog (also called Kangal Kopegi, Sivas Kangal)Kangal Dog (also called Kangal Kopegi, Sivas Kangal)

Karakachan Dog (also called Bulgarian Shepherd Dog)

Country of Origin:  Bulgaria

Color:  Whole colors including white, brindle and stable with or without white markings, bicolored, tricolored

Size:  Males:  99-135 pounds  Females:  88-125 pounds

Karakachan Dog (also called Bulgarian Shepherd Dog)Karakachan Dog (also called Bulgarian Shepherd Dog)

Komondor (Kom, mop dog)

Country of Origin:  Hungry

Color:  white (dreadlocks)

Size:  Males:  100-130 pounds,  Females:  89-110 pounds

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Kuvasz

Country of Origin:  Hungary

Color:  White

Size:  Males:  100-115 pounds,  Females:  70-90 pounds

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Maremma Sheepdog (also called Abruzzese Sheepdog, Pastore Maremmano, Pastore Abruzzese)

Country of Origin:  Italy

Color:  White with or withoud shading in ivory, pale orange or lemon

Size:  Males:  77-99 pounds  Females:  66-88 pounds

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Polish Tatra Sheepdog (also called Owczarek Podhalanski, Polish Mountain Sheepdog, Tatra)

Country of Origin:  Poland

Color:  White

Size:  80-130 pounds for both Males and Females

Polish Tatra Sheepdog (also called Owczarek Podhalanski, Polish Mountain Sheepdog, Tatra)Polish Tatra Sheepdog (also called Owczarek Podhalanski, Polish Mountain Sheepdog, Tatra)

Pyrenean Mastiff (also called Mastín de los Pirineos)

Country of Origin:  Spain

Color:  White with dark patches and a mask covering eyes and ears

Size:  Males and Females:  120-150 pounds

Pyrenean Mastiff (also called Mastín de los Pirineos)Pyrenean Mastiff (also called Mastín de los Pirineos)

Šarplaninac (also called Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Macedonian-Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog,  Sharplaninatz)

Country of Origin:  Macedonia and former Yugoslavia

Color:  Solid white, blond, beige, tan, dark brown or gray with sable or agouti patterns

Size:  Males:  77-99 pounds,  Females:  66-88 pounds

Šarplaninac (also called Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Macedonian-Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog,  Sharplaninatz)Šarplaninac (also called Illyrian Shepherd Dog, Macedonian-Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog, Sharplaninatz)

Slovensky Cuvac (also called Slovakian Chuvach, Slovak Curvac, Slovensky Tchouvatch)

Country of Origin:  Slovakia

Color:  White

Size:  Males:  80-97 pounds,  Females:  68-82 pounds

Slovensky Cuvac (also called Slovakian Chuvach, Slovak Curvac, Slovensky Tchouvatch)Slovensky Cuvac (also called Slovakian Chuvach, Slovak Curvac, Slovensky Tchouvatch)

Spanish Mastiff (also called Mastín Español)

Country of Origin:  Spain

Color:  All accepted

Size:  Up to 220 pounds

Spanish Mastiff (also called Mastín Español)Spanish Mastiff (also called Mastín Español)

Tibetan Mastiff

Country of Origin:  Tibet

Color: Black, blue-gray, brown with or with out tan markings, light to red gold with or without sabling

Size:  Males:  90-150 pounds,  Females:  70-120 pounds


Tornjak (Bosnian and Herzegovinian-Croatian Shepherd Dog)

Country of Origin:  Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina

Color:  White with or without patches of other colors

Size:  Both Males and Females:  77-120 pounds

Tornjak (Bosnian and Herzegovinian-Croatian Shepherd Dog)Tornjak (Bosnian and Herzegovinian-Croatian Shepherd Dog)




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