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Berlusconi, The Territorial Livestock Guardian Dog

Berlusconi the LGD at Work

With the prospect of literally spending thousands of dollars on animals in the next few months we’ve been researching the different options for protecting the livestock. The first line of defense will be permanent perimeter fencing. It helps keep predators out and our animals in, although it’s not foolproof. We’re using some fencing leftover from the prior owners and also putting up some new fence as needed. Predators will find a way to circumvent the fencing, no doubt. In order to deter them further we plan to have Livestock Guardian Dogs, or LGDs. Very simply, these are big dogs (normally white ones) that live outdoors with the animals and do what their name says, guard. The ability is genetic, although a certain amount of training and level of maturation is necessary for them to succeed. More to come on that later, but for now I wanted to share a story I was reminded of while researching our various dog options.

If you’ve read some prior posts you may have seen that we went on a transhumance with about 300 sheep on our honeymoon last summer. Walking with sheep through the remote mountains of Abruzzo requires protection for the flock. Bears are the primary culprits. Our shepherds used LGDs for flock protection. Our particular flock was guarded by a younger pup that was just learning the ropes (click for photo). At the end of the hike we met up with another flock of about 700 sheep on the top of a faraway mountain. They had the real deal older guard dogs.

One such dog was Berlusconi. Taking after his namesake, Berlusconi was obviously the ringleader and was a wily one at that. Equally majestic, powerful and conniving, Berlusconi wasn't about to let a bunch of humans waltz in and occupy his pasture. He needed to let us know who was boss and he knew exactly how to show it. No, not by chasing us off his mountain, but by marking his territory. Our poor co-hiker was the subject of his tactic. If you look closely you can see the evidence on her calves. I caught him post-marking with quite the guilty look on his face:

Berlusconi caught in the act

The LGDs are too cool not to show more photos. Here's some of our favorites:

Berlusconi and his buddy making the roundsDoesn't he look innocent? Don't be fooled!I reckon you'll need a guard dog for that