Layla is one of the most important members of our farm. Even though she’s in training still, once fully trained, she will be invaluable. She’s not just a dog, she’s a team mate. Without her, I could lose my entire herd to predators.
Layla is a working dog, or Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). She’s a Great Pyrenees/Karakachan mix, but mostly Great Pyr. She stays outside with the livestock all the time. It’s not that we think any less of her and just keep her outside, it’s that we think more of her because she’s more than a dog, she’s a contributor to our farm. She doesn’t mind being outside because her ancestors were bred for hundreds of years to work outside. Her thick double coat allows her to withstand extreme cold, but it also helps keep her cool in the hot summer.
She’s big and powerful which is intimidating to predators that might be lurking around. Her bark is big and powerful as well, and works as a great deterrent. LGD teams have been known to take on wolves and bears in their line of work. In areas where there are such large predators, a lone LGD might not stand a chance so it’s imperative to have teams. When it comes to taking on a predator, instinct kicks in. Their independent thinking will tell them whether to band together and face the threat head on, or to separate and distract. But their ultimate goal is to keep their livestock safe from harm. We don’t have a heavy predator load at the farm, mostly just some coyotes yipping in the distance, so Layla working alone is sufficient. They know she's here, because when they start yipping, she barks in return.
Not just any dog can, or will make a good LGD. A good LGD is one of just a few specific breeds. They are alert to their surroundings, calm around the livestock, and think and work independently and know how to handle a potential threat.
As I said, Layla is still in training. She spent the first 6 months of her life with goats, and had her mother, a trained LGD to begin her training. I saw for myself when I visited the farm before I purchased her an example of their training. There were still 5 pups waiting to be homed and two were playing together in the goat pen. The mom didn’t have a problem with their game until they got a little carried away and got too close to the goats and suddenly, with a quick bark of warning, the mom reprimanded her young.
In her off time, Layla likes to chase squirrels, explore, dig up trash, and stock pile sticks. But most of all, Layla loves to cuddle.
I had a lot of research to do, as well as join a few Facebook groups where I can get advice, support, and training tips. It’s amazing what these dogs are capable of. It’s been incredible watching her grow and learn. She’s bonded to her goats, yes, they are ‘her goats’ and she knows it. When I open their pen in the mornings to milk she runs in to sniff them all and make sure everyone is accounted for. She especially loves the babies. We’ve had some serious training sessions since the babies were born as she tends to get a bit too excited and could easily hurt them. But watching her laying on the ground chewing her bone and never move when a bratty baby goat landed on her head showed me just how much I will be able to trust her with my livestock. She still gets a little carried away, and that is to be expected with her age, but once trained, she’s going to be an incredible LGD.