The Guardian Way – May 2020

How to Select an LGD Puppy – Part 2

This is the final part of a two-part series on selection of a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) puppy. Hopefully after reading this article producers will be able to make a more informed decision on selecting an LGD puppy. I would again like to thank all the LGD breeders in our local area, AgriLife Staff and other university staff across the nation for providing input into this valuable project for livestock producers.

Look for a pup with a calm temperament that is interested in you but not overly aggressive, fearful, shy, or clingy. The pup that runs up to you first or insists on being “in your face” is not the best choice for a livestock guardian dog. Full time LGDs used on large ranch operations should be more independent-minded problem solvers who are not dependent on human companionship. Pups that walk off by themselves after meeting you are often good choices. Look for calm, thoughtful pups and those that do not accept new things or loud noises. Pups should be alert and exhibit guardian behaviors such as barking at new things or noises. Avoid pups that chase balls, growl, bite, or struggle when you handle them. Correct human socialization before 14 weeks of age will help pups form a positive relationship with humans.

Male or female? LGD research has shown that both sexes guard equally well, especially if they are spayed/neutered. If you plan on keeping more than one LGD, neutering/spaying will make it easier for you to place dogs together to work. In addition, intact bitches may be distracted from their duties when in heat or raising a litter. Intact males are usually slower to mature, distracted by female dogs in heat, and more likely to be aggressive to other dogs when they are grown.

The age of the puppy you purchase is very important. Pups need to stay with their mother and siblings until at least 8 weeks of age. By weaning (7-9 weeks of age) pups learn to play and interact with parents and siblings which develops proper bite inhibition. If your pup is receiving good livestock experience with the breeder and you are a first-time owner, consider extending this time through an arrangement with your breeder. In general, the bonding process should be started by 8 weeks of age or the dog will not properly bond to your livestock and may have issues later staying with your livestock.

Roaming is one of the biggest problem’s owners of LGD face with their dogs. A well trained LGD respects fences. It’s important that LGDs stay with their stock in the pasture that the owner places them in. Roaming is one of the leading causes of LGDs being replaced. Almost half of the LGDs purchased are lost within 6 years. The main cause of LGDs being lost is roaming. Make sure to ask your breeder if the puppies have ever gotten out of their pen. Do their adult dogs leave their charges on a regular basis and, if so, how far do they usually travel? Look for signs such as yokes or drag lines on the adult dogs. These are a good indicator that the adult dogs are roaming. A dog properly bonded to the type of livestock they are guarding will help decrease roaming behavior in most LGDs.

There are several important questions to ask your breeder before purchasing a puppy from them.

i. Do you offer a guarantee? If so, what does it cover?
ii. Do you offer guidance to new owners?
iii. Do you have both parents and/or siblings to see?
iv. Which pups do you feel would be the best fit in my operation?
v. Why do you feel these puppies would be good with livestock?
vi. What makes the working parents good livestock guardian dogs? LGDs mature slowly and may not be reliable until they are an adult. A young female may still be developing her guarding skills and buying pups from an unproven female may lead to problems guarding stock.
vii. What type of livestock are the puppies raised with and from what age?
viii. Have the puppies been able to escape their pen?
ix. Is the pup purebred? If not, is it crossed with any non LGD breeds? Do not buy a pup crossed with a non-LGD breed!
x. Why did you cross those breeds of LGDs?
xi. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your dogs?
xii. Have you seen any health defects in your older dogs?
xiii. Can you provide a reference to someone else that has recently purchased their dogs?

I hope the topics discussed in this and last months’ issues of the Guardian Way on how to select an LGD puppy will give you a better understanding of what to look for in your next livestock guardian dog candidate for your operation. As always, feel free to contact us at the AgriLife Center in San Angelo with any questions regarding your LGDs or check us out on Facebook and YouTube.

LGD Puppy Bonding Project
The Legends of Country Music pups are all doing well and have been moved out of their 60×60 ft pens into the 1-acre fields. Johnny is still

Johnny tethered.

the heaviest, but Waylon is catching up every day. Willie is still the slim and trim pup of the bunch. They have developed an extremely strong bond to their Dorper ewes, and I am anxious to see how they do once they are released from the bonding pens. The pups are almost five months old now. They are being leash trained, tethered and getting truck rides each week. I spend approximately five minutes socializing each pup at least three times a week. This process includes gently rolling them over, handling each of their feet, checking their mouth with my finger, rubbing their bodies and sometimes brushing their coats if they have burrs in it. Socialization at this point in their lives is important to create a social bond to humans so that they can be easily caught when they are placed at our research ranch.

The Superheroes and the Stooges are all doing well still in Ozona. The Superheroes are still easily caught in the field and very friendly. The cooperating producer is pleased with the all the Stooges and has decided to purchase the group to continue protecting his livestock. We plan to bond another set of six pups in late summer. If you are interested in being a part of the next phase of this research project please contact me via email at

Breed Spotlight – Kuvasz

Kuvasz Breed Standard

The Kuvasz is a very ancient breed. Its ancestors are believed to have been brought to Hungary as long ago as the 13th century and were prized by the nobility. The breed is still found in its home country. Their historical and present day uses are as hunting dogs, flock guards and guard-companions. They are often described as a one-family dog and are an excellent farm and family protection dog. They require strong socialization, control and good fencing. Kuvasz generally work away from the flock observing potential threats. They are quick to respond to any disturbances in their flocks.

The Kuvasz is a large, sturdy, well-balanced working dog that often appears lean compared to other LGD breeds. A lustrous, pure white coat is the preferred color. However, ivory is sometimes found as well. They are well muscled, but not overly developed for their frame. They move freely on strong legs and are light-footed and agile. The dog’s hindquarters are particularly well developed. Their height ranges 28 to 30 inches in males and 26 to 28 inches for females. Weight ranges are 90 to 115 pounds for males and 70 to 90 pounds in females.

The Kuvasz has a keen intelligence with courage and a strong curiosity. Like other LGDs they are sensitive to both praise and reprimand. They are a one-family dog that is devoted, gentle, patient, and ready to protect family members. They are polite to strangers that are noted as acceptable. They have the untiring ability to work and cover rough terrain.

Kuvasz are a double coated breed of livestock guardian dog. The outer guard coat is medium coarse in texture and ranges from being quite wavy to straight. The undercoat is fine, thick and wooly. Regardless of coat type, there is a definite distribution pattern over the body. A short, smooth hair coat covers the head, muzzle, ears, paws, the front of the legs up to the elbows and the hind legs below the thighs. A medium-length coat covers the body and sides of the thighs. The coat grows to be four-to-six-inches-long on the back of the thighs and on the entire tail. There is a neck mane that extends downward and covers the chest. The dogs should not develop cords in their coats like the Komondor breed.

It is normal for the Kuvasz to shed most of their long coat during hot weather. Depending on the climate, the growth of a full, luxuriant coat is seasonal. Slate gray or black pigmentation are the preferred colors of the heavily pigmented skin especially around the face so that the dog does not develop a sun burn.

Sources: ,
Dohner, Janet Vorwald. Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers, and Other Canine Working Partners. Storey Publishing, 2016.

External Parasites – Lice
This is the third part of a four-part series on external parasites. For those that actively read my blog, I have extended the section on external parasite to include one additional section in June on mange. It’s advised to treat your LGDs for external parasites year-round. This month we will be discussing lice in livestock guardian dogs.

Lice are small, flightless insects that live in the hair of dogs. There are two basic types of lice which infest dogs, biting lice or chewing lice. They feed mostly on skin debris and the secretions of their hosts. Blood-sucking lice are skin parasites of mammals only. Typically, lice are species specific and do not readily transfer from one animal species to another.

Female lice glue their eggs, called nits, to the hairs of the host near the skin. Nits are pale, translucent, and almost oval. Once the nits hatch, the lice undergo nymphal stages before reaching adulthood. The immature nymphs look very much like adult lice, only smaller. It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for most lice to go from nit to reproductively capable adult, although this period varies with the species.

Dogs can be infested with three species of lice, a bloodsucking louse, a biting louse which can serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, and a biting louse that feeds on blood. Dogs in poor health can become heavily infested with lice. The first signs that your dog may have lice include scratching, biting and rubbing of infested areas. A dog with lice often has a rough, dry hair coat. If the lice are abundant, the dog’s hair might also be matted in some areas. Sucking lice cause small wounds that can become infected. Most of the time the diagnosis of lice is made by seeing lice or eggs on the infested pet. If you can catch your LGD, parting the dog’s hair will often reveal if it has lice or not. Chewing lice are active and can be seen moving through the hair while sucking lice usually move more slowly. They are often found with their mouthparts embedded in the skin.

Dogs are usually treated with spot-on products, shampoos, collars, sprays, or dusts that kill lice. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate control product for your pet and provide directions for its use. Lice dropped or pulled from the host die in a few days, but eggs may continue to hatch over 2 to 3 weeks. Lice control treatments should be repeated 7 to 10 days after the first treatment to catch any remaining parasites that may have hatched. Careful inspection of your dog’s coat should be continued daily for at least 2 weeks after you see the last louse. In severe louse infestations, the dog may damage its skin by scratching. Bacterial infections and scratch wounds are common. If these conditions are present, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic or other medication.

Source: ,

Breeder Profile
This month’s LGD breeder and rancher that is effectively using LGDs in their operation is Randy Wood of the Rocking Chair Ranch.

Q: Describe your operation/ranch.
a. How many LGDs do you currently use?
b. Explain your LGD program.

A: The Rocking Chair Ranch is in northeastern Schleicher county. We run Hereford cattle and Spanish goats. We have 10,000 acres we run 1,200 goats on, and I am working 11 dogs currently.

Q: What got you started in breeding LGDs?

A: Fifteen years ago, eagles started to kill 300 to 400 kids a year. I started with Pyrenees because that’s all I knew about. I got three 7-month-old females. I just turned them out and hoped for the best. I kept calling the lady I got them from and would tell her what they were doing. Her advice was always the same, leave them alone. The next kidding season, the dogs really helped with the eagles. I didn’t intend to start breeding but a very big male Pyrenees showed up one day. He was a very aggressive dog. We named him Kujo and he produced a lot of puppies over the years. He’s always done a great job guarding goats. My first Akbash (Teal) came through an adoption from the Houston SPCA. That’s a long story. When Teal made it here at 7 months old, he went right to work and has never stopped. He is a neutered male and no dog I ever owned has ever worked as hard as him. He has 180 nannies and is on a very remote pasture but always brings in the most kids.

Q: How long have you bred LGDs?

A: A little over 12 years now.

Q: What breed of LGDs do you raise?

A: I am using Akbash dogs currently. I like the short coat and temperament of the dogs.

Q: Do you have an LGD mentor?

A: No, but I read as much as I can about the dogs.

Q: What’s the one thing you wish you knew before starting to breed LGDs?

A: In the beginning I wish I would have known to socialize my puppies more. I had a lot of dogs I couldn’t touch for years. Watching Bill’s work at the AgriLife Center has me working even harder on our pups. It’s so nice to go pet them and play with them and watch them go straight back to work.

Q: What is the number one thing you recommend to a new LGD user?

A: I learn from the dogs every day. And I listen and read all I can. Not everything out there will work for every operation. I don’t know one breeder that has the time to help. Dogs are very time consuming in the beginning. Like anything else you will get what you put in them. Good genetics from reputable breeders are the first thing you must find.

Q: What is your favorite LGD and why?

A: My favorite dog must be Teal for his intense work ethic. But old Mama dog, a 10-year-old Pyrenees cross, is there also. Her patience training young dogs is amazing. She raised lots of pups and never spent a night away from her goats. She is training Sammie, a sister to the Superheroes, right now.

LGD Timely Tips
Every Tuesday check out our Facebook page @TAMUlivestockguardog for Tuesday’s LGD Tip of the Week!

• Make sure to shear your long haired LGDs bellies, chest and inner legs before summer. Burrs and seed heads can be very problematic for

Spear grass seeds

long-haired LGDs, particularly spear grass or Texas Winter Grass.

• Cordless clippers work the well for shearing your dogs and are generally quieter than corded clippers.

• Use a helper to hold your LGD and a muzzle when shearing just in case they decide to snap at you. You may also want to use an OTC canine calming agent for your dog during shearing.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at or 325-657-7311.

Bill Costanzo
Research Specialist II, Livestock Guardian Dogs

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