Using Guard Dogs as
Predator Control
Guard Dogs


Predator Control is a very large concern for most livestock breeder, especially those in less populated regions of the US. Traditionally we think of coyotes as a major predator of sheep however, the common domestic dog can pose just as great of a threat. 

In an attempt to curb predation of our flocks, guard dogs have become a popular solution for many sheep producers. As a result guard dogs have become very effective in controlling predators. Guard dogs are not 100% effective, however they will reduce the risk of predation greatly. There is some variation between the different breeds of dogs used for predator control, such as size, disposition, and handling techniques. Mishandling of the young dogs is one of the greatest errors make that leads to a guard dog failing. Guard dogs must be properly trained in order to be successful. Patience, perseverance and discipline are needed to teach a guard dog to bond and accept the responsibility of guarding a flock. For more information on how to select and what to expect from your guard dog, go to the University of Missouri Web site at this is a paper titled Guard Dogs for Predator Control written by Helen A. Swartz, Ph.D. the Missouri State Sheep, Goat & Small Livestock Specialist.

Some of the more popular breeds of guard dogs are Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash Dog, Maremma, Kuvasz, and Sharplaninac. Below I have given you a brief outline of their history, and some details about each breed. The associated links many be used to learn more about each of them. In general the AKC web site may be most useful for a reference.

Great Pyrenees Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is one of the most popular breeds of guard dogs in the US. Originally known as the "Dog of the Mountains." They took their name from a mountain range in southwestern Europe. In the UK and on the continent of Europe, they are known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. France is their native country where they have long been used as guardians of flocks. In the United States we best know these dogs as Great Pyrenees.

These dogs have a rich history in the world and have had an impact on other breeds as well. Most interesting was in 1662; Basque fishermen brought dogs to Newfoundland for companions and guardians of their new Settlements. Here they became mated to the black curlycoated retriever, one of the favorites of the English settlers. This cross-resulted in the formation of the black and white Landseer Newfoundland.

The Great Pyrenees is a large white dog that ranges in size from around 25-32 inches at the shoulder, and weights between 85-140 pounds.

For more information or to decide if they are right for you, go to The Great Pyrenees Club of America:

Anatolian Shepherd Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog is said to be one of the most majestic and noble animals in the service of man. These dogs are still heavily used in the rural districts of Turkey. They serve as the front line of defense form predators, for the Turkish shepherds. Without the aid of the Anatolian Shepherd, the Turkish shepherds would have a hard time protecting their property and flock from wild animals. The Anatolian Shepherd can be found from the Turkish Anatolian plateau to Afghanistan.

The Anatolian Shepherd has extraordinary speed and agility, which allows them to run down a predator with relative ease. A common practice of Turkish Shepherds is to equip their dogs with iron-spiked collars to protection them against attacking animals that might grab for their throat. Although this is not a practice commonly used in the United States, I am sure you can imagine this impressive dog protecting his flock.

These dogs can be seen in a range of brown colors from somewhat dark to light. General balance is more important than absolute size. Dogs should be approximately 29 inches at the shoulder and weigh in a range from 110 to 150 pounds proportionate to size and structure. Bitches should be approximately 27 inches at the shoulder, and weigh between 80 to 120 pounds, proportionate to size and structure. Neither the male nor the female should appear fat.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you go to The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America:

Komondor Komondor

The Komondor is an ancient guardian dog, whose homeland is Hungary. They are thought to have descended from the Russian Owtcharka and brought to Hungary by invading Magyars.  The Komondor is considered to be the chief of the herdsman's dogs and was used to protect the herdsman and his animals. Komondors have been used in the United States to fend off coyotes and bobcats.

The Komondors have been used successfully by both sheep and goat breeders. These hearty dogs stay with the flocks even in range situations were there is little to no shelter. They are big muscular dogs, covered with dense, white cords. However the long corded coats are not used in this type of production operations, they are typically clipped in the spring. The cords are left on for show only. Thou they are large dogs they are not an extremely heavy animal.  Males stand approximately 27" to 31" at the shoulder and range in weight between 80 and 100 pounds with females being slightly smaller.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you go to the Komondor AKC webpage: .

Akbash Akbash

The name of the Akbash originated in the Turkish word meaning white head. While in contrast the name Karabash means black head. The Akbash Dog now found in rural Turkey, where it has been serving as a livestock protection dog for up to a millennia. In today's Turkish society the way of life is as it was a hundred years ago, so the use of the Akbash Dogs as a means of protection from predation is a very common practice.

The dogs we see in the rural landscape of Turkey have many of the ideal characteristics of the North American Akbash Dog. They are most often calm dogs, with a keen protective instinct for flock and property. Although the Akbash Dogs in Turkey are not used as pets, and are usually smaller than most American Akbash.

A mature Akbash Dog will range from 28 to 31 inches at the shoulders, while the females will range from 27 to 29 inches. Their weight should be in proportion to size and bone structure, and result in proper balance. Mature dogs in trim condition will weigh between 90 to 130 pounds, while the females will weigh from 75 to 100 pounds.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you go to The Akbash Dog Home Page: .

Maremma Maremma

The Maremma Sheepdog is an Italian guardian, bred for generations in the Maremma and Abruzzi regions of Italy to protect both flocks and estates. Today the breed retains the same instincts and qualities that have made it a successful guardian for so long. Some of their greatest attributes are loyalty to their own intelligence, courage, and a strong distrust of strangers. The Maremma make reliable flock guardians as well as dependable protectors of home and family.

The Maremma Sheepdog is as some have put it a "majestic" white dog, of a large size and a rustic appearance. They are strong, active, and very athletic dogs. Maremmas are truly a working dog that needs a job to keep them occupied. The Maremma have been working as a guard animal for thousands of years, they tend to be very devoted to their owners, and trusting of the people they know.

Maremma's tend to run about 25.5 - 28.5 inches at the shoulder and weight between 77 - 99 lbs., while females will measure between 23.5 - 26.5 inches at the shoulder and weight between 66 - 88 lbs. They can be a Solid white color or shades of ivory, pale orange or even lemon is tolerated in certain limits.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you, go to The Maremma Dog Home Page .


The Kuvasz is an ancient breed who is among the oldest of all breeds. The Kuvasz or Kuvaszok is recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Working Group. While the exact age of the dogs is in question it is well accepted that the dogs trace back too as far as Mesopotamia. However it was in Hungry that the breed achieved its present appearance. The Kuvasz is a guarding  dog, originally used to protect livestock such as horses, sheep and cattle.

The Kuvasz male should be range between 28 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 100 and 115 pounds. The female should measure between 26 and 28 inches tall, while weighting between 70 to 90 pounds.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you, go to the AKC web page .

Sharplaninac Sharplaninac

Among the rare species of sheep dog the Sharplaninec is hard to be found today, faces total extinction. It is believed the home of Sharplaninec is Asia, but other researches points to the Balkans as their homeland. Now adapted to the severe ambiance of the Macedonian Mountains the Sharplaninec have been living and surviving in this reservation for centuries.

Sharplaninec dogs are well known for their ability to cope well in difficult environments. They are also known to be very dynamic dogs. They have a strong loyalty for their master, and an ability to be very protective when provoked.

The Sharplaninec is a strongly built dog with calm temper, good-natured but very rough. He is faithful to his master and uncompromising.  They should be well-balanced dogs who should range from 62 to 56 cm tall, with the females range from 58 to 54 cm. Dogs under these measures should be excluded from breeding. The male dogs should weight between 35 and 45 kg, while the females should be between 30 and 40 kg.

For more information and to decide if they are right for you, go to The Sharplaninec web page at the AKC Page  

Return to Main Page