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Using livestock guardian animals to control wild dogs

Using livestock guardian animals is one of the most natural and humane ways to limit wild dog attacks. While guardian animals are occupying a territory, the probability of predators re-invading is low (unlike other control methods).

Types of guardian animals

Dogs, donkeys, alpacas and llamas are used to guard sheep, goats and breeding cattle from wild dogs and other predators within Australia and overseas.

Research by the Queensland Government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), in collaboration with the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC), has confirmed the success of the use of guardian dogs in Australia; however, there has been limited research completed on other types of guardian animals.

Training and selection of dogs

Livestock guardian dogs require careful selection and training and there is often a high initial cost. Livestock guardian dogs require appropriate husbandry and health care.

When bonded with livestock at a very young age and managed well, most guardian dogs will become excellent flock guardians.

Success is strongly related to the bonding, training and management of these dogs. In some cases, they have reduced predation by more than 80%. Desexing of these dogs is necessary to prevent the potential for cross-breeding with wild dogs.

Livestock guardian dogs are increasingly being used to protect livestock from wild dogs and foxes. They are particularly used to protect valuable goats on small-scale enterprises, though they are now also being used on large sheep-grazing properties in western Queensland.

Tips for rearing a livestock guardian dog

  • Select a suitable dog breed and reputable breeder.
  • Rear pups with livestock, individually or with experienced dogs, from the age of 8 weeks.
  • While rearing the dogs, maintain contact with them so you can still approach and handle them when necessary. Any bonding between owner and dog should happen with the herd so that the dog knows its place is with the herd.
  • Observe the dog and correct undesirable behaviour.
  • Encourage the dog to remain with or near the livestock.
  • Ensure the dog's health and safety - this includes providing a good diet, preventative medication and an annual veterinary examination. Dogs must be checked regularly.
  • Dogs must be desexed before breeding age.
  • Manage livestock in accordance with the dog's age and experience; for example, keep livestock in smaller pastures while the dog is young and inexperienced.
  • Be patient and allow plenty of time to train your dog. Most guardian dogs will work well within a year, but they may need up to 2 years to mature fully.

Disadvantages of livestock guardian dogs

  • Guardian dogs require proper training.
  • Can be 12 months or more before the animal is working well.
  • Badly managed dogs can cause problems by
    • breeding with wild dogs if they haven't been desexed
    • killing livestock.

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