Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for



Date of this Version

April 2002


Livestock guarding breeds originated in Europe and Asia, where they have been used for centuries to protect sheep from wolves and bears. Americans have used guarding dogs since the mid-1970s. They are large animals (80-120 pounds) and are usually all white or fawn colored with dark muzzles. Some of the more common breeds are Great Pyrenees (France), Komondor (Hungary), Akbash dog and Anatolian shepherd (Turkey), and Maremma (Italy).

Unlike herding dogs, guard dogs do not usually herd sheep. Acting independently of humans, guarding dogs stay with or near sheep most of the time and aggressively repel predators. Genetics and proper rearing both contribute to the makeup of a successful guarding dog.

Some guarding dogs do not adequately carry out their protective role. Failures can generally be attributed to improper rearing or acquiring the dog after it is too old for training. Some dogs, however, don’t work well despite having been reared properly. Research and surveys indicate that about three-fourths of trained dogs become good guardians. Knowing what a good guarding dog is and how to raise one correctly can help producers be sure they get the best possible service from their dogs.