Date of this Version
Pilot programs in several states have shown that livestock guarding dogs are 70-80% effective in reducing predation on livestock by wildlife, primarily coyotes. In order to increase that percentage, ineffective dogs were studied and new techniques tested that had the potential of turning problems into successes. From the population of over 1,000 dogs that has been placed on farms and ranches nationwide during the past ten years under the auspices of the Livestock Dog Project at Hampshire College, data was analyzed for each of the three basic behaviors (trustworthy, attentive, protective) that a good guardian needs to exhibit. A wide range of scores was found within each behavior. Studies were then focused on transferring dogs with extremes of behavior to a specific livestock operation where the "defect" could be used to advantage. In Oregon, dogs that had failed in at least one category were transferred to new ranches, resulting in 66* success. Results from field trials in Minnesota showed that inattentive and/or overprotective dogs could be used to test dogs' effectiveness against wolves. In New York, an over-protective, inattentive dog was placed on an emergency basis with a flock of experimental sheep, using the dog's travel trailer and a new tool, "invisible fencing," to situate it in an unfamiliar environment. Results showed that the transfer strategy increased the number of successful guarding dogs, with minimal changes in livestock management. Other evidence indicated that the new techniques described here could also be used for wider applications of guarding dogs in agriculture.