Training

|

2 min read

|

1

Comments

How to Train Your Dog to Guard Sheep

Training

|

2 min read

|

1

Comments

How to Train Your Dog to Guard Sheep
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-6 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

You are up early every day of the week, tending to your livestock. They are, after all, your source of income and what your family depends on to put food on the table. While you may look after them though, you can’t do it all on your own. Sheep are valuable commodities and high on the menu for many predators. That means you need an effective and reliable way of guarding them. One of the most economical and efficient ways, if done properly, is to employ the services of a guard dog. If you have a dog that has energy and an eagerness to learn, then you are already halfway there to training him to guard sheep.

This training could help you in more ways than one. Firstly, it could protect you from serious financial losses. But also, it’s a fantastic way to exercise and bond with your dog. It’s also great mental stimulation for him. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Training any dog to be a guard dog comes with challenges. Those challenges are heightened when you want him to protect something he probably wouldn’t mind chasing and hunting himself. However, with the right training, it is definitely achievable. You will need to use rigorous obedience commands to ensure he follows your instructions. You will also need to demonstrate that the sheep are now included in his territory. Finally, you will need to show him and train him how to react when anything approaches the sheep.

If he’s young he should be raring to go and eager to please. You could see results in just a few weeks. If he’s older and not quite as receptive as he once was, then you may need several months before you see consistent results. Succeed and you will be able to sleep easy at night knowing the sheep are secure.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Before your work can begin you will need to get your hands on a few things. As you can probably imagine, some sheep to protect will be the most important requirement. You will also need a generous supply of treats or small pieces of your dog's favorite food. 

Set aside 15 minutes every day for training. The more consistently you practice, the sooner you will see results.

The only other things you need are patience and a positive attitude. Once you have all that, training can begin!

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Start Early Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Breed

Choose a breed that has the attributes needed to be an effective guard dog. German Shepherds, for example, are often a sensible choice. There are plenty of other alternatives though, just do your homework first.

2

Leash

Secure your dog to a leash and walk him around the sheep and area you want him to guard. Do this twice a day. This will reinforce where his territory begins and ends. Once he considers the sheep to fall within that, he will naturally want to guard them from outsiders.

3

Sheep friendly

You need to make sure he doesn’t see the sheep as prey. So, spend time each day walking him around the sheep. Give him treats and words of encouragement whenever he remains calm. Pull him away if he turns aggressive. Do this regularly and he will soon learn to accept them.

4

Encouragement

You need to encourage any signs of defensive and guarding behavior from an early age. Any chasing and barking at strangers should be rewarded with treats and verbal praise. This will help him naturally develop into a guard dog.

5

Never punish him

It is important you do not punish him. Scaring him could make him aggressive and dangerous. He may then be even harder to control and you don’t want him biting you or anyone else, let alone any of the sheep.

The Bark Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Monitor

Spend a couple of days looking for situations that cause him to bark. You are going to use these to train him to bark on command. When he is waiting for meals or about to go out for a walk are common triggers.

2

‘Bark’

Now put him in one of the bark inducing situations and give a ‘bark’ command just before or as he barks. Give it in a clear but playful voice. Dogs learn best when they think they are playing a game.

3

Reward

As soon as he starts barking, hand over a tasty reward. Give him some verbal praise too. The happier he feels afterwards, the more likely he will be to follow your instruction again. Now practice this for a few minutes each day. After a few days, start giving the command in an array of situations. By this point, he will associate the instruction with the command.

4

Head for the sheep

Once he understands the ‘bark’ command, it’s time to incorporate it into guarding the sheep. So, secure him to a leash and take him to the sheep. Now have a friend or stranger approach. Give the command and reward him as soon as he barks.

5

Change it up

Over the next few weeks, have different people approach him when he is around the sheep. Each time you need to instruct him to bark. After a while, it will become habit to bark at any person or animal that approaches. At this point, you can slowly phase out the treats.

The Territory Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Feed near the sheep

To fully integrate him into working with and guarding the sheep, you also need to feed him near them. Having said that, make sure he has some privacy. He shouldn’t have sheep trying to eat his meals. This will all help the area feel more like his territory.

2

Bonding pen

When he is just a puppy, really encourage play between him and the sheep. Secure him in a small pen and supervise him. As he gets older you can allow them into bigger, more open spaces. Again, this will help him feel like the sheep are his to protect.

3

Long leash

Secure him to an extremely long leash or rope to start with. Make sure he has enough space that he can cover a lot of the sheep's area. This will help make the space and the sheep feel part of his territory.

4

Encouragement

You must encourage him to run up to and bark at strangers. To do that, have people approach, then point, shout and run towards them. Dogs mirror their owners' behavior, so if he sees you do this each time, he will soon follow suit. Then reward him with a treat when he displays the right behavior. Once he jumps up at anything that approaches, you can gradually cut out the treats.

5

Birthing season

It is important you are careful having him around when it is birthing season. The temptation to switch from guarding to hunting can be high when newborn lambs are around. So, wait until he has proved himself a reliable guard dog before you expose him to that.

By James Barra

Published: 01/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Slim shady

Dog breed icon

Maremma Sheepdog

Dog age icon

6 Weeks

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

New sheep keeper here! I have 4 ewes that are about to start lambing, just got 2 maremma sheepdogs to help guard and protect. I need all the tips and pointers on training reliable guard dogs

Feb. 16, 2022

Slim shady's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kylie, Welcome to the world of livestock guarding dogs. I would start by joining a few dog forums where you can talk with others who have raised livestock guarding dogs, as needed. https://www.dogforum.com/threads/lgds-livestock-guardian-dogs-breeds-problematic-behaviors-temp.331882/ https://www.chickenforum.com/threads/livestock-guardian-dogs.5267/ https://www.workingdogforum.com/search/8883/?q=LGD&o=relevance Check out this article on setting up pup's enclosure for early bonding with livestock while keeping pup from getting trampled. http://www.prancingponyfarm.com/how-we-raise-and-train-our-maremmas.html Your main concerns are going to be ensuring proper bonding between pup and the livestock through close proximity and consistent interaction with the livestock, while preventing trampling and other dangers while pup is small. As well as preventing pup from trying to harass or chew on the livestock as they get bigger and start testing boundaries. Often things like a long training leash, penning pup next to but not in with the animals pup is harassing for a while, and being especially mindful of needing to take extra precautions during lambing season - when pup is more likely to keep lambs away from their moms or chew the young lambs once they are adolescence, can all help if you run into issues as pup matures throughout the first 18 months. Just be sure to be proactive here if you start to notice unwanted tendencies. You want pup to still be able to receive care from you even though they will be mostly with the livestock, so some some basic socialization and training is still important, as long as pup is primarily living and interacting with the livestock to bond well with them. You don't want pup to see you as a threat and you don't want it to be hard to groom and care for pup as needed later. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Feb. 17, 2022


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.