Date of this Version
Research on the use and effectiveness of guardian dogs has been conducted since 1977 at 3 locations in the U.S.: the Livestock Dog Project (Amherst, MA), the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (Dubois, ID), and Colorado State University (Ft. Collins). Their findings are quite consistent: dogs guard sheep and goats directly, i.e., they respond aggressively to predators, chasing them away when necessary, then returning to the flock. This aggressive response toward predators is apparently defense of personal space rather than territorial defense. The development of attentiveness toward sheep, beginning early in life, is probably the most important aspect of training a guardian dog. Between 60 and 80% of all dogs studied to date in the 3 projects were judged' to have reduced predation to some extent. Purchase and annual maintenance costs for a dog can be recovered in most situations even if predation is not totally eliminated. In a hypothetical example, a dog which reduced predation on an Angora goat operation by 50% would increase its owner's return by about $55 per animal unit. Dogs should not be thought of as a panacea for the predator problem, but rather as an important addition to the other lethal and non-lethal control measures available.