Do You Know How to Behave Around an LGD at Work?

You’re a dog lover who knows how to handle him or herself around dogs, but do you know how to behave around a Livestock Guardian breed that is with its herd or flock?  It’s not the same behavior.
As recreational areas continue to expand closer to ranches, encounters between hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, and cross country skiers are increasing. In Colorado, for example, Akbash Dogs have been acquired to guard sheep herds around Silverton and other high-mountain towns, particularly along popular Continental Divide trails. Contracts with ranchers who have grazing permits specify that their herds need to be at least a quarter-mile from the Colorado and Continental Divide trails, and if their animals are closer, the U.S. Forest Service can take away the  permits, but this doesn’t help if a hiker goes off trail.  Nor does it help when hikers who’ve met snarling dogs throw rocks or raise their walking sticks and wave them at the dogs thinking it will deter them. The dogs merely see the behavior as aggression and do what it take to protect their flock. They attack.
Hikers have described such dogs as aggressive. We don’t agree. We think that backcountry recreationists need to be better informed on how to conduct themselves when encountering LGD, even when both dog and recreationist is surprised to see each other:
  • First, for heaven’s sake, keep calm, don’t disturb or frighten the livestock. In short, don’t be an idiot;
  • Bikers, get off your bike and push it, or if it’s light enough, carry it between you and the dog. Hikers, slow down and walk away calmly; Just do it;
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog, but don’t turn your back on it. Retreat slowly;
  • Things get trickier if you have your dog with you since pets can unwittingly provoke increased defensive behavior by LDGs. Put your dog on a leash and keep it under control. Don’t try to walk through a protected herd with your dog. Go around. When in doubt, go back to the path;
  • If you love the Great Outdoors, the chances are good that you are environmentally conscious. Instead of being “put out,” that an encounter with one of these dogs has altered your day, revel in the fact that the rancher thought to use an LGD. It’s the “green” approach to predator control, and if you’re serious about your commitment to the environment, be glad to see the dog.

The following video was shot in the Alps, but its suggestions apply anywhere:

Image of one of Colorado’s Akbash Dogs keeping watch over its herd near Silverton. The photo come from a Denver Post article by  

11 thoughts on “Do You Know How to Behave Around an LGD at Work?”

  1. Love the video. As a long time breeder and user of Great Pyrenees dogs as LGD it is wonderful to have their behavior explained in such a clear manner.
    I have selected one of our dogs working as a guardian working in California with his heard of mini horses. His name is Sampson and he does take good care of his little charges.

    • I know Sampson. He lives in Carmel Valley, doesn’t he Mary? I think I put his owners in touch with you when they met my pyr years ago and asked me if they might protect miniature horses.

  2. people need to understand more about the LGD in there working habits. It is good to see someone explaneing this and making it clear to those who are not aware of what the dogs is doing. I am a Pryness owner and have been for 17 years now and even in a public setting be need to be aware of these dogs. Gental Giants yes but guard dogs also. thanks for the insite in your artical .

    • Delighted to hear from you, Ed! We’ve been getting enough comments like yours to suggest that maybe it’s time to step up the number of posts we post on the subject!

  3. Great article! Thanks for posting. This is a subject that needs more exposure.

    • Thanks, Nancy, and we agree,it’s important for people to learn how to behave around these serious working dogs!

  4. Excellent article! I think it’s important people understand how they play into the interactions with and LGD. As a pyr owner who happens to also be a service dog it always amazes me how the public simply does not grasp the proper way to approach ANY dog let alone a LGD. Definitely the more information out there for the public the better for all concerned!

    • Thanks for the kind words, LisaBeth! We agree, too many people have never been taught how to approach a dog, let alone an LGD!

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