Living with Livestock Protection Dogs
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Livestock protection dogs are a primary and traditional means of protecting sheep from predators. Ranchers may elect to use livestock protection dogs as an important and effective means of reducing predator attacks on sheep. These dogs are trained to live with the sheep and patrol the perimeter of the grazing areas to ward off potential predators.
Livestock protection dogs have been used around the world for centuries and are an essential non-lethal management tool in the United States. Without the protection afforded by these dogs thousands of sheep and lambs would be injured or killed each year by coyotes, mountain lions and bears. The loss to predation for ranchers has a significant impact on their ability to operate successfully.
As more of the public enjoy and utilize public lands that are used for grazing, there is an increased potential for conflict between people and livestock protection dogs. Livestock protection dogs are not pets;they are trained working dogs. Do not feed or attempt to pet them.
Generally, if a person is on foot, horseback, or on an ATV alive stock protection dog will not recognize the approach as a threat to livestock. However, a rapidly approaching mountain biker may appear to be a threat. Hikers with a domestic dog may be perceived as a greater threat. An unleashed dog encountering sheep will likely be perceived as a predator an could cause and aggressive confrontation with the livestock protection dog.
To avoid negative encounters with livestock or livestock protection dogs recreationalists should follow common sense guidelines.
If a band of sheep is encountered it is best to alter your route to minimize any contact. If contact cannot be avoided:
- Watch for livestock protection dogs near sheep (usually large, white or tan dogs).
- Remain calm if a livestock protection dog approaches you.
- If on a bike, dismount and put the bike between yourself and the dog.
- Verbally tell the dog “go back to the sheep” or say “no” in a firm voice.
- Walk your bike until well past the sheep
- Keep your distance and choose the least disruptive route around the flock.
- Keep your dog leashed.
- Chase or harass the sheep or the livestock protection dogs.
- Make quick, threatening movements toward the sheep or dogs.
- Try to outrun the livestock protection dogs.
- Attempt to befriend, pet or feed the dogs.
- Allow your dog to run towards or harass the sheep.
- Mistake a livestock protection dog as lost and take it with you.