As a dog trainer who trains and specializes in rehabilitating aggressive dogs, I feel the need to sound the alarm on livestock guardian breed dogs. The most common (LGD) we tend to see here in Nova Scotia would be Great Pyrenees, but we also see Anatolian Shepherds and Maremmas.
They are beautiful dogs but their size and behavioral traits are often overlooked by well-meaning dog owners. I hate to be the jerk who overgeneralizes and says none of these dogs can fit into a normal city home because that’s just not true. However, I have two reasons for writing this blog.
1. Most people who get these dogs literally think that if they get a puppy and give him loads of love, he will not develop these guarding instincts.
2. Few seem to be talking about these issues and I think they need to be talked about.
Let’s look at a few reasons why I’m not a fan of these dogs living in cities with uninformed and inexperienced owners.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated do not communicate in the traditional way that people expect. Only a small percentage of them growl before biting. They are hard to read even for dog trainers so you can imagine how hard it might be for less educated dog owners.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated were more human aggressive than dog aggressive and the majority of them were aggressive with their owners. Try living with a 100lb+ dog in your home who doesn’t growl before he attacks, not fun or safe.
–Most of the (LGD)s that I have rehabilitated were stalkers. I know dog trainers who have been attacked and almost killed by (LGD) dogs who they miss-evaluated. These dogs were walking around them, looking kind of calm and bored and then WAM! The trainers didn’t notice that they were being stalked. Very few dogs will stock humans like a Cheetah, but these dogs are capable of it.
People literally believe that if they love these dogs, they will never start to guard things or people. It doesn’t work that way. Well-meaning dog owners read about the warnings on the internet and tell themselves that love will fix it. I wish that were the case but it’s not.
These dogs were bred to have a job, a guarding job. If you don’t give them a guarding job, they will often resort to guarding their food, people, spaces, etc. Guarding genetics without an outlet can prove to be very dangerous.
I’m 100% honest with my clients when they come in with these dogs. I tell it to them straight. In our modern society, there is no practical use for guarding genetics, and thus we have to shut it down with correction. We literally have to override the genetic propensity to guard, and yes that is possible, I’ve been doing it for about a decade. If you have one of these dogs and you struggle with these issues, it’s possible to have a dog that you can trust, but it’s a lot of work and you need to find a trainer who knows what they are doing.
Plenty of these dogs attack their owners who raised them as puppies. Just FYI. If you want to take that risk, at least start training with a good balanced trainer the moment you get your (LGD).
In closing, I know full well that not all of these dogs turn out like described above. I meet some frumpalump’s at the park who are calm and chill and don’t have a nasty bone in their bodies, but this is not the entire story.
Now that you know the full story, I hope that you are more equipped to make up your mind on the topic.