Guard Dog Blog

on Livestock Guardian Dogs and small farm life…

LGD communication.


While we are talking about canine communication, it would be a good time to go over some of what we’re looking for in terms of body language in the Livestock Guardian Dog.

As we’ve talked about before, LGDs are one of the only types of dogs developed to live with prey animals, namely livestock.  Livestock generally live in groups and are very sensitive to threatening behavior.  They respond to bodies (people and animals) that are carried with a lot of forward motion or threatening intent by running away or less commonly and/or if trapped, by threatening them back.  This is, of course, a survival mechanism common to all kinds of prey species, domestic or otherwise.  LGDs have to fit a dual job description in terms of body language requirements.  They must be threatening enough to would-be predators to drive them off (at the least) and they have to display body language that makes the livestock feel safe and secure enough to stay close to them.

As a part of fulfilling the job of driving predators away from their charges, LGDs are bred to be large or extra large in size, with deep, booming voices.  This signals to predators that they can not only be a match for any predator contemplating a meal of lamb or veal, but also that they are constantly on alert and won’t miss any such attempt.  They are, however, selected to have drop ears, “rounder” edges to their body, soft expressions and to move in a calming, slow manner around vulnerable beings.  It is not uncommon to see a LGD trot away from the stock a ways to assess and warn off a threat, head high, tail up and carrying themselves with extreme forward motion; only to return and reverse the process: slow in pace, lowering their tail and body profile as they approach the stock.  It takes a highly intelligent, thinking dog to constantly evaluate the environment/context and respond appropriately.

What follows is a series of photographs that illustrate the appropriate body language around stock.  I’ve included a picture of our 8 month old (at the time) Maremma/Great Pyr girl greeting my daughter, who came to visit in the barn in her wheelchair.  It’s important to note that since our LGD pup had not been taught not to jump up at her previous home, she was still struggling with it here these three months later.  She automatically adjusted her behavior to suit the situation with my daughter, however – a good sign of a properly maturing LGD.









Big Mama

March 14 15

March 14 20

March 29 18

March 29 20

snow trips1

snow trips3

DSC_0429 (2)

Author: offleash

Small farmer, student of canine life, advocate, dog rehab and behavior specialist.

6 thoughts on “LGD communication.

  1. thank you 🙂 I often am amazed at how fast my Great Pyreneen changes his “behaviour”…this is a good explanaition 🙂

  2. Hi, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I agree to a point. But….under your communication post, i see the first photo you have is from my ranch of my dogs and sheep. My name is Brenda M. Negri of Cinco Deseos Ranch in Nevada. I would appreciate you either taking the photo off this blog or, out of respect to my dogs and myself, LISTING CLEARLY under the photo the photo credit (me – I took it) and where it is. Those are my sheep, dogs and pups on my ranch.

    If you are not willing to do that please remove it and refrain from borrowing my photos without first showing me the courtesy to ask if its okay first. I don’t mind you using it if you give appropriate credit. As my dogs are very well known and my operation is one of the top and most famous LGD operations in the USA I am often copied and my training methods and articles ‘lifted’ and used by others without permission. I will let people repost my stuff if they first ask, and then give appropriate credit. Unfortunately too many don’t. Its comical for me now to come across blogs and posts on forums where folks have literally lifted something from one of my many published works but they fail to give credit where it came from.

    Please kindly either put credits where credit is due, or remove. Thank you, Brenda

    • If you’re not willing for any of your pictures to be used as teaching tools, that is your choice to make a fuss over it. I am happy for any of my pictures to be used for the same reason, and indeed there is exception in the copy write laws for this very purpose. I will switch it out.

  3. PS: Carolee it’s clearly – CLEARLY – stated on my website that all of the material on there is copyrighted.

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