Kidding and Lambing Season with Your LGD

The next few months mark the beginning of lambing and kidding season. This is an equally exciting and busy time for us farmers. We all love baby animals, and this is one of our favorite times of year. It can also be stressful, particularly if you end up losing a baby or its mother. The last thing you want to worry about is your LGD.

This time of year can be incredibly stressful for your LGD, whether they’re young or old. Dogs are not rational, logical beings like humans, and they don’t understand what is happening when your goat or sheep is giving birth. What they see is one of their charges is in distress, and out comes this messy, smelly, crying thing. This is obviously upsetting for many LGDs, which is why we highly recommend either moving your LGD to a pasture with the non-pregnant animals or securing them (in a pen/stall or something similar) so they cannot interfere with the birthing process.

LGDs have been seen attacking lambs and kids after they are born. In their minds, all they see is a new animal that caused obvious pain and distress to its mom. In other instances, they think of the newborn kid/lamb as food. A common problem is the dog will lick the newborn to clean it. This might seem cute, like the dog is taking care of the newborn, but in reality this can cause a lot of problems.

Mama goat/sheep is very likely to reject her newborn if it smells like dog from your LGD licking it. Now you have a a mom that thinks her baby didn’t make it and a newborn you are going to have to bottle-feed. It’s a lot of hassle and extra work that most of us farmers don’t need or want. Another problem that can occur is the dog licks the newborn too aggressively and can hurt it. Dogs have chewed off the ears of newborns, or licked their umbilical cords so much they’ve ripped them off.

Even mature LGDs struggle during lambing and kidding season. We move our LGDs into a pasture with males or non-pregnant animals, or we keep them secured where they can watch the birth but not interfere or get involved. New LGDs sometimes need help adjusting to lambs and kids and they aren’t always trustworthy with newborns. If you’re not sure how your dog will act or react, it’s best to err on the side of caution to keep everyone safe.

If you have a trustworthy older LGD you should still be cautious during the birthing process. Once the lambs and kids have been born if your LGD is trustworthy it is a good idea to introduce the newborns to your LGD. Mamas are likely to be protective and may butt their heads at your LGD, but it’s good for the dog(s) to know the newborns belong. Newborns are very vulnerable, and they are more likely to be targeted by local predators. Coyotes are the biggest threat where we are, but eagles have been documented stealing newborn lambs and flying off with them. And don’t forget local stray or neighbor dogs can be a threat too!

In summary, remember to keep everyone safe by keeping your LGD separate from new moms during birth. Only let trustworthy LGDs around newborns after birth, and monitor any behavioral issues carefully. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. All of this applies to any livestock newborns, including calves (baby cows) and crias (baby alpacas/llamas). I will do a different post about chickens and baby chicks, because poultry can be very difficult. Be safe and have fun!

-Kathy Ann’s Farm

Beginner Interactions Between Your New LGD and Livestock

Livestock Guardian Dogs in-training should always start off on a leash. It doesn’t matter whether they are an adult LGD that’s been rehomed or rescued, or if it’s a brand-new puppy. Having your LGD on a leash to start out allows you to be in control of the dog. Animals can react fearfully at times, particularly prey animals like livestock. If for some reason the livestock act out you can at least control your LGD.

In this video we demonstrate the calm behavior we desire from our LGDs. Rooster is a good sport and remains calm and sits on command. Our alpacas take on the role of our livestock in this video, but the same rules apply whether you are introducing sheep, goats or cattle. We used Rooster in this scenario because the alpacas have shown that they are not a fan of our adult dogs yet and they feel the need to defend themselves against our other LGDs. Rooster, in contrast to the adults, is smaller and less threatening. He is a puppy and is easily excited, but he was a good sport and remained calm.

Positive interactions between LGD and stock are important for a strong relationship. If your livestock is afraid of your LGD you will most likely have problems. When training a puppy it’s also a really good way to reinforce calm behavior. This can help when introducing new livestock to already established stock and help with livestock that have not been raised around dogs and are not dog-broken. If you have treats, reward your LGD when they display the correct behavior. Remember, dogs are not mind readers, you have to demonstrate exactly what you want from them. Don’t just tell them what not to do, show them what you want them to do instead.

At some point we’ll do a follow up video showing how NOT to introduce your LGD to livestock. For now, here’s a short video on how we like to introduce our LGDs to our livestock.


Shelters for LGDs

With winter finally showing up with our first snow of the season expected tomorrow I wanted to discuss shelters for livestock guardian dogs. Now LGDs mostly originated from colder climates and like to be outside in the cold. Most of us with LGDs keep our dogs outside twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Because what use is the LGD going to be if they’re inside with the family instead of outside protecting the animals?

Just because our dogs like colder weather does not mean they should not have access to shelter. Young dogs, sick or injured dogs, and even the elderly working dogs are all particularly vulnerable to the elements. Heat is often more fatal and than cold to these dogs, but either way they need access to some form of shelter and water every minute that they are outside. It’s no different than our livestock and our poultry, they all have round the clock access to shelter and water.

Shelter does not have to be complicated. Chances are, if you already have livestock or poultry you already have some form of shelter in place. Barns, windbreaks, and livestock igloos are all types of shelter that your LGD can use. If you want to use something specifically made for dogs, you can do that too. You can buy or make dog houses and igloos often for under $100. Below I will go over some of the different types of shelters we use and that the dogs have access to.

Here is a dog house we are in the process of making for Rooster.

Above is an example of a dog house that we are in the process of making. All of our dog houses are off the ground by a few inches, have a dog door, and will eventually have something on the roof to keep the water out and sliding down. We hand-paint our dog houses (we tried spray-painting, it failed miserably) in fun colors to protect the wood and make it last longer. The dog door is a good option for keeping poultry, fowl, and the elements out, but it won’t stop goats and sheep and will need to be replaced as it wears down. If you start with a puppy that will probably be sooner rather than later. The pros to a dog house is that it gives your LGD their own space and it keeps them protected from the weather. We also sometimes feed our LGDs in their dog house to give them peace from the pushy goats. The downside is that they can range anywhere from $100 – $500+ and can be bulky to move around if you rotate pastures.

A ridiculous photo of Calypso, but it shows three different types of shelters in this photo.

In this photo you can see a livestock igloo in the background, as well as Calypso’s dog house (the one we tried to spray paint), and a sideways C-shaped shelter made from flexible panels, tarp, and t-posts. All three of these shelters are used by Calypso and the livestock, but of these three shelters one is the most versatile.

The livestock igloo is a favorite of ours. They are easy to move between pastures (you simply roll them), they’re inexpensive, commonly found, and every single one of our animals likes them. We even use them to protect hay from the elements at times. If you have large livestock or many livestock you’ll undoubtedly need many of them or a combination of shelters, like in this photo. The only real downside to the igloos, is they get hot and humid in the summer and they have a large opening that can let in wind.

The last shelter in this photo is the tarp-covered panels. This is a good shelter that all of the animals use, the materials are all inexpensive and can be found easily at your local Tractor Supply. The con to this type of shelter is it does have two wide openings and the pain protection is made out of tarp. Tarp is not durable, especially if you have horned animals. Our goats have started stripping the tarp and poking holes in it with their horns. So it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking at using a shelter like this.

Our small two-stall barn.

Now an obvious choice for many will be to use their barn. We have two barns, a larger metal one with multiple stalls and our small purple barn with two stalls. When Calypso was a young dog she spent a while using this small barn as her shelter. At night she would be locked up on one half and the other animals would have access to the other half. The pros in this situation were we didn’t have to create a whole new shelter, we used an existing one. The downside for us was that Calypso was a young dog that chewed up her half of the barn. When the chickens would lay eggs in this barn she would also eat them all. Its that reason that I don’t recommend allowing your LGD to share your chicken coop, hen house, or poultry run unless you are fine with them eating all of your eggs. Now that Calypso is matured she can use this barn as a shelter easily and without so much drama. But as a puppy she was a pain in the butt, and she got into everything! You can modify a barn stall for your LGD as well. In our larger barn Calypso has her own stall that was made with a dog in mind. You can also crate untrustworthy dogs in the barn for a few hours at night while training.

Lean-to with partial front opening

I will try to go outside an take a better photo of this structure later, but on your left the gray, unpainted shelter is a lean-to or windbreak shelter. This shelter is better suited towards larger livestock than dogs, but if you don’t have anything else to work with this can work in a pinch. This structure is three sided and has an open front side. Ideally you want the front side facing away from the direction of the wind. As this structure is on an incline, we have it facing towards the top of our little hill because wind will push from the bottom of the incline towards the top. I definitely would not recommend this for a puppy or really young dog because there is no way to keep them contained or totally out of the elements. But if you have nothing else it will work.

Hopefully this will give you a basic idea of shelters and which might be best for your situation. Remember, all animals (livestock, dogs, poultry, etc.) should have access to shelter and water at all times. And don’t forget that in winter water will freeze if you don’t have a heater of some sort.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.


Final Autumn Photoshoot

This week of Thanksgiving will be bittersweet as we say goodbye to our puppies as they go to their new homes. We are very thankful that they’re going to wonderful homes where they will be cherished and given a purpose to work. Here are the photos of our final autumn photoshoot, as of Monday, November 23rd Appa is the only puppy that hasn’t been spoken for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

First Responders Get 15% Off

To thank the wonderful men and women out there serving their communities we’re giving 15% off masks, soaps, and hot/cold packs for the remainder of 2020. Send us a message on Facebook or Instagram or send us a email and we will give you the code to unlock your 15% off. Coupon is valid for all first responders including firefighters, emergency medical services, and police.

Stay safe!