Earlier this summer we welcomed a new addition to our farm family, a Maremma Sheepdog also known as a Livestock Guardian Dog. Not to be confused with herding dogs, LGD's live with their stock full time to protect and guard them, not herd them. Our house and property is surrounded by over 600 acres of protected conservation land, filled with natural predators. We didn't have issues with predation before, but when my companion dog Copper passed, the fox, coyotes, and raccoons started creeping in. We keep small Nigerian Dwarf goats which are vulnerable to predators such as bobcats and coyotes, with recent attacks happening in neighboring towns. This led to me reaching out to rescue leagues for a couple different LGD breeds including The Great Pyrenees, Maremma Sheepdog, and Anatolian Shepherd. I found a Maremma close by, who was a working 2 year old LGD but needed to be re-homed. I went to pick her up in Maine and she has been settling in fantastically since. Annie takes her job very seriously, and there has been a learning curve on both ends during the past few months. She is truly unique, and unlike any dog I have ever owned or known. As she has settled in and gotten more comfortable and established our home as hers, she has displayed some interesting traits that seem to be right in line with typical LGD behavior.
1. She has to be Physically Contained
The one common theme you read in articles when researching LGD's that never wavers is they need a strong and sturdy fence for containment otherwise they will take off to roam. Some are even better escape artists than goats, and have been known to climb five foot fences, or dig out under to escape. Well, every single one of those articles was correct. Annie has slipped out through the gate a few times (usually while we are coming in), and from that point on she is deaf to anything you have to say. She does not respond to her name or come, she just goes. It is in these dogs instinct to roam their territory, and without a fence to tell them where the boundaries of their territory are, they won't stop. Inside the fence, she is a master protector, and is frequently seen running the perimeter checking that everything is in order. Outside the fence, she doesn't know you or want to hear a word you have to say.
2. She Has a High Standard for Hygiene
3. She is Standoffish with Strangers
Annie is not a happy-go-lucky, I love everyone type of dog. She is in fact, the complete opposite. When people come over and we are home, if they go over to the fence to approach her she may cautiously allow them to pet her. But, if no one is home, all bets are off. She barks and will not approach the fence. Last time I went back to PA to visit, I had a friend come over to feed and take care of the animals one morning, and the rest of the time the the guy up the street did it. My friend (whom has showered Annie with affection before when she has been over to visit) couldn't get Annie to let her pet her. She was sending me snap chats, so I could see how she was behaving. She was barking, standing back off the fence, with Karen and Alan behind her. The guy up the street, who has watched and fed the animals as long as four days in a row, was never able to get her to come close enough to the fence for him to pet her either. Even though she is cautious of new people when we are around and may reluctantly let them pet her, when we aren't around she is in full guarding mode. This is something that gives me comfort, knowing that even when we aren't there, she is still on the job.
4. She Treats the Goats Like a Stern Mother Would
A good LGD wears many hats, she is protective and firm, yet gentle and affectionate. She will lay down the law and get physical if she has to to protect her stock, but is playful and affectionate as well. Annie is all of the above. She will nip at the goats to protect them from the mailman, then cuddle and kiss them shortly after. She takes her job seriously, and I truly believe that if it came down to it, she would die protecting her goats.
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