The Guardian Way – February 2024

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Winter has arrived in Texas! Severe freezing weather and rain hit parts of the state last month, closing businesses and schools. More wet, wintry weather is expected this month. It is essential to make sure you are prepared for the weather and have shelter ready should you need it for your LGDs. All purebred LGD breeds have a double hair coat, and the long-haired dogs can withstand extreme temperatures. However, if your dogs are wet from heavy rains and exposed to below-freezing temperatures along with strong wind, the windchill can cause rapid hypothermia.

Your livestock and LGDs should have plenty of dry bedding and shelter from the wind to prevent a disaster from occurring if this situation occurs in your area. Make sure also to have an emergency kit for your dog should an emergency occur.  We have a first-aid guide on our website that may be helpful. We keep most of it in an inexpensive tool bag. As always, check with your veterinarian beforehand to see what items are appropriate for an emergency kit.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Update and Events

Maremma LGD. AgriLife picture courtesy of Maremma Sheepdog Association of America, 2023

Our next online seminar will be on Feb. 15 at 3 p.m. The online workshop will be on the Maremma Breed and will be presented by long-time breeder Sarah Letts, owner of Sky Island Farm LLC in California. Letts is a past board president of the Maremma Sheep Dog Club of America and will discuss the distinct types of Maremma dogs and their characteristics in the online seminar. Check out the events page on our Facebook page for more information and to register for the event. You can also register for the online workshop on our website.

The Texas LGD Association (TLGDA) has added a Facebook Group Page so that producers can access help and information directly from the membership. Members can also post advertisements for pups and dogs directly instead of first submitting the information to board members. The group page is currently open to anyone interested in LGDs but will become a member-only resource in the future. The TLGDA website will soon be set up for member-only access. If you have not joined the association, now is the time to ensure you can access breeders and resources from the organization on Facebook, YouTube, and the website!

LGDs and Roaming – Part II

Devices to Control Roaming

LGD owners can use various methods to prevent their dogs from wandering off. One option is a dangle stick, which consists of a lightweight

LGD wearing a dangle stick. AgriLife picture courtesy producer, 2020.

wooden or metal pipe attached to a collar with a swivel and chain. When the dog runs, the stick bangs against its chest or legs, causing discomfort and making it difficult for the animal to move quickly. Another option is drags, which involve attaching a chain to a tire or log to slow the dog down. Portions of snowmobile tread and 55-gallon plastic chemical barrel sections also work well as drags for LGDs.

Other effective methods to control roaming include hotwire and invisible fencing. The multi-year AgriLife Bonding Project has assessed dogs bonded in hot wire pens vs. those bonded without hot wire pens. The study has shown that dogs bonded in hot wire pens as puppies roam less as adults than dogs not bonded in hot wire. We have evaluated two invisible fence systems and found that they work well to correct roaming behavior and change the dogs’ behavior for months. However, the battery life of both systems needs to be improved for large producers to use this technology.

Tethering can be a helpful corrective measure for roaming. Tethering should be done under the direct supervision of the handler to avoid injury or death. Tethering should only be used on adolescent dogs for short training periods and not to stop an adult dog from roaming. Laws in many states now regulate the tethering of dogs. Texas does provide an exemption to its tethering law for dogs used for agricultural purposes.

Kenneling dogs is another method that producers can use to correct roaming and other harmful behaviors in LGDs. Placing an LGD in a kennel with minimal human or livestock contact for three to four days may help correct unwanted behaviors. It is important to increase the kennel time by one day each time injurious behavior is noticed in the dog.

One of the most significant challenges of employing LGDs to safeguard livestock is their tendency to roam. To mitigate the issue, herders can be utilized, and roaming LGDs should not be bred and culled from the pack. Still, it is worth noting that certain types of LGDs are more prone to wander than others. Livestock producers should conduct thorough research on LGD breeds before acquiring a dog for their operation to reduce the likelihood of roaming.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

Pearl is waiting to give us a muddy, wet greeting at the gate. AgriLife picture courtesy Costanzo, 2024

Overall, the puppies from this round are all doing great. We visited all the cooperating producers at the beginning of January and spoke with them about any concerns or issues with the pups. Belle was removed from her ranch in Uvalde and returned to the Center. She was rough playing with kid goats, and measures suggested to the producer to stop the rough play were not working. Belle will be placed with a producer in Comstock that has a large herd of mutton Angoras. Hopefully, once Belle fully matures at 18-20 months of age, she will be safe to place with young animals.

Maverick and Goose are still spending time together at the Center for several more weeks. They are bonding with the AgriLife Cedar Eating (ACE) goats that will be transferred to the Stephenville AgriLife Center in February.

Round Six Dogs

Puppies for round six will arrive in early February. We were lucky to get two sets of purebred dogs for this

Dasher is one of the Anatolian Shepherd pups in round six. AgriLife picture courtesy Dr. Gracia, 2024

round. We are purchasing three purebred Karakachan female pups and three Anatolian Shepherds for this project. This will be the final round of our research criteria that we started using in 2019. We will bond dogs to cattle in 2025 for a project to help protect swift foxes in the Rita Blanca National Grasslands. After that, we will continue bonding pups with sheep and goats. We will potentially acclimate LGDs to deer in 2026.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube: @TAMUlivestockguarddog

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation, or check out the

The Guardian Way – January 2024

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Doc hugging Thelma when they were pups. AgriLife picture courtesy, Costanzo, 2021

I received some sad news one afternoon last month.  One of our LGDs, Doc Holiday, aka “Doc” from round three of the bonding project, was hit and killed by a vehicle outside of the AgriLife Center on Highway 87 N.  Those following our Facebook page may remember seeing posts about Doc and Thelma hugging as puppies, roaming long distances from the ranch in Menard, and finally receiving invisible fence training to stop the roaming.  The invisible fence training worked well for these LGDs, and their wandering almost completely stopped for over a year.

Doc and Thelma found a hole in their pasture fence last month and traveled across another pasture and through its boundary fence to a deer carcass on the side of the highway.  A dead deer’s aroma on the highway median was too tempting for them.  Doc was struck while he was eating the deer carcass and killed.

Luckily, Thelma was not injured, and she returned to her pasture immediately after the event

Doc guarding sheep in the spring of 2023. AgriLife picture courtesy, Saldana, 2023

based on her GPS tracker data.  While geofences and alerts are set up to notify us when dogs leave their pastures, the event happened too quickly to receive a timely notification that they had left.

We are in the process of switching over to the LoRa tracking system at the Center, but it was not soon enough to stop this event from occurring.  I encourage producers to use the latest GPS trackers and software to help prevent the loss of good LGDs like Doc. Doc was a favorite LGD of many of the employees at the AgriLife Center.  You will be missed, Doc! Last day on guard 12-5-23.

 AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Update and Events

Maremma LGD. AgriLife picture courtesy of Maremma Sheepdog Association of America, 2023

Our next online seminar will be on Feb. 15 at 3 pm. The online workshop will be on the Maremma Breed and will be presented by long-time breeder Sarah Letts, owner of Sky Island Farm LLC in California. Letts is a past board president of the Maremma Sheep Dog Club of America and will discuss the distinct types of Maremma dogs and their characteristics in the online seminar. Check out the events page on our Facebook page for more information and to register for the event. You can also register for the online workshop on our website.

The Texas LGD Association (TLGDA) has added a Facebook group page so that producers can access help and information directly from the membership. Members can also post advertisements for pups and dogs directly instead of first submitting the information to board members. The group page is currently open to anyone interested in LGDs but will become a member-only resource in the future. The TLGDA website will soon be set up for member-only access.  If you haven’t joined the association, now is the time to ensure you have access to breeders and resources from the organization on Facebook and the website!

The TLGDA is also adding directors at large to increase awareness of the association at livestock and agriculture events across the state. Three of the five regions have been filled, but the association is still looking for two more directors. If you are a member of the association and are interested in taking on a leadership role, please get in touch with one of the board members or myself.

LGDs and Roaming – Part I

In certain regions, roaming livestock guardian dogs can pose a significant problem for producers, resulting in the loss of LGDs. But why do these dogs roam, and is there a way to prevent it? LGDs roam for patrolling, marking territory, and keeping predators at bay. Some breeds, including the Pyrenean Mastiff and the Maremma, have been observed to roam less based on anecdotal evidence. During bonding, boundary training with hot wire and invisible fencing can effectively prevent excessive roaming. However, it’s crucial to note that each dog is unique, and the behavior of a particular breed may not be consistent across all individuals.

Why Do Livestock Guardian Dogs Roam?

Livestock guardian dogs were specifically bred to cover extensive distances, mark their territory, patrol for predators, and gather information about their surroundings. These dogs protect livestock and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Roaming is a significant part of their strategy for deterring predators, as they mark their territory and leave their scent to warn potential threats, engaging with them from a safe distance away from the livestock. However, in modern times, roaming can be incredibly hazardous for livestock guardian dogs. Many ranchers no longer require them to roam far and wide due to the potential dangers involved.

Livestock guardian dogs that do roam typically patrol the perimeter of their territory, marking it as their own and investigating anything that seems out of the ordinary. They may even chase down predators that pose a threat to their livestock. Some breeds of livestock guardian dogs can roam for miles, covering over 5,000 acres of land. This characteristic makes them very effective at protecting the animals under their care. Ranchers with large properties, high predator loads, or scattered livestock may need roaming guardian dogs to keep their animals safe. It is better to consider having a pack of dogs that includes roaming and close-guarding breeds for maximum protection.

Check back next month for the rest of this article on LGDs and roaming!

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

Maverick waiting for his invisible fence collar batteries to be changed. AgriLife picture courtesy, Saldana, 2023

The pups from round five have all been doing well on their ranches.  None of the dogs have left their pasture boundaries to date, which is normal now.  The non-hot wire bonded pups usually start roaming or patrolling outside their boundaries after being at their new ranches for about six weeks.  I’m hoping that none of this round of dogs roam. The Komondors were bonded without hot wire and were generally with their livestock when observed in the field and when GPS data was reviewed.  Hopefully, this is a breed characteristic that would be helpful to know for producers.  The Komondors were separated, with Belle and Pearl being sent to Uvalde and Mabel being sent to Comstock.  Viper is on a ranch in Ft. Davis.  Goose and Maverick are still at the AgriLife Center, waiting to go to their new home at the Stephenville AgriLife Center.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube: @TAMUlivestockguarddog

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation, or check out their website!

The Guardian Way – December 2023

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LGD eating a deer carcass. AgriLife picture courtesy of producer, 2023

Hunting season is underway, and reminding hunters that LGDs are in use on your ranches is essential. Frequent reminders to your hunters to not feed or socialize with your LGDs will help keep conflicts to a minimum. Move LGDs to other pastures that hunters may not use or kennel the dogs on weekends when possible. Your dogs could use the rest and extra food in the winter months ahead.

Reminding hunters to clean deer and leave carcasses in designated areas also helps keep the dogs away from the hunter’s trailers. Properly securing trash and keeping clean campsites will also keep the dogs from interacting with your hunters. I am currently working on a factsheet about using LGDs with hunting leases that should be ready before next fall. Keep an eye out for it on our website!

The AgriLife Center in San Angelo will be closed for the holiday break from Dec. 25 thru Jan. 1. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’s holiday!

 AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Update and Events

Our next online seminar will be on Feb. 15 at 3 pm. The online workshop will be on the Maremma Breed and will be presented by long-time

Maremma LGD. AgriLife picture courtesy of Maremma Sheepdog Association of America, 2023

breeder Sarah Letts, owner of Sky Island Farm LLC in California. Sarah is a past board president of the Maremma Sheep Dog Club of America and will discuss the distinct types of Maremma dogs and their characteristics in the online seminar. Check out the events page on our Facebook page for more information and to register for the event. You can also register for the online workshop on our website.

The Texas LGD Association (TLGDA) has added a Facebook Group Page so that producers can access help and information directly from the membership. Members will also be able to post advertisements for pups and dogs directly instead of having to submit the information to board members. The group page is currently open to anyone interested in LGDs but will become a member-only resource in the future. Now is the time to join the association to ensure you can access breeders and resources from the organization on Facebook and their website!

The TLGDA is also adding five directors at large to increase awareness of the association at livestock and agriculture events across the state. If you are a member of the association and are interested in taking on a leadership role, please contact one of the board members or myself.

Does the sex of an LGD influence guarding ability?

Producers often ask whether to choose a male or female dog to guard their livestock. Anecdotal evidence suggests that males are more aggressive towards predators, and females stay closer to the herds. In a 2017 study, Dr. Julie Young found no difference in the guarding ability of males vs females or between intact and fixed dogs. A producer survey done in 1988 of over 940 ranchers by Dr. Green and Dr. Woodruf also showed no differences in LGD guarding abilities. A study done in 2015 by Dr. Stacey-Lee Leijenaar in South Africa also showed no differences in guarding abilities between male and female dogs. The study indicated that intact male dogs tended to roam and leave stock unguarded. A study performed in 2005 by Dr. James Serpell using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ©) showed no differences in trainability between fixed and intact dogs. Only two breeds of the eleven tested showed slight statistical differences between the trainability of males and females. However, no specific LGD breeds were evaluated in the study.

These studies may not be directly comparable to your operation; neither those studies nor our own research has shown any major differences in guarding abilities between males and females. All pups in our project are fixed before they are placed on ranches to alleviate roaming and unwanted litters of puppies. Producer interviews have shown that intact males roam more, are aggressive towards other LGDs, and tend to resource guard more often. The articles cited above tend to agree with these findings as well. Fixed dogs tend to live longer and stay on the job more because they are not preoccupied with mating or caring for a litter of pups. Hopefully, this information will help producers make a more informed decision when picking a male or female pup as a future LGD for their operation.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

Smith and Wesson meet their new livestock at a ranch in Sonora. AgriLife picture courtesy of Costanzo, 2023

Six of the eight pups from round five of the project were placed with cooperating producers in late November. So far, all the pups are doing well at their new ranches and are adjusting to their new livestock. We will track each pup with Oyster 3 cellular GPS trackers until they are 18 months of age.  We will keep track of any roaming that may occur at the ranches. Make sure to follow our Facebook page for updates on the pups as they begin to mature over the next 10 months.

Round Six

We plan to start round six of the bonding project in early 2024. We didn’t receive funding to test different methods to train pups to be more attentive to aerial predator threats.  Our contingency plan is to test levels of socialization and potentially include deer in boding pen to reduce conflicts with deer hunting operations. We will look at different amounts of socialization of the dogs to attempt to determine the least amount of time required during bonding to train a puppy and still achieve a catchable adult dog in the field. We are currently looking for three Karakachan pups and three other pups for that round of the project. If you have a litter of pups we could purchase during that period, feel free to reach out.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube: @TAMUlivestockguarddog

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!

The Guardian Way – November 2023

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LGD at Farmhouse Vineyards cotton field protecting ewes. AgriLife picture courtesy of Costanzo, 2023

The cooler days of fall have finally arrived, and it appears we are headed out of the drought!  Long-range forecasts continue to show above-average rainfall this spring and slightly below-normal temperatures.  Now is the time to ensure your LGDs are in proper body condition to handle the cooler winter temperatures and the stress of spring lambing and kidding that will quickly follow in the spring.  An excellent body condition scoring sheet can be found online that we use to score our dogs.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Update and Events

We hosted the AgriLife Fall LGD Field Day on Oct. 27 at the Farmhouse Vineyards Armory in Brownfield, TX. The event included workshops, a producer panel, vendors, dog breeders, and a ranch tour of the Farmhouse Vineyard’s sheep operation. We want to thank the generous sponsors of the event in Brownfield.

 Gold Sponsors                                                                                             Silver Sponsors

Brownfield Farmers Co-Op                                                                       State Farm Insurance

Diamond Pet Foods                                                                                    Texas Farm Bureau Insurance

Invisible Fence Brand                                                                                 Tractor Supply – San Angelo

Lone Star Tracking

Nestle Purina

Predator Management Board

Terry County Tractor

Terry County Abstract & Title Company

Our fall webinar was held on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. The webinar discussed the Karakachan LGD breed and was be presented by Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM founder of the American Karakachan Dog Association. You can view the webinar on our YouTube channel

Karakachan dog guarding sheep. Picture courtesy of Kid Hollow Farm, 2023

@TAMUlivestockguarddog.

Scoring of Puppies in the Bonding Project

Recently, a few producers asked me how we scored our puppies for the bonding project.  The scoring system that we use is one that we developed in-house for our bonding project.  It uses a rubric to score the pups based on different criteria that we felt were important to the training and handling of livestock guardian dogs as adults.  We score the pups on direct handling, leash training, tether training, vehicle rides, and handling for socialization. The pups receive a score for each area. Puppies also receive a roaming score.  Each pup receives a score based on the times they may have roamed or patrolled outside their pasture boundaries.  Each group of puppies is scored at 8, 12, and 18 months of age. The socialization score, roaming score, and predation levels found on the ranches are combined to form an overall successful LGD score when the puppies graduate from the program at 18 months.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

The puppies are all doing well and have moved to different pastures in the last few weeks to accommodate other research projects in the bonding pastures.  Pearl was limping one day on her right front leg last month when the puppies were checked after a weekend.  No injury was seen on the outside of her leg.  After a vet visit, it was determined to be either an injury to the growth plate in her elbow or a genetic defect.  She has been kenneled for a few weeks and given several medications to reduce inflammation and pain.  The breeder Pearl came from performs hip and elbow dysplasia testing and has not discovered any genetic issues in her puppies.  Hopefully, Pearl will recover and be able to join her sisters in early November in the pastures at the Center.

Viper headed to his new ranch in Ft. Davis. Picture courtesy of Costanzo 2023

All the puppies except Maverick and Goose will go out to cooperating producers this month.  The puppies will go to four locations from Uvalde to Ft. Davis.  The puppies will be tracked using Oyster 3 GPS trackers until they are 18 months old.  Producers will be visited every 4-6 weeks to discuss issues and see how the puppies are doing at each location.  When the pups are 18 months of age, the cooperating producers can purchase or return the puppies to the Center.  This will be our last round of the bonding project using the original criteria we used when the project started in 2019.  We will continue to bond LGD puppies at the Center using various training methods to help ranchers improve the use of their dogs.

Maverick and Goose will head to the AgriLife Center in Stephenville after the first of the year.  They will guard a cedar-eating goat herd of yearling nannies split off from the Sonora Station herd.  The goats will be placed on a ranch donated to the Stephenville AgriLife Center for research.  Splitting the Sonora herd will allow more research than currently performed on the AgriLife Center – San Angelo research ranches.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube: @TAMUlivestockguarddog

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation, or check out their website!

The Guardian Way – October 2023

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Rain gauge from September in San Angelo. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Redden 2023)

We have finally received some long-overdue rain across the state, quenching the dry soil. We recently got over four inches in a single day at the AgriLife Center, creating a lot of mud in the pastures. Long-range forecasts show that we will have a wetter-than-normal winter this year due to El Nino. Hopefully, enough rain will fall this winter to relieve the drought and allow the grasses to repopulate our sparse rangelands.

On another note, make sure to use tick preventatives year-round.  On Sept. 17, we lost a three-year-old dog, Squiggy, to Ehrlichiosis complications.  Squiggy was a Great Pyrenees from our bonding project’s third round of dogs.  He was a friendly dog that never left his goats from the time he was a puppy.  Squiggy learned the ropes from our old matriarch of the program, Queenie, who is now retired.  Both dogs

Squiggy smiling in the pasture. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

worked well together.  We will miss your smile, Squiggy!

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

We will host the AgriLife Fall LGD Field Day on Oct. 27 at the Farmhouse Vineyards Armory in Brownfield, TX. The event will include workshops, a producer panel, vendors, dog breeders, and a ranch tour. Check out our Facebook page for more information.  Early registration is $25 for a single and $40 for a couple. Make sure to register before the price increases on Oct. 20!  Contact the Terry County AgriLife Extension office at 806-637-4060 or email Debbie.cruz@ag.tamu.edu to register for the event.

Our next webinar will be held on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. The webinar will discuss the Karakachan LGD breed and will be presented by Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, founder of the American Karakachan Dog Association. Check out the events page on our Facebook page for more information and to register for the event. You can also register for the webinar on our website.

Invisible Fence Containment Systems

Anyone who has used an LGD knows that roaming can be problematic with these dogs. As part of our bonding project, we have been studying the use of electric fences in bonding pens. Our research has shown that using hot wire in a bonding pen decreases the amount of roaming in adult dogs compared to pups bonded without hot wire in their pens as adults. We have also installed an Invisible Fence Brand GPS-based system on six pastures at the AgriLife Center ranging in size from 100 to 225 acres to further study the use of electric fence systems. Preliminary results have been positive from dogs placed in the system. When roaming adult LGDs have been placed into a pasture system with an invisible fence for three months and released back to a ranch, the dogs have decreased or stopped excessive roaming for over six months. We are also starting to test the SpotOn Fence system as well.

Both the SpotOn Fence and Invisible Fence Brand systems have pros and cons.  Hopefully, this chart below will help simplify those.

Containment System Pros Cons
SpotOn Fence ·        Phone App makes set up and changes to fences easy.

·        Multiple pastures per collar.

·        Pastures can be separate from each other.

·        GPS tracking and invisible fence in one collar.

·        Cheaper than Invisible Fence Brand to set up.

·        Great customer service.

·        Great videos on how to train your dog.

·        Online Store.

·        Very short battery life, less than one day.

·        Collar must be removed to recharge.

·        Collar is not secure.

·        Collar can be easily chewed through.

·        Annual service fee for the tracker.

Invisible Fence Brand ·        2 ½ day battery life after the dog is trained.

·        Secure collar.

·        The collar has fibers to reinforce it but could be wider and thicker.

·        Replaceable rechargeable batteries.

·        No monthly fees, one-time cost.

·        Must be set up by the company.

·        The company must make changes to pastures.

·        Only three pastures per collar, and pastures must “touch.”

·        Customer service quality depends on branch location.

·        Expensive to set up.

·        Battery gaskets can be lost easily.

·        No online store for collars. Must work with a local store.

 

Hopefully, each company will address some of the cons we mentioned above to improve the use of these containment systems for LGD use.  Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments about either of the systems we are currently testing.  If there is another invisible fence containment system on the market that you believe we should investigate, please email me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu.

Bonding Project Update

Mable and Pearl during tether testing. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

Round Five Dogs

Each round of puppies in the project is scored for socialization, roaming, and overall guarding ability at eight, twelve, and eighteen months.  We recently scored eight puppies in this round, and everyone scored well overall.  However, two of the pups bonded at another location, following our protocols, scored low on vehicle rides.  The cause was most likely the ranch foreman being injured and unable to place the dogs into a truck for a ride each week.

Producers must acclimate their dogs to riding in a vehicle during the bonding period.  LGDs are often anxious and overly nervous when transported in a vehicle or trailer to a new location.  It may help to bring livestock that the dog is guarding with them to help them remain calm during the ride to a fresh pasture or the vet’s office.

Roaming is calculated for the pups using GPS trackers.  We are still using the Oyster 3 trackers from Digital Matters.  These units can be purchased from Lone Star Tracking.  Generally, roaming and patrolling outside perimeters is low at the Center because of good fencing. Still, it will increase once the puppies are placed on cooperating producer ranches at ten months of age.  Patrolling outside pasture perimeters is frequent when pups are first placed while establishing their territories and pushing predators

Oyster 3 GPS Tracker from Digital Matters. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

out.  It usually declines over time as the puppies mature and maintain their territories.

I have received regular questions about the Komondor pups from producers on our social media accounts.  The dogs are working well and always stay close to their charges.  Their hair is starting to form plates and dreads at this point to protect them from predator attacks.  One important thing to note is the Komondors can get ear infections easily due to their wire hair.  Regular inspection and removal of hair in their ears is important.  We recently removed a large mass of hair and ear wax from Belle’s ears.  The “Old Fashioned Gals” are always more excited to see people than the “Top Gun” dogs and must be disciplined for jumping.  As they mature over time, the behavior has decreased.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please get in touch with me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube: @TAMUlivestockguarddog

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization on Facebook or YouTube at @TexasLGDAssociation, or check out their website!

The Guardian Way – September 2023

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Belle was cooling off in the water trough on a sizzling summer day in San Angelo. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

This summer’s extreme heat and lack of rain have been hard on ranches across the state. Hay prices are increasing as ranchers are starting to stockpile feed for the possibility of a dry fall and winter. The elevated temperatures have also been difficult for LGDs, especially the longer-haired breeds. Make sure to watch for excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, and dogs that are lethargic. Excessive panting, excessive drooling, and vomiting can lead to dehydration and are signs of heat exhaustion. Dogs can get heat stroke just like humans. If their temperature is over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to cool them down immediately with cool water or towels soaked in cool water. Do not use extremely icy water as it can shock their overheated body and cause other issues. It is important to provide plenty of shade, cool fresh water, and water locations for your dogs to cool off in, if possible.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

The Texas LGD Association hosted the “Using LGDs with Poultry” webinar on September 14th. Joy Combs from Providence Farm in North Carolina presented the workshop. You can watch the event on the Texas LGD Association YouTube Channel if you missed it.

We will host the AgriLife Fall LGD Field Day on October 27th at the Farmhouse Vineyards Armory in Brownfield, TX. The event will include workshops, a producer panel, vendors, and a ranch tour. Check out our Facebook page for more information.  To register for the event, contact the Terry County AgriLife Extension office at 806-637-4060 or email Debbie.cruz@ag.tamu.edu.

NSIIC Grant Project

In late June, we completed the NSIIC grant comparing dogs bonded by producers vs. those bonded by AgriLife. The differences between the

Cindy relaxing after a GPS tracker battery exchange in May. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

two sets of dogs were subtle, with the amount of socialization being the main difference between the two groups. As in previous rounds, dogs bonded in hot wire pens were less likely to leave their charges than those bonded without hot wire pens. Agrilife-bonded dogs were also easier to catch than producer-bonded dogs due to longer socialization during bonding. All dogs were tracked with GPS trackers over the project duration. Five different producers were selected to receive one or two LGD puppies to bond in this project. The ranchers were selected based on the size of their herds and that they had not bonded any LGDs in the past, with a preference for having not used LGDs in the past.

The five cooperating producers saw lambing percentages increase from between 40%-100%! This increase was similar to what other producers have seen after using LGDs for just a year. Once the dogs fully mature, the producers may see even higher lambing percentages. Four of the five cooperating producers plan to keep the dogs and expand LGD use on their ranches. The other producer has decided to change over to cattle even though the dogs increased their lambing percentage. In addition, three of the five producers are also planning on keeping the GPS tracker service to monitor the locations of their dogs.

Sadly, just after the project ended, the producer that bonded and owned Cindy lost her to a snare set by a neighbor. Her GPS tracker notified him that she was on the fence line, but he could not reach her in time. Tethering is an important training procedure that we practice with all the puppies in the bonding project. It may have saved Cindy’s life if she had received the training.

For more information on each of the ranches in the project, go to our website to download the case studies. We plan to submit another NSIIC grant application this fall to train LGD puppies for aerial threats using drones. We are finalizing the application later this month. Check our Facebook page for more information on this project and other projects we are conducting using LGDs.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

“The Old-Fashioned Gals” Belle, Mable and Pearl (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

The pups are all doing well in their pastures with the bonding livestock, even in the extreme heat we have been experiencing. The Top Gun pups were bonded in pens with hot wire, while the Old-Fashioned Gals were bonded without hot wire. We are reinforcing the hot wire training in the bonding pens with an invisible fence system from the Invisible Fence Brand company now that the pups are in small pastures.  We have used the system in other pastures to retrain roaming dogs like Doc and Thelma from Round 3 of the project. Hopefully, using this system on the Top Gun pups will further decrease the likelihood that they will leave a pasture as an adult dog.

If you are interested in being a cooperating producer for this round of pups or a future round, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu.  The pups will be ready to go to work on ranches in late October or early November. To qualify for the bonding project, producers must have at least 250 head of sheep and/or goats, be within the sheep and goat checkoff area, preferably be within a 3-hour driving radius of San Angelo, pay for the care and maintenance of the dogs during the project time, be able to purchase successful dogs, regularly meet with AgriLife personnel for project visits and attend field days.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link: The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board. Make sure to follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TAMUlivestockguarddog/

Instagram: @tamulivestockguarddog  

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF7YbP6bNDV7___6H8mifBA

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online! Follow the organization at https://www.facebook.com/TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!

 

 

 

 

The Guardian Way – August 2023

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The summer heat is in full swing in Texas and it’s very important that you provide a cool area for LGDs, especially your long-haired ones.  Proper grooming that cleans out dead hair allows the cooler morning air to get trapped in their coats to insulate them into the midday temperatures.  After that the dogs need shade and cool soil to lay in to help regulate their body temperatures.  Some LGDs like to relax in water troughs which may get filled with dirt and muck.  Remember that dogs can’t sweat, and they regulate their body temperature by panting.  If your dog is panting profusely, take steps to cool them down immediately.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

Our next online seminar will be on Aug.17 at 3 p.m. on Zoom. Check out our Facebook page for more information. Dr. Katherine Lord from the University of Massachusetts will be returning to continue her discussion from November of 2022 on canine behavior and bonding.  This webinar will cover the development of predatory behaviors in LGDs.  Do not miss this great presentation!  The online seminar will be free as always. You can sign up on our events page.

Join us at the AgriLife Center on Aug. 18 from 8 a.m.–12p.m. for the 50th Annual Sheep and Goat Field Day.  There will be workshops on the latest research being conducted at the Center along with local vendors.  The annual AgriLife Sheep and Goat Expo will follow the event at the Spur Arena in San Angelo starting that afternoon.

The Texas LGD Association will be hosting its annual membership meeting on Aug.19 at 1p.m. at the Spur Arena as part of the AgriLife Sheep and Goat Expo.  New or potential members are welcome to attend the meeting.

Common LGD Problems

This month we will cover a few common issues that producers contact me about regarding their LGDs and ways to solve them.

LGD with a dangle stick. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy producer 2023)

One of the top questions producers ask is how to stop chasing behavior in adolescent LGDs.  This is not related to any specific breed but rather adolescent behavior in all LGD breeds.  I generally provide a couple of suggestions.  The first tool to try is a dangle stick.  A dangle stick is a piece of wood or metal pipe that hangs from the dog’s collar and hits their front legs to slow them down when running.  This device either trips the dogs, makes them hobble around or makes their front legs sore so that they do not chase anymore.  Some dogs will get creative and pick up the stick in their mouth and still chase, but at least they can no longer bite which also usually occurs with this behavior as they are trying to get the goat or lamb to stop running away.  You can find more information on how to make a dangle stick on our website.

A second way that helps to stop chasing behavior is to place your teenage LGD in a pen for 2-3 weeks with some mature rams and/or billies.  These mature males will not tolerate an LGD chasing them or chewing on them.  This method teaches the young dog to be submissive towards the livestock they are guarding and allows a hands-off process for producers.

The third and final suggestion that I give for dogs close to maturity that are still chasing or for dogs that didn’t stop this behavior with the previous two methods is a shock collar.  I use this as a last resort as some people may incorrectly use the training tool and make dogs fearful of humans.  If you need to use a shock collar to correct unruly behavior, use it judiciously.  Set up an inexpensive pop-up hunting blind near a pen with the dogs to correct the chasing behavior.  That way they do not correlate the shock with seeing people near them.  Otherwise, you may create a dog that is fearful of humans and hard to catch.

The second question I often receive from producers is how to stop dogs from roaming away from their livestock.  This is a much more

Invisible Fence Brand collar and battery. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

complicated issue to stop.  We believe this starts at an early age with improper bonding of the dogs.  LGDs need to be with or in close contact with the type of livestock they are to protect from at least 3 weeks of age to 8 weeks of age.  At 8 weeks of age the dogs need to be in full contact with livestock until 14 weeks of age when the dog’s brain development of forming attachments closes.  Some devices that are helpful to track and control roaming in LGDs are GPS trackers, electric fencing, and invisible fence systems.  There are several types of GPS/invisible fence systems on the market today that producers can choose from.  However, most invisible fence systems have short battery lives that require recharging frequently so they may not be an option for larger producers.  Two systems we are currently testing are from the Invisible Fence Brand and the SpotOn GPS Fence companies.  Both systems have pros and cons and will require the use of pastures close to your headquarters to be used effectively.  Providing electric fencing in

SpotOn invisible fence collar. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy SpotOn Fence 2023)

the bonding pen or training pastures is an easy way to teach LGDs respect for fences. Preliminary data indicates a decrease in roaming for dogs bonded in pens with hot wire vs. dogs bonded in pens without hotwire.

The last question I receive frequently during the warmer month is problems related to LGDs getting into water troughs.  LGDs often like to cool down in the warmer months by climbing into water troughs for several minutes or even longer.  If this becomes an issue, producers can try grooming long haired LGDs during the late spring.  Proper grooming of all LGD haircoats will keep your dog’s cooler by allowing proper airflow over their bodies to keep cool.  If this doesn’t stop the issue, it might warrant constructing a barrier that will stop them from getting into the water trough but still allow livestock to water.  Alternatively, LGD owners might set up a separate temporary water trough for the dogs to cool off in that is independent from normal livestock water.  This allows the dogs the ability to cool off but not muck up the water system.

Bonding Project Update

Round Five Dogs

All puppies have been released from the bonding pens and are doing well with the other dogs and extra livestock in their pastures.  The Top

The Top Gun (Maverick, Goose and Viper) pups spending time together in the pasture with their charges. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

Gun dogs have been placed into a pasture that is controlled by an invisible fence system to continue the use of an electric deterrent when they come close to the fence boundary.  We hope that the use of this system will further decrease the drive for the dogs to leave their home pastures as adults.  We have seen a decrease in adult dogs roaming that were bonded in pens with hot wire as puppies when compared to dogs that did not have hot wire in their bonding pens.  Using hot wire in bonding pens seems to teach LGDs respect for fences and to minimize the loss of dogs due to roaming as adults.

Round Four Dogs

All the dogs in round four of the bonding project have successfully completed the program.  The cooperating producers have all seen an increase of 40% to 100% in lambing percentages from previous years.  We anticipate these producers will continue to see lambing percentages increase as the dogs mature over the next year.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board.  Make sure to follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TAMUlivestockguarddog/

Instagram: @tamulivestockguarddog  

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF7YbP6bNDV7___6H8mifBA

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online!  Follow the organization at https://www.facebook.com/TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!

 

 

 

 

The Guardian Way – July 2023

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Proper grooming of your long-haired dogs is critical in the extreme heat we have been having in the state the last few weeks.  Dogs with coats that are properly cleaned out of dead hair will be cooler as their coats trap cool air in the night and early morning hours that helps cool them throughout the day.  Brushing the dogs with slicker brushes and deshedding combs is the best option.  Do not clip your LGD unless necessary as their coats cannot trap cool air properly and you will only make them hotter.  Provide lots of shade and places with cool water that the dogs can lay in to cool down in the hot weather.  Try moving livestock and dogs in the early morning hours so they can be down when temperatures rise.

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

Our next online seminar will be on Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. on Zoom. Check out our Facebook page for more information as the event gets closer. Dr. Katherine Lord will be returning to continue her discussion from November of 2022 on canine behavior and bonding.  Do not miss this great presentation!  The online seminar will be free as always. You can sign up on our events page.

The Texas LGD Association held its first annual LGD Field Day in Caldwell at the Burleson County Fairgrounds on June 10.  The event consisted of workshops on bonding LGDs with cattle, using LGDs with poultry, GPS tracking, ranch fencing and a breeder panel.  Vendors and LGD breeders were also on site as well.  The association would like to thank all of the generous sponsors that made the event possible!

Texas LGD Association Field Day in Caldwell. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

LGD FAQ’s

In May we started a three-part article on frequently asked questions that producers submit when they contact our program about LGDs.  Below is the third and final set of commonly asked questions and answers we provide to producers that contact us.

  1. Should LGDs be socialized?

 

A: Yes, they should be socialized and handled regularly!  Just because LGDs are not pets does not mean they should never have any human contact, or even minimal human interaction.  LGDs need socialization and training just like any other working dog.  Coming when called, walking on a leash, staying calm while tethered, crate training and traveling in vehicles are important skills for a working LGD. These things allow the dogs to be easily moved from one location to another and to be examined and treated for any injuries.  A fearful guardian dog is difficult to handle and a liability to the owner.  Appropriate handling, done in the pasture with livestock, reinforces positive interaction with humans and does not turn LGDs into pets.

 

  1. What is the best age to get an LGD puppy?

 

A: A puppy should stay in a litter environment with its mother until 8 weeks of age. This way the puppy learns appropriate dog manners, bite inhibition, livestock manners and guarding behavior from its mother.  Some breeders keep LGD puppies up to 12-16 weeks of age for maximum learning benefit.  It’s very important that LGD puppies are raised in direct contact with the livestock species in which you intend them to guard on your ranch.  If a puppy is not bonded to livestock by 14-16 weeks of age, the chance of it being a good guardian dog decreases which may be a cause of roaming.

  1. Q: Are LGD’s the same as herding dogs?

 

A:  No! While both types of dog’s work with livestock, they are not the same.  Herding dogs use prey drive instincts to round up and move livestock by command from a rancher.  LGDs have been bred for thousands of years not to have prey drive instincts and are used to protect livestock from predators generally independent of humans. Both types of dogs look and act differently with livestock.

 

  1. Q: Can I get one dog that will guard and herd my livestock?

A: While this idea sounds like a great one, it is not!  LGDs do not have prey drive instincts.  Herding dogs use prey drive instincts such as eye, stalk, chase, etc. to make livestock move for them.  Breeding LGDs and herding dogs will likely result in offspring that have prey drive and guarding instincts which can causes issues with chasing, biting, and killing livestock as the dog matures.

  1. Q: Can any breed of dog make a good LGD?

 

A: In most cases, no! LGD breeds of dog have been bred for thousands of years to have the innate ability to effectively guard livestock. Only a small portion of the job of an LGD is taught, the vast majority is natural instinct that the dogs use to do their jobs.

 

  1. Q: What breed is ​best for my operation?

 

A: That depends on the type of terrain, predator load, size of pasture, quality of fencing, management style and type of predators.  Great Pyrenees, Anatolians, Kangal’s, Maremma and Akbash are all common breeds in Texas.  Each of these breeds have different physical characteristics, such as size, color, and hair coat.  Each breed tends to have slightly different behavioral characteristics, although a lot of variation exists within a breed.  Matching the right physical and behavioral characteristics to your operations is important to the success of your LGD program.  It is advisable to talk with several LGD breeders to find the best fit for your operation.

  1. Q: How much training time is involved in teaching a puppy during the bonding phase?

 

A: While having an older dog who can help train a younger one is ideal; you will still need to supervise and teach your pup how to properly act around livestock.  This process will start at 8 weeks of age and take many months of supervision and correction to achieve a trained LGD.  Most dogs settle down and mature at 18-24 months of age.  Extra supervision is needed from 8-18 months of age during adolescence.

  1. Q: What about using a donkey or llama instead of an LGD?

 

Guard donkey with sheep. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy www.treehugger.com 2023)

A: Llamas and donkeys are prey animals and reactive to threats they encounter.  In some situations, they work well and others they do not.  They generally only work for canine predators and only work as a single animal per pasture/herd.  When more than one llama or donkey is used in the same pasture, they often form a herd of their own and leave livestock unprotected from predators.  LGDs are proactive to threats– setting up perimeters and constantly patrolling those boundaries.  And more than one LGD can be used in a pasture to protect larger areas and higher densities of predators.

  1. Q: Is it better to use a pair ​of LGDs or a single?

 

A: Having dogs at different ages can be helpful so that the older one can help teach the younger dog.  This can provide some insurance in case something happens to one of your dogs.  Singles tend to have stronger bonds to livestock while pairs of dogs tend to form a bond with each other and the livestock.

  1. Q: Do males or females guard better? What about fixed vs. intact?

A: Based on research male and female dogs work the same.  Research also shows that there is only a very slight difference in guarding ability of intact males vs. fixed males.  There is no difference between intact females and fixed females guarding abilities.  Dogs that are spayed or neutered are not preoccupied by breeding instincts during the year.  Also, intact males can be more aggressive with other LGDs, guard resources and roam looking for a mate.

Bonding Project Update

The pups in Round 5 will be released from the bonding pens this month into 100-acre pastures at the Center with other pups and livestock.

Maverick (left) and Goose getting some shade inside their feeding station. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Saldana 2023)

We will be adding in bonding animals that have lambs and kids to observe the dogs’ interactions with young animals.  If you recall from the May blog, we had issues with several of the pups in this round biting and chewing on the ears of young animals in the bonding pens.  Leash and tether training are all proceeding well with the pups along with truck rides.  The Komondor pups are still larger overall than the Great Pyrenees X Anatolian Shepherd pups.  Maverick has gained weight since his blocked digest track from eating cottonseed.  Switching the animals in his pen to livestock cubes helped break this behavior.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board.  Make sure to follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TAMUlivestockguarddog/

Instagram: @tamulivestockguarddog  

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF7YbP6bNDV7___6H8mifBA

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online!  Follow the organization at https://www.facebook.com/TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!

 

 

 

 

The Guardian Way – June 2023

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Maverick and Goose spending time together in the bonding pen. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Saldana 2023)

Some much-needed rain has been falling across parts of West Central Texas, a welcoming site on the ranches that have received it.  In some areas, this has led to the Texas winter grass going to seed with the warm weather we have also been having.  While a valuable feed resource for livestock most of the year, this grass produces the dreaded “spear grass seeds” that burrow their way into the coats and soft skin of LGDs.  These seeds can cause infections all over LGDs, but especially in their legs.  Make sure to groom your dog’s regularly with de-shedding brushes during this time of year to help minimize the impact of the seeds on your dog’s health.  Mats in long haired dog coats can often hide the seeds which can lead to lameness in your LGD and a costly vet bill to cure the infection!

AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

Our next online seminar will be on August 17th at 3 p.m. on Zoom. Check out our Facebook page for more information as the event gets closer. Dr. Katherine Lord will be returning to continue her discussion from November of 2022 on canine behavior and bonding.  Do not miss this great presentation!  The online seminar will be free as always. You can sign up on our events page.

The Texas LGD Association will be hosting its first annual LGD Field Day in Caldwell at the Burleson County Fairgrounds on June 10.  Check out their Facebook Page for more information on the event and how to register.  The event will consist of workshops on bonding LGDs with cattle, using LGDs with poultry, GPS tracking, ranch fencing and a breeder panel.  Vendors and LGD breeders will be on site as well.  Contact bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or call 325-657-7311 to register for the event.

Our 2nd Annual LGD Photo Contest will be held July 3-7 this year.  The contest categories will be – Artistic, Publication Worthy, Cuteness, Puppies at Work, Dogs at Work.  We will also have subcategories of sheep, goats, poultry, and other animals this year.  Prizes will be awarded to the winners of each category.  The contest is open worldwide, but only US residents will be receiving prizes this year.  Check out our Facebook page for more information.  Photos can be submitted via Facebook during the contest dates or emailed to me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu.

LGD FAQ’s

Last month we started a three-part article on frequently asked questions that producers submit when they contact our program about LGDs.  Below is the second set of commonly asked questions and answers we provide.

  1. Are my grandkids safe around LGDs and are they good with children?

A: Most LGDs that are well socialized with people will be fine with children around, especially if the dogs are raised with the children.

Exceptionally large, deep hole dug by an LGD to stay cool. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Smith 2023)

  1. Do all LGDs dig holes?

A: Yes, LGDs dig holes in the ground to find a cool spot to get away from the warm summer heat. Providing your dogs will a separate kids pool or water trough to lay in under a tree will help stop the digging.

  1. I have heard LGDs bark a lot all day. Is there a breed that barks less?

A: All LGD breeds bark to alert predators of their presence and to notify their owners.  LGDs will bark at anything they sense is out of place or a threat to their charges.  Some LGDs tend to bark more at certain times of the day when predators are most active.  Young LGDs tend to bark more as they have not learned what is a threat to their livestock and what is not.  Proper training is the key to keeping barking at a minimum.

  1. Do LGDs need training, or can I just place them out with my livestock?

A: All dogs need training!  A LGD puppy has a collection of potential abilities which must be guided and shaped by you to be successful.  Puppies will make mistakes, do stupid things during the adolescent months, and must be corrected, probably many times.  Having an older mature dog is always helpful for young dogs to learn the ropes from.  You will still need to help them by using management tools like escape-proof pens, leash and tether training, time with livestock, praise, and treats, and if necessary, stern corrections.  LGDs will normally go through periods of chasing and rough play as they mature from 8-18 months of age.  These phases do not mean that the pup is not going to work out as an LGD!  You as the owner must provide extra management during this time to train your LGD in the behaviors that are expected.

  1. Are all LGD breeds predisposed to genetic health problems?

A: Yes, because all dogs, including LGD breeds, have heritable diseases and have the potential to develop certain health problems.  LGDs are large breed dogs and are especially predisposed to Hip and Elbow Dysplasia.

  1. Are LGDs good with other pet dogs and ranch dogs?

A: LGDs are generally good with other ranch dogs and family pets they are raised with and acclimated to.  However, they can be canine aggressive to strange dogs that they do not know.  It’s important to reacclimate your LGDs to your herding dogs each time you use them to move your livestock.  This will help decrease the chance of aggression.

  1. 8-week-old LGD puppy in a bonding pen. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2021)

    Can I place my LGD puppy in with my livestock from the time I bring them home?

A: Your puppy should be in a bonding pen from the time you bring it home until about 6 months of age.  There should be a safe space for the puppy to enter that has shelter and feed in case it is being bullied by any of the livestock.  The puppy should have to leave the area to get fresh water and interact with the livestock.  As often as possible, supervise the interactions of the puppy and livestock. Game cameras are a tremendous help with supervision.  Reward correct behavior and correct unwanted behavior immediately.  All positive interactions should happen with the livestock, take the time to pet, groom and train the puppy for fifteen to twenty minutes, three to four days a week while it is with the livestock.

  1. How old does my LGD pup have to be before it is an effective guardian for my livestock?

A: LGDs are not fully effective until they are full grown, mature guardians at 18-24 months of age. Some breeds may not fully mature until 30 months of age.

Bonding Project Update

All the pups except for Maverick and Goose ended up having issues last month with chewing on ears and legs of young lambs and kids.  We

Goose and Maverick in tether training. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Saldana 2023)

removed all the young animals and left only mature livestock in the bonding pens.  We have decided to return the lambs and kids to the bonding pastures once the puppies are released from the bonding pens in early July.  We have also purchased a remote cellular based video camera to be able to monitor the puppies in the pens 24 hours a day.  The unit has live video feed along with a bright light and two-way voice capability.  We will keep you updated on how the system is working next month.

The sixteen dogs in Round 4 of the bonding project funded by the NSIIC grant will all graduate in the middle of June from the program.  All producers have seen increased lamb crops after using dogs.  Some had lamb crops as low as 20% before the dogs.  All ranches using the dogs have over 100% lamb crop after having the dogs out working for only 8-10 months so far.

LGD Betty from Round 4 of the bonding project at a cooperating producers ranch near Juno, TX. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board.  Make sure to follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TAMUlivestockguarddog/

Instagram: @tamulivestockguarddog  

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF7YbP6bNDV7___6H8mifBA

Do not forget to check out the Texas LGD Association online!  Follow the organization at https://www.facebook.com/TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!

 

 

The Guardian Way – May 2023

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AgriLife 2023 LGD Field Day in Sonora, Texas. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

We had a great Spring LGD Field Day in Sonora on April 14 at the AgriLife Sonora Research Station.  Over 50 people attended the event.  Excellent information was provided by all the speakers at the event.  Like all our LGD field days, there was a lot of interest, questions, and comments from the crowd.  We would like to thank Bo McClelland, the Sutton County Trapper, and Mark Taylor, the hunting lease manager for the Sonora Station, for taking time out of their busy schedules to provide participants with information on using LGDs with trapping methods and how to have more effective hunts while using LGDs.  If you missed the event, we will be holding another field day this fall or check out the Texas LGD Association field day on June 10 in Caldwell, Texas.  Let us know if you would like to have a field day in your area.

We would like to thank the following generous sponsors of the event in Sonora.

Gold Sponsors

Capital Farm Credit          Diamond Pet Food           Lone Star Tracking

Main Street Realty – Hudson Properties                 Nestle Purina

Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Board

Silver Sponsors

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AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program: Events and Update

Our next online seminar will be held May 18 at 3 p.m. on Zoom. Check out our Facebook page for more information as the event gets closer. The topic will be “The Great Pyrenees Breed” presented by Carrie Parks, chair of the Judges Education Committee at the Great Pyrenees Club of America (GPCA).  Carrie is also an AKC judge, on the board of directors of the GPCA and has had Great Pyrenees, both working and show, since 1959.  The online seminar will be free as always. You can sign up on our events page.

The Texas LGD Association will be hosting its first annual LGD Field Day in Caldwell at the Burleson County Fairgrounds on June 10.  Check out their Facebook Page for more information on the event and how to register.  The event will consist of workshops, a breeder panel, and an association meeting.  Vendors and LGD breeders will be on site as well.

LGD FAQ’s

We will start a three-part article this month on frequently asked questions that producers submit when they contact our program about LGDs.

  1. What is the most important thing about an LGD that people should understand before

purchasing a dog?

 

A:  LGDs have a natural responsibility for guarding and defending their charges– whether it’s a herd of livestock or a territory.  LGDs are strong-willed, very independent, and are typically not very obedient. They are intelligent dogs and are good at problem solving.  Most LGDs are large and powerful dogs that will protect their charges at all costs, even with their own lives.

  1. How are LGDs different from other (non-LGD) breeds?

 

A: LGD have a unique temperament. They do not display predatory behaviors that many other breeds of dogs do. They were developed over thousands of years not to have prey drive instincts.  An LGD must be able to make decisions on their own.  This requires the dog to be extremely intelligent, but also very independent.

  1. What LGD breed should I pick?

 

A: Which breed you choose really depends on your ranch size and location.  LGDs come in different sizes and colors to blend in with the livestock they were designed to guard. Some are better suited as perimeter guardians, while others are better at staying close to the herd to guard.  Some breeds have long hair while others have short hair coats.  There are more differences between individual dogs than across breeds.

 

  1. If raised with livestock from a puppy can any breed of dog make a trustworthy LGD?

 

A: Generally, no.  ​LGD breeds have been bred for thousands of years to have a particular set of traits that predispose them to be good at the specific task of protecting the livestock they live with without much human direction. When non-LGD breeds are crossed with LGDs, you are reintroducing prey drive instincts into a dog that had those traits removed over thousands of years.  You may end up with a dog who will not stay with the livestock and prefers human contact.  Or you may end up with a livestock killer due to the combination of LGD size with herding or hunting dog instincts.

  1. Do you need to have good fencing for LGDs?

 

A: Yes, all LGD breeds require secure fencing to safely contain the dog.  LGDs may expand their territory and roam if not properly bonded as a pup. This can be a risk to the health and safety of the dog, as well as a liability should the dog hurt anyone. Good fencing is a requirement for using LGDs and keeping them on your ranch, especially during their puppy and adolescent stage of life.  Invisible fencing and/or hot wire in the bonding pen can be a good option to teach your dog boundaries to help prevent roaming as an adult.

 

  1. Do LGDs make good pets and are they safe for my grandkids to be around?

 

A: Some LGDs can be a good family pet. However, they may be very protective of your home and family which may cause problems when visitors come to your home.  LGDs are generally not aggressive towards humans if properly socialized as a puppy.  Socialization is very important to keep LGDs catchable in the field.

Bonding Project Update

The pups in round five of the bonding project are doing well.  They have been released from the 60 ft x 60 ft pens into the 1-acre pens.  They

Maverick and Goose (white pup) taking a break in the shade. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo courtesy Costanzo 2023)

were also rotated to a new set of livestock so that they bond to species and not specific animals.  One of Komondor pups (Mable) and one of the Great Pyrenees cross pups (Viper) have been chewing on lamb’s ears and legs, both of which are single bonded pups.  Generally chewing behavior starts with dogs that are three to five months of age.  We have not seen this issue at such an early age in the past rounds because the dogs were not exposed to young livestock while still in the bonding pens.  We are taking a proactive response and removing young lambs/kids and their mothers from the pens.  They are being replaced with larger older animals that will not tolerate the puppies chewing on them and teach the pups to be submissive.

In closing

If you enjoyed this monthly LGD blog, please don’t forget to subscribe to it with this link The Guardian Way | Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo.

To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, please contact me at bill.costanzo@ag.tamu.edu or 325-657-7311.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Livestock Guardian Dog Program is a cooperative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board.  Make sure to follow us on our social media sites and share them with your friends and family!

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Don’t forget to check out the Texas LGD Association on online!  Follow the organization at https://www.facebook.com/TexasLGDAssociation or check out their website!